1664, William, Viscount Stafford seeks to recover forfeited lands

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1660s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, William, Viscount of Stafford. SP 29/90 f. 149 (1664).

To the Kings most excellent majesty

The humble petition of William Viscount of Stafford

Most humbly sheweth that Edward Stafford Duke of Buckinghame, Earle of Stafford, Hereford, Essex, Ruttland and Northampton, Baron Stafford, Tunbridge Newnam, Kimbolton and [Caos?], and high constable of England by inheritance, was attainted by his peeres, for tresonable words in the reyne of King Henry 8 by which attainture hee lost al those honoures and an inheritance in landes at the present worth 200000 powndes yearely, after his death his eldest sonne Henry [illegible] (who marryed Ursula daughter unto the Countesse of Salisbury) was restored in blood and Lord Stafford and some of the landes restored unto him, which barony continued in his male line untyll Henry his greate great grandchild dyed in the yeare 1637 leaving noe issue and one onely sister who was undoughted heyre unto Edward Duke of Buckingame, and unto all his honours (excepte the tytle of Buckingame) if it had not beene for his attainter, the which Mary was after her brothers death, was by the approbation of your majestys father of blessed memory, marryed unto your petitioner his majesty being gratiously pleased to restore her unto the barony of Stafford and create your petitioner baron, and afterwards Viscount of Stafford

Your petitioner with all humillety and submission doeth most humbly besich your sacred majesty oute of your grace and goodnesse to restore your petitioneres wyfe Mary Viscontesse of Stafford unto the Earledome of Stafford and barony of Newnanam and Tunbridge that shee may injoy them in as ample manner, as of right shee should have done if her ancestor Edward had not beene attainted, those honoures being in the crowne undisposed of and your petitioner etc

[A second version of the petition from William, Viscount Stafford is transcribed here.]

Report by Sue Willoughby

During the reign of Henry VIII, Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham was accused of using treasonable words and as a result lost all his lands along with an income of £200,000. The next generation were able to regain some of the lands. Ownership continued for several generations until the death Henry in 1637, who had no issue. However, his sister Mary married the petitioner William, Viscount Stafford. In this petition, William sought restoration of the title of the Duke of Buckingham and the income through this marriage line. There are two versions of his petition in the State Papers from 1664.

William Howard, 1st Viscount of Stafford

Although William grew up in an Anglican household (his father having converted to the Church of England in 1616) he was undoubtedly exposed to Roman Catholic influences, as almost all of the Howard family remained loyal in private to that faith, even those who conformed outwardly to the Established Church.

His grandfather, Philip Howard, 20th Earl of Arundel had been imprisoned by Elizabeth I in the Tower of London for being a Catholic and had died there in 1595 after 10 years’ imprisonment. In 1620, William was placed in the household of Samuel Harsnett, Bishop of Norwich for an education, then attended St John’s College, Cambridge, aged eleven years old, in 1624 but did not receive a degree. He was still regarded as a member of the Church of England when he was listed as an Ecclesiastical Commissioner in 1633.

William married Mary, the daughter of Edward Stafford (d. 1621) and then Ann Wilford, sister of Henry Stafford, 5th Baron Stafford (d. 1637). The Staffords were Catholics and the marriage was conducted by a Catholic, not an Anglican, priest, to the reported embarrassment of the groom’s father. Following Henry Stafford’s death there was a forced (and probably illegal) surrender of the barony, on the grounds of his poverty by the next heir who was Mary’s distant cousin Roger Stafford (6th Baron Stafford). In 1637, the Howard family secured the title for William, he and Mary being created Baron and Baroness Stafford on 12 September 1640. Two months later, William was created Viscount Stafford. The couple had three sons and six daughters including Henry Stafford Howard, 1st Earl of Stafford, 2nd Viscount of Stafford.

In 1641, William and Mary left England for Antwerp, but were allowed to return by Parliament in 1646. However, in 1649 his estates were sequestered. He returned to England at the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and was restored to his estates. He promoted the removal of the anti-Catholic penal laws with King Charles II and James, Duke of York, and in the 1670s he apparently tried to mediate between James and the leaders of the Whig opposition.

In 1680, falsely implicated by Titus Oates in the later discredited “Popish Plot”, he was put on trial in the House of Lords for treason, found guilty and executed. At his trial in 1680, for which he wasn’t allowed a defence lawyer, and at which he was often confused, he said vaguely that he might have promoted a policy of religious toleration in his speeches in the House of Lords, but could not remember this in any detail. He had been a Fellow of the Royal Society from 1665 onwards, becoming a council member in 1672. 

He was beatified as a Catholic martyr by Pope Pius XI in 1929.[1]

The Stafford Line

Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham (1478-1521)

Edward Stafford, son of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Catherine (née Woodville), was born in 1478.  He enjoyed many favours at Court including Lord High Constable and Lord High Steward during the coronation of King Henry VIII in 1509.  His other titles included Knight of the Order of the Bath (1485), Knight of the Order of the Garter (1495), and Commissioner of the Peace (1514).

In 1510 he was involved in a scandal and fell out of favour with the King when his sister, Anne, was accused of having an extra-marital affair with Sir William Compton (which was never proved).  However, in 1513 he found favour again with Henry and served as a Captain during the invasion of France.

Edward had an excellent Plantagenet bloodline, through his mother he was first cousin, once removed, to King Henry VIII and maintained numerous connections with the upper aristocracy – but this brought him no favours with the King, who was aware of the many plots to dethrone him (even though there was no proof that Edward was involved in any of them).

In 1517 Edward was given responsibility for keeping order in South Wales but when he failed to do so, he again fell out of favour with the King.  In 1520, he was suspected of “potentially treasonous actions” which led to his arrest, trial and death sentence.  He was executed on Tower Hill on 17 May 1521.

He was posthumously attainted by an Act of Parliament on 31 July 1523, disinheriting most of his wealth from his children. Properties that were confiscated by the Crown included Stafford Castle and Manor and Tonbridge Castle.[2]

Henry, 1st Baron Stafford (1501-1563)

Henry was the only legitimate son of Edward Stafford and Eleanor (née Percy). Henry did not automatically inherit his father’s titles and lands after his father’s death, though, as a young man, Henry was able to use the title Earl of Stafford until his father’s attainder in 1521.

At the age of 18, Henry married Ursula Pole, daughter of Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Plantagenet, Countess of Salisbury. Margaret was able to regain the lands in Somerset and Devon from the King to Henry as part of the marriage settlement. He trained as a lawyer in 1528 and in 1531 was appointed Recorder of the Borough of Stafford next to Stafford Castle, and the Castle and manor of Stafford were recovered. In 1536, he was appointed Justice of the Peace for both Staffordshire and Shropshire.

In 1547, he petitioned parliament for “restoration in blood” but claimed none of his father’s lands nor titles. In 1548, he received the title 1st Baron Stafford from King Edward VI and in 1554, Queen Mary made him one of two Chamberlains of the Exchequer, a salaried post that helped support him at a time of financial need.

Between 1558-59 he was the Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and Henry died on 30 April 1563 aged 62 at Caus Castle in Shropshire.[3]

Henry, 2nd Baron Stafford (before 1527-1565)

Henry was the second son of Henry, 1st Baron Stafford and Ursula (née Pole). In 1553, Henry was knighted at Queen Mary’s coronation and in 1554 he was appointed Justice of the Peace for Shropshire.

In 1555, after two failed attempts, Henry was eventually elected as the Parliamentary representative for Staffordshire although it appears that he was not very active in Parliament.[4] He married Elizabeth Davy at the age of 30.

In the early years of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, Henry was appointed Keeper of the Records at the Tower of London – a post he held until January 1564. In 1562, he purchased the Rectory of Church Eaton for the price of £28.[5]

Henry was succeeded by his brother, Edward on 8 April 1566.[6]

Edward, 3rd Baron Stafford (1535-1603)

Edward was the second surviving son of Henry, 1st Baron Stafford and Ursula (née Pole), elected MP for Banbury in 1554.

In April 1566, Edward inherited the Baronetcy on the death of his brother Henry, and in November of the same year married Mary Stanley. They had three children named Edward, Ursula and Dorothy.

Not long after inheriting the Baronetcy, Edward sold the Rectory of Church Eaton/Eyton to Ralph Bore for £40 in 1566. Once a Baron, Edward sat in the House of Lords.  He is also renowned for being patron to a company of players, trumpeters and bear keepers from 1574. Edward died in 1603 and was succeeded by his son Edward. In 1600, the King sold the lease for Tonbridge Castle to Thomas Weller, a Parliamentarian.[7]

Edward, 4th Baron Stafford (1572-1625).

Edward was the son of Edward Stafford and Mary (née Stanley). In 1603, Edward inherited the Baronetcy on the death of his father. He married his mother’s chambermaid, Isabel Forster (before 22 November 1595). They had one son, Edward who predeceased his father in 1621. The title then went to Edward’s grandson, Henry.[8]

Henry, 5th Baron Stafford (1621-1637)

The 5th Baron Stafford was actually born after his father’s death in 1621. He acquired the baronetcy in 1625 upon the death of his grandfather.  Henry died unmarried and without issue and the claim made by his cousin, Roger, was dismissed by Parliament on account of Roger’s poverty.

In 1643, Stafford Castle was occupied by Roger’s widow, Isabelle Stafford, but it was destroyed by Parliamentary Forces.

Newnham and Tonbridge

It was not possible to recover either Stafford Castle, which had been destroyed, nor Tonbridge Castle, which had been forfeited by the Crown and later given to another family by the time Mary petitioned the King.[9]

‘Newanam’ appears to be a variant of Newnham which originally belonged to the Crown in the 11th Century. It passed into the Stafford family through Anne, Countess of Stafford in the 14th or 15th century and was then inherited through the male line. Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham was lord of the manor in 1521 and it passed onto his son, Henry in 1554.  Between the date of Edward’s attainder and Henry’s appeal some years later, the Manor of Newnham was ‘held at farm’ – i.e. the land was tenanted and managed by farmers. However, following the death of Henry Stafford in 1637, Newnham was ‘claimed as part of the honours of Gloucester and Hereford by William Howard’. William was married to Henry’s sister, Mary Stafford, who raised the petition. Her husband was beheaded in 1680 and forfeited his estates.[10]

The Petition

From the records available it appears that William was at least allowed to reclaim Newnham on Mary’s behalf as it later passed to their son, the Earl of Stafford and his successors until at least 1736.


[1] ‘William Stafford, 1st Viscount Stafford’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Howard,_1st_Viscount_Stafford.

[2] ‘STAFFORD, Edward (1536-1603), of London’: http://www.histparl.ac.uk/volume/1509-1558/member/stafford-edward-1536-1603.

[3] C. S. L. Davies, “Stafford, Henry, tenth Baron Stafford (1501–1563), nobleman.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-26205.

[4] ‘Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Lieutenant_of_Staffordshire

[5] ‘Church Eaton: The church’, in Staffordshire Historical Collections, Vol. 4, ed. George Wrottesley (London, 1883), pp. 26-38. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/staffs-hist-collection/vol4/pp26-38.

[6] ‘Henry Stafford, 2nd Baron Stafford’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Stafford,_2nd_Baron_Stafford

[7] History of Tonbridge Castle: https://www.tonbridgecastle.org/the-castle/17th-century.

[8] ‘Edward Stafford, 4th Baron Stafford’: http://www.thepeerage.com/p58182.htm#i581820.

[9] Kathleen Morgan and Brian S Smith, ‘Newnham: Manors’, in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds, ed. C R Elrington, N M Herbert and R B Pugh (London, 1972), pp. 36-40. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol10/pp36-40.

[10] ‘William Howard’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Howard,_1st_Viscount_Stafford.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reign of Charles II, 1660-1685’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.