Henry Stafford fascinates me in a dark sort of way. I walk past the spot where he was executed almost once a week. I have always felt he is marginalised by historians because no one quite knows what to make of his behaviour, so he gets pushed to the side as just an unsuccessful rebel who lost his head. Over the years we have had silly theories, such as the one that he was enraged because didn’t get his hands on the Bohun inheritance quick enough (having to ggo through parliament, it wasn’t coming any quicker!) and the other one that he was horrified by news of the the death of the princes (he was a contender for being’right in there’ if they were killed, and if he actually KNEW, why was it all a case of rumour and whispers; why was he not declaring his knowledge openly across the land?) I am even doubtful about his supposed ‘support’ for Henry Tudor, as what could Henry have given him that he did not already have? I see it more as an alliance of sort, and Henry Stafford may have been as eager for the crown as Tudor.
Be that as it may, there is not all that much known about Buckingham, and we don’t even have a proper portrait of him–the one that exists is clearly based on that of Buckingham’s own son, Edward Stafford. In it, he certainly looks roguish, like a medieval Bill Sykes.
During my recent research, however, I have come across seveal items of interest of this rather sidelined figure. A few years back a high status decorated boss was found at his manor of Bletchingley, dating from the 1470’s. It may not have been Buckingham’s personal adornment, but it was very likely the possession of one of his retinue.
The other item I discovered is perhaps more interesting. The Abbot of Crowland (Croyland) Abbey established a hostel for student monks in Cambridge. Later on between 1472-83, the hostel came under the patronage of the Duke and his family and got a change of name-to Buckingham College. As the Crowland Chronicle is noted as being very pro-Woodville, this could be one reason why this is so; since Catherine Woodville, Queen Elizabeth’s sister, was the wife of Henry Stafford.
The college itself (renamed Magdalene in the 16th c) seems quite interesing archaeologically, with a collection of coins known as the ‘Magdalene hoard’ turning up on the edge ofthe property.