Stafford, John (d.1452) (DNB00)
|←Stafford, Humphrey (1439-1469)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53
Stafford, John (d.1452)
|Stafford, John (1728-1800)→|
|1904 Errata appended.|
STAFFORD, JOHN (d. 1452), archbishop of Canterbury, was probably natural son of Sir Humphrey Stafford of Southwick Court, North Bradley, Wiltshire, by one Emma of North Bradley. His mother became a sister of the priory of the Holy Trinity at Canterbury, where she died 5 Sept. 1446 and was buried in North Bradley church under a handsome monument erected by her son the archbishop. The archbishop's father, who was twice married, had a legitimate son (by his first wife), Sir Humphrey Stafford, called ‘of the silver hand,’ who was sheriff of Somerset and Dorset and father of Humphrey Stafford, earl of Devon [q. v.] Gascoigne (Loci e Libro Veritatum, p. 40) speaks of the archbishop as illegitimate, an allegation for which there appears to be no foundation. Stafford was educated at Oxford, where he graduated doctor of civil law before 1413, when his name appears at the head of the doctors of that faculty, who subscribed the letter submitting to the proposed visitation of the university by Philip Repington [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln (Wood, Hist. and Antiq. i. 556). In 1419 he became dean of the Court of Arches in succession to John Kemp (1380?–1454) [q. v.]; on 9 Sept. of that year archdeacon of Salisbury; in 1421 chancellor of the diocese, and in May 1421 keeper of the privy seal, to which office he was reappointed on the death of Henry V. In December 1422 he was promoted to the office of treasurer, and made dean of St. Martin's, London. On 9 Sept. 1423 he was advanced to the deanery of Wells, and in 1424 received the prebend of Stow in Lindsey at Lincoln (Le Neve, i. 153, ii. 211). In politics Stafford attached himself to Henry Beaufort [q. v.], the bishop of Winchester, through whose influence he was elected bishop of Bath and Wells on 12 May 1425. He was consecrated by Beaufort at Blackfriars, London, on 27 May. Stafford now became one of the lords of the council during the king's minority, but resigned his office as treasurer on 13 March 1426, at the same time that Beaufort had to surrender the chancellorship.
Stafford seems to have been reappointed keeper of the privy seal before 11 July 1428, and in this capacity accompanied the young king of France in 1430 (Nicolas, Proc. Privy Council, iii. 310, iv. 29). After his return to England he was made chancellor on 4 March 1432, and retained that office for nearly eighteen years. He is the first holder of the office who is known to have been called ‘lord chancellor’ (cf. Rot. Parl. v. 103). As chancellor Stafford continued his support of Beaufort's policy, but without taking any very marked share in public affairs beyond the duties of his office. He received his reward when the see of Canterbury fell vacant in 1443. Archbishop Chicheley had before his death intended to resign, and recommended Stafford as his successor to the pope. Before the resignation could take effect Chicheley died, and Stafford was appointed to the archbishopric on 13 May 1443. Stafford's experience had made him indispensable, and he retained his office as chancellor after his accession to the primacy. He continued his old political relations and supported William de la Pole, fourth earl of Suffolk [q. v.], in the negotiation of the king's marriage, at which he officiated on 22 April 1445. He took part in the reception of the French embassy in July, and as chancellor replied to the ambassadors in a Latin speech. He was not, however, so zealous in his support of the peace as the king wished, and seems to have endeavoured to hold the balance between the parties of Suffolk and Gloucester (Letters and Papers, Henry VI, i. 92, 104–110, 140; Hook, v. 152–5). Still he continued in office till 31 Jan. 1450, when in the midst of the crisis which attended the fall of Suffolk he resigned the chancery. Stafford does not seem to have shared in Suffolk's unpopularity, and his resignation was perhaps due to the loss of favour with the court. According to Fabyan (Chronicle, p. 623), Stafford accompanied Humphrey, duke of Buckingham, on his mission to endeavour to conciliate Cade on 30 June; but in this, as in a subsequent statement that Stafford as chancellor issued a general pardon a few days later, the chronicler has perhaps confused him with his successor, John Kemp. However, Stafford was certainly on the commission which was appointed on 1 Aug. to try offenders in Kent (Ramsay, ii. 132). In August 1451 Stafford received the king when he came on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury. He died at Maidstone on 25 May 1452, and was buried in the martyrdom at Canterbury Cathedral, where his tomb is marked by a marble slab with a brass.
Stafford was engaged in the work of public administration during almost the whole of his career. He was ‘a cautious experienced official’ (Ramsay), whose knowledge made him almost indispensable to the government. Bishop Stubbs (Constitutional History, iii. 148) says of him that ‘if he had done little good he had done no harm.’ Archbishop Chicheley, in recommending Stafford as his successor to the pope, did so on the ground of his ‘high intellectual and moral qualifications, the nobility of his birth, and his own almost boundless hospitality’ (Anglia Sacra, i. 572). Gascoigne, who was hostile to the archbishop, says that Stafford was father of bastard offspring by a nun (Loci e Libro Veritatum, p. 231). Ecclesiastically the most important incident of Stafford's primacy was the beginning of the dispute as to the heresy of Bishop Reginald Pecock. Pecock's teaching gave much offence, but though he forwarded a statement of his doctrine to Stafford in a document styled ‘Abbreviatio Reginaldi Pecock,’ Stafford took no decisive action against him [see art. Pecock, Reginald; Pecock, Repressor of overmuch Blaming of the Clergy, ii. 615].[Letters and Papers illustrative of the Reign of King Henry VI (Rolls Ser.); Correspondence of T. Bekynton (Rolls Ser.); Fabyan's Chronicle; Nicolas's Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council; Wilkins's Concilia; Ramsay's Lancaster and York; Hook's Archbishops of Canterbury, v. 130–87; Foss's Judges of England; authorities quoted.]
|454||ii||25||Stafford, John (d. 1452): after Stafford insert of Southwick Court, North Bradley, Wiltshire, as well as of Hook, Dorset, who was twice married, and had by his first wife, Alice Greynville or Greville, or (according to some authorities) Beville, a son, Sir Humphrey Stafford (1379-1442)|
|26·35||for and a kinsman of his contemporary . . . earl of Devon [q. v.] read and calls the archbishop his brother in his will. The elder Sir Humphrey's second wife was Elizabeth (d. 1413), daughter of Sir William Aumâle and widow of Sir John Maltravers (d. 1386), of Hook, who in her will, dated 14 Oct. 1413, refers to Master John Stafford. There are difficulties in accepting the statement that the archbishop was a legitimate son of the elder Sir Humphrey's first marriage.|
|37·38||for an allegation for which ... no foundation. read and although Gascoigne is an hostile witness uncertainty exists as to the name and status of his mother. A handsome monument to ‘Emma,’ mother of Archbishop Stafford, stands in North Bradley Church. It is said to have been erected by the archbishop. The mother, ‘Emma,’ is described as having died, a sister of the priory of the Holy Trinity at Canterbury, on 5 Sept. 1446. It is probable that the archbishop was her illegitimate child by the elder Sir Humphrey. In that case a papal dispensation propter defectum natus would be required before he could be ordained priest. At present search in the Vatican records has only revealed at the requisite|
period a papal dispensation dated 17 March 1403, which entitled John Stafford, clerk of the diocese of Lincoln, who was then in or about his fourteenth year, to hold a benefice (Lateran Register, cviii. f. 79 b). Whether the John Stafford mentioned in this dispensation was the future archbishop is uncertain. If so he was born about 1389. In 1408 his father, Sir Humphrey, presented him to the living of Farnborough, Somerset, a fact which might suggest an earlier date of birth.