Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howard, William (1614-1680)

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HOWARD, WILLIAM, Viscount Stafford (1614–1680), was fifth son of Thomas, earl of Arundel and Surrey [q.v.], by his wife Lady Alathea Talbot, third daughter, and eventually sole heiress, of Gilbert, seventh earl of Shrewsbury. He was born on 30 Nov. 1614, and was brought up as a Roman catholic. He was made a knight of the Bath at the coronation of Charles I in February 1626, and married (mar.lic. Bishop of London, 11 Oct. 1637) Mary, the daughter of the Hon. Edward Stafford, and sister of Henry, fifth and last baron Stafford, who died in 1637. Roger Stafford, the last male heir of the Staffords, having been compelled to surrender to the king the barony of Stafford by an enrolled deed dated 7 Dec. 1639, Howard and his wife were created by letters patent of 12 Sept. 1640 Baron and Baroness Stafford, with remainder, in default of male issue, to their heirs female. A grant was also made to them of the same precedence as had been enjoyed by the fifth Baron Stafford; but as this was subsequently considered illegal, Stafford was further created Viscount Stafford on 11 Nov. 1640, and took his seat for the first time in the House of Lords on the following day {Journals of the House of Lords, iv. 90). Upon the outbreak of the civil war Stafford retired with his wife to Antwerp, but subsequently returned to this country (State Trials, vii. 1359). The statement in Doyle's ‘Official Baronage’ that Stafford served as a volunteer in the royal army (1642-6) is inaccurate, as it is clear that he was beyond the seas in 1643 (Clarendon, Hist. of Rebellion, 1826, iv. 630). In June 1646 a pass was granted him to return to England, and in July 1647 he obtained leave to go to Flanders to fetch his wife and family (Journals of the House of Lords, viii. 384, ix. 327). In a letter to the Protector, dated Amsterdam, 1 Jan. 1656, Stafford, after mentioning his former petition on behalf of his nephew Thomas, earl of Arundel, ‘kept in cruell slavery in Padua,’ asks for permission to repair to England to communicate personally to Cromwell ‘a business of far greater importance wholy concerning your owne person and affayres … not fitt to communicate to paper’ (Thurloe State Papers, 1742, iv. 335). Though Stafford was allowed to return, no interview between him and Cromwell appears to have taken place (ib. vi. 436). On 30 June 1660 an order was made by the House of Lords for the restitution of Stafford's goods (Journals of the House of Lords, xi. 79). According to Burnet, Stafford considered that he had not been rewarded by Charles II as he deserved, and so ‘often voted against the court and made great applications always to the Earl of Shaftsbury’ (Hist, of his own Time, ii. 262). In 1664 Stafford petitioned the king, without success, to restore his wife to the earldom of Stafford and barony of Newnham and Tunbridge as fully as though her ancestor, Edward, duke of Buckingham, had never been attainted (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1663-4, p. 446). On 18 Jan. 1665 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1672 served as member of the council of that society. On 3 July 1678 he had an altercation with the Earl of Peterborough in the House of Lords, and was enjoined by the lord chancellor ‘not to resent anything as passed between them this day’ (Journals of the House of Lords, xiii. 270).

In consequence of the false information of Titus Oates a warrant was issued by the lord chief justice, at the instance of the speaker, for the apprehension of Stafford and four other catholic lords, namely, the Earl of Powis and Lords Arundell of Wardour, Belasyse, and Petre. On the following day Stafford, having first informed the House of Lords of the issue of the warrant, surrendered himself, and was committed to the King's Bench prison, whence he was subsequently removed to the Tower. [For the preliminary proceedings against ‘the five popish lords’ see art. Arundell, Henry.] On 21 May 1680 Stafford, who was still confined to the Tower, was refused bail by the court of king's bench (Luttrell, i. 45), and on 10 Nov. following the House of Commons resolved unanimously to proceed with the prosecution and to place Stafford on his trial first (Journals of the House of Commons, ix. 650). According to Reresby, the reason of the selection was that Stafford was ‘deemed weaker than the other lords in the Tower for the same crime, and less able to labour his defence’ (p. 236). On 30 Nov. 1680 the trial of Stafford for high treason was commenced in Westminster Hall. It lasted seven days (see Evelyn, Diary, ii. 150-4). Heneage, lord Finch, the lord chancellor, presided as lord high steward. The managers for the commons included Sergeant Maynard, Sir William Jones, Sir Francis Winnington, and George Treby. Stafford, who was only allowed to consult his counsel when points of law arose, defended himself with greater ability than was anticipated. Dugdale, Gates, and Turberville all bore false witness against him. Gates declared that he had delivered a commission to him from the pope as paymaster-general of the army which ‘was to be raised for the promoting of the catholic interest’ (State Trials, vii. 1348). Dugdale and Turberville both swore that Stafford had endeavoured to persuade them to murder the king (ib. pp. 1343, 1353). Stafford vainly protested his innocence. The legal objection raised by him ‘touching the necessity of two witnesses to every overt act as evidence of high treason’ after the opinion of the judges had been taken upon the point was overruled (ib. pp. 1525-33). On 7 Dec. Stafford was found guilty by 55 to 31, and sentence of death by hanging, drawing, and quartering was pronounced by Finch, who had shown considerable courtesy and fairness to the prisoner during the trial. According to Evelyn, Stafford ‘was not a man beloved especially of his own family’ (Diary, ii. 154), and all his kinsmen who took part in the trial found him guilty with the exception of Lord Mowbray, afterwards seventh duke of Norfolk. At Stafford's request Burnet and Henry Compton, the bishop of London, visited him in the Tower, and to them he solemnly protested his innocence. On 18 Dec., having promised to discover all that he knew, Stafford was taken before the House of Lords, where ‘he began with a long relation of their first consultations after the Restoration about the methods of bringing in their religion, which they all agreed could only be brought about by toleration. He told them of the Earl of Bristol's project, and went on to tell who had undertaken to procure the toleration for them; and then he named the Earl of Shaftsbury. When he named him he was ordered to withdraw, and the lords would hear no more from him’ (Burnet, Hist. ii. 272; see also Hist.MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. ii. pp. 43-4).

Stafford was beheaded on Tower Hill on 29 Dec. 1680, the king remitting the other barbarous penalties. The question whether this remission lay in the power of the king gave rise to a short debate in the House of Commons (Parl. Hist. iv. 1260-1). While on the scaffold Stafford read a speech, in which he again protested his innocence (State Trials, vii. 1564-7). He was buried in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower on the same day, but the exact spot is unknown.

Stafford left three sons and six daughters. His widow was created on 5 Oct. 1688 Countess of Stafford for her life, and died on 13 Jan. 1694. Their eldest son, Henry Stafford Howard, was also on 5 Oct. 1688 created Earl of Stafford, with remainder in default of male issue to his brothers. Upon the abdication of James II he retired to France, where on 3 April 1694 he married Claude Charlotte, the eldest daughter of Philibert, comte de Grammont, and died 27 April 1619 without issue. On the death of John Paul Stafford-Howard, the fourth earl, on 1 April 1762,. this earldom became extinct.

On 27 May 1685 a bill for reversing Stafford's attainder was read for the first time in the House of Lords. Though it passed through the lords and was read a second time in the House of Commons (6 June), it was dropped upon the outbreak of the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion. In the beginning of the present century some abortive proceedings were taken before the committee of privileges by Sir William Jerningham, and subsequently by his son Sir George William Jerningham, descendants of Mary Plowden, Stafford's grand-daughter (House of Lords' Papers, 1808 No. 80, 1809 No. 107, 1812 No. 18). At length in 1824 ‘an act for reversing the attainder of William, late viscount Stafford,’ was passed (5 Geo. IV, c. 46; private act not printed). On 6 July 1825 the House of Lords resolved that Sir George William Jerningham had established his claim to the barony of Stafford, created 12 Sept. 1640 (House of Lords' Papers, 1825, No. 129: and Journals, lvii. 1293), and on 1 May 1829 he took his seat for the first time.

A portrait of Stafford by Vandyck belongs to the Marquis of Bute, engraved in Lodge's ‘Portraits,’ vol. vi. A similar portrait is in the possession of the Duke of Norfolk (cf. Howard, Howard Family, p. 36). Stafford's town residence was Tart Hall, ‘without the gate of St. James's Park’ (Cunningham, Handbook for London, 1849, ii. 797-8).

[Stafford's Memoires, 1682; Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, 1857, i. 11, 13, 14, 45, 59-60; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time, 1833, i. 19, ii. 184, 193, 262-73, 298-9, vi. 277; Memoirs and Travels of Sir John Reresby, 1813, pp. 216, 236-7, 238, 239; Diary and Correspondence of John Evelyn, 1857, ii. 46-7, 129, 150-4, 155; North's Examen, 1740, pp. 215-21; Causton's Howard Papers; Howell's State Trials, 1810, vii. 1217-1576; Macpherson's Hist. of Great Britain, 1776, i. 330-3; Lingard's Hist. (2nd edit.), xiii. 85-6, 226-49, xiv. 33-4; Macaulay's Hist. 1849, i. 259-60, 522-3, ii. 178; Lodge's Portraits, vi. 41-7; Bell's Notices of the Historic Persons buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, 1877; Papers relative to the two Baronies of Stafford, 1807; Gent. Mag. 1797, pt. ii. pp. 667-70; Doyle's Official Baronage, iii. 393; Collins's Peerage, 1812, i. 125-8; Burke's Extinct Peerage, 1886, pp. 285-6, 501; Foster's Peerage, 1883, pp. 658-9; Foster's London Marriage Licenses, p. 717; Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers, pp. 233, 295-6,400; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. v. 447, vi. 57.]

G. F. R. B.