Stafford, Thomas (1531?-1557) (DNB00)

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STAFFORD, THOMAS (1531?–1557), rebel, born about 1531 (Addit. MS. 6672, f. 193), was the ninth child, but second surviving son, of Henry Stafford, first baron Stafford [q. v.] His mother was Ursula, daughter of Sir Richard Pole, K.G., by his wife, Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury [q. v.] Thomas was educated privately, and in July 1550 passed through Paris on his way to Rome. There an attempt seems to have been made by Cardinal Pole and Francis Peto, a nephew apparently of William Peto [q. v.], to win back Stafford and his brother Henry to the catholic faith (Cal. State Papers, For. 11547–53, pp. 70–1, 119–21). Thomas remained in Italy for three years, and in May 1553 was at Venice. On the 5th of that month a motion was carried in the council of ten ‘that the jewels of St. Mark and the armoury halls of this council be shown to Mr. Thomas Stafford, the nephew of the right reverend cardinal of England’ (i.e. Reginald Pole [q. v.]), and on the 9th a similar resolution permitted him and his two servants to carry arms (Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1534–54, Nos. 749, 750). Thence he proceeded to Poland, where on 1 Oct. Sigismund Augustus, king of Poland, and his queen wrote letters strongly recommending him to Queen Mary, and requesting that he might be restored to the dukedom of Buckingham (ib. For. 1553–58, pp. 15, 16). On the way he visited his uncle at Dillingen; but the cardinal opposed his return to England, and refused to give him letters of commendation to the queen or any one else.

Mary paid no attention to the Polish king's recommendations, and this neglect, or a genuine dislike of the Spanish marriage, induced Stafford to offer a strenuous opposition to that alliance. He seems to have been concerned in Suffolk's attempted rebellion in January 1553–4 [see Grey, Henry, Duke of Suffolk], and on 16 Feb. was sent a prisoner to the Fleet (Acts of the Privy Council, 1552–1554, pp. 393, 395). He was soon at liberty, and at the end of March fled to France (cf. Pole to Cardinal de Monte, 4 April 1554). He visited his uncle at Fontainebleau, and told him that he had helped to capture Suffolk (Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1534–54, p. 495); but Pole, fearing to offend Queen Mary and the emperor, drove him from his house. From this time Stafford threw himself actively into the intrigues of the exiles in France, and at the end of April he made an abortive attempt to assassinate Sir William Pickering [q. v.], who, after coquetting with the exiles, was once more seeking royal favour. Stafford's ambition was not merely to overthrow Mary. He was himself of royal descent on both his father's [see Stafford, Edward, third Duke of Buckingham] and his mother's side [see Pole, Margaret], and, though apparently a younger brother, he maintained that he was next heir to the throne after Mary, who had forfeited her right by marrying a Spaniard. He even adopted the full arms of England without any difference on his seal. His pretensions involved him in a quarrel with his fellow exile, Sir Robert Stafford, erroneously said to have been his brother (cf. G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerage, vii. 213), and ‘if ever there were a tragico comœdia played, surely these men played it’ (Wotton to Petre, Cal. State Papers, For. 1553–8, p. 264). On the ground that Thomas sought his life, Robert in October 1556 procured his imprisonment ‘in the vilest prison of Rouen, among thieves and such honest companions.’ Thomas procured his release two months later, and retaliated by having Robert cast in heavy damages in an action for ‘injurious imprisonment.’ Early in 1557 the English ambassador was alarmed by the favourable treatment Thomas was receiving from the French court, for Henry II of France had apparently determined to use Stafford as a pawn in the coming struggle with England. Though the French king subsequently denied having aided Stafford, it is probable that he supplied the two ships in which Stafford and his supporters embarked at Dieppe on Easter Sunday (18 April). He landed on the coast of Yorkshire and seized Scarborough Castle on the 25th; in the proclamation he issued (printed in Strype, Eccl. Mem. III. ii. 515; Maitland, Essays on the Reformation, pp. 154–6) he denounced the Spanish marriage, asserted that a Spanish army was about to land to enslave the English, called upon the people to rise, and styled himself protector (Holinshed, ed. 1586, iii. 1133; Stow, ed. 1615, pp. 630–631). But his plans were known to the English ambassador before he left France. The militia rapidly assembled under the command of Henry Neville, fifth earl of Westmorland [see under Neville, Ralph, fourth Earl]. Stafford was captured almost without a blow, and on 2 May was sent to London, where he was tried and convicted of high treason. He was hanged and quartered at Tyburn on 28 May 1557.

[Cal. State Papers, Venetian and Foreign Ser. passim. and Dom. Ser. Addenda, 1547–65, p. 449; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent; G. E. C[okayne]'s Peerage, vii. 213; Rymer's Fœdera, xv. 440 (document misdated 1556 for 1557); Ambassades de Noailles, 1763, 4 vols.; Reginaldi Poli Epistolæ, Brescia, 1744–57, 5 vols.; Strype's Eccl. Mem. passim; Wriothesley's Chron. and Machyn's Diary (Camden Soc.); Burnet's Hist. Reformation, ed. Pocock, ii. 163; Holinshed's Chron.; Stow's Annals; Tytler's Hist. ii. 363; Froude, vi. 243, 475–6; Hinds's Making of the England of Elizabeth, pp. 92–101.]

A. F. P.