Occurring in late Apr 1557, Stafford's Raid was an ultimately unsuccessful uprising launched against Mary I by a small band of men led by Thomas Stafford.

A grandson of the Duke of Buckingham and of the Countess of Salisbury, Thomas Stafford was descended from royalty on both sides of his family.

Son of Henry Stafford, who was restored in blood and succeeded to parts of his father's possessions after Edward VI ascended to the throne, and made Baron Stafford in a new creation in 1547, little is known of Thomas early life, first being mentioned in 1550 as he travelled to Rome, where he associated with his uncle Cardinal Pole. He spent three years in Italy before travelling to Poland, obtaining the recommendation of King Sigismund Augustus who requested Mary restored him to the Dukedom of Buckingham.

Upon Mary's accession, this expectation was dashed, and Stafford, being a violent and unstable man, involved himself with Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, in the abortive Leicestershire phase of Wyatt's rebellion. After a brief imprisonment, Stafford fled to France in Mar 1554 and attempted unsuccessfully to ingratiate himself with his uncle, Cardinal Pole. Expelled from the Cardinal's house, Stafford next joined Sir Henry Dudley in the shadowy and unsuccessful plot known as Dudley's conspiracy. By late 1556, Stafford was calling himself heir to the English throne and seeking to interest Henri II of France in supporting a descent on England.

Having already in his custody Mary, Queen of Scots, a far more plausible claimant to the English Crown, Henri never seriously considered Stafford's schemes, but in Jan 1557, he brought the Englishman to court, where he assumed the royal arms of England as part of his seal.

On 18 Apr 1557 (Easter Sunday) Stafford sailed from Dieppe. On 23 Apr, Stafford appeared off the Yorkshire coast with two ships, possibly supplied by Henri, and a few hundred supporters. He disguised his troop in the habit of peasants and countrymen, and came to Scarborough on a market-day, under the most unsuspicious appearances. After his men easily overpowered the dozen-man garrison holding the half-ruinous Scarborough Castle, Stafford, attempting to incite a new revolt, issued a proclamation declaring that the chief strongholds of England were about to be surrendered to the Spaniards as a prelude to Felipe's coronation as king. Stafford railed against increased Spanish influence and promised to return the crown ‘to the trewe Inglyshe bloude of our owne naterall countrye’. He also declared himself Duke of Buckingham and protector of the realm.

Having been apprised of Stafford's activities by Dr. Nicholas Wotton, its ambassador in France, the English government knew about the invasion with-in hours. By 28 Apr, a force of local levies under Henry Neville, Earl of Westmorland, retook the castle and captured Stafford, whose enterprise had generated no support. Imprisoned with 30 of his adherents, Stafford was convicted of treason and executed on 28 May; 26 of his supporters also died.

A proclamation on 30 Apr 1557, declaring the treason of Thomas Stafford and others, says: 

'Whereas Thomas Stafford and others, malicious and evil disposed subjects his adherents, having conspired to perperate divers heinous treasons against the most royal persons of their majesties, and thereupon fearing to receive just punishment for his and their deserts, fled into the parts of beyond the seas and there remaining for a time, have, persisting in their said malice, devised and attempted divers times to stir seditions and rebellions within this realm to the great disturbance of the quietness, peace and tranquility thereof, by sending hither into the realm divers books, letters, and writings, both printed and written, farced and filled full of untruths and seditious and most false surmises of things said to be done and devised by the king our sovereign lord and his servants, which were never imagined ñor thought; and to show their utter malice with more effect, the same Stafford did lately (with certain of his accomplices, unnatural Englishmen and some strangers) enter into this realm and by stealth took their majesties' castle of Scarborough in the county of York, and set out a shameful proclamation wherein he traiterously calleth nameth and affirmeth our said sovereign lady, the Queen's highness, to be unrightful and most unworthy queen, and that the king's majesty, our said sovereign lord, hath induced and brought into this realm the number of 12,000 strangers and Spaniards, and that into the said Spaniards' hands 12 [of] the strongest holds of this realm be delivered; in which proclamation also the said traitor Stafford did name and take himself to be protector and governor of this realm, by these most false and unnatural means minding to allure the good subjects of their majesties to withdraw their duty of alliegance from their said majesties and to adhere to him the said Stafford, to their confusion.

Albeit the said Stafford and other traitors his accomplices be (by the help of God and diligence of the Earl of Westmorland, and other noblemen and gentlemen, good subjects of those parts) repressed, apprehended and forthcoming to receive just punishment according to their deserts; and that it may be well thought that no wise ñor honest man thinketh, or can justly gather any cause to think, that the king's majesty mindeth any other thing unto the queen's majesty and the realm but only to be careful and studious of all things tending to the benefit, surety, honour and defence of the same, and in this part most lovingly and daily bestoweth the great travail of his royal person, besides the large expenses of his goods and treasure...'

One modern theory of the raid is that it was not backed by the French king, but instead instigated by a faction of the English council led by William Paget, Lord Paget. This group provided secret encouragement to the enterprise, duping Stafford into an action that discredited the French and facilitated England's entry into the ongoing Franco-Spanish war on Felipe's side. Although the theory cannot be conclusively proven, England did subsequently enter the war as Spain's ally.


Loades, David: The Chronicles of the Tudor Queens (Sutton Publishing Ltd. - 2002 - Phoenix Mill)  

Hughes and Larkin: Tudor Royal Proclamations (New Haven/London, 1969), II, no. 433.

Wagner, John A: Bosworth Field to Bloody Mary: An Encyclopedia of the early Tudors (Greenwood Publishing Group – 2003 – Connecticut)

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