Sir Edward STAFFORD of Grafton

Born: ABT 1552

Died: 5 Feb 1604/5

Buried: Westminster Abbey

Father: William STAFFORD of Grafton (Sir)

Mother: Dorothy STAFFORD

Married 1: Roberta CHAPMAN


1. William STAFFORD



Married 2: Douglas HOWARD (B. Sheffield of Butterwick) 29 Nov 1579




Born about 1552, was the eldest son of Sir William Stafford of Grafton and Chibsey, Staffordshire, by his second wife and distant cousin Dorothy Stafford, daughter of Henry Stafford, first baron Stafford. Edward's mother was a friend and mistress of the robes to Queen Elizabeth, and it was probably through her influence that Stafford secured employment from the Queen

After studying at St John's College, Cambridge and Pembroke College, Cambridge, Stafford was assisted by William Cecil, Lord Burghley and became a Member of Parliament for Mitchell in Cornwall (1571) and then for Heytesbury in Wiltshire (1572). He was a member of Elizabeth I's court from 1573, carrying Burghley's secret letters.

Stafford married, first, Roberta, daughter of one Chapman, during the early 1570s; by Roberta he had a son William, who was admitted a member of Gray's Inn on 1 May 1592, and two daughters. Roberta died during her fourth pregnancy in 1578.

Stafford then married Douglas Howard, daughter of William, first baron Howard of Effingham, sister of Charles Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham, widow of John Sheffield, second Lord Sheffield, and former lover of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. The marriage strengthened his links with the Queen, since his sister-in-law Catherine was Elizabeth's closest female companion, as well as being her second cousin. By his second wife Stafford appears to have had two sons who probably died young.

In May 1578 he is said to have been sent to Catherine de' Medici to protest against the Duke of Anjou's intention of accepting the sovereignty of the Netherlands. In the following year he was selected to carry on the negotiations for a marriage between Elizabeth and Anjou. In Aug he was at Boulogne, bringing letters from the Duke to Elizabeth, and in Dec 1579, Jan 1579/80, Jun, Jul, and Nov 1580 he paid successive visits to France in the same connection. On 1 Nov 1581, on his arrival in London, Anjou was lodged in Stafford's house.

Stafford's conduct of these negotiations must have given Elizabeth complete satisfaction; for in Oct 1583 he was appointed resident ambassador in France and knighted; his chaplain was Richard Hakluyt. He remained at this post seven years; his correspondence is a chief source of the diplomatic history of the period. He aligned himself with Burghley, rather than with Francis Walsingham, which caused complications of loyalties in Walsingham's intelligence network, and Stafford's own letters were intercepted by Walsingham's agents.

Stafford showed his independence and protestantism by refusing to have his house in Paris draped during the feast of Corpus Christi, 1584. But Stafford's gambling and financial difficulties were reported upon by Walsingham, which led to Stafford ignoring Walsingham when sending information from Paris. He took 3,000 crowns from Henri, Duke of Guise, in return for access to diplomatic correspondence, and became linked with Charles Arundel, an English Catholic agitator living in Paris. These developments became known to Walsingham, although he did not seek to move against Stafford, who still had Burghley's protection; the death of Walsingham's heir in Oct 1586 led to a reconciliation between Walsingham and Burghley in any case, and Stafford and Walsingham exchanged friendly letters in Apr 1587.

However, before this reconciliation, in Jan 1587, Arundel had acted as an intermediary between Stafford and the Spanish agent Bernardino de Mendoza in discussions about Stafford acting as a spy; Arundel was given 2,000 crowns to hand to Stafford. Whilst one suggested motive is money, another possibility is a desire for revenge upon Walsingham. Although it is unclear whether Mendoza had three informers in Paris, or just one (Stafford) to whom Mendoza gave three pseudonyms, Mendoza was given warning of Francis Drake's attack on the Spanish fleet at Cadiz, amongst other secrets.

However, some information passed on to Spain was inaccurate, either because Stafford was deliberately not giving Spain the full picture, or because Stafford himself was kept ill-informed. Stafford was less than forthcoming in his reports to London when giving details of preparations for the Spanish Armada in 1588, either deliberately or because of over-reliance on Mendoza. There is only circumstantial evidence that Stafford acted traitorously, although the weight of evidence against him has been described as "substantial".

In Feb 1587/8 he had a remarkable secret interview with Henri III, in which that monarch sought Elizabeth's mediation with the Huguenots.

He was in great danger on the ‘day of barricades’ (12 May 1588), but when Guise offered him a guard, he replied with spirit that he represented the majesty of England, and would accept no other protection, and Guise gave secret orders that he should not be molested.

When he received news of the Defeat of the Armada, Stafford wrote a pamphlet, of which he printed four hundred copies at a cost of five crowns, to counteract the effect of the news of Spanish success which the Spanish Ambassador in France had circulated.

After the Defeat of the Armada, Stafford eventually stopped giving intelligence to Mendoza – either because he no longer had a financial incentive so to do (as Elizabeth had cancelled his debts) or because Walsingham's death in 1590 removed a personal motive.

In Oct 1589 he appears to have visited England, and returned to Dieppe with money and munitions for Henri of Navarre. He was in constant attendance on Henri during the war, was present in Sep 1590 when Alexander Farnese captured Lagny and relieved Paris, and again was with Henri in the trenches before Paris a month later. At the end of that year Stafford returned to England, and in the following Jul was succeeded as ambassador by Sir Henry Unton, and given £500 as a reward by the Queen.

Stafford had apparently been promised the secretaryship of state, and during the next few years there were frequent rumours of his appointment to that post and to the chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster. But he had to content himself with the remembrancership of first-fruits (Nov 1591) and a post in the pipe office. He was created M.A. at Oxford 27 Sep 1592, was made bencher of Gray's Inn in the same year, and elected M.P. for Winchester in Mar 1592/3. He sat on a commission for the relief of maimed soldiers and mariners in that session, and was re-elected to parliament for Stafford in 1597–8 and 1601, and for Queenborough in 1604. James I granted him £60 a year in exchequer lands instead of the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster, which had been promised by Elizabeth.

He died on 5 Feb 1604/5, and was buried in St. Margaret's, Westminster. He has been frequently confused in the calendars of state papers and elsewhere with Edward, baron Stafford, and with other members of the Stafford family named Edward, some of whom were also knights (see pedigree in Harl. MS. 6128, ff. 89–91)

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