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Feudal barony of Stafford

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Dec 12, 2021

The feudal barony of Stafford was a feudal barony the caput of which was at Stafford Castle in Staffordshire, England. The feudal barons were subsequently created Barons Stafford (1299) by writ, Earls of Stafford (1351) and Dukes of Buckingham (1444). After the execution of the 3rd Duke in 1521, and his posthumous attainder, the castle and manor of Stafford escheated to the crown, and all the peerage titles were forfeited. However the castle and manor of Stafford were recovered ten years later in 1531 by his eldest son Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford (1501-1563), who was created a baron in 1547. His descendants, much reduced in wealth and prestige, retained possession of Stafford Castle and the widow of the 4th Baron was still seated there during the Civil War when shortly after 1643 it was destroyed by Parliamentarian forces. By the time of the 6th Baron Stafford (d.1640) the family had sunken into poverty and obscurity, and in 1639 he suffered the indignity of being requested by King Charles I to surrender his title on account of his “having no parte of the inheritance of the said Lord Stafford not any other landes or means whatsoever”.[1] On his death the following year, unmarried and without issue, the senior male line of the Stafford family was extinguished. However a vestige of the feudal barony may be deemed to have continued in the families of later owners of the manor of Stafford and site of the Castle, after the abolition of feudal tenure in 1661.

Stafford Castle, seat of the feudal barony of Stafford. Almost the entire surviving building dates from a reconstruction in 1813 by the Jerningham family

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The descent of the feudal barons of Stafford is recorded, amongst other places, in the Rimed Chronicle of Stone Priory, a verse of unknown date which was found inscribed on a tablet hanging at Stone Priory (founded by the 1st feudal baron) in 1537 at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and transcribed and printed by Dugdale in his Monasticon Anglicanum.[2] Modern standard sources (which largely agree with it) state the descent as follows:[3]

  • Robert de Stafford (c.1039–c.1100) (aliasRobert de Tosny/Toeni, etc.)[4] an Anglo-Norman nobleman who arrived in England during or shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and was awarded by King William the Conqueror 131 manors in his newly conquered kingdom, predominantly in the county of Staffordshire.[5] He built Stafford Castle as his seat. His 131 landholdings are listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. By his wife, believed to have been Avice de Clare, he left a son and heir:
  • Nicholas I de Stafford (d.circa 1138),[6][7] eldest son and heir, 2nd feudal baron of Stafford, the descent from whom was as follows (all successive feudal barons of Stafford):[8]
  • Robert II de Stafford (d.1177/85), son and heir;
  • Robert III de Stafford (d.1193/4), son and heir, died without issue.
  • Millicent de Stafford, sister and heiress, wife of Harvey I Bagot (d.1214). Harvey “had to pay so heavy a fine to Coeur de Lion for permission to marry this heiress, and obtain livery of her lands, that he was forced to sell Drayton — one of her manors — to the canons of St. Thomas”.[9] Her younger son was William Stafford of “Broomshull” (Bramshall near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, a Bagot possession[10][11][12][13]), ancestor of several prominent Stafford lines, most notably Stafford of Hooke in Dorset, Stafford of Southwick in the parish of North Bradley, Wiltshire and Stafford of Grafton in the parish of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.

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