A History of the Stafford Family

The family name STAFFORD is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word "Stat", meaning a town, and "ford" meaning a ford. These two words joined together produce the name Statford, which through a simple transition was finally spelled STAFFORD, the name of a town in England, which was originally built by Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred, about 910-915 A. D. It is located on the Sow River, near its junction with the Penk River. It is located about 130 miles north of London, and, in 1921, it had a population of approximately 30,000. It is the birth place of Isaac Walton. Staffords, from the Encyclopedia Britannica: The famous English House was founded in England by Robert, a younger brother of Ralph de Tosney, of a noble Norman House, who was standard bearer of the Dutchy. Robert received at the conquest of England a great feif extending into seven counties and became known as Ralph de Stafford from his residence at Stafford Castle. With his son the male line became extinct and his sister's husband, Hervey Bagot, one of knightly tenants, succeeded to her right (1194), their descendant Edward de Stafford was summoned as a baron in 1299. His son, Ralph conducted the brilliant defense of Aiguillon against the host of France, fought at Crecy and in the siege of Calais. Chosen Knight of the Garter at the foundation of the Order. He was created Earl of Stafford in 1351. His son, Hugh, who succeeded as second earl in 1372, served in the French Wars. From 1376 he became prominent in politics, probably through his marriage to a daughter of Warwick, being one of the four lords of the committee in the Good Parliament, and also serving on the committee that controlled Richard II (1378-80), whom he accompanied on his Scottish expedition in 1385. He died next year on a pilgrimage to Rhodes. His son Thomas, the third earl, married (1392) the daughter and heiress of Thomas, Duke of Buckingham (son of Edward III) who, on Thomases death married in 1398 his brother Edmond, the fifth earl. Their son Humphrey (1402-1460), the first Stafford Duke of Buckingham was placed by his descent and his possessions in the front rank of the English Nobility. Henry the second duke, was attained in 1483, but because of the triumph of Henry VII, in 1486, Edward, the third duke (1478-1521), regained the title and the estates, and recovered the ancestral office of Lord High Constable in 1509. He was accused of treason and after a nominal trial by his peers was beheaded on May 17,1521. A subsequent Act (1523) confirming his attainder. Henry (1501-1563), the son of the last duke, was granted by the Crown some of his father's manors for his support, and, espousing the Protestant cause (though married to a daughter of Margaret, countess of Salesbury and sister of cardinal Pole) was restored in blood on Edward VI's accession and declared Lord Stafford, a new creation, by Act of Parliament. His second surviving son, Thomas, evidently assumed the royal Arms, sailed from Dieppe with two ships on April 1557, landed in Scarborough, seized the castle and proclaimed himself protector. He was captured and executed for high treason. His father's new barony, in 1637, passed to a cadet in humble circumstances who was called on, as a pauper, to surrender to the King, which he did (illegally it is now held) in 1639. The King therefore bestowed on Mary Stafford (the Heir general of the line) and her husband, William Howard, in whose descendants, it is now vested. Roger who had surrendered the title, died in 1640, the last heir male, apparently of the main line of this historic house. Ref: 1. Dugdale Baronage (1675) Vol. i. 2. G. E. Cokayne, Complete Peerage. 3. Wrottealey. History of the Family of Bagot 1908 and Crecy and Calais. 4. Harconti. His Grace the Steward and the Trial of the Peers (1907). Episcopal Registers, diocese Exeter, 1395 to 1409. Edmond Stafford Bishop of Exeter. King Henry IV, By his Letters Patent had granted License to the Ekerdon and Edmond Elyot, clerks, and to Robert Gray enabling them to convey to the Dean and Chapter of Exeter the Manors of Wynterborn Wast, Bokhamton and Swanwych, in the County of Dorset and the Avowson of the Church of Wynterborn, to find three chaplains to celebrate daily in the Catholic Church for the King himself and his sons in life, and for their souls after death, and kinsmen and for all the faithful departed. Subsequently, the said William Ekerdon, Edmond Elyot and Robert Grey, conveyed the said estates accordingly; and the Bishop proceeded to the ordinance- which provided (1) that the Dean priests to be called the Annivellarii of Edmond Stafford, Bishop, who should at the alter of St. John Evangelist, adjoining the Lady - Chapel, for the Bishop himself, and for Sir Humphrey de Stafford and Elizabeth, his wife; also Sir Richard de Stafford, knight, and Isabella Stafford, the Bishop's father and mother, and his uncle Ralph de Stafford, and lastly for King Henry IV, - for all these whether living or departed and for the faithful departed. Ref: Book 5107, E8A3, Vol. 3, Cong. Lib. Dr. G. M. G. Stafford states in Stafford Genealogy: There was only one Stafford family in England, no matter how lowly in worldly goods or station a man might be who bore that name, it was definitely known that he was a member of that great parent family designated by it. The Staffords are of Norman descent through Robert de Tonei, (By the way my mothers maiden name is Norman...) a knight who came over to England in the retinue of William the Conqueror and became the progenitor of the extensive family now known by the name of Stafford. His Royal Master appointed him Governor of the Castle of Stafford. From the title of the Castle, Robert de Tonei and his descendants assumed the name of Stafford. Edmond, fifth Earl of Stafford, married Lady Ann Plantagenet, eldest daughter of Thomas, Duke of Buckingham, youngest son of Edward III, by whom he had only one son, Humphrey, sixth Earl of Stafford, who in consequence of his near alliance to the Crown, was created in 1444 Duke of Buckingham. Consequently all of the descendants of Edmond, fifth Earl of Stafford, are in line of direct descent from the House of Plantagenet. For several generations the exponents of this great family were very close to the throne, and at least two of them lost their heads for political reasons.

The Media Research Bureau of Washington, D. C. furnished the following data on the Stafford family: It is claimed that the family of Stafford is descended from a Norman follower of William the Conqueror, one Robert de Tonei, Governor of the Castle of Stafford, in the eleventh century, whose descendants used the name of de Stafford. Robert de Tonei was the great grand-father of Robert de Stafford who died about 1189, leaving an only child named Milicent who married Hervey who took the mother's surname. Edward de Stafford, great grandson of the last mentioned Hervey de Stafford was created first Lord Stafford in the latter part of the 13th century and married Maud de Comville who gave him among others Ralph and Richard, of whom the last was the ancestor of the barons, Stafford of Clifton, and the first constituted the line and was created Earl of Stafford in 1351. Ralph Stafford, Earl of Stafford, married Margaret, the only daughter of and Heiress of Hugh Audley, Earl of Glouster and grandson of King Edward I of England, and is said to have had issue by her of, among other children, a daughter Margaret who married her cousin Sir John Stafford and had a son named Ralph who was the Lord Steward of the House of King Edward III, and married Matilda Hastang, by whom she had Sir Humphrey, who married Margaret Fogge and had Sir William who married as his second wife a distant cousin Dorothy Stafford whose ancestry will be traced below. Edmond, fifth Earl of Stafford, a direct descendant of the before mentioned Ralph de Stafford of the 14th century, was married in the latter part of that century to Lady Ann Plantagenet, granddaughter of King Edward III of England, and had issue by her of Humphrey Stafford, who was the first in line to bear the title of Duke of Buckingham who married Anne Nevile, daughter of the first Earl of Westmorland. They were parents of another Humphrey, Earl of Stafford, who married Margaret Beaufort, daughter of the Duke of Summerset, and had Humphrey who was the father of Edward, who married Eleanor Percy, daughter of the Earl of Northumberland, and had issue by her of Henry, who was the father of the before mentioned Dorothy Stafford, who married Sir William Stafford in the latter part of the 16th century. Another line of the family was that of the County of Wexford, which is said to have been represented as early as the year 1335 by one Hamon de Stafford, who was the ancestor of George and John Stafford of the time of King Edward IV, of whom the last had a son named Nicholas, who also had a son named Nicholas, and who was the father of John Stafford High Sheriff in Wexford in 1640. It is not definitely known from which of the many illustrious lines of the family in England the first emigrants to America were descended, but it is generally believed that all of the families of the name are of common ancestry. The descendants of the various branches of the family have spread to every State in the Union and have aided as much in the growth of the country as their ancestors aided in the founding of the nation. We, who are connected with this great family, may be assured that we are not only descended from English Royalty, but the ancestry can readily be traced back through the French Royalty and into the Roman Royalty to Mark Anthony. Tradition persists that our Stafford ancestry escaped from England, by night, in order to save their heads. They had a legitimate claim to the Castle, but being in the minority, escaped to Ireland and finally came to America. It is a well known fact that high rank and great wealth frequently involved great risk in medieval times, in England as well as other countries of the civilized world. The Stafford nobility seemed to have its share of reverses, but from that great family has stemmed many of the great men of the English speaking countries, including America. The Washingtons, Lees, Tafts and many other great men of the New World trace their ancestry back to the Stafford nobility. It is therefore a matter of great pride that we are privileged to align ourselves with the descendants of the Stafford family.

Thornbury Castle was established when in 1510 Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, received a license from Henry VIII to build his Castle at Thornbury. Work started in 1511, but ten years later the Duke was accused of treason and executed on Tower Hill, his lands were confiscated, and the Castle appropriated by Henry VIII who retained it as a Royal Demesne for 33 years. In 1535 he stayed at the Castle with Anne Boleyn, and Mary Tudor lived at the Castle for some years, returning the Castle to the descendants of the Duke when she became Queen. Thornbury Castle now stands surrounded by its vineyards, gardens and high walls, with views over the Severn into Gloucestershire and Wales. (See attached picture)


Thornbury Castle

Castle Street, Thornbury, Avon BS12 1HH UK