Anne Stafford was Henry VIII’s cousin. Her mother was Katherine Woodville and her father was the Duke of Buckingham who was executed in 1483 by Richard III. Incidentally Anne was born in 1483 so she was somewhat older than Henry VIII. The Staffords were the premier noble family in the country. There was rather a lot of Plantagenet blood flowing through Anne’s veins and ultimately it would get her brother Edward executed in 1521 when he listened to prophecies that suggested that Henry VIII would fail to have sons and that Edward would himself be crowned.
We don’t know for sure that Henry had an affair with Anne Stafford or Anne, Lady Hastings as she was by that time but we do know that it caused a huge scandal and that Catherine of Aragon lost her temper with Henry as a consequence.
The story is as follows. Catherine was pregnant with her first child. Caring royal husbands did not, apparently, sleep with their wives. They showed their love and consideration by getting themselves a mistress. Both Anne Stafford and her sister Elizabeth were ladies-in-waiting which turned out to be Henry’s preferred hunting ground for mistresses. Elizabeth, who was one of Catherine’s favourite ladies, became suspicious and notified her brother, the duke of Buckingham, that Anne was involved with the king.
Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, tells the tale that the duke of Buckingham did not take kindly to the king pawing his sister even if he was the king, after all he was only a jumped up Tudor whilst Anne had good Plantagenet blood. The duke of Buckingham arrived on the scene and took up his argument with Sir William Compton who is thought to have been acting as an intermediary for the king. At the very least there were harsh words. There were certainly raised voices. Henry was not amused by the furore, especially when Buckingham took himself off in a huff and Lord George Hastings, Anne’s spouse, was summoned by his brother-in-law to deal with his errant wife. Hastings’ response was to send Anne to a nunnery some sixty miles from court whilst Sir William Compton was forced to take the sacrament swearing that he hadn’t had his way with Anne. Clearly Hastings didn’t feel it appropriate to accuse his monarch of any underhand behaviour and let’s remember this Lord Hastings was the grandson of the man who Richard III had summarily executed.
Henry in the meantime seems to have had a bit of a major sulk as he reacted by banishing Elizabeth Stafford from court. It was this exile of her favourite snooping lady-in-waiting that caused Catherine of Aragon to become “vexed” with her husband. According to Chapuys she “wept and ranted.” She might not have been terribly amused about his infidelity either but kings weren’t noted for their uxoriousness in those days.
Just to complicate things even further it would appear that Anne Stafford and Sir William Compton did have something of an understanding. He left her land in his will and required that she be included in the prayers said for his family.
And yet, it would appear that whatever was going on behind the scenes that Anne and Lord George Hastings were happy enough in their union if their exchange of letters is anything to go by. They also had seven children.
Hart, Kelly. (2009) The Mistress of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press