Edward Stafford the third Duke of Buckingham really should have known about the dangers of irritating monarchs. His father the second duke was executed by Richard III and Edward a mere child of five was forced to flee into hiding having been dressed by his mother Katherine Woodville as a girl.
The problem was that Edward was descended thrice over from Edward III despite the fact that his mother was Katherine Woodville. The Stafford family had been around for centuries whereas the Tudors were Johnny-Come-Late-lies. This was so much the case that after the death of Prince Arthur in 1502 it was suggested in some quarters that the Duke of Buckingham might make an appropriate monarch. Not only was Edward a Plantagenet with clear and legitimate lines of descent but he had also benefitted from a royal upbringing having been made a ward of Margaret Beaufort.
Seven years later when Edward discovered that his sister had become the king’s mistress he was absolutely furious. He believed that his family was far to important for Anne to be the mistress of a mere Tudor, a marked contrast to the Duke of Norfolk who would spend most of his political career from the 1520s onwards dangling Howard girls under Henry’s nose.
Buckingham knew how the court worked under Henry VII – a man not admired for his lack of mistresses and had failed to notice that whilst the Plantagenets were first amongst equals – in a country where rulers appointed men to effectively rule their own regions that the Tudors centralised and appointed administrators – that they were absolute rulers for want of a better description.
Henry VII sought to use Edward’s Plantagenet blood in the marriage market when he suggested a marriage with Anne of Brittany but avarice won out when the Earl Northumberland offered the king £4000 for Edward to marry his daughter Eleanor. By 1509 Edward Stafford had claimed the hereditary right of being Lord High Constable and was on Henry VIII’s newly appointed council having performed in a series of diplomatic and high status court roles.
Buckingham’s sense of self worth was probably reinforced when he received a licence to crenelate, i.e. to fortify a property. He was treading the path of the fifteenth century over mighty subject who ruled his own domain. He had failed to spot that his second cousin Henry VIII granted favours to his friends but woe betide them if they didn’t play by his rules.
Thus when Edward heard from Anne’s sister Elizabeth that Anne was conducting an affair with the king he thought that there would be no repercussions when he summoned his brother-in-law and removed Anne to a nunnery some sixty miles from court. Even worse the affair became common knowledge. Queen Katherine who was pregnant became very upset and Henry was embarrassed. Anne would return to court and the affair probably continued for another few years if Henry’s New Year’s gift list is anything to go by. However, the damage was done – Henry knew how to carry a grudge.
In 1520 Buckingham was suspected of treason. It had become clear that Katherine of Aragon was not as fertile as her mother. A child, Mary, had been born the pervious year but it was unthinkable that a girl might inherit – the Tudors were in danger of dying out. Edward Stafford was the man, so he said, to take up the Crown – Henry personally interviewed the witnesses. In April 1521 he was packed off to the Tower for imagining the death of the king and executed on the 17th May. The evidence was flimsy.