On this day in Tudor history, 1st October 1526, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Dorothy Stafford, Lady Stafford, was born.
Dorothy was the daughter of Henry Stafford, 10th Baron Stafford, and his wife, Ursula (née Pole), and she was married to Sir William Stafford, widower of Mary Boleyn. Dorothy served Queen Elizabeth I as a gentlewoman of the privy chamber and was one of her favourite sleeping companions.
Here are a few facts about Dorothy Stafford:
- Dorothy's maternal grandparents were Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, and her paternal grandparents were Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and Eleanor Percy.
- Dorothy was brought up in the household of her paternal aunt, Elizabeth Howard (née Stafford), Duchess of Norfolk.
- She married Mary Boleyn's widower, Sir William Stafford, in 1545. The couple went on to have six children, three sons and three daughters.
- Dorothy and her husband went into exile on the Continent in Mary I's reign, settling in Geneva. Their third son, John, was born in Geneva and the famous reformer John Calvin stood as godfather at his baptism in 1556.
- William Stafford died in 1556 and Dorothy left Geneva for Basel after an argument with Calvin over custody of her son, John.
- In 1559, following the accession of the Protestant Elizabeth I, Dorothy and her children travelled to France and then on to England, arriving there in the autumn. Dorothy then joined the queen's privy chamber, where she became one of Elizabeth's favourite sleeping companions. Dorothy's daughter, Elizabeth, also later joined the queen's privy chamber as a chamberer.
- Dorothy broke her leg in a riding accident in 1576 and was therefore unable to serve the queen. According to Dorothy's biographer Simon Adams, "Mary Scudamore had to be recalled from holiday to replace her so that Elizabeth could sleep peacefully".
- Dorothy served Elizabeth I for forty years.
- Dorothy's son William was allegedly the chief plotter in the Stafford Plot, a plot to assassinate Elizabeth I, but he was only imprisoned for a short time and lived the rest of his life quietly in Norfolk, dying a natural death. Click here to find out more about him and the plot.
- Dorothy died in September 1604 and was laid to rest at St Margaret's Church, Westminster.
Here is the inscription from Dorothy Stafford's tomb from the north aisle in St Margaret's:
"Here lyeth the Lady Dorothy Stafford, Wife and Widow to Sir William Stafford, Knight, Daughter [in Law] to Henry Lord Stafford, the only Son of Edward the last Duke of Buckingham: Her Mother was Vrsula, Daughter to the Countesse of Salisbury, the only Daughter to George Duke of Clarence, Brother to King Edward the Fourth. Shee continued a true Widow from the Age of 27. till her Death. She served Queen Elizabeth 40 Yeeres, lying in the Bedchamber, esteemed of her, loved of all, doing good, all she could, to every Body, never hurted any; a continual Remembrancer of the Suits of the Poor. As she lived a religious Life, in great Reputation of Honour and Vertue in the World, so she ended in continual fervent Meditation, and hearty Prayer to God. At which Instant, as all her Life, so after her Death, she gave liberally to the Poore, and died aged 78, the 22. of September 1604. In whose Remembrance, Sir Edward Stafford, her Sonne, hath caused this Memorial of her to be in the same Forme and Place as she herselfe long since required him."
You can see a photo of her tomb at https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/commemorations/lady-dorothy-stafford-her-son-edward
Also on this day in Tudor history...
Notes and Sources
- Adams, S. (2008, January 03). Stafford [née Stafford], Dorothy, Lady Stafford (1526–1604), courtier. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. https://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-69753.
- "Dorothy Stafford", Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Stafford#Marriage_and_issue.
- "The Church of St Margaret", John Strype's A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Book 6, Chapter 3, https://www.dhi.ac.uk/strype/TransformServlet?page=book6_041&display=normal.