BUCKINGHAM’S MYSTERIOUS BURIAL.

I’m very pleased to share this intriguing guest post from Janet Reedman aka hoodedman1 @MurreyandBlue. Love him or loathe him, probably the latter, where was the git  – ooooops sorry  – Duke buried??  Thank you hoodedman.

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Henry Stafford Duke of Buckingham.  Engraving from a portrait at Magdalan College, Cambridge. Artists John and Paul Knapton, London, c.1747.

Where lies Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham?
No one can say for sure, his final resting place is as elusive and entwined with myth and legend as Richard III’s once was.
Stafford, leader of the October 1483 rebellion against Richard, was turned in by one of his own men while hiding in a cottage, apparently in peasant dress, after heavy rain and the flooding of the Severn caused his uprising to fail. He was taken to Salisbury, where on November 2, he was beheaded in the Market Square.
He supposedly begged to speak with Richard, who was staying either at the King’s House in the cathedral close or at the priory at nearby Wilton. Buckingham insisted he had important information for the King. Richard refused to see him, this man he had called ‘the most untrue creature living’ and the execution took place as planned. It was unusual, as it took place on a Sunday, and on All Souls…and it was also the birthday of Edward V (which just may be significant considering Buckingham was named in regards to the Princes’ murders, if murdered they were, in documents both in England and on the Continent.
But what happened to the remains of this great traitor, himself of royal descent, who had perhaps even dreamed of wearing the crown of England himself?
A near contemporary report says he was buried in the church of the Greyfriars in Salisbury. This Franciscan Friary has now completely vanished and stood near to St Anne’s street and Brown street; a commemorative plaque has been set into a building near the presumed spot. This is the only document that mentions his resting place, and there is always the vague possibility they are confusing him with his grandfather, who was buried in Greyfriars in Northampton.
However, a mile outside of the city centre, in the sleepy village of Britford, another tomb claims to be Buckingham’s. A Victorian plaque above it declares that it is his grave. It is the only large memorial in the church—comprising the top of a large canopied tomb, which stands above a smaller tomb-chest capped by Purbeck marble. The chest does in fact bear a shield bearing one of the devices of the Staffords.
But the top of the tomb is probably a hundred years too early, and the chest may be too early as well…although the lid has some features that suggest it was 15th century. Perhaps the tomb was reused for Buckingham’s burial?
Certainly both the canopy and chest came from elsewhere, probably from one of the ruined friaries after the Dissolution. They were not always situated in tiny Britford church. So it could have been taken from Greyfriars.
A good case for the chest actually being Buckingham’s last resting place can be made by one fact—his daughter Anne’s husband, George Earl of Huntingdon, actually owned the manor at Britford. It may well have been Anne who had the tomb removed from the friary at the Dissolution and transported for safety to the village church.
However, it appears to be empty…
So where are Buckingham’s bones?
If you go to Debenham’s, the site of the Blue Boar Inn where Buckingham spent his last night alive, you can have a nice cream tea whilst looked at Buckingham’s not-very-flattering portrait and read a little information the tea room has written on him. They claim that a skeleton was found many years ago under the kitchen flagstones, missing a head and a hand, and that these bones were thought to be the remains of Henry Stafford. They also claimed that the decapitated Duke’s head was sent to London to be placed on ‘Traitor’s Gate’ hence the skeleton found had no skull.
These two stories are problematic. It is highly unlikely even a traitor of the calibre of the Duke would be given a lowly burial in an inn’s kitchen…and goodness knows what the innkeeper would have said! Richard tended to give his slain enemies proper burials, and no doubt he did likewise with Buckingham. There is also no evidence that Buckingham’s head went anywhere other than into the grave with its owner, albeit separated from his shoulders. I believe Traitor’s Gate did not even have this name in Richard’s era. This skeleton, if it existed at all, was probably an Anglo-Saxon or even prehistoric resident of Salisbury.
Another distant possibility is that Stafford was buried in a chapel out at Old Sarum castle, a mile or so beyond Salisbury. This once mighty castle was already ruinous at the time of the execution, but there was one chapel still in use in the 15th century, mainly for wayfarers. In Victorian times the chapel was excavated and a skeleton found  either near the high altar or in the ambulatory–of a man who had been beheaded, but who was also wearing a prisoner’s manacles. His head lay between his knees. This unusual burial was never mentioned as a candidate for Buckingham but was rather mysteriously thought to be William of Eu, who lost a duel at Sarum in the reign of William Rufus. However, it is  is unlikely to be William, for it would be very hard to fight a duel wearing irons…and, besides that, William of Eu did NOT die at Sarum, but although hideously mutilated after losing the fight, retired somewhere near Hastings and lived on for some years….
So there was a mysterious medieval burial at Sarum, high status by its position in the church but decapitated and wearing criminals’ irons …which, sadly, has now gone missing (the bones, that is; the irons are still owned by Salisbury Museum.)
Maybe in a lab somewhere there is a battered box marked ‘Sarum’ that could contain the elusive Duke. Or maybe he is still under the floor of the destroyed Salisbury Greyfriars like Richard was in Leicester Greyfriars, with roads and buildings above him. Perhaps one day someone will open that dusty box or discover a likely burial, decide to take a closer look and do some tests.
Any Staffords out there who can donate some dna?

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6 thoughts on “BUCKINGHAM’S MYSTERIOUS BURIAL.

  1. The Stafford DNA project has demonstrated that there are 3 major Stafford families of English origin. This includes an American family that is has been connected in various online family trees to the Stafford Dukes of Buckingham. Further study, however, has shown this to be a different line entirely with a Y chromosome common in the Balkans, leading to the theory that this particular Stafford “line” arrived in England with the Roman 20th Legion, the so-called Legio XX Valeria Victrix. Apparently the Romans are known to have “recruited” in the Balkans.

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  2. Please thank HoodedMan (Janet R) for this great post Sparky, I have come across something along these lines in Louise Gill’s book on Buckingham’s Rebellion (as per a body found in Salisbury at the tavern, with the missing head but also the whole arm, chopped off at the shoulder).

    So much more has been discussed and written about HS2dB (short for Henry Stafford 2nd duke of Buckingham) AFTER his death than anything he did while alive that his advocates would say well, Edward IV never allowed him any measure of responsibility to exhibit his skills, diplomatic or martial (we could quibble about the French Campaign of 1475 and HS leaving in a huff before the Treaty was even drawn up but HS may well have been there for dreams of his men capturing wealthy knights for ransom and profitable looting, not an exhibition of his own glorious deeds on the field).

    One thing that strikes me is HS’s peculiar rush to ‘rebellion’ – I don’t buy the persuasive guilt trip used by allegedly employed by Morton – that sounds good, FROM Morton’s hagiography, but the HS we know (grasping, avaricious, petty, and suffused with his own belief that he could just as easily sit the throne as any Yorkist) is not some dull witted and hapless minion of the sly Bishop of Ely. In today’s terms, HS2dB jumped the gun, but why? HAD he just sat tight just another 7 little months, assisted Richard to put down the incongruous rebellion fomented (probably by Margaret Beaufort and Morton) followed by the death of Richard’s only son and heir and WHO else would have, in April of 1484, looked more like the heir apparent to Richard THAN Henry Stafford, beloved cousin and supporter of the king? Surely Queen Anne would not have another child, neither she nor her sister Isabel appear to have been made of the stuff of their Neville aunts! Edward of Warwick was still all of 9 in 1484 and affected by his father Clarence’s attainder, the other Yorkists’ came through the female line – if I was Harry Stafford in 1484, HAD I NOT jumped that gun so precipitously, well, I’m the heir, with two sons and two daughters…

    so, just me thinking out loud, but the reason HS2db added himself to the hodgepodge rebellion was not because of Morton’s preachy exhortations and promises of his daughter married to Harry of Richmond (it would have to be something like that – insane as that sounds), I suspect the other sweeteners would be Thomas Stanley out as a dominant figure in Richmond’s Privy council, HS would be the one running the new king, just like he wanted to run the king he felt he had just made. IF HS did see himself as a new kingmaker he was delusional, the Neville family in more ways than we can discuss here put Edward on the throne, it wasn’t simply the efforts of just the earl of Warwick – if anything he undid so much of what his family had achieved – no – what HS had to do by adding himself to that rebellion, and I think all agree it was “late” – was not because he felt these malcontents would win vs Richard, I am quite sure he knew better, no, he needed to get his foot in the door with French backing (and double cross RIchmond) as the better candidate for continental allies to support – it was a gamble he was willing to take. Richmond was an insignificant member of an exiled (and illegitimate) Lancastrian dead end, HS was a royal duke with a direct and legitimate male line to Edward III …

    there may have been another reason HS could not openly support Richard, by October 1483, surely by now Richard had moved one or both of the nephews in the Tower, due to the odd plots that occurred in London that summer (mostly June-August) – for myself, I feel the younger nephew, Richard, was successfully moved out of London, probably by the means of Tyrell and his men, and who knows how many locations the child was at before he found himself in the Low Countries. As for Edward, and this is just my conjecture, I think HS was having him bled, excessively, with either Dr Argentyne’s knowledge or connivance, ostensibly at first for his health. At some point this procedure is self-defeating and I doubt the doctor would have been party to it, and certainly would not have owned up to any of it to Mancini, only that the boy was convinced of his impending death. (imagine that) Under those circumstances Edward could not have been able to be moved as easily or to any great distances as was his brother – and Richard tended to keep his assets, pardon the expression, separate, for their own protection as well as his own. (Probably standard military strategy). So where does Edward move, already weak, despondent, and in who’s care?

    For myself I have worked out a couple scenario’s and IF Henry Stafford did take it upon himself to move Edward while Richard moved the younger one – and something happened to Edward but Richard is never told? Yes, I could see the king being inflamed with anger, the advise to move the nephews to safer locations may have been something they agreed on even before he left on Royal Progress, may have been something they agreed to handle separately, for all we know Edward WAS on the Royal Progress, in HS’s retinue, easily disguised, to be moved out to Brecon, or wherever they decided… how many people actually knew what Edward looked like? And it would have been even easier to move the younger son.

    well, all this veered way off, I hope they can do some DNA and discover where our friend is buried, although I suspect he will not get quite the massive media coverage that Richard did. We shall see! Thanks again Sparky for bringing this to our attention!

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    1. Thanks Amma. Yes I have thanked Janet for her excellent post. TBH I don’t know much about Bucks life prior to 1483 only that he was married to one of the Wydeville sisters. Im not sure what the primary source is for thinking that he was annoyed by this marriage though. He may well have been but what is the source? I guess we will never know why he rebelled especiually in view of all the honours being loaded on him. I can see why Hastings may have done, loyalty to his old bosom pal but Bucks wasnt exactly close to Edward as we know he seems to have been pretty much on the side lines. This is how I see it but I stand to be corrected. Was it something to do with Margaret Beaufort being his aunt? If only Richard had allowed him to speak to him!!!

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  3. Very interesting, and another mystery that possibly DNA an solve! However, not sure any Y-DNA Stafford descendants would be out there, as it looks like Buckingham’s Stafford line went extinct after Roger Stafford died in 1640 without issue, so probably need to go farther back to see if any other direct male branches that keep going. And as somebody else also pointed out, the FTDNA Stafford project localizes around three main haplogroups, R, I & E, and more specifically R-M269, I-M253 and E-M35. Nobody on there lists an earliest known ancestor before 1600s though. Probably requires a bit of leg work to see if anybody’s direct male Stafford lines would match up to the Buckingham Staffords.

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