Dorothy Stafford

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Dorothy Stafford
Spouse(s) Sir William Stafford
Sir Edward Stafford
William Stafford
Sir John Stafford
Elizabeth Stafford
Ursula Stafford
Dorothy Stafford
Noble family Stafford
Father Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford
Mother Ursula Pole
Born 1 October 1526
Died 22 September 1604
Buried St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, London
Occupation Mistress of the Robes

Dorothy Stafford, Lady Stafford (1 October 1526 – 22 September 1604) was an English noblewoman, and an influential person at the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England, to whom Dorothy served as Mistress of the Robes. Dorothy was the second wife of Sir William Stafford, widower of Mary Boleyn. Dorothy and her family were forced to seek exile in Geneva during the reign of Mary I due to their Protestant religion. The Protestant reformer John Calvin stood as godfather to her youngest son.

Through her maternal grandmother, Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, Dorothy had a claim to the English throne.


Dorothy Stafford was born on 1 October 1526,[1] the youngest daughter of Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford and Lady Ursula Pole. Her mother was the daughter of Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, who would be executed for treason in 1541 by the order of King Henry VIII. Through her grandmother, who was the last surviving member of the Plantagenet dynasty, Dorothy and her siblings had a claim to the English throne. Dorothy had thirteen siblings, of whom the names of twelve are known. With her sister Susan, she was raised in the household of her aunt, Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk.[2] Dorothy was the Duchess's favourite niece, to whom she was very generous, giving her many gifts of clothing and money.[3]

Marriage and issue

In 1545 Dorothy Stafford married her distant cousin, Sir William Stafford, Stafford, the second son of Sir Humphrey Stafford of Blatherwycke, Northamptonshire, by his first wife, Margaret Fogge, the daughter of Sir John Fogge of Ashford, Kent.[4]

Sir William Stafford's first wife, Mary Boleyn, the elder sister of Anne Boleyn, had died in July 1543. Sir William was Mary Boleyn's second husband, her first having been William Carey, by whom she had a son, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, and a daughter, Catherine Carey. Sir William Stafford is said to have had at least two children by Mary, but both are said to have died young.

Sir William Stafford and Dorothy Stafford had three sons and three daughters:[5][6]

  • Sir John Stafford of Marlwood Park (January 1556 – 28 September 1624), Thornbury, Gloucestershire, who married firstly, Bridget Clopton (d. March 1574), the daughter of William Clopton of Kentwell Hall, by whom he had a son,[9][10] and secondly, on 29 January 1580, Millicent Gresham (buried 24 December 1602), the daughter of Edmund Gresham (buried 31 August 1586) and Joan Hynde, by whom he had no issue.[11]
  • Dorothy Stafford, who likely died in infancy.[15]

On 23 September 1545 Sir William Stafford was knighted in Scotland by Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford during the War of the Rough Wooing.

Dorothy Stafford and her family were staunch Protestants, and during the reign of Mary I went into exile at Geneva, where they were befriended by the Protestant reformer, John Calvin, who stood as godfather to their youngest son, John, on 4 January 1556.[16] On 5 May 1556, Sir William Stafford died, and Dorothy moved with her young children to Basel.

Elizabeth I's court

In January 1559, following the accession of Queen Elizabeth I, Dorothy and her children returned to England, where she was received at court. Calvin had strongly opposed their departure, having wanted to keep his godson in Switzerland. In 1563 Dorothy was appointed Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth, and exercised much influence at the royal court. She used her influence with the Queen to promote the causes of both her friends and casual acquaintances; in 1569, Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, seeking a prebend for a colleague, wrote to her requesting that she "speak some good word" on the matter to the Queen.[17] In 1576 she broke her leg in a riding accident, but quickly recovered. Two years later she used her influence to secure the prestigious office of English Ambassador to France for her eldest son, Sir Edward Stafford.

She held her post at court until the Queen's death in 1603,[18] having served her for 40 years. Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth Stafford, was a Lady of the Bedchamber, and her son-in-law, Richard Drake, served as the Queen's Equerry. Her late husband's two stepchildren by Mary Boleyn also held influential posts at court.


Dorothy died on 22 September 1604, and was buried in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster. Her effigy and monument are in the north aisle of the church. According to Adams, "six children are commemorated on her funeral monument, three boys and three girls".[19] The inscription on the monument reads:[20]

Here Lyeth the Lady Dorothy Stafford, Wife and Widow to Sir William Stafford, Knight, Daughter to Henry, Lord Stafford, the only son of Edward, the last Duke of Buckingham: Her mother was Ursula, 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 hurt 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.



  1. Kathy Lynn Emerson, A Who's Who of Tudor Women retrieved on 2 December 2009
  2. Emerson
  3. Barbara Jean Harris, Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham, 1478-1521, p.73, Google Books, retrieved 3-12-09
  4. Richardson IV 2011, p. 64.
  5. Richardson states that they had four sons, including Sir Edward, William, and Sir John, and two daughters, Ursula, who married Richard Drake, esquire, and Elizabeth, who married Sir William Drury and Sir John Scot; Richardson IV 2011, p. 64.
  6. Adams 2006.
  7. McDermott 2004.
  8. Holmes 2004.
  9. The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants to the American Colonies or the United States, by Gary Boyd Roberts, 1993 Page: 231
  10. Plantagenet Ancestry of Seventeenth-Century Colonists, by David Faris, 2nd Edition 1999, NEHGS Page: 50-51
  11. Gower 1883, pp. 167–8; Nichols 1846, pp. 142–4.
  12. Lipscomb 1847, pp. 153–4.
  13. Adams states that two daughters likely died in infancy; however Richardson and other sources state that Ursula married Richard Drake.
  14. Bridgeman 1883, pp. 18, 36; Ormerod 1819, p. 334.
  15. Adams 2006.
  16. Emerson
  17. Anne Somerset, Ladies in Waiting, p.66, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984
  18. Emerson
  19. Adams 2006.
  20. John Strype's, A Survey of the City of London and Westminster, retrieved 2-12-09