Tomb: Edward Stafford, earl of Wiltshire

Who was Edward Stafford?

One of the lesser known Tudor noblemen, Edward Stafford was well-connected by birth but made little mark on the political scene and died before he was thirty. His father, John Stafford was the third son of Humphrey Stafford, duke of Buckingham (d. 1460 at the Battle of Northampton) and Ann Neville, daughter of the earl of Westmorland. His mother, Constance Greene, was the only daughter and heiress of Henry Green of Drayton, a Warwickshire based gentleman. From the Greenes, Edward would inherit extensive lands in Northamptonshire.

Edward was born on 7 April 1470; his father died in May 1473 and his mother in March 1474/5 leaving him orphaned at just four years of age. Responisbility for his governance and tuition was given to his grandmother Anne, dowager duchess of Buckingham. He was present at the coronations of both Richard III in 1483, where he carried the Queen’s crown, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth of York in 1487. He helped defeat the rebel army at the Battle of Blackheath on 17 June 1497 and hosted Henry VII at Drayton in 1498, but otherwise his career seems to have been undistinguished. He secured a suitable marriage to Margaret Grey, daughter of Viscount Lisle, but they had no surviving children. Edward died in March 1498/9, at the age of 29.

Where is he buried?

Exterior view of the chapel where Edward Stafford’s tomb is located

Despite being part of the prominent Stafford family and having his education entrusted to his Neville relatives, Edward Stafford’s will states that he wishes to be buried in the Lady Aisle of the church of St Peter in Lowick by his “grantfader Grene” where he also wants his executors to erect a tomb. His wishes were clearly followed as his tomb can be found in a chapel in Lowick church, near to the tombs of Henry Greene and another ancestor, Ralph Greene.

What does the tomb look like?

The tomb is a large alabaster chest tomb with an alabaster effigy of Edward Stafford. Around the sides of the chest are blank shields (the detail of coat of arms has been lost; they may have been painted on) each of which is ringed with a cord of Stafford knots (used by the Staffords as a badge since the 14th century) alternating with cart naves (the hub of a cart wheel; used as a badge by Humphrey Stafford, duke of Buckingham).

Blank shield with the cord of Stafford knots and cart naves around it

The earl is depicted in armour with a carved heraldic surcoat and is wearing the Lancastrian collar of ‘S’s. His head, with his flowing shoulder length hair, is resting on his helmet with mantling and crest. His feet rest on a muzzled beast (likely a bear) and, kneeling beneath the soles of his shoes are keeling bedesmen with rosary beads. A Latin inscription is carved in relief around the top edge of the chest, the words divided by vines.

There has been some damage to the tomb, the bottom of the sword has broken off as has some of the crest attached to his helmet. However, the mantling has survived well as has the relief detail of his surcoat and collar. The effigy has been graffitied over the years.