STAFFORD, John (1556-1624), of Marlwood, Glos.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

bap. Jan. 1556, 3rd s. of Sir William Stafford by his 2nd w., and bro. of Edward Stafford II. educ. Corpus Christi, Camb. 1569; G. Inn 1572. m. wid. of John Whynniard, s.p. Kntd. 1596.1

Offices Held

J.p. Glos., Mont., Salop, Staffs. from c.1591; constable, Bristol castle 1601; gent. pens. 1597-d.2


Stafford was the first child to be baptized in the newly formed English congregation at Geneva, Calvin himself being godfather. After Sir William Stafford’s death in May 1556, Calvin forbade the widow to remove the child from Geneva, and it was only through the intervention of her brother-in-law, Robert Stafford, that she secured permission to go to Basle, where the family remained until January 1559, when Lady Stafford and her three sons returned to England. She now became mistress of the robes, and obviously felt it worthwhile to make certain that John Stafford’s nationality would not be questioned in view of his birth abroad. At any rate it was enacted in the 1566 session of Parliament that he was to be ‘as born in England’. After Cambridge and Gray’s Inn, Stafford settled in Gloucestershire. He was presumably returned for Stafford through his uncle, Edward Stafford I. The 1584 return, oddly enough, spells out that Stafford was the son of Lady Dorothy Stafford. He made no known contribution to the proceedings of any of his Parliaments. Possibly he was the Mr. ‘Stoverd’ who was given leave of absence 7 Mar. 1587. His return for Wareham in 1601 may have been due to the influence of Thomas Howard, 3rd Viscount Howard of Bindon, who collected several Dorset borough nominations and offered the package to Sir Robert Cecil. When Stafford first became acquainted with Cecil is unknown, but by November 1601 he felt sufficiently assured of his favour to ask him to secure the reversal of a Star Chamber judgment against Sir Henry Winston, a Gloucestershire neighbour. An earlier association with the Earl of Essex in 1596, when Stafford accompanied him to Cadiz and was there knighted by him, does not appear to have damaged his relations with Cecil. In August 1602, a Captain Wigmore, writing to Cecil from Dort, assumed that he would have received an account of affairs in the Netherlands from Stafford, who had recently returned to England. The duration of his stay in the Low Countries is unknown, but probably it had some military purpose, as he was later to use it as a reason for making him a commissioner for musters.3

In Gloucestershire, Stafford was mainly concerned with local administration. After succeeding the 2nd Earl of Pembroke as constable of Bristol castle early in 1601, he asked to be made a commissioner for musters in Bristol: ‘I shall be in some sort disgraced if I may not attain to the same pre-eminence [as Pembroke]’. He would be better able to keep Cecil informed on local affairs, and ‘the grant of my request will encourage me in her Majesty’s service’. He desired ‘nothing but grace and credit among my neighbours, whereby I may be better able to serve her Majesty’. He renewed his suit in 1608, and in 1611 he tried to buy the castle from the Crown. By 1621 his conduct brought complaints to the Privy Council from Bristol corporation, who alleged that he was non-resident, and that his deputy allowed 240 beggars to live in the castle.4

Stafford’s will makes no mention of wife or children, but a petition of 1611 refers to his marriage to John Whynniard’s widow. He died on 28 Sept. 1624 and was buried at Thornbury two days later, ‘assuredly expecting to rise justified through the merits, death and passion of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’. Stafford’s heir was his nephew, the son of his brother William, upon whom his lands had previously been settled. All his personal property he left to Richard Stafford (grandson of his brother Sir Edward), who was appointed executor. At the time of his great-uncle’s death, Richard was still under age and administration was granted to Sir Richard Lovelace, one of the overseers. Richard Stafford proved the will in November 1629.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. Genealogist, n.s. xxxi. 177-8; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1917), i. 378.
  • 2. Hatfield mss 278; SP13/Case F/11, ff. 15-16; HMC Hatfield, xi. 565; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 33.
  • 3. C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 294, 295-6; DNB (Stafford, Edward, William); Atkyns, Ancient and Present State of Glos. 404; CJ, i. 75; D’Ewes, 413; HMC Hatfield, xi. 486; xii. 307.
  • 4. APC, xxiii. 290; HMC Hatfield, xi. 565; xii. 32, 562-3; xiv. 192; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 436; 1611-18, pp. 79, 107, 277; APC, 1619-21, p. 364.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 106; PCC 107 Byrde.