|Died||5 February 1605|
|Resting place||St. Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom|
|Education||-St John's College, Cambridge|
-Pembroke College, Cambridge
|Years active||1571–1605 (his death)|
|Spouse(s)||-Roberta Chapman (early 1570s–1578, her death)|
-Douglas Sheffield (née Howard) (1579–1605, his death)
|Children||3 (first marriage)|
2 (second marriage)
|Parent(s)||Sir William Stafford, Dorothy Stafford|
Sir Edward Stafford (1552 – 5 February 1605) was an English Member of Parliament, courtier and diplomat to France during the time of Queen Elizabeth I.
He was involved in abortive negotiations for a proposed marriage between Elizabeth and Francis, Duke of Anjou.
After he was appointed ambassador to Paris in 1583, he took money from Henry I, Duke of Guise, in return for access to diplomatic correspondence. He also received money from a Spanish agent, Bernardino de Mendoza, and there is strong evidence that has convinced most historians that Stafford in return for the money passed on secrets to Spain. Further it was his duty to report to London intelligence he possessed on the formation of the Spanish Armada, but did not do so. The English counterspy Francis Walsingham was deeply suspicious but was unable to prove anything, and could not act as long as Stafford was protected by Lord Burghley. No action was taken against him by Elizabeth, although he was not given any posts of consequence after his recall in 1590. McDermott concludes, "The evidence of Stafford's treachery, though substantial, remains circumstantial, and the precise degree of his culpability is difficult to establish". Leimon and Parker are convinced of his guilt and add, " Equally damning is the misinformation about the nonexistence and false destinations of the Armada Stafford forwarded to England".
After studying at St John's College, Cambridge and Pembroke College, Cambridge, Stafford was assisted by William Cecil, Lord Burghley and became a member of parliament for Mitchell in Cornwall (1571) and then for Heytesbury in Wiltshire (1572). He was a member of Elizabeth I's court from 1573, carrying Burghley's secret letters. His mother was Mistress of the Robes to Elizabeth I from 1564, which assisted Stafford's position.
Diplomacy in France
In 1578, he was sent to France to act in negotiations on behalf of the Queen with King Henry III of France, concerning the possibility of Elizabeth's engagement to Francis, Duke of Anjou; the duke stayed with Stafford on a visit to England in August 1579. Stafford was sent on three further missions to France in 1580 concerning the proposed marriage.
He was knighted in 1583 and was appointed ambassador to Paris. He aligned himself with Burghley, rather than with Francis Walsingham, which caused complications of loyalties in Walsingham's intelligence network, and Stafford's own letters were intercepted by Walsingham's agents.
Stafford's gambling and financial difficulties were reported upon by Walsingham, which led to Stafford ignoring Walsingham when sending information from Paris. He took 3,000 crowns from Henry I, Duke of Guise, in return for access to diplomatic correspondence, and became linked with Charles Arundell, a leader of the English Roman Catholics living in Paris. These developments became known to Walsingham, although he did not seek to move against Stafford, who still had Burghley's protection; the death of Walsingham's heir in October 1586 led to a reconciliation between Walsingham and Burghley in any case, and Stafford and Walsingham exchanged friendly letters in April 1587.
Relationship with Spain
However, before this reconciliation, in January 1587, Arundel had acted as an intermediary between Stafford and the Spanish agent Bernardino de Mendoza in discussions about Stafford acting as a spy; Arundel was given 2,000 crowns to hand to Stafford. Whilst one suggested motive is money, another possibility is a desire for revenge upon Walsingham. Although it is unclear whether Mendoza had three informers in Paris, or just one (Stafford) to whom Mendoza gave three pseudonyms, Mendoza was given warning of Francis Drake's attack on the Spanish fleet at Cadiz, amongst other secrets.
However, some information passed on to Spain was inaccurate, either because Stafford was deliberately not giving Spain the full picture, or because Stafford himself was kept ill-informed. Stafford was less than forthcoming in his reports to London when giving details of preparations for the Spanish Armada in 1588, either deliberately or because of over-reliance on Mendoza. There is only circumstantial evidence that Stafford acted traitorously, although the weight of evidence against him has been described as "substantial".
After the Armada
After the defeat of the Armada, Stafford eventually stopped giving intelligence to Mendoza – either because he no longer had a financial incentive so to do (as Elizabeth had cancelled his debts) or because Walsingham's death in 1590 removed a personal motive.
He was recalled from Paris in 1590, and held no major posts thereafter, although he was given the sinecure of Clerk of the Pipe from 1596 to his death. He was returned to the House of Commons of England for various constituencies, namely (Winchester in 1593; Stafford in 1597 and 1601; Queenborough in 1604).
Stafford married Robertsa Chapman during the early 1570s; they had one son (who outlived Stafford) and two daughters; Robertsa died during her fourth pregnancy in 1578.
Stafford then married Douglas Sheffield, sister of Charles Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham and former lover of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. The marriage strengthened his links with the queen, since his sister-in-law Katherine was Elizabeth's closest female companion, as well as being her second cousin. Stafford had two daughters with his second wife, who did not survive childhood.
- Leimon & Parker 1996.
- McDermott 2008.
- ACAD & STFT559E.
- "STAFFORD, Sir Edward (c.1552–1605), of Cannon Row, Westminster". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
- "Stafford, Edward (STFT559E)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Leimon, Mitchell; Parker, Geoffrey (1996). "Treason and plot in Elizabethan diplomacy: The 'fame of Sir Edward Stafford' reconsidered". English Historical Review. 111 (444): 1134–58. doi:10.1093/ehr/CXI.444.1134. – emphasises his guilt
- McDermott, James (January 2008) . "Stafford, Sir Edward (1552–1605)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26203. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.) The first edition of this text is available at Wikisource: Lee, Sidney, ed. (1898). . Dictionary of National Biography. 53. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Neale, J. E. (1959). "The fame of Sir Edward Stafford". Studies in Elizabethan History: 146–69. –— doubts his guilt