07 January, 2020

The Marriages of Elizabeth Stafford (d. 1375)

Sir Ralph Stafford, made first earl of Stafford in 1351 and ancestor of the Stafford dukes of Buckingham, was born at Amington near Tamworth, Staffordshire on 24 September 1301. [1] After losing his first wife Katherine Hastang or Hastings, with whom he had daughters Joan and Margaret, Ralph abducted Edward II's great-niece Margaret Audley from her parents' home in Thaxted, Essex shortly before 28 February 1336, and married her. After the death of her older half-sister Joan Gaveston in January 1325, Margaret was sole heir to her mother Margaret de Clare's third of the earldom of Gloucester, and was a considerable heiress. She was about twenty years Ralph Stafford's junior, born sometime in the early 1320s.

Ralph Stafford and Margaret Audley had two sons and four daughters, though none of their children's dates of birth can be ascertained; Margaret may only have been thirteen or so when Ralph abducted her, and may therefore have been too young to bear children for some years. Their first son Ralph the younger married Maud of Lancaster (b. April 1340), elder daughter and co-heir of Henry of Grosmont, then earl of Derby and later the first duke of Lancaster, in Leicester on 30 November 1344, and it was arranged that Henry would have custody of both children until they were old enough to live together as husband and wife. [2] Ralph, however, died as a child sometime before late November 1347, when the inquisition post mortem of his maternal grandfather Hugh Audley, earl of Gloucester, stated that he was already dead. [3] The Stafford/Audley heir therefore was Ralph and Margaret's younger son Hugh Stafford, later the second earl of Stafford, who was born sometime between 1342 and 1346. Ralph, first earl of Stafford, died on 31 August 1372 a few weeks before his seventy-first birthday, having outlived his much younger second wife by more than two decades. His only surviving son Hugh Stafford was said to be between twenty-six and thirty years old in Ralph's IPM of October 1372. [4]

One of Ralph Stafford and Margaret Audley's daughters was Elizabeth Stafford, presumably born sometime in the late 1330s or early 1340s. She was betrothed on 12 March 1347 to Fulk ('Fouk' or 'Fouke') Lestrange, son and heir of John, Lord Lestrange of Blackmere, Shropshire, who was born c. 2 February 1331. [5] John, Lord Lestrange died on 13 or 14 July 1349, and his eighteen-year-old son Fulk followed him to the grave on c. 30 August 1349; it seems highly likely that both men died of the Black Death. Elizabeth Stafford and Fulk Lestrange were already married by then, but as she was still only a child, they had no children, and Fulk's heir was his brother John, born "about Easter, 6 Edward III," i.e. c. 19 April 1332. [6]

Elizabeth had only been widowed for a few weeks when her second marriage was arranged - as her first marriage can never have been consummated, it's not as though she might have been pregnant - on 19 October 1349. On that date, Edward III issued a "[l]icence for John de Ferrers, son and heir of Robert de Ferrers, tenant in chief, and Elizabeth daughter of Ralph, baron of Stafford, to intermarry." [7] There were two branches of the Ferrers family: the Ferrers of Chartley (Staffordshire), who were descended from Robert Ferrers, earl of Derby (c. 1239-79), and the Ferrers of Groby (Leicestershire), who were descended from Earl Robert's younger brother William. John Ferrers was a Ferrers of Chartley, and was born in Southoe, Huntingdonshire a little after 10 August 1331. [8] He was thus a few years Elizabeth Stafford's senior, and a few months younger than her first husband Fulk. Elizabeth and John's son Robert Ferrers was probably born on 31 October 1359; Elizabeth's inquisition post mortem gives 31 October 1357, but as Robert proved his age and was allowed to enter his father's lands on 24 July 1381, 1357 seems too early, and 1359 more plausible. The IPM of Robert's father John says that Robert was "aged seven and more" in June 1367, which also supports a date of birth of 31 October 1359. [9] Elizabeth became an earl's daughter in 1351 when her father Ralph was made first earl of Stafford, and the title passed in 1372 to her brother Hugh, who was probably younger than she, though it's hard to say for sure.

Elizabeth Stafford Lestrange Ferrers was widowed again on 3 April 1367, when John Ferrers was killed at the battle of Najera in Spain, the only high-ranking Englishman who fell there. Almost eight years later, around 26 January 1375, she married her third husband Sir Reynold (or Reynald or Reginald) Cobham of Sterborough. On that date, Edward III's son John of Gaunt, Elizabeth's second cousin once removed, gave her wedding gifts of a gilded silver cup and matching ewer, and a gold tablet (John seems to have been very fond of Elizabeth, as he often sent her expensive wine and New Year gifts; he fought at the battle of Najera in 1367 with his eldest brother the prince of Wales and John Ferrers). [10] Reynold Cobham must have been a few years younger than Elizabeth: in November 1361 he was said to be aged "thirteen at Whitsun last", which puts his date of birth sometime around early June 1348. [11Reynold's father was Reynold Cobham the elder, born c. 1295 and thus over fifty when his son was born; his mother was Joan Berkeley (probably born late 1320s), daughter of Edward II's custodian in 1327, Thomas, Lord Berkeley, and a granddaughter of Roger Mortimer, first earl of March. Reynold, twenty-six years old when he married Elizabeth, sister of Hugh, earl of Stafford, had not been married before.

Sadly, Elizabeth did not have much time to enjoy her third marriage, as she died on 7 August 1375. [12It's impossible to know what killed her, but it certainly seems possible, given that she was still in her thirties, that she died during pregnancy or after childbirth. Her dower lands from her first marriage to Fulk Lestrange belonged by right to Fulk's great-niece Elizabeth Lestrange, who was said to be aged "one and three-quarters and five weeks" on 8 October 1375 (and who married Thomas Mowbray, b. 1367, earl of Nottingham and future duke of Norfolk, but died as a child in the early 1380s). Her dower lands from her second marriage to John Ferrers passed to her and John's son Robert, who married Margaret Despenser, youngest daughter of Edward, Lord Despenser (1336-75). The Ferrers line continued, and one of Elizabeth Stafford's descendants via her son Robert Ferrers and Margaret Despenser was Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth queen.

Reynold Cobham (b. 1348) was the grandson of Thomas, Lord Berkeley (d. 1361), Edward II's custodian of 1327. Edward's other custodian was Lord Berkeley's brother-in-law Sir John Maltravers. When Maltravers died in 1364, his heirs were his granddaughters Joan and Eleanor, whom I wrote about in the last post. Eleanor, born probably in 1344 or early 1345, was married to John Arundel, marshal of England and the second son of the earl of Arundel, and was widowed on c. 6 December 1379 when John Arundel drowned in the Irish Sea. John left as his heir his and Eleanor's eldest son John Arundel the younger (b. 30 November 1364), who sometime before 1 August 1380 married Elizabeth Despenser, elder sister of Margaret Despenser who married Robert Ferrers, above.

Reynold Cobham, widowed from Elizabeth Stafford since August 1375, married the widowed Eleanor Maltravers not too long before 10 August 1380 about eight months after John Arundel's death, when the couple were pardoned for marrying without the necessary royal licence. [13] A greater problem was that the couple had received no papal dispensation for consanguinity: they were second cousins, both great-grandchildren of Maurice (d. 1326) and Eva (d. 1314), Lord and Lady Berkeley. According to the page 'Cobham Family' in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, this caused great problems for their son when Henry IV seized his inheritance on the grounds that he was illegitimate, even though Eleanor and Reynold had separated for a while and then remarried in 1384 having acquired a papal dispensation.

In 1380, Reynold was thirty-two and had no children, and Eleanor was probably thirty-six and had five sons and two daughters from her first marriage, born between 1364 and the mid or late 1370s. She gave birth to Reynold's son and heir, inevitably also called Reynold Cobham, on c. 11 November 1381. She and Reynold also had a daughter whom they named Margaret, most confusingly, as one of Eleanor's two Arundel daughters was also called Margaret (Margaret Arundel married William, Lord Ros after 11 August 1394). [14] Reynold Cobham the elder died on 6 July 1403, aged fifty-five, and Eleanor Maltravers Arundel Cobham died on 10 January 1405, aged sixty. Her grandson, yet another John Arundel (b. 1385), son of her eldest son John Arundel (1364-90), was her heir; her son Reynold Cobham (b. 1381) was his father's heir, but not hers. [15

Eleanor's will still survives, and, calling herself Alianor Arundell, she requested burial with her first husband John Arundel (d. 1379) at Lewes Priory in Sussex. [16It's interesting to note that she still used her first husband's name a quarter of a century after his death, rather than calling herself Cobham. Perhaps that was simply a matter of prestige, as John Arundel's younger brother Thomas Arundel (d. 1414) was the present archbishop of Canterbury, and his nephew, also Thomas (d. 1415), was the earl of Arundel - a title which passed to Eleanor's Arundel descendants after Earl Thomas died without legitimate issue. Finally, let me point out that the famous Eleanor Cobham (b. early 1400s), who became duchess of Gloucester by marriage to Henry V's brother Humphrey and was imprisoned for witchcraft, was the granddaughter of Elizabeth Stafford's widower Reynold Cobham (1348-1403) from his second marriage to Eleanor Maltravers. 


1) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1317-27, no. 354.
2) Knighton's Chronicle, ed. G. H. Martin, vol. 2, p. 30; The National Archives DL 27/36.
3) CIPM 1347-52, no. 56; "...with remainder to Ralph, son of Ralph baron of Stafford, and Maud, daughter of Henry de Lancaster, earl of Derby, and the heirs of their bodies. The said Ralph son of Ralph is dead." Maud of Lancaster later married Queen Philippa's nephew Wilhelm of Bavaria.
4) CIPM 1370-73, no. 210.
5) Calendar of Close Rolls 1346-49, pp. 246-47; CIPM 1347-52, no. 223. Fulk was "aged 18 years at the feast of the Purification last" in August 1349.
6) CIPM 1347-52, nos. 223-24; CIPM 1352-60, no. 203.
7) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1348-50, p. 407.
8) CIPM 1352-60, no. 122: he was said to have been born "this side St Lawrence, 5 Edward III" at his proof of age on 26 October 1353.
9) CIPM 1365-69, no. 140; CIPM 1374-77, no. 105; CCR 1381-85, p. 4.
10) John of Gaunt's Register 1371-1375, no. 1659, "...livrez a la dame de Ferers le jour de son marriage de nostre doun".
11) CIPM 1361-65, no. 59.
12) CIPM 1374-77, no. 105.
13) CPR 1377-81, p. 538.
14) CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 760-70. Margaret Arundel was an attendant of Richard II's first queen Anne of Bohemia, and on 11 August 1394 after Anne's death, Richard gave Margaret an annuity of forty marks "until she marries with the king's consent." CPR 1391-96, p. 518.
15) CIPM 1399-1405, nos. 1115-22.
16) Cited in Evelyn H. Martyn, History of the Manor of Westhope (1909), p. 21, though the author wrongly identifies Eleanor as her mother-in-law Eleanor of Lancaster, countess of Arundel (d. 1372).

1 comment:

sami parkkonen said...

You keep on amaze me with this cornucopia of information about these families. Absolutely astonishing.