Ralph Stafford (died 1385)

Sir Ralph Stafford (c. 1367 – July 1385)[1] was a knight of the royal household of King Richard II of England. He was murdered in 1385 by the king's half-brother, John Holland. One modern historian has suggested that Ralph was the closest friend the young King Richard II had at court; they were the same age and Ralph appears to have been "a bright and promising" courtier.[1]


Ralph was the eldest son and heir of Hugh Stafford, 2nd Earl of Stafford, and Philippa de Beauchamp, daughter of Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick.[2] As a youth he grew up in the household of Queen Anne of Bohemia.[3] One of the king's household knights, he accompanied the royal army on the 1385 invasion of Scotland. In July, he was murdered between York and Bishopsthorpe by Richard II's half-brother, John Holland.[4] It is possible that Holland was acting in revenge for death of one of his squires, whom, it has been suggested had themselves been killed by an archer in Ralph's own retinue;[5] it may even be that a scuffle had taken place and caused the deaths of two of the earl's more "intemperate" members of his retinue.[1] Holland may have killed Ralph in a case of mistaken identity whilst trying to find the archer, not realising who Ralph was;[6] although it could also have occurred after an exchange of insults.[1] This affair, wrote the historian Carol Rawcliffe, "threatened to disrupt the entire campaign" and drew much commentary from political observers of the time.[7]

Ralph Stafford had never married, and died childless, so the earldom passed to his younger brother, Thomas.[4] The king, incensed with rage at Ralph's death[3] had promised not to pardon Holland; Richard broke this promise, however[5] in February 1386.[6] Ralph's father, "embittered" at the king's failure to impose justice on the killer, embarked the same year on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and died on the return journey in 1386.[8] Ralph Stafford was interred in King's Langley Priory, Hertfordshire.[4] The king, it has been said, lost one of the most important colleagues he had ever had; Ralph Stafford was "not only a close friend... [but also] a potential ally and courtier magnate".[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Saul, N. (1997). Richard II. English Monarchs series. London: Yale University Press (published 1997-05-29). p. 120. ISBN 978-0-300-07003-3.
  2. ^ Rawcliffe, C. (1978). The Staffords, Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham 1394–1521. Cambridge University Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-521-21663-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  3. ^ a b McKisack, M. (1991) [1959]. The Fourteenth Century, 1307–1399. Oxford History of England. 5. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 439. ISBN 978-0-19-821712-1.
  4. ^ a b c Cokayne, G. & White, G.H., eds. (1953). The Complete Peerage. 12.1. London: St. Catherine Press. p. 179.
  5. ^ a b Harris, B.J. (1986). Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham, 1478–1521. Stanford University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-8047-1316-0.
  6. ^ a b Stansfield, M.M.N. (2004). "Holland, John, first earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter (c. 1352–1400)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online). doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13529. Archived from the original on 2019-01-16.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  7. ^ Rawcliffe 1978, 11 n. 12.
  8. ^ Rawcliffe 1978, 11.