Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (4 September 1455 – 2 November 1483) played a major role in Richard III of England's rise and fall. He is also one of the primary suspects in the disappearance (and presumed murder) of the Princes in the Tower. Buckingham was related to the royal family of England so many different ways that he was his own cousin many times over, but his connections were all through daughters of younger sons. His chances of inheriting the throne would have seemed remote, but eventually the internecine conflicts among the descendants of Edward III of England and within the Houses of Lancaster and York brought Buckingham within striking distance of the crown. Some historians claim Buckingham's deliberate plotting to seize the throne started as early as the reign of Edward IV, and if they are correct then his elaborate and lengthy plan very nearly succeeded.
After his grandfather's death, Henry was recognized as Duke of Buckingham. The new Duke eventually became a ward of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV of England. Sometime before the time of her coronation in May 1465 he was married to her sister Catherine Woodville. Both parties were children at the time; they were carried on squires' shoulders at the coronation ceremony and were reared in the queen's household together.
According to Dominic Mancini, Buckingham resented his wife and the other Woodvilles as well because of his marriage to a woman of a lower status. When Edward IV died in 1483, and the Woodvilles struggled with Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, over the guardianship of the young Edward V, Buckingham first sided with Richard.
Parliament subsequently declared Edward V illegitimate, offering Richard the throne, and he accepted it, becoming Richard III. Buckingham moved quickly to support Richard's claim. He was with Richard when they took possession of the young King Edward V at Stony Stratford in April 1483 and played a major role in the coup d'etat which followed.
After initially supporting Richard, Buckingham subsequently started working with John Morton, Bishop of Ely, in support of Buckingham's second-cousin Henry Tudor against the King, even though this placed him on the same side as his despised Woodville in-laws.
In 1483 a conspiracy arose amongst a number of disaffected gentry, supporters of Edward IV. They originally planned to depose Richard III and place Edward V back on the throne. When rumours arose that Edward and his brother (the Princes in the Tower) were dead, Buckingham intervened, proposing instead that Henry Tudor return from exile, take the throne and marry Elizabeth of York. For his part, Buckingham would raise a substantial force from his estates in Wales and the Marches.
By a combination of luck and skill, Richard put down the rebellion: Henry's ships ran into a storm and had to go back to Brittany, and Buckingham's army was greatly troubled by the same storm and deserted when Richard's forces came against them. Buckingham tried to escape in disguise but was turned in for the bounty Richard had put on his head, and he was convicted of treason and beheaded in Salisbury on 2 November. Following Buckingham's execution, his widow, Catherine, married Jasper Tudor.
Eleanor's younger sister and co-heir Mary de Bohun married Henry Bolingbroke, who eventually became Henry IV, and her share of the de Bohun estates became incorporated into the holdings of the House of Lancaster, being eventually inherited by Henry VI. When Henry VI was deposed by Edward IV, Edward appropriated that half into the Crown property under the House of York.
Buckingham claimed those lands should have been devolved to him instead, and it is likely that Richard III promised to settle the estate on Buckingham in return for his help seizing the throne. Indeed, after Richard's coronation he did award the other half of the Bohun estate to Buckingham, but it was conditional on the approval of Parliament. Historians disagree on whether this condition was in fact a way for Richard to appear to keep his promise while actually breaking it, but this may have been a motivation for Buckingham to turn against Richard.
If Richard was responsible for killing the Princes in the Tower, the murders may have caused Buckingham to change sides. On the other hand, Buckingham himself had motivation to kill the Princes, being a Lancastrian contender for the throne with a viable claim potentially equivalent to that of Henry Tudor, depending on one's view of the legitimacy of the Tudor branch of the House of Lancaster. According to this perspective, if Buckingham killed the Princes and blamed Richard, he could foment a Lancastrian rebellion, putting the throne into play with only Henry Tudor as a rival. Indeed, a Lancastrian rebellion followed, but it was Henry Tudor who succeeded in deposing Richard III.
One can see from the ancestral chart below that two of his great-grandparents were brother and sister (John Beaufort and Joan Beaufort). This made Buckingham's parents second cousins.
Buckingham and his wife Catherine Woodville were parents to four children: