Archbishop of Canterbury, chancellor of England; d. Maidstone, Kent, England, May 25, 1452. He was the natural son of Sir Humphrey Stafford of Southwick Court, Wiltshire. A doctor of Canon Law and a protégé of Abp. Henry chichele, he was advocate in the court of arches (1414) and auditor of causes (1419). Like Chichele, he became chancellor of Salisbury (1420) after being archdeacon. He was made dean of Wells (1423), then bishop of bath and wells (1424). He was keeper of the privy seal (1421–22), treasurer (December 1422 to 1426), and chancellor of England during the most difficult period of the Lancastrian regime (1432–50). A number of diplomatic commissions fell to him: to France (1419), Brittany (1420), and Scotland (for the release of James I in 1423). He accompanied King Henry VI to France in 1430 and attended him at his coronation in Paris (1436). He supported Henry beaufort and later the unpopular William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk. Still, Stafford's care and moderation as chancellor and the high opinion formed of him as a judge were sufficient to outweigh all criticism when he was appointed (Aug. 1, 1450) a member of the commission of oyer and terminer after Cade's rebellion. Tito Livio of Forli extolled Stafford's beneficence and sympathy in a poem; on the other hand, Stafford was detested by Thomas Gascoigne, who charged him with having illegitimate offspring by a nun. The best testimonial to Stafford was in the two letters written by Chichele to Henry VI and to Pope eugene iv in 1442, recommending him for the archbishopric of Canterbury, ut patrem maxime meritum, on grounds that in administering justice to Henry's subjects, he "had emerged greatly loved of all" (plurimum dilectus evaserit ). The pope assented (1443), but in 1445–46 the new archbishop had the task of defending the country from the attempt of the pope to enforce a crusading tenth against the Turks and of making it clear that the termination of the French War had—for the English Council—priority over the defense of Constantinople and the security of the Mediterranean. He was successful in this, his tact avoiding strictures from Rome such as had fallen upon his master, Chichele.
Bibliography: Stafford's Canterbury Register is in the Lambeth Palace Library. The Register of John Stafford, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1425–1443, ed. t. s. holmes, 2 v. (Somerset Record Soc. 31–32; 1915–16). The Register of Nicholas Bubwith, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 1407–1424, ed. t. s. holmes, 2 v. (ibid. 29–30;1914). j. h. ramsay, Lancaster and York, 2 v. (Oxford 1892). e. f. jacob, "Archbishop J. Stafford," Transcripts of the Royal Historical Society ser. 5, v.12 (1962) 1–23. a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, 1750–52.
[e. f. jacob]