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William Stafford lived from 1554 to 1612. He was the son of William Stafford of Chebsey, who had been the brother-in-law of Henry VIII of England and the uncle of Elizabeth I. The elder William Stafford's first marriage had been to Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, and Stafford was the child of his second marriage to Dorothy Stafford.

The Staffords had been a powerful family from the thirteenth to the early sixteenth-century, and still retained some of their former influence. After the execution of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham in 1521, the Staffords, who were descended from several branches of the royal family tree, lost their power and lands. Some, such as William's mother Dorothy, retained their influence by proving their loyalty.

William was educated at Winchester Collegemarker, where he was admitted in 1564, and New College, Oxfordmarker, where he matriculated in 1571. In 1573 he was elected a fellow of New College, but two years later he was deprived of his fellowship for being away without leave. He came to Londonmarker, where his mother was in attendance on Queen Elizabeth.

In 1585, William went to France secretly, staying in the lodgings of his brother Sir Edward Stafford, ambassador to France, and spying on his own account. When this was found out, he begged Sir Francis Walsingham's intercession with his mother. He soon returned to England.

The following year, William became involved with the plans of Ch√Ęteauneuf, the French ambassador. By 1587, Ch√Ęteauneuf was conspiring to poison Queen Elizabeth, using William Stafford's court connections to plant a poisoned gown or saddle for the queen's use. William confessed the plot to Walsingham, who arrested the conspirators. William was released from the Tower in August of 1588. It is speculated that William was an agent provocateur for Walsingham in this plot; certainly he suffered no lasting harm from the episode.

After this, William retired to a quiet life in the country. In 1593 he married Anne Gryme, daughter of Thomas Gryme of Antingham, Suffolk, and soon became a father. His son was another William Stafford, a notable author. He died on November 16, 1612.

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