Thomas STANLEY

(1st E. Derby)

Born: ABT 1435

Acceded: 27 Oct 1485

Died: 29 Jul 1504, Lathom, Lancashire, England

Notes: Knight of the Garter. The Complete Peerage vol.IV,pp.205-207.

Father: Thomas STANLEY (Knight Lord of Lathom)

Mother: Joan GOUSHILL

Married 1: Eleanor NEVILLE AFT 10 May 1457

Children:

1. George STANLEY (B. Strange of Knockin)

2. John STANLEY (b. ABT 1460)

3. Thomas STANLEY (b. ABT 1462)

4. William STANLEY (b. ABT 1462)

5. Edward STANLEY (1 B. Mounteagle)

6. Richard STANLEY (b. ABT 1464)

7. Jane STANLEY (b. ABT 1465)

8. Catherine STANLEY (b. ABT 1467)

9. Anne STANLEY (b. ABT 1469)

10. James STANLEY (Bishop of Ely)

11. Margaret STANLEY

12. Alice STANLEY (b. ABT 1475)

13. Agnes STANLEY (b. ABT 1477)

Married 2: Margaret BEAUFORT (C. Richmond/ C. Derby) BEF Nov 1482


Eldest son of Thomas Stanley, 1 Baron Stanley, by his wife Joan, only dau. and heiress of Sir Robert Goushill, succeeded his father in 1460. On his father's death in 1459, Lord Stanley found himself at the head of the retainers of his house and of those whom his connections placed at his disposal.

In the Sep of 1459 civil war broke out afresh. No lasting peace had been the result of the grand reconciliation-scene of the preceding year, which displayed Somerset walking hand-in-hand with Salisbury, Exeter with Warwick, while after them came the feeble and innocent Lancastrian King, Henry VI, in royal habit and crown, followed by the two great enemies, the Duke of York conducting the resolute Queen, Margaret of Anjou, "with great seeming familiarity" all wending their way in solemnly-joyful procession to St Paul's. A chance fray between a servant of the royal household and one of Warwick's retainers rekindled the Queen's old feud with the King-maker, and in the autumn a War of the Roses was raging again. On the 23rd of Sep 1459, at Bloreheath in Staffordshire, Warwick's father and Lord Stanley's father-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury, with 5,000 men, routed a force commanded by the King's friend, Lord Audley, of the family from which the Stanleys were orginally an offshoot. Of Lord Stanley's conduct before, during, and just after this engagement there is extant a significant record in a petition of the Commons, complaining of it and of him, and presented to the King during the sitting of the staunchly Lancastrian parliament held in the ensuing Nov at Coventry.

Certainly a cumulative indictment, the truth of which is rendered abundantly probable by Lord Stanley's subsequent career. It is pretty clear from it that Sir William Stanley bad openly joined Salisbury against the King, while his brother, Lord Stanley, amused both sides with promises of support and expressions of sympathy, thouyh carefully forbearing to strike a blow for either his father-in-law or his sovereign.

On the 13th of Jul 1460, less than a year after the battle of Blorebeath, he is ordered by the King to bring in safe to his presence "John and Thomas Neville", sons of the Earl of Salisbury, "and Thomas Harrington, together with James Harrington and others", being in ward by the King's commandment for divers matters ministered against him in his late parliament holden at Coventry. This Thomas Harrington was the owner, and his son, James, heir, of Hornby Castle in Lancashire, and its domains, which came into the possession of the Stanleys, as will be seen hereafter. Lord Stanley's luck in acquiring for himself or for his family began early in his career.

In the following year the Yorkist cause triumphed, and, of course, while the triumph lasted, Lord Stanley ceased to be a Lancastrian. Victorious in the bloody battle of Towton (29/30 Mar 1461) Edward IV was seated on the throne, and in the second year of the new King's reign Lord Stanley was appointed justice of Chester. Eight years passed, and then, offended with Edward, whom he had placed on the throne, King-making Warwick was plotting the restoration of the same Henry VI whom he had dethroned. A victory of Edward's at Stamford (12 Mar 1470) crushed Lord Welles's insurrection, which Warwick had instigated, and the King-maker sped to Manchester, to ask for aid from his brother-in-law, Lord Stanley. It was refused. Yet when, a few months afterwards, Warwick was successful and Edward an exile we read of Lord Stanley as one of the nobles who accompanied the King-maker to the Tower (6 Oct 1470), whence Henry was brought "with great pomp, apparelled in a long gown of blue velvet, through the streets of London to St Paul's". Scarcely seventeen months elapse and again all is changed. Edward has returned and defeated the Lancastrians at the battle of Barnet (14 Apr 1471), where, fighting with desperation on foot, Warwick himself is slain. At Tewkesbury (4 May 1471) the Lancastrian cause was finally overthrown. On the 22 of the same month poor Henry VI "died", a prisoner in the Tower, and once more Edward IV reigned in his stead.

With the restored Edward the astute and fortunate Lord Stanley was soon in higher favour than before. Three years or so after the death of Henry in the Tower, he was appointed Steward of the Yorkist King's Household, a high and confidential office. It was in this capacity that, in the summer of 1475, he accompanied Edward on that invasion of France which the wiles of Louis XI and the gold distributed by him among the chief English courtiers turned into an alliance between France and England. Seven years later, when Richard, Duke of Gloucester was sent on an expedition into Scotland, Lord Stanley commanded under him the right wing, some 4000 strong, of the invading army, and with it Stanley invested and stormed Berwick-upon-Tweed, which remained English ever afterwards.

Lord Stanley married, firstly, Eleanor, fourth daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, and sister to the Earl of Warwick. By her he had 7 sons and 6 daughters.

In 1482 he married Margaret Beaufort - effectively a marriage of convenience for both as she brought status to Sir Thomas whilst he provided some security in a volatile world. It gave Lord Stanley a wife with great possessions, and her only child, Henry of Richmond, was an attainted exile-a half-prisoner of the Duke of Brittany.

Lord Stanley returned from the North before Richard Crookback, and was present at the funeral of Edward IV. After the King's death there were three parties ready to struggle for supremacy. One was that of the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Woodville, whose marriage to Edward, and still more the lionours heaped by him on her kindred, had provoked the ire of some of his best friends among the nobles. The most notable member of the Queen-Mother's party was her brother, the gallant and accomplished Lord Rivers, whose translation from the French, "The Dictes or Sayings of Philosophers", was one of the earliest books issued from the press of William Caxton (1477). At the time of Edward's death Lord Rivers was at Ludlow, as governor of South Wales, having under his care his young nephew, Edward V. There, too, as Steward of the boy-King's Household, a significant fact, was Sir William Stanley. Lord Stanley himself seems to have belonged to a second party, one loyal to the young King and distrustful of his uncle, Richard of Gloucester, but hostile to the pretensions of the Queen Mother and her kindred. This party was headed by the brilliant Lord Hastings, Edward's companion in danger, in triumph, and in pleasure, and who became the most trusted of his councillors. He, too, like Lord Stanley, had married a sister of Warwick, the King-maker. Last not least there was the party of Richard of Gloucester, already aspiring to be Protector, if not King, and about to secure the co-operation of the powerful and prominent but foolish Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, whose uncle, Sir Henry Stafford, had been the first husband of Lord Stanley's second wife, Margaret of Richmond.

The first blow was struck by Richard, a very few weeks after Edward's death. With the assent and approval of Hastings, who disliked them as chief among the Queen Mother's relations and friends, and as old personal enemies of his own, Rivers and his nephew Grey were arrested by Richard's orders; their execution followed not long afterwards. The turn of Hastings himself came next. On the 13 Jun occurred the scene in the Tower (the fourth of the third act of Shakespeare's -Richard III), when, at a signal from Gloucester, armed men rushed into the council-room, seized Hastings and carried him off to immediate execution. Hastings and Stanley were on the friendliest terms, and according to tradition Stanley had warned Hastings of his fate and advised him to fly. If so, he ought himself to have fled, since, according to the same tradition, he was nearly involved in the destruction which befell Hastings. On the 26 Richard, already Protector, was proclaimed King.

His friend Hastings was beheaded, but Lord Stanley himself escaped. A fortnight after the scene in the Tower, and the day after Richard was proclaimed King, Stanley emerges a trusted counsellor of the "usurper", witnessing with Buckingham the new King's formal delivery of the Great Seal to his Chancellor, John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln. On the 6 Jul came Richard's coronation, when "the Lord Stanley bare the mace before the King, and my Lady of Richmond bare the Queen's train". BEF the end of the year this most dexterous and fortunate of noblemen was appointed "Constable of England" for life. He had been already restored to the office near the King's person, that of Steward of the Household, which he filled under Edward IV. Whatever happened to kings or to dynasties, it was the fate of Lord Stanley to flourish and increase.

In Richard's triumphant progresses northward and westward, after the coronation, he was accompanied by Lord Stanley. During their course-if really ever enacted precisely as the time-honoured traditions represent it to have beenwas enacted the dark tragedy of the Children in the Tower. just before the date assigned to this event, Buckingham is spoken of as aggrieved by Richard's treatment of him, and as having in dudgeon left the King at Gloucester for his own castle of Brecknock. To his care and custody at Brecknock had been entrusted the person of John Morton, Bishop of Ely (afterwards Cardinal and Archbishop of Canterbury), who, as a member of the Hastings party, had been arrested when its chief was not only arrested but executed, and as Sir Thomas More was, in his youth, a page in Morton's household, it 'is sometimes fondly fancied that he received from Morton's lips the materials for his history of Richard III, which became the groundwork of much of Shakespeare's tragedy, and of the traditional version of Richard's character and earlier career as King,. According to More, Buckingham in his wrath conceived a notion of setting himself up for King, descended as he was from a seventh son of Edward III. But as he rode on his homeward way, he met, between Worcester and Bridgenorth, his uncle's widow, Lord Stanley's wife, Margaret of Richmond. In the course of their conversation -Sir Thomas More is the authority for all this-she besought him, as powerful with the King, to use his influence on behalf of her son, Henry of Richmond, then an exile in Brittany. If Richard would permit him to return to England and marry one of the daughters of Edward IV, no other dowry than the favour of the King would be asked for with her. Circumstantial as is More's account, it is not likely that Margaret could have expected Richard thus to restore and honour a possible pretender to the throne. However, according to More, this mention of Richmond set Buckingham thinking. He came to the conclusion that it would be better for him to give up his own slender claim to the crown, and to support Richmond's. When he arrived at Breeknock, he talked the matter over with his prisoner, Morton, who strongly encouraged his new view. The peer and prelate at Brecknock opened formal negotiations with Margaret of Richmond. It seems that a project for marrying Richmond to the Princess Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Edward IV, had been already communicated by Margaret to Elizabeth Woodville (then with her children in sanctuary at Westminster), through a Welsh physician, who ministered medically to both of them. Edward's widow now welcomed the scheme, and promised the co-operation of her friends. Great nobles and prelates entered into the plot all the more eagerly that the murder of the young Edward V and his brother in the Tower by Richard's command had begun to be bruited abroad. Messengers were sent with money and advice to Richmond in Brittany, and he consented to everything. The 18th of Oct (1483) was fixed for a general rising. By that day Henry was to arrive in England at the head of an invading force, and co-operate with the levies of Buckingham and his fellow conspirators.

Stormy weather delayed the arrival of Richmond and scattered his ships. When at last, with a solitary vessel, he neared the coast of Dorsetshire, he found Richard's soldiers confronting him. There was nothing left for him but to return whence he came, and there, he soon heard of the failure of Buckingham's insurrection, and of the capture and execution of Buckingham himself Lord Stanley's wife had been deep in the plot, but he managed matters so that his own fidelity could not be directly impeached, and might even be represented as having contributed to the failure of the insurrection. Lord Stanley had married his eldest son George to Joan, the daughter and heiress of John, Lord Strange (her mother, be it noted, was a sister of Elizabeth Woodville), and through this marriage, it may be mentioned, there came to the husband and his descendants the Barony of Strange, a circumstance which accounts for the fact that "Lord Strange" was long the courtesy title of the eldest sons of the Earls of Derby. Now there has been preserved (it is printed in the "Plumpton Correspondence") a letter from the secretary of this George Stanley, Lord Strange, dated the 18 Oct 1483, the very day fixed for Buckingham's rising, and it contains the following curious passage. Edward Plumpton writes from Latham, which, and not Knowsley, was then and for long afterwards the headquarters of the Stanleys: "people in this country be so troubled in such commandment as they have in the King's name and otherwise, marvellously" The King ordering them one way, lords and landlords in the rebel interest ordering them another, that they know not what to do. "My lord Strange goeth forth from Latham upon Monday next with 10,000 men, whither we cannot say. The Duke of Buckingham has so many as that. It is said here that he is able to go where he will; but I trust he shall be right withstanded, and else were great pity". Were the sympathies and antipathies of Lord Strange and of Lord Strange's father the same as those here expressed by Mr Secretary Plumpton? If Buckingham's rising had begun successfully, and if he had been joined in force by Lord Stanley's step-son, Richmond, would those 10,000 men under Lord Strange have been ordered to fight for Richard? It may be doubted, Mr Secretary himself did not know whither Lord Strange was bound. Certain it is, however, that the ever-lucky and dexterous Stanley was a gainer by the failure of the insurrection which his wife had fomented. On the very day of Buckingham's execution, Richard granted to Lord Stanley "the Castle and Lordship of Kimbolton, late belonging to the great rebel and traitor Humpbrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham". A few months before and Stanley was in danger, while Buckingham was Richard's chief friend and favourite. Now Buckingham's head rolled from the axe of the executioner, and Stanley throve upon his destruction. Richard might have his doubts, but he kept them to himself, and laboured to persuade Stanley practically that loyalty was the best policy. It was worth the King's while to try to secure the adhesion of a nobleman who could bring 10,000 men into the field.

But Margaret of Richmond's participation in the conspiracy which preceded Buckingham's abortive insurrection was well-known to Richard, and he could not hope to bribe her to be loyal to him or to desert the cause of her own son. Strange spectacle, while honours were heaped on the husband, all that seemed prudently possible was done to humiliate and punish the wife. Lord Stanley was made Constable of England for life in the Dec of 1483. Early in the new year, on the 22 Jan, 1484, a parliament met at Westminster, opened by Richard in person, his confidant and instrument, Catesby, being chosen Speaker of the Commons. Among the acts passed by this parliament for the punishment of persons implicated in Buckingham's conspiracy and insurrection, was, one directed against "Margaret, Countess of Richmond, mother to the King's great rebel and traitor, Henry, Earl of Richmond". It recited that "she had of late conspired, confederated, and committed treason" against the King, by "sending messages, writings, and tokens to the said Henry; desiring him to come into this realm and make war against him", and had also raised "great sums of money" to be employed for the same purpose. Nevertheless, it was added, the King considering "the good and faithful service that Thomas Lord Stanley had done, and intendeth to do, and for the good love and trust that the King hath in him, for his sake remitteth and will forbear to her the great punishment of attainder of the said Countess". Margaret was, however, disabled from inheriting any lands or dignities, and declared to have forfeited her estates to the crown, only a life interest in them being conceded to Lord Stanley. It was an enactment which did not make the mother of Henry, Earl of Richmond - or for that matter, perhaps, his step-father either- more loyal to Richard of Gloucester.

A year and a half passed away after the opening of the parliament which in the Jan of 1484 attainted Margaret of Richmond. The summer of 1485 found Richard at Nottingham once more awaiting a landing of Richmond's, and making energetic preparations to crush the second expedition of Lord Stanley's step-son. At the beginning of 1485 Richard acted as if he believed firmly in the fidelity of the Stanleys. In the Jan of that year he issued two commissions, one for Cheshire, the other for Lancashire. They were addressed to "all knights, squires, gentlemen, and all others the King's subjects" of the two counties. The Cheshire commission informs those whom it concerns that "the King hath deputed the Lord Stanley, the Lord Strange, and Sir William Stanley to have the rule and leading of all persons appointed to do the King's service when they be warned against the King's rebels. And it any rebels arrive in those parts that then all the power that they can make be ready to assist the said Lords and Knight upon their faiths and [al]legiances". The Lancashire commission calls upon the "knights, squires, and gentlemen, and others of that county, to give their attendance upon the Lords Stanley and Strange to do the King's Grace service against his rebels in whatsoever place within this Royaume they fortune to tarry". Richard was thus thrusting into the hands of the Stanleys weapons which seven months afterwards were to be turned against himself.

According to the old chroniclers, Richard became towards his latter end suspicious of Lord Stanley's fidelity, an assertion plausible enough since Margaret of Richmond was doubtless aiding and abetting her son's second and successful expedition. There is, too, a general agreement on another point, namely, that to deter Stanley from joining Richmond, Richard secured the person of Stanley's son and heir, Lord Strange. According to one account, when quitting the Court for Lancashire, Lord Stanley was compelled to leave Lord Strange then and there a hostage in the hands of Richard. On the other hand the following is the statement of the Croyland Chronicler, a contemporary of the events which he records: "A little before the landing of these persons (Richmond and his adherents) Thomas Stanley, Steward of the King's Household, had received permission to go into Lancashire to visit his house and his family, from whom he had long been separated. Still, however, he was permitted to stay there on no other condition than that of sending his eldest son, George Lord Stanley, to the King at Nottingham in his stead, which he accordingly did". The same chronicler avers that after the landing of Richmond was known to Richard, the King summoned Lord Stanley to join him at Nottingham, and received a refusal on the plea of sickness. Soon aftenvards, it is added, Lord Strange attempted to escape, was prevented, then confessed his guilt, acknowledging that his uncle, Sir William Stanley, was privy to Richmond's expedition, but declaring that his father was innocent, and if his own life were spared would still join the King. Last, not least, at the very crisis of the battle of Bosworth, in the old account reproduced by Shakespeare, Richard is represented as ordering the execution of Lord Strange, while those around beseech him to defer it until the battle is over.

Richmond landed at Milford Haven on the 1 Aug, 1485, Richard marched from Nottingham with his army on the 16th, and the Battle of Bosworth Field was fought on the 22 of that month. Now it so happens that there is in the Warrington Museum a deed of reconveyance of his estates to Sir Thomas Butler from his feoffees, executed at Bewsey in Lancashire, and witnessed by Lord Stanley and his sons, Lord Strange and Sir Edward Stanley, on the 18 Jul, 1485, only five weeks before the battle of Bosworth. Moreover, adds an obliging informant, there is another document of a similar character among the Lilford Muniments at Atherton, near Manchester, where the same witnesses are named, two or three weeks later: this deed is dated at Latham. "Two or three weeks later" would bring us very near the battle of Bosworth, and quite to the landing of Richmond. It is, therefore, impossible that, when Lord Stanley quitted Richard's Court for Lancashire, he could have left his son a hostage with the King or, at any rate, that Lord Strange could have remained in Richard's hands and fettered his father's action, since, as has been seen, he was, at or about the time of Richmond's landing, with his father in Lancashire. If Lord Strange was placed as a hostage by his father in the bands of Richard, it must have been in the brief interval between the date when he witnessed at Latham the signature of the later of the documents referred to and that of the battle of Bosworth. This is the account of the matter given by the Croyland Chronicler in the passage already quoted. The Croyland Chronicler is generally considered a trustworthy authority, yet it is almost, though of course not altogether, inconceivable that, knowing of Richmond's expedition and the part which he himself was ready to play in the impending contest, Lord Stanley committed his son at such a time and in such circumstances to the tender mercies of Richard Crookback.

This, however, is what the chroniclers would have us believe, and Shakespeare has given perpetuity to the improbable story. If Lord Stanley did not join Richmond on his landing, it was, we are told, because he feared for the life of his son, then very possibly safe and sound at Latham. It is Lord Strange's perilous position that, in the old chronicles, makes Lord Stanley pretend to retreat from Lichfield, which he left open to Richmond; this is what he pleaded as an excuse for his neutrality, durinc, the alleged interview with Richmond at Atherstone three nights before the battle; and this is to account for his indecision during the battle itself. Perhaps it may turn out that Lord Strange was never in Richard's hands at all, and that Lord Stanley never stirred a finger or moved a man until the fate of the battle was decided. All accounts agree that Richard's final charge might have been successful had not Sir William Stanley, with his three thousand men, suddenly come to the rescue of Richmond. But Sir William seems to have been a rasher, or rapider man than his elder brother, and much more ready to run risks. When Richard was killed and the battle over, the battered crown which had fallen from his helmet during the conflict was, according to a plausible tradition, placed by Lord Stanley or his brother on the head of the victorious Richmond. There was no longer room for doubts, scruples, hesitations. Nor did the Stanleys show any pity for those of their coadjutors of the ended reign, who to the last had remained faithful and true to Richard. Three days after the battle a batch of Richard's adherents was executed - Catesby among them. He made his will on the day of execution, and it contained this significant, this striking passage and petition: "My Lord Stanley, Strange, and all that blood! help! and pray for my soul, for ye have not for my body, as I trusted in you".

In one way or another the Stanleys had done great things for Richmond, and Henry VII did not forget their services. In the Oct after the battle Lord Stanley was created Earl of Derby, and was constituted one of the Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Steward of England on the 30th of that month--the day of the King's coronation. In the Mar of the following year he received a grant for life of the office of Constable of England; the same high dignity which had been conferred on him by Richard was thus renewed to him by Richard's rival and successor.

The Derby title was not new but had lapsed to the Crown in the 13C when the Ferrers family conspired against Henry III. (The first Earl of Derby was Robert De Ferrers, to whom King Stephen gave the earldom as a reward for his valour at the battle of the Standard. The peerage was extinguished with the deprivation of the 5th Earl of Ferrers and Derby in 1297 for complicity with Simon De Montfort. Henry, Earl of Lancaster, whose daughter Blanche married John of Gaunt, was created Earl of Derby II by Edward III. Through Blanche the earldom went to John of Gaunt's son Henry, and was merged in the higher dignity of the crown when he became King.)

On the 20 Sep in the same year arrived (with almost too great punctuality) the birth of the first child of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, that Prince Arthur whose marriage with Catalina de Aragon helped to bring about the English Reformation. At the christening of Arthur, the new Earl of Derby was one of the two male sponsors, the other being the Earl of Oxford, Sir Walter's and Anne of Geierstein's John Philipson, who had led the van of Richmond's army at the battle of Bosworth. Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's widow, was the female sponsor, beholding in her little grandchild a bud from the peaceful grafting of the White Rose upon the Red. In the Nov of the following year came the separate coronation of the Queen, and, at the feast in Westminster Hall which followed it, Lord Derby is described as present, attired in a rich gown furred with sables, a marvellous chain of gold of many folds about his neck, and the trappers of his courser right curiously wrought with theneedle. In this same year, moreover, aid given by Lord Strange, of course as representative of his father, in suppressing an insurrection against Henry, led to a further enrichment of the Stanleys. On the 16 Jun 1486, was fought the battle of Stoke, in which the insurgents under the Earl of Lincoln and Sir Thomas Broughton, a North Lancashire man, were routed, and their protege, the pretender Lambert Simnel, taken prisoner. Lambert himself was spared and set to turn a spit in the King's kitchen, but condign was the punishment of the noblemen and gentlemen who supported him in arms. According to his secretary, Edward Plumpton, Lord Strange had "brought with him" to Stoke against the insurgents "a great host, enough to have beaten all the King's enemies only of with my Lord Derby's folks and his own". For this service Henry bestowed on Lord Derby the estates of Sir Thomas Broughton, in Furness. Among Henry's other grants of lands to Lord Derby then or at various times during his reign were those of the estates of Sir James Harrington of Hornby, of Francis, Viscount Lovell, ("the cat, the rat, and Lovell, the dog"), of Sir Thomas Pilkington, and what Sir Thomas had in right of his lady, who was daughter and heir of Chetham, Esq., of Chetham. The said Sir Thomas was owner of all the lands the Earl of Derby now claims in Salford Hundred. He had also Pooton of Pooton's, Bythom of Bythom's, and Newby of Kirkby's estates in this county, with at least twenty gentlemen's estates more. Not a lord in all the county was half so great a lord as he.

The prosperity of the Stanleys was at its height when one prominent member of the family was suddenly disgraced and hurled into the grave; the head of the house, however, escaping the blow which felled and made short work of his brother. Sir William Stanley had reaped due rewards for his conduct at Bosworth. Henry appointed him Chancellor of the Exchequer, and gave him the Garter. An act of one of Henry's Parliaments confirmed him in the possession of the large grants of land, among them that of Holt Castle in Denbighshire, bestowed on him by the Richard on whom he turned, and of whose overthrow at Bosworth he was the principal cause. At the moment of losing everything, life as well as lands, Sir William Stanley was, according to Lord Bacon (as biographer of Henry VII), "the richest subject for value in the kingdom; there being found in his Castle of Holt", Bacon adds, particularising with apparent gusto, "40,000 marks in ready money and plate, besides jewels, household stuff, stocks upon the ground, and other personal estate, exceeding great. And for his revenue in land and fee, it was 3,000 a year old rent; a great matter in those times". Some of this property had been acquired on the field of Bosworth itself, and was in fact neither more nor less than "loot". Bacon speaks of "the great spoils of Bosworth Field which came into this man's hands to his infinite enriching". Was all this not enough, or had Sir William become a malcontent because more had not been done for him, say because, while his elder brother was made Earl of Derby, Henry hesitated to revive for him and in his person the grand old Earldom of Chester, which had become a mere appendage of the Princedom of Wales? Or did he think that Perkin Warbeck really had a chance, and, true to the Stanley policy, had he made some tentative overtures to the new Pretender or the new Pretender's friends and backers? Certain it is that when the secret history, true or false, of Perkin Warbek's tamperings with disaffected English nobles was divulged by his and their agent, Sir Robert Clifford, whom Henry's gold bribed to turn King's evidence, he accused Sir William Stanley himself of being in the conspiracy. Stanley's whole guilt, if guilt there was, is said to have been the casual utterance of the remark that "if he were sure that that young man, Perkin Warbeck, was King Edward's son, he would never draw the sword against him". The judges at Westminster sentenced him to death, and he was duly executed on the 15 Feb 1495. All his estate, real and personal, was confiscated by and to the King, and Henry's greed, it is sometimes thought, prompted him to procure a sentence of death and permit it to be executed on the man whose timely rush to aid him, ten years or so before, won for him the battle of Bosworth and the crown of England. That great service itself Henry had come to regard under its more dubious aspects.

Lord Derby had not compromised himself by word or deed in the affair of Perkin Warbeck. What is stranger, he does not seem to have resented or even to have felt his brother's bloody doom. In the summer of the year of Sir William Stanley's execution, Lord Derby received at Latham and at Knowsley a visit from Henry, who perhaps wished thus to persuade the world that he had perfect trust in the fidelity of his mother's husband. Lord Derby sank the brother in the subject and the step-father, and Lord Derby's fool, not the master of the house himself, is the main figure in the old tradition which hints that amid the splendours of Henry's reception by the Lord of Latham in the summer of 1495, the tragedy of the preceding Feb was not quite forgotten. According to a notable tradition still, Henry, after a view of Latham, was conducted by the Earl to the top of the leads for a prospect of the country. The Earl's fool was in company, who, observing the King draw near to the edge of the leads, not guarded with business, he stepped up to the Earl, and pointing down the precipice said, 'Tom, remember Will!' The King understood the meaning, and made all haste down stairs and out of the house; and the fool long after seemed mightily concerned that his Lord had not courage to take the opportunity of revenging himself for the death of his brother". The first Earl of Derby was not a fool! After leaving Knowsley, Henry went by way of Warrington to Manchester. "To promote the King's accommodation," says the modern historian of Lancashire, "the noble Lord built a bridge over the river Mersey at Warrington, for the passage of himself and his suite, which bridge has been found of so much public utility as to afford a perpetual monument of the visit of Henry VII to Lancashire".

Some nine years after this visit of King Henry, Lord Derby died, probably about the age of seventy. His death must have occurred between the 28 Jul 1504, on which day his will was dated, and the 29 Nov in the same year, the day on which it was proved. He left to the King a cup of gold, and legacies to this abbey and to that, duly providing too for masses on behalf of his own soul, of those of his wives, relations, friends, servants, and in one case, especially for the souls of all them lie had in any wise offended, and for all Christian souls.

Of his sons, only the youngest two, Edward and James, survived him. George Lord Strange died in 1497, and in his father's life-time, the peerage and estates descending to his eldest son Thomas, so that the second Stanley Earl of Derby was the grandson of the first.

Between the Sir William Stanley whom Henry VII beheaded and James, a churchman, who was Archdeacon of Carlisle as well as Warden of Manchester, the first Lord Derby had another brother, Sir John Stanley. He became Sir John Stanley of Weever in Cheshire, by marrying the heiress thereof, and from him descend the Stanleys, formerly baronets, now Barons of Alderley in that county.

George Lord Strange, died in his father's life-time, and the peerage went to his eldest son, to be inherited by that son's descendants until 1736, when this line of succession expired. It and what was annexed to it then passed to Sir Edward Stanley of Bickerstaff in Lancashire, the lineal descendant of Sir James Stanley, third son of George Lord Strange, himself eldest son of the first Earl of Derby.

Sources:

Dugdale's Baronage (London, 1675)
Collins's Peerage (edited by Brydges, London, 1812)
Stanley Earl of Derby; Memoirs of the Ancient and honorable House of Stanley (by J. Seacome, Manchester, 1783)
W. Beamont's Notes on the Lancashire Stanleys (Warrington, 1869)
Jesse's Memoirs of King Richard the Third and some of his Contemporaries (London, 1862)
C. A. Halsted's Life of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby (London, 1845)

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