Sir William STANLEY
Died: 3 Mar 1630, Ghent
Mother: Margaret ALDERSLEY
Married 1: Anne DUTTON 1560 Dissolved 1565
Married 2: Elizabeth EGERTON (dau. of John Egerton of Egerton and Jane Mostyn)
1. William STANLEY of Hooton
2. Rowland STANLEY
3. Jane STANLEY
4. Dau. STANLEY
5. Dau. STANLEY
William Stanley was probably born in Hooton. He was the eldest son of Sir
Rowland Stanley of Hooton and Storeton, Cheshire, the head of the senior
branch of the house of Stanley.
Sir Rowlanddied in 1612 at the age of 96, the oldest knight in England. William had a brother, John Stanley.
young William was brought up a Catholic and at the age of 12 was married to Anne
Dutton, a bride of ten, but the marriage was dissolved in 1565. After this
marriage he was sent to school with a Dr Standish at Lathom, where he entered
the service of his kinsman Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby. Soon
afterwards, he crossed to the Spanish Netherlands and began his illustrious
military career. Firstly he was a volunteer under the Spanish General Alva in
1567, but in 1570 he quit the Spanish forces and joined
Elizabeth's forces in
Ireland where he served with distinction for over 15 years.
1579 as one of Sir William Drury's captains in the campaign against the
Earl of Desmond, he distinguished himself at Limerick and for his gallantry was
knighted by Drury at Waterford. He again distinguished himself at the battles of
Monasternenagh and Adare. In 1580 he returned briefly to England to enlist
troops which he subsequently led to Munster, but was again recalled to assist in
putting down the rebellion that had broken out in the Pale.
more he returned to Ireland. At Wicklow, Lismore, and Munster he was
instrumental in hunting down rebels loyal to the
Earl of Desmond, for
which he was made Constable of Castlemain. In Mar 1584 he supplicated
Walsingham to make him president of Connaught. This was refused,
but in Aug of the same year, he was made sheriff of Cork. Towards the end of
1584 he was sent north to campaign against the Ulster rebels, and for his
troubles received several wounds, the severity of which necessitated his return
Irish career was effectively over, and although it had been a most brilliant one
and had earned him a reputation as one of England's finest soldiers,
noted that the war in Ireland was essentially a religious one, and Stanley was a
Catholic. Nevertheless, he had served with honour and fidelity and never
questioned his service to the Crown.
the months passed, he became more and more dissillusioned. The great Desmond
estates which he had been instrumental in securing had been divided up and he
had received nothing, while others who had been merely on the fringe of the
action were handsomely rewarded.
late 1585 he was despatched to the Spanish Netherlands with the
Leicester, after first recruiting soldiers from Ireland. On his way from
Ireland to the United Provinces he was seen in the company of Jesuit priests,
and was said to have known much of the Babington Plot, although he was not
himself involved. He corresponded with Mendoza, and delayed his departure for
the Spanish Netherlands in case the Queen was killed or that the Spanish fleet
might arrive from Cadiz.
forces eventually joined Leicester on 12 Aug 1586 where he assisted in the
capture of Doesborg, and then later saw action at the battle of Zutphen where
Phillip Sidney received his fatal wounds. At the same time he was
instrumental in the seizure of Deventer, and was duly appointed Governor in
charge of a garrison of 1200 men, most of whom were Irish Catholics.
acquired a full mastery of the city and given the commission to act
independantly of Norreys, he communicated with the Spanish Governor of Zutphen,
De Tassis, and surrendered the town on 29 Jan 1587.
many claim that during this part of his life he was totally under the control of
the Jesuits (of which his brother John was a lay-brother), he received little
commendation for his actions from either the Jesuit faction, or the Spanish
court, although the Jesuits had the audacity to publish a book extolling the
treachery of Stanley. It was ironic that his actions were as a result of his
passing over of reward for his Irish services, yet at the time of this
treachery, Elizabeth was preparing to appoint him Viceroy of Ireland.
Over the next year, Stanley made several trips to the Spanish court and offered advice on a planned invasion of England, indicating that it would be better to use Ireland and its sympathetic Catholics as a platform from which to launch a naval attack. However the Spanish ignored his suggestions, and subsequently the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588. Stanley immediately retired to Antwerp. By 1590 he was back in Madrid as the representative of a thousand strong legion of Irishmen and expatriate Englishmen known as the English Legion. Into the services of this regiment eventually came the likes of Guy Fawkes and Thomas Wintour. Stanley indicated his willingness to join any armed revolt or uprising against Elizabeth, and was now closely identified as a member of the Jesuit faction. In 1591 he consulted in Rome with other enemies of Elizabeth I, and announced his support for Lady Arabella Stuart, or Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange as Elizabeth's successor. He made yearly visits to Spain, and was present with the Spanish in 1596 when they invaded France. He fought at Amiens, at Geldern against Maurice of Nassau, and at Newport.
Elizabeth's death, Stanley, who had previously sent
Thomas Wintour to Spain,
despatched Guy Fawkes and Christopher Wright, an emissary of
Robert Catesby, to
warn Felipe II against James, and again recommend an invasion using Ireland as the
after the failure of this mission, it appears he began secret negotiations with
the English government to secure his own pardon, and there is no direct evidence
to connect him with complicity in the Gunpowder Plot, although he was placed
under house arrest in Brussels on suspicion after being denounced by Fawkes.
However, on 30 Jan 1606, Sir Robert Cecil, the Secretary of State,
exonerated him from the charge. This may have been due to the confession of Thomas Wintour who states "Sir William Stanley was not returned from
Spain, so as he [Fawkes] uttered the matter only to Owen, who seemed well
pleased with the business, but told him that surely Sir William would not be
acquainted with any plot, as having business now afoot in the Court of England,
but he himself would be always ready to tell it him and send him away as soon as
it were done". But the theory has been put forward that Stanley was
prepared to offer information (in particular regarding the Spanish Treason and
the movements of Fawkes, Wintour, and Wright) in order to secure his own pardon
from the Crown. It is true that upon release he held a public thanksgiving in
the cathedral of Malines
the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, Stanley plainly recognized that the
Catholic cause had become severely fragmented and completely discredited, and he
no longer entertained plans with Spain with regard to an English invasion, even
though peace had been declared between the two enemies. Therefore, the remainder
of his life was spent in relative obscurity. He assisted in establishing a
Jesuit novitiate in Liege in 1614, and appears to have been appointed governor
of Mechlin. He spent much of his latter years with the English Carthusians in
Ostend, having several times sought in vain to return to England. He died at
Ghent on 3 Mar 1630 and was buried at Mechlin.
By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Egerton of Egerton he had two sons and three daughters. Eventually his grandson succeeded to the family estates at Hooton in Cheshire, and his great-grandson was created a Baronet in 1661.
of National Biography,
of Thomas Wintour', Gunpowder Plot Book
Phillip, A History of the Gunpowder Plot,
Adrian, The Catholic Subjects of Elizabeth I
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