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Sir William Stanley (d. 1495)

SIR WILLIAM STANLEY (d. 1495), Lord Chamberlain to Henry VII, was the second son of Thomas Stanley, first Lord Stanley, by Joan, daughter of Sir Robert Goushill of Hoveringham, Nottinghamshire, and his wife, Elizabeth Fitzalan, dowager duchess of Norfolk. Thomas Stanley, first Earl of Derby, was his elder brother. Stanley was born after 1435, and made his first known public appearance while still a squire in 1459 as a Yorkist partisan, taking part in 'the distressing of King Henry's true liege people at Bloreheath,' where two of his brothers-in-law, Sir William Troutbeck and Sir Richard Molyneux of Sefton, fell on the opposite side. In the ensuing parliament Stanley was attainted with other Yorkists.1 As he did not fall into the hands of the government, we may perhaps assume that he escaped abroad, like the rest, after the rout of Ludford.

The accession of Edward IV brought him his reward; the office of chamberlain of Chester was at once conferred upon him, and he apparently retained it until his death.2 At York, after the Battle of Hexham in 1464, the king made him a further grant under the great seal, and in November 1465 bestowed upon him the castle and lordship of Skipton and other lands in Craven forfeited by Lord Clifford, who fell on the Lancastrian side at Towton.3 When Edward returned from his temporary exile in 1471, Stanley joined him with three hundred men at Nottingham.4 He was subsequently steward of the Prince of Wales's household.5

Richard III did his best to retain Stanley's support; he gave him Buckingham's forfeited office of justiciar of North Wales6 and a great landed position there by the grant of the castle and lordship of 'Lione otherwise called the Holte,' i.e. Holt Castle on the Dee, with a moiety of Bromfield, Yale, and four other marcher lordships, three whole manors, and a moiety of seventeen others, among them Wrexham and Ruabon.7 He seems also to have had an interest in the lordship of Chirk, whose castle he repaired.8 These lands, which comprised a great part of what is now East Denbighshire, he claimed in the next reign to have obtained by exchange for others of 'great value.' This vagueness and the obvious motive for such a statement render it rather doubtful, but he may possibly have surrendered Skipton in return for these Welsh grants. Henry VII, as soon as he gained the throne, certainly restored Skipton to Lord Clifford, 'the shepherd lord.'

At Ridley, a few miles north, under the shadow of the Peckforton Hills, Stanley built himself 'the fairest gentleman's house in al Chestreshyre.'9 From here one September he wrote to his 'cousin' Piers Warburton of Arley, excusing himself from a promise to kill a buck in his park, 'beyng so besy with olde Dyk I can have no layf thereunto.'10 He did not hesitate to betray 'olde Dyk' when the time came. Early in August 1485 Henry of Richmond crossed a corner of North Wales unmolested, and at Stafford Stanley, who had three thousand 'red coats' with his livery of the hart's head not far away, came to an understanding with the invader. Henry had a further interview with him and his brother, Lord Stanley, at Atherstone two days before the decisive Battle of Bosworth.11Though already denounced to Richard by his nephew, Lord Strange, and proclaimed a traitor at Coventry and elsewhere, Stanley would not unite his force with Richmond's, and on 22 Aug. pitched his camp on Hanging Hill, between Bosworth and Shenton, some distance from both the main bodies.12 Yet he can hardly have hoped to recover Richard's favour had the day gone against Henry, and it was when the king's desperate charge seemed to make this likely that Stanley brought his three thousand men into action and so decided the battle.13 If his real object was to place Henry more clearly and deeply in his debt, it was certainly attained. He became Lord Chamberlain and knight of the Garter, and was confirmed in possession of his Welsh estates.

Stanley's fall ten years after came no doubt as a surprise to most people, but Henry long before entertained suspicions of the man who had in turn betrayed Lancaster and York.14 It is a curious coincidence, if no more, that the informer who denounced him at the end of 1494 as an accomplice of Perkin Warbeck should have been Sir Robert Clifford, uncle of the young lord whose property at Skipton he had for a time usurped.15 How deeply he involved himself with Warbeck we do not know; he must surely have done more than declare that 'if he knew certainly that the young man [Warbeck] was the undoubted heir of King Edward IV, he would never fight or bear armour against him.'

On 6 Feb. 1495 he was 'found guilty of treason by a quest of divers knights and worshipful gentlemen,' and on the 16th beheaded on Tower Hill.16 The more cruel part of an execution for treason was dispensed with. Henry defrayed the cost of his burial at Sion.17 It was afterwards believed that forty thousand marks18 in ready money, plate, and jewels were found in Holt Castle, and Bacon, in his 'Life of Henry VII,' estimates Stanley's income at three thousand a year.19

Stanley was at least twice married. In 1465 he married Joan, daughter of the first Viscount Beaumont, and widow of John, Lord Lovel.20 He subsequently (after 1470) married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Hopton of Hopton, Shropshire, who had already survived two husbands, Sir Roger Corbet of Moreton-Corbet, Shropshire, and John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester.21 The pedigrees following Sir Peter Leycester are in error respecting his marriage.22 Stanley left three children—a son and two daughters. The son, Sir William Stanley, married Joan, heiress of the Masseys of Tatton in Cheshire, and died in or about 1498; one daughter, Joan, married Sir John Warburton of Arley, and the other, Catherine, Thomas Cocat of Holt.

1. Rotuli Parliamentorum, v. 348, 369.
2. Ormerod, History of Cheshire, 1876, i. 60.
3. Rot. Parl. v. 530, 582.
4. Warkworth, Chronicle, Camden Society, 1839, p. 14, but cf. Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV, Camden Society, 1838, p. 7.
5. Ramsay, Lancaster and York, ii. 482.
6. 'Croyland Continuator' says chamberlain. Continuator of the Croyland Chronicle, Fulman, 1684.
7. Rot. Parl. vi. 316.
8. Leland, Itinerary, ed. Hearne, v. 36; Gairdner, Richard III, p. 402.
9. Leland, v. 81, vol. vii. pt. i. p. 43.
10. Ormerod, ii. 301.
11. Polydore Vergil, English History, ed. Ellis, Camden Society, 1844, p. 224; Gairdner, p. 414.
12. Hutton, The Battle of Bosworth Field, 1788, App. p. 245; cf. Hall, p. 414.
13. ib. pp. 418-19.
14. Brewer, Letters and Papers, iii. 490.
15. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 342.
16. British Library Cotton MS. Vitellius, A. xvi. 152-3; Fabyan, Chronicle, ed. Ellis, p. 685; Polydore Vergil; Hall, Chronicle, ed. Ellis, p. 469; Busch, England under the Tudors, p. 95.
17. Bentley, Excerpta Historica, 1831, pp. 101-2.
18. 40,000 marks in 1495 had roughly the equivalent purchasing power as £22,400,000 in 2020.
      Source: Measuring Worth.
19. £3,000 in 1495 had roughly the equivalent purchasing power as £2,500,000 in 2020.
      Source: Measuring Worth.
20. Rot. Parl. v. 682; Cokayne, Complete Peerage, v. 165.
21. ib. vii. 402.
22. cf. Baines, History of Lancashire, iv. 10; Ormerod, i. 442.

Tait, James. "Sir William Stanley."
Dictionary of National Biography. Vol XVIII. Sidney Lee, Ed.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1898. 968-9.

Other Local Resources:

Books for further study:

Coward, Barry. The Stanleys, Lords Stanley and Earls of Derby, 1385-1672.
           Manchester University Press, 1983.

Rowse, A. L. Bosworth Field & the Wars of the Roses.
           Wordsworth Military Library; New Ed., 1999.

Weir, Alison. The Wars of the Roses.
           Ballantine Books, 1996.

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This page was created on August 22, 2012. Last updated April 29, 2023.

Index of Encyclopedia Entries:

Medieval Cosmology
Prices of Items in Medieval England

Edward II
Isabella of France, Queen of England
Piers Gaveston
Thomas of Brotherton, E. of Norfolk
Edmund of Woodstock, E. of Kent
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Lancaster
Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster
Roger Mortimer, Earl of March
Hugh le Despenser the Younger
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Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

Edward III
Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England
Edward, Black Prince of Wales
John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
The Battle of Crécy, 1346
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The Battle of Poitiers, 1356
Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence
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Edmund of Langley, Duke of York
Thomas of Woodstock, Gloucester
Richard of York, E. of Cambridge
Richard Fitzalan, 3. Earl of Arundel
Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March
The Good Parliament, 1376
Richard II
The Peasants' Revolt, 1381
Lords Appellant, 1388
Richard Fitzalan, 4. Earl of Arundel
Archbishop Thomas Arundel
Thomas de Beauchamp, E. Warwick
Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford
Ralph Neville, E. of Westmorland
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Edmund Mortimer, 3. Earl of March
Roger Mortimer, 4. Earl of March
John Holland, Duke of Exeter
Michael de la Pole, E. Suffolk
Hugh de Stafford, 2. E. Stafford
Henry IV
Edward, Duke of York
Edmund Mortimer, 5. Earl of March
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Sir Henry Percy, "Harry Hotspur"
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester
Owen Glendower
The Battle of Shrewsbury, 1403
Archbishop Richard Scrope
Thomas Mowbray, 3. E. Nottingham
John Mowbray, 2. Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Fitzalan, 5. Earl of Arundel
Henry V
Thomas, Duke of Clarence
John, Duke of Bedford
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
Richard, Earl of Cambridge
Henry, Baron Scrope of Masham
William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk
Thomas Montacute, E. Salisbury
Richard Beauchamp, E. of Warwick
Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
Cardinal Henry Beaufort
John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset
Sir John Fastolf
John Holland, 2. Duke of Exeter
Archbishop John Stafford
Archbishop John Kemp
Catherine of Valois
Owen Tudor
John Fitzalan, 7. Earl of Arundel
John, Lord Tiptoft

Charles VII, King of France
Joan of Arc
Louis XI, King of France
Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy
The Battle of Agincourt, 1415
The Battle of Castillon, 1453

The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485
Causes of the Wars of the Roses
The House of Lancaster
The House of York
The House of Beaufort
The House of Neville

The First Battle of St. Albans, 1455
The Battle of Blore Heath, 1459
The Rout of Ludford, 1459
The Battle of Northampton, 1460
The Battle of Wakefield, 1460
The Battle of Mortimer's Cross, 1461
The 2nd Battle of St. Albans, 1461
The Battle of Towton, 1461
The Battle of Hedgeley Moor, 1464
The Battle of Hexham, 1464
The Battle of Edgecote, 1469
The Battle of Losecoat Field, 1470
The Battle of Barnet, 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471
The Treaty of Pecquigny, 1475
The Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485
The Battle of Stoke Field, 1487

Henry VI
Margaret of Anjou
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
Edward IV
Elizabeth Woodville
Richard Woodville, 1. Earl Rivers
Anthony Woodville, 2. Earl Rivers
Jane Shore
Edward V
Richard III
George, Duke of Clarence

Ralph Neville, 2. Earl of Westmorland
Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick
Edward Neville, Baron Bergavenny
William Neville, Lord Fauconberg
Robert Neville, Bishop of Salisbury
John Neville, Marquis of Montagu
George Neville, Archbishop of York
John Beaufort, 1. Duke Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 2. Duke Somerset
Henry Beaufort, 3. Duke of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 4. Duke Somerset
Margaret Beaufort
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond
Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke
Humphrey Stafford, D. Buckingham
Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Humphrey Stafford, E. of Devon
Thomas, Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby
Sir William Stanley
Archbishop Thomas Bourchier
Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex
John Mowbray, 3. Duke of Norfolk
John Mowbray, 4. Duke of Norfolk
John Howard, Duke of Norfolk
Henry Percy, 2. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 3. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 4. E. Northumberland
William, Lord Hastings
Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter
William Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford
Thomas de Clifford, 8. Baron Clifford
John de Clifford, 9. Baron Clifford
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester
Thomas Grey, 1. Marquis Dorset
Sir Andrew Trollop
Archbishop John Morton
Edward Plantagenet, E. of Warwick
John Talbot, 2. E. Shrewsbury
John Talbot, 3. E. Shrewsbury
John de la Pole, 2. Duke of Suffolk
John de la Pole, E. of Lincoln
Edmund de la Pole, E. of Suffolk
Richard de la Pole
John Sutton, Baron Dudley
James Butler, 5. Earl of Ormonde
Sir James Tyrell
Edmund Grey, first Earl of Kent
George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent
John, 5th Baron Scrope of Bolton
James Touchet, 7th Baron Audley
Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy
Robert Hungerford, Lord Moleyns
Thomas, Lord Scales
John, Lord Lovel and Holand
Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovell
Sir Richard Ratcliffe
William Catesby
Ralph, 4th Lord Cromwell
Jack Cade's Rebellion, 1450

Tudor Period

King Henry VII
Queen Elizabeth of York
Arthur, Prince of Wales
Lambert Simnel
Perkin Warbeck
The Battle of Blackheath, 1497

King Ferdinand II of Aragon
Queen Isabella of Castile
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

King Henry VIII
Queen Catherine of Aragon
Queen Anne Boleyn
Queen Jane Seymour
Queen Anne of Cleves
Queen Catherine Howard
Queen Katherine Parr

King Edward VI
Queen Mary I
Queen Elizabeth I
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland
James IV, King of Scotland
The Battle of Flodden Field, 1513
James V, King of Scotland
Mary of Guise, Queen of Scotland

Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Louis XII, King of France
Francis I, King of France
The Battle of the Spurs, 1513
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Eustace Chapuys, Imperial Ambassador
The Siege of Boulogne, 1544

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex
Thomas, Lord Audley
Thomas Wriothesley, E. Southampton
Sir Richard Rich

Edward Stafford, D. of Buckingham
Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire
George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford
John Russell, Earl of Bedford
Thomas Grey, 2. Marquis of Dorset
Henry Grey, D. of Suffolk
Charles Somerset, Earl of Worcester
George Talbot, 4. E. Shrewsbury
Francis Talbot, 5. E. Shrewsbury
Henry Algernon Percy,
     5th Earl of Northumberland
Henry Algernon Percy,
     6th Earl of Northumberland
Ralph Neville, 4. E. Westmorland
Henry Neville, 5. E. Westmorland
William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester
Sir Francis Bryan
Sir Nicholas Carew
John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford
Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral
Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Henry Pole, Lord Montague
Sir Geoffrey Pole
Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland
Henry Manners, Earl of Rutland
Henry Bourchier, 2. Earl of Essex
Robert Radcliffe, 1. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 2. Earl of Sussex
George Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon
Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter
George Neville, Baron Bergavenny
Sir Edward Neville
William, Lord Paget
William Sandys, Baron Sandys
William Fitzwilliam, E. Southampton
Sir Anthony Browne
Sir Thomas Wriothesley
Sir William Kingston
George Brooke, Lord Cobham
Sir Richard Southwell
Thomas Fiennes, 9th Lord Dacre
Sir Francis Weston
Henry Norris
Lady Jane Grey
Sir Thomas Arundel
Sir Richard Sackville
Sir William Petre
Sir John Cheke
Walter Haddon, L.L.D
Sir Peter Carew
Sir John Mason
Nicholas Wotton
John Taylor
Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio
Cardinal Reginald Pole
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London
Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London
John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester
John Aylmer, Bishop of London
Thomas Linacre
William Grocyn
Archbishop William Warham
Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham
Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester
Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford

Pope Julius II
Pope Leo X
Pope Clement VII
Pope Paul III
Pope Pius V

Pico della Mirandola
Desiderius Erasmus
Martin Bucer
Richard Pace
Christopher Saint-German
Thomas Tallis
Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent
Hans Holbein, the Younger
The Sweating Sickness

Dissolution of the Monasteries
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
Robert Aske
Anne Askew
Lord Thomas Darcy
Sir Robert Constable

Oath of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy, 1534
The First Act of Succession, 1534
The Third Act of Succession, 1544
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
The Second Statute of Repeal, 1555
The Act of Supremacy, 1559
Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

Queen Elizabeth I
William Cecil, Lord Burghley
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Thomas Bromley

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
Sir Thomas Egerton, Viscount Brackley
Sir Francis Knollys
Katherine "Kat" Ashley
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
George Talbot, 6. E. of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury
Gilbert Talbot, 7. E. of Shrewsbury
Sir Henry Sidney
Sir Robert Sidney
Archbishop Matthew Parker
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
Edward Courtenay, E. Devonshire
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3. Southampton
Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
The Fortune Theatre
The Rose Theatre
The Swan Theatre
Children's Companies
The Admiral's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men
Citizen Comedy
The Isle of Dogs, 1597

Common Law
Court of Common Pleas
Court of King's Bench
Court of Star Chamber
Council of the North
Fleet Prison
First Fruits & Tenths
Livery and Maintenance
Oyer and terminer

The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster


Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
London in late 16th century
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's View of London, 1616
Larger Visscher's View in Sections
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London

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