Eagle+Child crest The Stanleys

After a century of disputed ownership between the English and the Scots the Island was 'given', by Henry IV, to Sir John Stanley in 1405 on condition 'of rendering to our heirs the future Kings of England, two falcons on the days of their coronation'.

The Stanleys were one of the great families of England whose main houses were at Knowsley and Lathom in south-west Lancashire between Liverpool and Ormskirk (see map). These properties came from the marriage of Sir John to Isabel Lathom. At the time of the marriage neither expected to inherit such estates but the death of many closer heirs left them with large landholdings on the Lancashire/Cheshire border.

The Stanleys derive their descent from Adam de Stanley(c.1125-c.1200) to whom his cousin, Adam de Audley, conveyed the Manor of Stanley in Staffordshire close to the Cheshire border.

A brief biography, concentrating on their role in Manx affairs, is given under their separate headings; however Robertson in his Tour of 1794 makes the following, rather typical, comment concerning the Stanleys:

it may not be improper to observe, that their personal history, except in a few instances, is unconnected with the public transactions of the Island. Being Subjects of England, they generally resided in that country; and so long as their Lieutenants remitted the revenues of the kingdom,they supinely acquiesced in their administration. For more than three centuries this family enjoyed the regal government of Man; yet in so long a period few of them possessed the ambition or generosity to visit their subjects: and when they conferred this honour, either their interests in the Island were threatened, or their personal safety in England endangered.

There is a fair amount of truth in this - the Island would appear to have contributed around 20 to 25% of the Derby revenues (figures averaged from those quoted by Coward) and any political activity required them to remain either in London or more usually their Lancashire stronghold.

Immediate descendants of Sir John Stanley, First Lord of Man

Sir John Stanley      =    Isabel Lathom
 1405 Lord of Man   (1385)   heiress of Lathom and Knowsley d. Oct 1414
 d. Jan 1414          |
       Sir John(2)    =  Isabel dau. of Sir Nicholas Harrington of Farelton
     c. 1386-1437     |
                 Sir Thomas      =  Joan dau. and co-hieress of Sir Robert
                 c.1405-1459     |      Goushill of Hoveringham, Notts.
             created Baron 1456  |
                     (1)       |       (2)                            |
           Elanor     =   Lord Thomas   =   Margaret Beaufort       Sir William
          dau of     1459  c1433-1504  1482    1441-1509            executed 1495
    Richard Neville   |        1485          mother of Henry VII
   Earl of Salisbury  |  1st Earl of Derby
        |                        (1)     |      (2)                           |
     George   =  Joan      Anne   =  Sir Edward  = Elizabeth Vaughan        James
c.1460-1503 (c.1480)       dau and     created           widow of           Bishop
 Lord Strange | dau and   co-hieress  Lord Mounteagle  Lord Grey de Wilton     of
              | heiress    of Sir John    1513                                 Ely
              | of John     Harrington    d.1524                             d.1515
              | Lord Strange
              |  d.1514
              |                                           |
         Thomas    =    Anne                           Sir James
      2nd Earl (c.1502)  dau of Lord Hungerford         of Cross Hall, Lathom
      c1484-1521   |        and Hastings                  |
                   |         d.1550                       v
                   |                           The Stanleys of Bickerstaffe
                  (1)     |         (3)
Katherine Howard   =      Edward     =  Margaret Barlow
     d.1530      (1530) 3rd Earl   (1558)     d.1559
                  (2)               (4)
Dorothy Howard     =                 =  Mary Cotton
  d. c.1557     (1530)             (1561)   d.1580
                 Henry      =    Margaret dau of Henry Clifford
                4th Earl (1555)       1st Earl of Cumberland
               1531-1593    |             d.1596

Of those Lords of Man mentioned above only the second Sir John and, to a lesser extent, Henry played any significant personal part in Manx affairs. Sir John was responsible for codifying Manx law.

The Two sons of Henry and Margaret

                 Henry      =    Margaret dau of Henry Clifford
                4th Earl (1555)       1st Earl of Cumberland
               1531-1593    |             d.1596
                       |                     |
         Alice   = Ferdinando        William = Elizabeth sister and co-heiress
    dau. of   (1579)  5th Earl    6th Earl (1594)  of Henry 18th Earl of Oxford
Sir John Spencer |  c.1559-1594  c.1561-1642 |        d.1627
of Alsthorp      |                           |
  +----------+---+----------+                |
  |          |              |                |
Anne      Frances        Elizabeth          James = Charlotte de la Tremouille
 =           =            =            7th Earl (1626)
(1)Baron     Earl of       Earl of     1607-1651  |
  Chandos    Bridgewater   Huntingdon             |
(2) Earl of                                       |
  Castlehaven        +-----------------+----------+
                     |                 |
Dorothea Helena = Charles         Anna Sophia = John Murray 1st Maquis of Atholl
  dau of      (1650) 8th Earl     d.1703    (1659)     d. 1703
 Baron Rupa     |    1628-72                  +--------------+
  d.1702        +--------------+---------+--------+          |
                |              |                  |          |
Elizabeth =  William          James = Mary    Charles      John 1st Duke of Atholl
       (1673) 9th Earl  10th Earl(1705)        d.1715        |
          |  c1655-1702   1664-1736 |       without issue  James 2nd Duke of Atholl
  (all children/grandchildren       |
       d. by 1732)               William d. 1710 without issue

The most significant player in Manx affairs was James, seventh Earl, or as known by the Manx 'Y Stanlagh Mooar' or the Great Stanley. His attempt to alter Manx land tenure to his own advantage however caused much discontent and was the basis of the lack of support given to his wife defending the Island against the parliamentary forces. It was left to Bishop Wilson to negotiate with William, 9th Earl, though actually agreed by James following William's death, the basis of the Act of Settlement which restored the ancient land tenure.

The 11th and later Earls came from a different branch of the family - a brief mention for the sake of completeness is given elsewhere.


The volume by Seacome was issued (and pirated) in many editions up to the 1820s; generally a short addition was made to bring the family history 'up to date' at the time of printing. See his genealogical sections for descriptions of the Barons of Strange and other branches of the Stanley family.

The genealogical tables quoted on this page are taken from those quoted by J.J.Bagley.

J.J.Bagley The Earls of Derby, 1485-1985 London: Sidgwick & Jackson 1985
B. Courage The Stanleys Lords Stanley and Earls of Derby Manchester:published for Chetham Society by Manchester Univ Press 1983
W Pollard The Stanleys of Knowsley. A History of that noble family including a sketch of the political and public lives of the Right Hon. Earl of Derby...Liverpool 1868
J. Seacome Memoirs; containing a genalogical and historical account of the House of Stanley from the conquest to the death of James, Earl of Derby in the year 1735; as also a full description of the Isle of Man &c2pt Liverpool: [1737?]

A W Moore History of IoM 1900 (Book 2 chap 1) covers Stanleys upto James 7;

 Manx Note Book  [Lords of Man]

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001