Sir John Stanley I
Born the second son of a minor Cheshire landowner, Sir John Stanley (c. 1350-1414) rose from relative obscurity to become one of the most influential men of his day. Through careful political alliances and loyalty to the Crown, as well as a favourable marriage, he laid the foundations of the Stanley dynasty.
He embarked on a military career, fighting in the Caroline War, the second phase of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. He distinguished himself to the extent that he was pardoned by Richard II for the murder of his second cousin by marriage, Thomas de Clotham, in 1378, on the recommendation of his commander Sir Thomas Tryvet.
Sir John’s military experience in France was likely an important factor in his appointment in 1386 as the deputy of Robert de Vere in the government of Ireland. Although the appointment was sh0rt-lived because of Robert’s exile in December 1387, Sir John returned to Ireland in August 1389 in the military role of justiciar. His campaigns from 1389 to 1391 are considered to have played a major role in the submission of Irish leaders to Richard II in 1395. He later returned to Ireland to help prepare for Richard II’s triumphant visit there.
He also played a number of key roles in vulnerable border regions of England. He was warden of the east march in 1388; justice of Chester in 1394; and sheriff of the country of Roxburgh and captain of Roxburgh Castle from 1396.
Sir John’s fortunes continued under the new King Henry IV. His experience in Ireland was likely behind his appointment as the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1399 to 1401, and later again in 1413. In 1403 he was made steward of the household of the prince of Wales, and in 1405 he was promoted to steward of the King’s household, a role he held until 1412.
Marriage and Estates
As the younger son, Sir John’s inheritance was limited to a modest estate in Macclesfield, so his marriage in 1385 to Isabel Lathom, the heiress of the estates of Lathom and Knowsley in south-west Lancashire, was advantageous. He was later granted further estates in Cheshire and Moreton that had been owned by supporters of the Percy rebellion, and he became steward, surveyor, master forester and rider of the hundred and forest of Macclesfield in 1404.
The Isle of Man
The Isle of Man was granted to Sir John in 1405, after it had been confiscated from Henry Percy after his failed rebellion against Henry IV. In 1406, the grant was extended to Sir John’s heirs in perpetuity. Along with the Lathom inheritance, this acquisition moved the Stanley sphere of influence from Cheshire to Lancashire. However, Sir John did not visit the Isle of Man during his lordship, perhaps due to his many other commitments.
Sir John died in Ireland in 1414 of unknown causes. According to the Annals of the Four Masters, an Irish chronicle, it was the result of satirical verse written about him:
A man who granted no protection to cleric or layman to the poets of Ireland, for he plundered every one of its clerics and men of skill in every art on whom he laid hands and exposed them to cold and beggary. He plundered Niall son of Aed OhUicinn in Usnagh of Meath….After this the Ui Uicinn made lampoons of John Stanley and he lived only five weeks till he died from the venom of the lampoons.