Photo from britannica.com

First Earl of Derby

(1435 – 29 July 1504)

Thomas was the eldest son of Thomas Stanley, the First Baron Stanley and Joan Goushill.

After the death of his father in 1459, Thomas inherited his father’s titles, including those of Baron Stanley and King of Mann as well as his extensive lands and offices in Cheshire and Lancashire. 

He was created Earl of Derby on 27 October 1485, and the following year became Lord High Constable of England and High Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster.

He married twice:

First wife: Eleanor Neville a daughter of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury. Eleanor died in 1472.  By Eleanor he had eleven children.

Second wife:  In 1472 he married Lady Margaret Beaufort, a widow who was the mother of King Henry VII.  They had no children.

Thomas and his men fought at the battle of Bosworth, or Bosworth Field, which was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses.  It took place on 22nd August 1485, and was fought between the Lancastrians, led by Henry Tudor the Earl of Richmond, and the Yorkists, led by King Richard III.

Thomas and his brother William brought a force of men to the battle, but did not join the battle initially, instead holding back – some say to decide which side would be most advantageous to them to support. 

In the end they came to Henry’s aid and Richard III was killed and his army defeated.

Following the battle Henry was crowned king and became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

Richard III, the last king of the House of York, who was killed during the battle, was the last English monarch to die in combat.

King Henry repaid Thomas’s loyalty by granting him land, confiscated from other knights after the battle of Bosworth.  The two main areas were land around Bury, Middleton and Salford, confiscated from Sir Thomas Pilkington, and Sir James Harrington’s land around Lancaster and Preston, including land in Garstang.

Thomas built Greenhalgh Castle in Garstang in 1490, on land that he had gained from the King, who gave him licence which empowered him “to all with stone, lime and other material in his manor called Greenall in the parish of Garstang, to embattle, turellate, machioate or otherwise fortify them and hold forever without impediment or instruction”

Once the castle was built, Thomas kept a garrison there.  He did not live there himself, preferring instead to live at his estate in Lathom.

Thomas died at Lathom in Lancashire on 29th July 1504 and was buried in the family chapel in Burscough Priory, near Ormskirk.

His estates passed to his grandson, also called Thomas, who was the son of George Stanley who had died just months before his father in 1504.