Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby

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Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, KG (1435 – 29 July 1504) was King of Mann, an English nobleman and stepfather to King Henry VII of England.

He was the son of Thomas Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley, and Joan Goushill, and a descendant of King Edward I of England. After the death of his father in 1459, Stanley inherited his father's titles, including that of King of Mann and Baron Stanley. Stanley owned what is now Tatton Park in Cheshire. Stanley remained in favour with successive kings throughout the Wars of the Roses until his death in 1504. His marriage to Eleanor, sister of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, did him no harm, even after Warwick was toppled from power. He took as his second wife Margaret Beaufort, whose son, Henry Tudor, was the leading Lancastrian claimant to the throne.

King Richard III had no choice but to continue to rely on Thomas Stanley and his brother, William, even after he had briefly imprisoned Thomas in 1483 on suspicion of conspiracy. At the Battle of Bosworth Field, the Stanleys deliberately hesitated before coming in on the side of the Lancastrians at a crucial moment, despite Richard holding Thomas's eldest son, Lord Strange, hostage for his father's continuing loyalty, and allegedly issuing the order for his execution. Following Richard's death, Thomas is supposedly to have retrieved the crown of England from the battlefield and placed it on the head of his own stepson. In recognition, Henry created him Earl of Derby on 27 October 1485, and his fortunes continued to flourish. His brother, William, made the mistake of supporting the pretender Perkin Warbeck, and was executed for treason in 1495.

He was predeceased by his eldest son and heir, George Stanley (jure uxoris 9th Baron Strange) by a matter of months and was succeeded as Earl by his grandson, Thomas Stanley, 2nd Earl of Derby. A younger son of Thomas and Eleanor was James Stanley, Bishop of Ely.

Thomas was the last to use the style King of Mann, his successors opting instead for Lord of Mann.

The senior line of the descendants of Thomas Stanley and Eleanor (or Alainor) Neville continued to hold the Earldom of Derby until the 1736 death of James Stanley, 10th Earl of Derby, and the title passed to a junior branch, the Baronets Stanley of Bickerstaffe, which still holds the title. John Stanley a younger brother of Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby was the ancestor of the Baron Stanley of Alderley.

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