STANLEY, James, Lord Strange (1607-1651), of Knowsley and Latham, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 31 Jan. 1607,1 1st s. of William Stanley, 6th earl of Derby and Elizabeth, da. of Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford; bro. of Sir Robert*.2 educ. privately (George Murray, BD of King’s, Camb., and Charles Herle, MA of Exeter Coll. Oxf.); travelled abroad (France, Italy, Low Countries) 1623-5.3 m. 26 June 1626,4 (with £24,000),5 Charlotte (d. 22 Mar. 1664),6 da. of Claude de la Trémoille, duc de Thouars, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.).7 cr. KB 1 Feb. 1626, KG 12 Jan 1650 (not installed);8 styled Lord Strange by 1622; summ. to Lords as Baron Strange 7 Mar. 1628;9 suc. fa. as 7th earl of Derby, 1642.10 exec. 15 Oct. 1651.11

Offices Held

Freeman, Preston, Lancs. 1622,12 Liverpool, Lancs. 1625, mayor 1625-6, alderman by 1644;13 chamberlain, Chester 1626-42 (jt.), 1642-7 (sole);14 ld. lt. Cheshire and Lancs. 1626-42 (jt.), 1642-7 (sole), N. Wales 1628;15 j.p. Cheshire 1627-36, Flints. 1627-43, Lancs. 1628-42, (custos rot. by 1636);16 steward of monastic lands, duchy of Lancaster 1627-d., Blackburn hundred, Lancs. 1636-40;17 commr. Forced Loan, Lancs. and Cheshire 1627,18 accounting for sums raised under commissions, Lancs. 1630-1,19 knighthood fines, Cheshire and Lancs. 1631-2,20 sewers, Lancs. 1633,21 oyer and terminer, Wales and Marches of Wales, 1634-40,22 charitable uses, Chester 1637;23 v.-adm. Cheshire and Lancs. 1638;24 high steward, honour of Clitheroe and Tottington, Lancs. by 1638-?d.;25 commr. array, Cheshire and Lancs. 1642;26 lord of I.o.M. 1642-d.27

Member, High Commission, York prov. 1629.28


As successive earls of Derby, the Stanleys had dominated north-west England for over a century, but since the death of the 4th earl in 1593 they had tended to eschew participation in central government, and Stanley, as the future 7th earl, was no exception. Styled Lord Strange from 1622, in the mistaken belief that this courtesy title belonged to his father, his private education was completed by an extensive tour of the Continent between 1623 and 1625.29 On his return his father began to share with him the duties and responsibilities of local leadership. His training started with his election for Liverpool at the age of only 18 in 1625, and signalled a revival of the Stanleys’ interest in the parliamentary representation of Liverpool, where the influence of the earls of Derby had traditionally counterbalanced the electoral patronage of the duchy of Lancaster. He was appointed to five committees, concerning the general fast (23 June), bills for the tenants of Macclesfield (23 June), concealed lands (25 June), and excommunication (27 June), and the wine duty petition (29 June).30 His attendance was recorded at both meetings of the Macclesfield bill committee, suggesting that he took particular interest in this private measure, which sought to confirm an agreement between the king and his tenants of Macclesfield in the Palatinate of Chester.31

Two months after the Parliament was dissolved, Stanley was appointed mayor of Liverpool, as the town desired a patron to help it procure a new charter of incorporation, which it obtained in 1626.32 During his term of office most of Stanley’s mayoral functions were performed by his deputy, alderman Richard Rose, although Stanley himself did preside at the parliamentary election of 1626.33 His successor as mayor, Edward Moore*, later presented him for neglecting to maintain the highways.34

In February 1626 Stanley was created knight of the Bath at Charles’ coronation, at which time he was officially designated (but not created) Lord Strange. The title Lord Strange of Knokin had, in fact, fallen into abeyance on the death of Stanley’s uncle Ferdinando, the 5th earl, in 1594, and the barony was not officially revived for Stanley (by a new creation) until 1628.35 Stanley married Charlotte de Trémoille, granddaughter of William the Silent, the match having been arranged by Charlotte’s mother the duchess of Trémoille when she visited England as an attendant of Henrietta Maria. The guests at the wedding, which took place at The Hague in June 1626, included Frederick V the Elector Palatine, his wife Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Prince of Orange, and most of the Protestant nobility of Europe.36 Charlotte, who was a Huguenot, received papers of denization in September 1626; an Act of naturalization passed both Houses in February 1629 but did not receive the Royal Assent before the dissolution.37

After his marriage Stanley assumed most of his father’s remaining responsibilities. Indeed, Derby handed over complete financial control of his estate to his son, reserving only £1,000 a year to his own use.38 Stanley immediately set about using his wife’s marriage portion of £24,000 to consolidate holdings that had been sold, leased and scattered during the dispute over the inheritance of the 5th earl.39 From 1626 Stanley was joined with his father in the offices of lord lieutenant of Lancashire and Cheshire and chamberlain of Chester. He assumed these roles with diligence and apparent enthusiasm and was immediately praised by the Council for his ‘discreet and dutiful carriage’ in the disarming of recusants in Lancashire.40 He was less conscientious as a magistrate, however, only rarely attending assizes or quarter sessions in person.41 His relations with the predominantly Catholic gentry of Lancashire were on the whole good, and in 1637 he purchased the wardship of Richard, son of Sir Richard Molyneux II*, intending thereby to conclude a match with one of his daughters, but in the event the marriage never took place.42

At the time that he assumed control of his family’s estates, Stanley enjoyed a gross annual income of well over £5,400.43 He was a conservative landlord, keeping traditional long leases of three or more lifetimes, which had high entry fines, but he avoided ‘rack renting’, and still accepted payment in kind from his poorer tenants. Nevertheless he could also be ruthless: as lord or ‘king’ of the Isle of Man he was determined to eliminate straw tenure and bring his Manx subjects into line with the tenancies of his English estates. Strange’s writings, consisting mainly of collections of aphorisms, prayers, and advice to his son, reveal a pensive man more inclined to privacy than to politics, rather like his father, who had retired early from public life in order to concentrate on building houses at Chester and Bidston and to indulge in literary pursuits. Among his surviving papers is a document entitled the ‘History and Antiquities of the Isle of Man’, which Stanley, by now earl of Derby, composed during his exile on the island after 1643. Its contents include a manual of instruction addressed to his heir, Charles, the future 8th earl of Derby. His designs for the development of the Isle of Man were startlingly ingenious; he even planned to set up a university there, to ‘get friends unto the country, and enrich this land’.44 In religion he was a moderate, committed to maintaining the Church of England as it had been under James I. Nevertheless, he remained on friendly terms with his former tutor, Charles Herle, who later became a renowned Presbyterian. The Calvinist theologian Dr. Pierre du Moulin was Stanley’s chaplain at Knowsley between 1628 and 1631.45

Stanley was summoned to the House of Lords as Lord Strange on 7 Mar. 1628. He chose not to pursue a political career, but instead spent most of his time during the 1630s at his estates of Latham and Knowsley. He was repelled by Arminianism, whose leading exponents now dominated the Court, and like his wife he resented the government’s indifference to the fate of the Elector Palatine. On the outbreak of war against Scotland in 1638, Strange had some sympathy with the king’s critics, and attended the Lords during the early months of the Long Parliament.46 In the north-west he tried desperately to maintain unity, but having rejected Parliament’s offer of the lieutenancy of Lancashire he attempted to persuade the king to raise his standard at Warrington, a plan thwarted by intrigues at Court. The failure of all his attempts to form neutrality pacts in the region, and his succession as 7th earl of Derby following the death of his father in September 1642, ultimately forced him to assume a prominent role in organizing the royalist militia and finances in Lancashire from 1643. His fortunes in the Civil War, and the heroic defence of Latham House by his wife, are well known.47 Captured after the Battle of Worcester, he was executed at Bolton on 15 Oct. 1651 on charges of conspiring with Charles II.48 Allegations of his conversion to Roman Catholicism while in custody awaiting execution are not supported by his scaffold speech, in which he clearly pledged loyalty to the Church of England.49 He was buried at Ormskirk, Lancashire, and quickly became renowned as ‘the martyred earl’. Several portraits of him are extant, including one by Van Dyck.50 Stanley’s grandson, James (later 10th earl of Derby) represented Clitheroe, Preston and Lancashire in the Commons between 1685-1702.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Stanley Pprs. ed. F.R. Raines (Chetham Soc. lxx), 3.
  • 2. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxviii), 283.
  • 3. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxvi), pp. iv-vii; APC, 1623-5, p. 124.
  • 4. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxvi), p. xv.
  • 5. Ibid. p. xvi.
  • 6. Ormskirk Par. Reg. ed. T. Williams (Lancs. Par. Reg. Soc. xcviii), 183.
  • 7. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxx), 3-4.
  • 8. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 34, 160.
  • 9. Lords Procs. 1628, v. 595.
  • 10. CP, iv. 214.
  • 11. Ibid. 215.
  • 12. Preston Guild Rolls ed. W.A. Abram (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 75.
  • 13. G. Chandler, Liverpool Under Jas. I, 298; G. Chandler, Liverpool Under Chas. I, 116-17, 328-9.
  • 14. VCH Cheshire, ii. 38.
  • 15. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 438, 461; Farington Pprs. ed. S.M. Farington (Chetham Soc. xxxix), 90.
  • 16. C231/4, f. 221; C231/5, p. 97; C193/13/2; Lancs RO, QSC7-38; JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 106-11.
  • 17. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 135, 139.
  • 18. C193/12/2, f. 29; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii, pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 19. E101/634/1, ff. 1-2.
  • 20. E178/7154, f. 239; 178/5389, f. 5; 178/5179, ff. 5-6.
  • 21. C181/4, f. 130.
  • 22. C181/4, f. 162; 181/5, f. 184v.
  • 23. C192/1, unfol.
  • 24. HCA 30/820 no. 48; Chandler, Liverpool Under Chas. I, 260-1.
  • 25. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxvi), p. xxiii.
  • 26. Northants RO, FH133, B. Coward, The Stanleys, Lords Stanley and Earls of Derby 1385-1672 (Chetham Soc. ser. 3. xxx), 170-1.
  • 27. HLRO, O.A. 7 Jas.I, c. 28.
  • 28. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxvi), p. xxxix.
  • 29. APC, 1623-5, p. 124.
  • 30. Procs. 1625, pp. 226, 228, 245, 253, 268.
  • 31. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 228.
  • 32. Chandler, Liverpool under Chas. I, 1-7, 44, 116, 119.
  • 33. C219/40/169.
  • 34. Chandler, Liverpool under Chas. I, 123.
  • 35. CP, xii. 337; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 190.
  • 36. APC, 1626, p. 1.
  • 37. Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalization for Aliens in Eng. and Ire. 1603-1700 ed. W.A. Shaw (Huguenot Soc. xviii), 42; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 573; CJ, i. 925b, 926a; LJ, iv. 10, 15, 17.
  • 38. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxx), 30.
  • 39. Coward, 57-64; CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 524; CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 241, 538; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 258; C2/Chas.I/S75/62; K. Walker, ‘The widowhood of Alice Spencer, countess dowager of Derby, 1654-1636’, Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, cxlix, 1-17.
  • 40. APC, 1625-6, pp. 268-9, 308; CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 180, 438.
  • 41. Procs. of Lancs. JPs at Sheriff’s Table ed. B.W. Quintrell (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. cxxi), 15, 37.
  • 42. WARD 9/163, f. 80v; Chandler, Liverpool Under Chas. I, 2.
  • 43. Coward, 204-9.
  • 44. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxx), 14; J.R. Dickinson, ‘The Earl of Derby and the Isle of Man 1643-1651’, Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, clxi. 39-76.
  • 45. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxvi), p. v; CSP Dom. 1629-31, pp. 497-8.
  • 46. Coward, 170.
  • 47. G. de Witt, Lady of Latham: The Life and Letters of Charlotte, Countess of Derby.
  • 48. Stanley Pprs. (Chetham Soc. lxvii), pp. ccix-cclix.
  • 49. Catholic Misc. viii. 380-3; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, ii, 386; Stowe 597, ff. 92v-100.
  • 50. F. Espinasse, Lancs. Worthies, 115-205; Dict. Brit. Portraiture comp. A. Davies, i. 33; Cat. Seventeenth-Cent. Portraits in NPG comp. D. Piper, 105; Chandler, Liverpool Under Chas. I, 7.