Thomas Stanley was born to Thomas Stanley, Baron Stanley and Joan Goushill. Nothing is known of his early life but it is likely he received an education typical for members of the nobility.
Thomas married Eleanor Neville, daughter of Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury, sister of Warwick the Kingmaker
in the chapel of Middleham Castle, Yorkshire.
1455 (22nd May)
The Wars of the Roses
began. This was a conflict between the York and Lancastrian branches of Edward III’s
descendants. It broke out because the weak rule of Henry VI was challenged by Richard Duke of York
. The Stanley family had traditionally supported the Lancastrian branch, fighting for Henry Bolingbroke
when he took the throne from Richard II
. Stanley’s brother William chose to support York in this conflict.
A son, John, was born to Thomas Stanley and Eleanor Neville. He died at a young age.
1459 (20th May)
Stanley became Baron Stanley and King of Mann (Isle of Man) after father died.
1459 (23rd September)
Battle of Blore Heath
Margaret of Anjou
, wife of King Henry VI, ordered Stanley to raise a force and join the Lancastrian army. However, Stanley chose to keep his men out of the fighting.
1459 (23rd September)
Stanley’s brother, William was attainted for fighting against the Crown. He fled the country.
Although not openly supporting the Yorkists, Stanley began to work with them.
A son, George, was born to Thomas Stanley and Eleanor Neville.
1460 (30th December)
Richard Duke of York was killed in battle and his son, Edward Earl of March
became the Yorkist claimant to the throne.
A son, Richard, was born to Thomas Stanley and Eleanor Neville. He died at a young age.
Thomas Stanley joined his brother-in-law, Warwick in working towards defeating the Lancastrians and placing Edward of York on the throne.
1461 (4th March)
The Yorkist Edward, Duke of York, took the throne as King Edward IV
Thomas Stanley was created Chief Justice of Cheshire and was tasked with holding the north for the House of York.
1461 (29th March)
Battle of Towton
Edward of York pursued the Lancastrians north and attacked them near Tadcaster. After a long fight in heavy snowfall, the Lancastrians were defeated having suffered heavy casualties.
Following the Lancastrian defeat at the Battle of Towton, King Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward fled to Scotland where they were given refuge.
1461 (28th June)
Edward IV was crowned King at Westminster Abbey.
A son, Edward, was born to Thomas Stanley and Eleanor Neville.
King Edward IV announced his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville
, daughter of Richard Woodville, Baron Rivers
. Warwick was angry with Edward because he had promised the French that Edward would seal their alliance with a royal marriage between the two countries.
A son, James, was born to Thomas Stanley and Eleanor Neville.
King Edward IV made the Queen’s father, Baron Rivers, Treasurer. Rivers pressed for an alliance with the Burgundians bringing him into conflict with Warwick who favoured a French alliance.
Warwick learned that Edward IV had gone behind his back and signed a treaty with the Burgundians. Warwick was frustrated and annoyed that Edward favoured his wife’s relatives rather than his trusted advisors.
The relationship between Warwick and the King had broken down and Warwick attempted to overthrow King Edward and replace him with George Duke of Clarence. Initially, Stanley declined to help Warwick but later changed his mind.
1470 (30th October)
Henry VI was restored to the throne with Warwick’s support after Edward IV was forced to flee to Burgundy. Stanley retained his positions.
1471 (22nd May)
Edward IV returned as King. It is believed Henry VI
was murdered on the same day.
Thomas Stanley’s wife, Eleanor, died.
1472 (12th June)
Thomas Stanley married Margaret Beaufort
, a widow and mother of Henry Tudor
. The marriage was one of convenience, she brought Stanley her vast inheritance while Stanley, a royal courtier, could help gain Margaret favour with Edward IV and so protect her son’s interests.
Stanley raised a force in support of Edward IV’s invasion of France.
Stanley’s son, George, married Joan le Strange, Baroness Strange, daughter of Baron Strange (died 1477) and Jacquetta Woodville. On his marriage he became Baron Strange by right of his wife.
Stanley and his army played a key role in the capture of Berwick.
1483 (9th April)
King Edward IV died suddenly and unexpectedly at the Palace of Westminster. He was succeeded by his young son Edward V.
Richard Duke of Gloucester, was named Protector. Stanley sought to maintain balance between Gloucester and the Rivers family.
1483 (after 9th April)
Richard III placed the two sons of Edward IV, Edward and Richard
in the Tower of London.
Richard Duke of Gloucester accused Stanley, Lord Hastings and members of the Rivers family of treachery. Hastings was executed without trial. Stanley was wounded and imprisoned but later released.
1483 (26th June)
It was announced that the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was illegal because Edward had been contracted to marry Eleanor Butler at the time of his marriage. The children of the union were therefore illegitimate and unfit to rule. Richard Duke of Gloucester took the throne as King Richard III
1483 (after July)
Stanley was restored to favour and continued in his position as Steward of the Household. He was also made a Knight of the Order of the Garter. His wife, Margaret was stripped of her titles and possessions for plotting against Richard. She was placed under house arrest and her properties transferred to Thomas Stanley.
The Princes in the Tower, Edward and Richard, were last seen at the windows of the Tower.
Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV, worked to effect Henry Tudor’s taking the throne. They agreed that Henry would marry Elizabeth of York
once his position was secure, joining the two rival houses. As Margaret was under house arrest she must have had an accomplice to pass messages to Elizabeth Woodville. It may have been the case that Stanley was aware of her plotting.
Margaret Beaufort persuaded the Duke of Buckingham, nephew of Margaret’s third husband, Henry Stafford, to support Henry Tudor and he raised an army ready to support Henry Tudor’s return later in the year.
1483 (2nd November)
Buckingham’s army was assembled ready for Henry Tudor’s arrival, but unfortunately bad weather delayed his departure. Richard III’s army met Buckingham and defeated him. Buckingham was captured and executed by beheading.
Richard III appointed Stanley Constable of England. This position gave him responsibility for appointments and activities at the Tower of London.
1483 (after December)
Richard was aware that Margaret had played a part in Buckingham’s rebellion and had committed treason. Stanley promised to keep her isolated and stop any further intriguing and Margaret was spared execution.
It had become clear that Henry Tudor was planning an invasion. Concerned that Thomas Stanley might support the invader, Richard III took Stanley’s son, Lord Strange, hostage. He threatened to execute him if Thomas joined Henry Tudor.
1485 (7th August)
Henry Tudor, landed at Milford Haven at the head of an army. Richard ordered Thomas Stanley and his brother William to raise their forces and join him immediately.
1485 (after 7th August)
Thomas Stanley delayed raising his force. Instead he sent a message to Richard stating that he was suffering from sweating sickness.
1485 (mid August)
Stanley raised his force and marched towards the Midlands. However, he did not declare for either side.
1485 (22nd August)
Battle of Bosworth Field
This was a decisive battle between the forces of Henry Tudor and Richard III. Thomas and William Stanley mustered their armies on a hill above the battleground, waiting to see which way the battle would go. Eventually William Stanley joined the field for Henry Tudor. Richard was killed on the battlefield and when he saw Richard fall Thomas Stanley removed the crown from the corpse and placed it on Henry Tudor’s head.
1485 (27th October)
Thomas Stanley was created Earl of Derby.
1485 (30th October)
Henry Tudor, was crowned King Henry VII.
Thomas Stanley was appointed Lord High Constable of England and High Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster.
1486 (18th January)
King Henry VII, married Elizabeth of York, daughter of King Edward IV.
1486 (20th September)
was born to Henry VII and Elizabeth of York at Saint Swithun’s Priory in Winchester. Thomas Stanley was chosen to be godfather to the young prince.
Richard Symonds announced that Lambert Simnel, was in fact Edward Earl of Warwick
, son of Edward IV’s younger brother, George Duke of Clarence
. Although Henry VII had the Earl of Warwick imprisoned in the Tower of London there was a rumour that George, Duke of Clarence had sent his son abroad and that the boy in prison was not the real Earl of Warwick. If this were true then there was a possibility that Simnel was Edward, Earl of Warwick and had a claim to the throne.
1487 (late May)
King Henry VII
was concerned that members of the nobility had rallied to Simnel’s cause. Knowing Stanley’s habit of keeping his options open he was concerned he might support the Pretender. Henry decided to take the unusual step of pardoning known rebels in the hopes that they would be more loyal to him.
1487 (16th June)
Battle of Stoke
The Stanley forces led by George Stanley, Baron Strange, joined Henry VII against the forces of Lambert Simnel, Richard Symonds and the Earl of Lincoln at Stoke. Lincoln was killed, Richard Symonds and and Lambert Simnel was were captured.
1487 (after 16th June)
Thomas Stanley was granted lands formerly belonging to men who had supported Lambert Simnel.
Thomas Stanley’s brother, William, was executed for treason.
Stanley’s wife, Margaret Beaufort, took a vow of chastity and with Stanley’s permission made her home at Collyweston, Northamptonshire and lived independently.
1503 (5th December)
Stanley’s son and heir, George Stanley, Baron Strange, died at Derby House, London.
1504 (29th July)
Thomas Stanley, died at Lathorn, Lancashire.