Stanley, William (1548-1630) (DNB00)

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STANLEY, Sir WILLIAM (1548–1630), adventurer, was eldest son of Sir Rowland Stanley of Hooton and Storeton, Cheshire, the head of the senior branch of the house of Stanley. Sir Rowland for many years took a prominent place in his native county, of which he was sheriff in 1576; he died in 1612, aged 96, the oldest knight in England. William Stanley, born in 1548, in all probability at Hooton, was brought up as a Roman catholic. At the age of twelve he was married to Ann Dutton, a bride of ten, but the union was dissolved in 1565 (Furnivall, Child Marriages in the Diocese of Chester, pp. 47–9). After this marriage the youth was sent to school with ‘Dr. Standish at Lathom,’ whence he entered the ‘service’ of his kinsman, Edward Stanley, third earl of Derby [q. v.] Soon afterwards he crossed to the Netherlands and embarked on his adventurous career. He took service as a volunteer under Alva, the Spanish general, in 1567. Stanley quitted the Spanish service about 1570, and joined Elizabeth's forces in Ireland, where he served for fifteen years (cf. Cal. Hatfield MSS. i. 567). In 1579, as one of Sir William Drury's captains in the campaign against the followers of the Earl of Desmond, he assisted in an inroad into Limerick, and for his gallantry was knighted by Drury at Waterford. He took part in the battle of Monasternenagh, and distinguished himself in the defence of Adare. In 1580 he was sent to England to enlist troops, which he led to Munster; but he was speedily recalled by Lord-deputy Grey to assist in putting down the rebellion which had broken out in the Pale [see Grey, Arthur, fourteenth Lord Grey de Wilton]. Through the greater part of 1581 he was engaged in Wicklow, doing great execution against the O'Tooles and the Kavanaghs. Stanley received a commission from Grey, 30 Aug. 1581, to follow the latter, and his ‘courage and toilsome travail’ throughout the whole campaign won the highest commendation (ib. ii. 427). On the discharge of his troops at the end of the year, he repaired to England, and prayed Burghley for fresh employment. At the beginning of 1583 he was sent back to Ireland, where the Geraldines were again giving trouble. He was appointed by Ormonde to the command of a garrison at Lismore, and at the same time made constable of Castlemaine, which he intended ‘to make a town of English.’ He took part in hunting down Desmond and Fitzgerald of Imokelly and in thoroughly subduing Munster. As a reward for his services he supplicated Burghley and Walsingham (15 March 1584) to make him president of Connaught. This request was refused; but in August he was appointed sheriff of Cork, and the government of Munster was left in his hands during the absence of the president, Sir John Norris (1547?–1597) [q. v.] In a letter to Walsingham he reported that he had hanged three hundred rebels, and so terrified the rest that ‘a man might now travel the whole country and none molest him.’ Towards the end of the year he was sent northward with Bagenal by Lord-deputy Perrot to act against the Ulster chiefs and their allies, the Scottish highlanders [see Perrot, Sir John]. In this campaign he showed his customary vigour, receiving some severe wounds, which invalided him several months. In October 1585 he returned to England.

Stanley's service in Ireland had been long and brilliant. Though the war, as Burghley admitted, was a religious one, and Sir William was a Roman catholic, he had served with fidelity. ‘Qui singulari fide et fortitudine in Hibernico bello meruerat’ is Camden's testimony (Annals, p. 471). But there can be no doubt that he left Ireland a disappointed man. In the partition of the great Desmond estates, which he had contributed to win, he had been passed over, while others, who had done little or nothing, received enormous grants. His resentment at his treatment, together with strong religious feelings, explains his future treachery.

In December 1585 Stanley accompanied Leicester in the expedition sent by Elizabeth to the assistance of the united provinces against Spain. The need of more troops was speedily felt, and Sir William was despatched to Ireland to levy recruits among the disbanded troops and native kernes. He raised about fourteen hundred men, the greater part of whom were Irish. While in England, on his way back to the Netherlands, he was probably guilty of traitorous conduct. ‘While in London he was in the confidence of the jesuits. He knew part, if not the whole, of the Babington conspiracy. He corresponded with Mendoza, and contrived to communicate with Lord Arundel in the Tower. When ordered to the Low Countries he made pretexts for delaying in London, in the hope that the queen might be killed, or that the Spanish fleet might arrive from Cadiz. When excuses would serve no longer and he was obliged to sail, he undertook to watch his moment, and, when he could do most injury, revolt with his regiment to Parma’ (Froude, Hist. of Engl. chap. 68; cf. Cal. Simancas MSS. iii. 604, 607).

Stanley's forces joined Leicester on 12 Aug. 1586, and in September he assisted Sir John Norris in taking possession of Doesborg, where his men ‘committed frightful disorders and thoroughly rifled the town’ (Norris to Wilkes in Motley, United Netherlands, ii. 44). At the action by Zutphen on 22 Sept., in which Philip Sidney received his death wound, Stanley displayed great prowess, and was declared by Leicester to be worth his weight in pearl. He assisted at the capture of the Zutphen sconce, which was committed by Leicester to the charge of Sir Rowland York [q. v.] In October Sir William Pelham [q. v.] and Stanley took possession of the important city of Deventer, deposed the magistracy, which inclined to the Spanish side, and installed a patriotic body in its place. In spite of the remonstrances of the States-General (ib. ii. 155–8), Stanley was appointed governor of the city, with a garrison of twelve hundred men, mostly Irish catholics; and, to give him additional authority, he was commissioned by Leicester to act independently of Norris (his bitter enemy), who, on the earl's departure to England, held the chief command. Stanley saw that his opportunity was come. Having acquired a full mastery of the city and made all the necessary arrangements, he put himself into communication, by means of his fellow-traitor York, with Tassis, the Spanish governor of Zutphen. To him he surrendered the place on 29 Jan. 1587. The garrison, with a few exceptions, entered the Spanish service (ib. ii. 159–64, 169–77).

From his new master Stanley received but slight rewards for his action, nor does he appear to have sought them. Parma declared his conduct to have been ‘singularly disinterested.’ There can be no doubt that at this period of his life he was almost entirely under the influence of the jesuits, of which order his brother John was a member. His conduct was loudly applauded by his jesuit friends. The society urged his claims for reward and countenance on the pope, Philip, and Parma, while Cardinal Allen published a letter at Antwerp in which he laboured to justify the treason. Almost at the moment of the surrender of Deventer, Elizabeth had it in contemplation to reward Stanley's services by honours and titles, and by appointing him viceroy of Ireland (cf. Acts P. C. 1586–7, p. 62).

Soon after leaving Deventer, Stanley, upon whose head the States-General had put a price of three thousand florins, proceeded to Spain to advise on the proposed invasion of England. He recommended that Ireland should be made the basis of operations, and that the troops should disembark at Milford Haven rather than at Portsmouth. Sir William was disappointed at his reception and entertainment, ‘which was far colder than he expected;’ but the Spanish government awarded him a pension (Cal. Hatfield MSS. ii. 335). Returning to the Netherlands, he was at Nieuwpoort in July 1588, at the head of seven hundred men, called the English legion, ready to join the armada. But on the overthrow of that expedition he withdrew to Antwerp. In 1590 he was again at Madrid, urging a design for the invasion of England, inspecting the seaports, and perhaps taking part in the preparations to resist Drake. He was now thoroughly identified with the jesuits and their adherents (cf. Sadler Papers, ii. 509), and eager to embark in any scheme against Elizabeth. He paid a visit to Rome in 1591 to consult with Allen and other enemies of the queen. In the event of her death he urged that the Lady Arabella Stuart or Lord Strange [see Stanley, Ferdinando, fifth Earl of Derby] should be recognised as her successor. While keeping his regiment in the Netherlands, Stanley made almost yearly journeys to Spain. In 1595 he was described as half desperate, and was reproved by a Spanish governor for his violent language against the queen. In 1596 he took part in the invasion of France by the Spaniards, and appears to have been in Amiens at its recapture by the French in 1597. In 1598 he engaged in the attempt to raise the siege of Geldern, besieged by Maurice of Nassau, and in 1600 he was with the Spaniards when that prince defeated them at Nieuwpoort.

On Elizabeth's death Stanley, who had previously sent Thomas Wright to Madrid, now despatched his subaltern officer, Guy Fawkes, with an emissary of Catesby, to warn Philip against James, and again to recommend Milford Haven for disembarkation of a Spanish army. Soon afterwards Sir William appears to have been negotiating with the English government for his own pardon. There is no evidence to connect him with complicity in the gunpowder plot, though he, together with Hugh Owen and Baldwin, was placed under arrest at Brussels on suspicion of having been concerned in it. Cecil, however (30 Jan. 1606), altogether exonerated him from the charge.

The remainder of Stanley's life was spent in comparative obscurity. He took a great interest in the establishment of a jesuit novitiate at Liège in 1614, and contributed largely to it. He appears to have been appointed governor of Mechlin. James Wadsworth, the author of ‘The English Spanish Pilgrim,’ met him at Madrid in 1624, when he complained of being compelled at his advanced age to go to seek the pension which had not been paid him for six years. He quarrelled with the jesuits, and spent much of his time latterly with the English Carthusians near Ostend, having sought in vain for permission to return to England. He died at Ghent on 3 March 1630, and was honoured with a magnificent public funeral in the church of Our Lady over the Dyle at Mechlin. By his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John Egerton of Egerton, who was buried in Mechlin Cathedral in 1614, Stanley left two sons and three daughters. His grandson William succeeded to the family estates, and his son, of the same name, was created a baronet in 1661. The male line of the Stanleys of Hooton became extinct by the death of the twelfth baronet, Sir John Stanley-Errington, in 1893.

[Ormerod's Cheshire; Meteren's Historia Belgica; Strada's De Bello Belgico; Cal. Papers preserved at Simancas, vol. iii.; Whitney's Choice of Emblems; Murdin's Burghley Papers; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent, vols. xii–xiv.; Cal. Hatfield MSS. vols. i–vi.; Motley's United Netherlands, vol. ii.; Leycester Correspondence (Camden Soc.); Irish State Papers; Hardwick State Papers; Cabala; Stow's Chronicle; Allen's Defence of Stanley, ed. Heywood; Tierney's Dodd; Strype's Annals; Winwood's Memorials; information supplied by W. H. J. Weale and by the Rev. Ethelred L. Taunton.]

F. S.