Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stanley, Ferdinando
STANLEY, FERDINANDO, fifth Earl of Derby (1559?–1594), son of Henry, fourth earl [q. v.], was born in London about 1559. He matriculated in 1572, at the age of twelve, at St. John's College, Oxford, and graduated M.A. on 17 Sept. 1589. As a boy of fourteen he was called to Windsor by Queen Elizabeth, though he does not appear to have held any office. In 1585 and afterwards he acted as deputy lieutenant of Lancashire and Cheshire on behalf of his father, and during the time of the alarm of the Spanish invasion in 1588 he was mayor of Liverpool, and raised a troop of horsemen. He was summoned to parliament as Lord Strange on 28 Jan. 1588–9. He was a patron and friend of many of the poets of the time, and was himself a writer of verses. Some of his pieces are contained in ‘Belvedere, or the Garden of the Muses,’ edited by John Bodenham, 1600, but they are without signature and difficult to identify. The only piece with which his name is positively associated is a pastoral poem, of no great merit, contributed by Sir John Hawkins to Grose's ‘Antiquarian Repertory,’ and reprinted in Walpole's ‘Royal and Noble Authors’ (ed. Park, 1806, ii. 45). Spenser celebrates him, under the name of ‘Amyntas,’ in ‘Colin Clout's come Home again:’
He, whilst he lived, was the noblest swain
That ever piped upon an oaten quill.
Both did he other, which could pipe, maintain,
And eke could pipe himself with passing skill.
Robert Greene dedicated his ‘Ciceronis Amor,’ 1589, to Stanley; Nash, in his ‘Piers Pennilesse,’ 1592, has a panegyric on him, and Chapman in 1594, in the dedication of the ‘Shadow of the Night,’ speaks of ‘that most ingenious Darbie.’ For several years, from 1589 to 1594, he was patron of the company of actors which had formerly been under the patronage of the Earl of Leicester. While Stanley was its patron it was known as ‘Lord Strange's company.’ After his death it passed to the patronage of Henry Carey, first lord Hunsdon, the lord chamberlain, and became known as the ‘Lord Chamberlain's company’ (cf. Fleay, History of the Stage, p. 41).
On the death of his father, on 25 Sept. 1593, he succeeded to the earldom of Derby and the sovereignty of the Isle of Man, with other titles and dignities, including the lieutenancy of Lancashire and Cheshire. From 1591 some of the catholics cast their eyes on him as successor to the crown in right of his mother, Margaret Clifford [see Stanley, Sir William, (1548–1630)]. In 1593 catholic conspirators abroad sent Richard Hesketh [q. v.] to persuade him to set up his claim, promising Spanish assistance, and threatening him with death if the design was divulged. Stanley, however, delivered Hesketh to justice, and he was executed at St. Albans on 29 Nov. 1593.
Stanley died on 16 April 1594 at Lathom House, Lancashire, and was buried at the neighbouring church of Ormskirk. He had been ill for sixteen days. He appears to have died from natural causes, though there were rumours afloat that he met his end by witchcraft (Stow, Chronicle, pp. 767–8, giving a curious account of his illness and death). A ballad in his memory is entered in the ‘Stationers' Register’ (Arber, ii. 619).
He married, in 1579, Alice, daughter of Sir John Spencer of Althorp, Northamptonshire, and left three daughters: Anne, who married in succession Grey, baron Chandos, and the notorious Earl of Castlehaven; Frances, countess of Bridgewater; and Elizabeth, countess of Huntingdon. In default of male issue he was succeeded in the earldom by his brother William [see under Stanley, James, seventh Earl].
His widow married secondly, in 1600, Thomas Egerton, viscount Brackley, better known as Lord-chancellor Ellesmere [q. v.] She, like her husband, patronised and was praised by the poets of her day. Milton's ‘Arcades’ was written in compliment to her. She died at Harefield, Middlesex, on 26 Jan. 1636–7.
There are portraits of Lord and Lady Derby at Knowsley Hall (Scharf, Catalogue, 1875, p. 79), and of the former in the possession of Lord Gerard and at Worden Hall, the residence of the ffaringtons. The last named is engraved in the ‘Derby Household Books’ (Chetham Soc.)[The best account of Stanley is that by Canon Raines in Lancashire Funeral Certificates, p. 63. Heywood's Earls of Derby and the Verse Writers, Allen's Defence of Sir W. Stanley, ed. T. Heywood, p. xlii, Derby Household Books, ed. Raines, passim, Farington Papers, pp. 130, 136, Lancashire Lieutenancy, Corser's Collectanea Anglo-Poetica (the foregoing are all published by the Chetham Soc.); Camden's Hist. of Elizabeth, 4th edit. 1688, p. 491; Lodge's Illustr. of British Hist. 1791, iii. 47; Sir R. Sadler's State Papers, iii. 20; Calendars of State Papers, Dom. 1591–1594, 1595–7; Masson's Life of Milton, i. (1881 edit.) 590; Manchester Court Leet Records, ed. Earwaker, ii. 92; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, iii. 80; Cokayne's Complete Peerage, iii. 72; Doyle's Official Peerage, i. 557, with portrait; Wood's Fasti Oxon. (Bliss) i. 250; Register of Univ. of Oxford (Oxford Hist. Soc.); Brydges's British Bibliographer, i. 281; Evans's Cat. of Portraits, i. 96, mentions a portrait engraved by Stow; Cat. of Exhibition of National Portraits, 1866, p. 51; Collier's Mem. of Edward Alleyn; Henslowe's Diary; Simpson's School of Shakespeare; Manchester Quarterly, April 1896, p. 113.]