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Earl of Derby

The Earl of Derby is a title in the peerage of England. The title was first adopted by the Ferrers family under a creation of 1139, until forfeited and held by the family of Henry III under a creation of 1337. It became extinct upon Edward III's accession to the throne. It was then created for the Stanley family in 1485.

The subsidiary titles of the Earl of Derby are: Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe (created 1832) and Baron Stanley of Preston (1886). The courtesy title of the eldest son of the Earl is Baron Stanley of Bickerstaffe.

Several successive generations of the Stanley Earls, along with other members of the family, have been extremely prominent Conservative politicials and at least one historian has suggested that this family rivals the Cecils (Marquesses of Salisbury) as the single most important family in the party's history.


The Ferrers Creation

"Ferrer" is Norman French and means "to bind with iron" or " to shoe a horse". Ferrières in Normandy, the hometown of the de Ferrers family, was an important centre for ironwork. The Ferrers coat of arms shows six black horseshoes on a silver background. They were descended from Henry de Ferrers, 1st Earl of Ferrières, Lord of Longueville, Normandy, and a Domesday Commissioner; he built Tutbury Castle and Duffield Castle and had large holdings in Derbyshire as well as 17 other counties.

Robert de Ferrers , 2nd Earl of Ferrières (1062-1139) was created Earl of Derby by King Stephen in 1138 for his valiant conduct at the Battle of Northallerton. He was married to Hawise de Vitre and died in 1139. His son Robert de Ferrers (?-bef.1160) became the second earl and was married to Margaret Peverel. He founded Darley Abbey and Merivale Abbey . His son William de Ferrers (?-1190) was married to Sybil de Braoise. He rebelled against King Henry II and was imprisoned at Caen, Normandy. He died in the Crusades at the Siege of Acre. He was succeeded by his son William de Ferrers (?-1247) who married Agnes de Keveliok, daughter of the Earl of Chester. He was succeeded by his son William de Ferrers (?-1254) who married Sibyl Marshall and then Margaret De Quency with whom he had his son and heir Robert de Ferrers (1239-1279), who became the 6th Earl. He rebelled against King Henry III and was arrested and imprisoned first in the Tower of London, then in Windsor Castle, and his lands and earldom were forfeited, including Tutbury Castle which still belongs to the Duchy of Lancaster. The line eventually gave rise to the Earls Ferrers. Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl of Ferrers, was the only Peer of the Realm to be hanged for murder.

Creation of Henry III

The large estates which were taken from Robert in 1266 were given by Henry III to his son, Edmund Crouchback; and his son, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster also called himself Earl Ferrers. In 1337 Edmund’s grandson, Henry of Grosmont (c. 1299-1361), afterwards Duke of Lancaster, was created Earl of Derby, and this title was taken by Edward III's son, John of Gaunt, who had married Henry’s daughter, Blanche. John of Gaunt’s son and successor was Henry Bolingbroke, who acceded to the throne as Henry IV in 1399. The title Earl of Derby fell into disuse.

The Stanley Creation

The Stanley family was descended from Adam de Aldithley who accompanied William the Conqueror to England. One of his descendants married an heiress whose marriage portion included Stoneley , Derbyshire - hence the name Stanley. Thomas Stanley (c. 1435-1504) married Margaret Beaufort, the mother of King Henry VII, also Eleanor Nevill. The title of Earl of Derby was conferred on him in 1485 by Henry VII after the Battle of Bosworth Field where Thomas decided not to support King Richard III. He was succeeded by his grandson Thomas Stanley (1484 - bef. 1521) He married Anne Hastings, daughter of Lord Hungerford and Hastings. The 2nd Earl's brother James Stanley (? - bef. 1497), of Cross Hall, Lathom , was the ancestor of the 11th Earl. This line is known as the "Stanleys of Bickerstaffe ". James Stanley became Bishop of Ely. He sent a small army into the Battle of Flodden Field, commanded by his son, Sir John Stanley who later entered a monastery.

The second earl's son Edward Stanley (1509-1572) became the 3rd earl. He was married four times. His second wife Dorothy Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk supplied the heir Henry Stanley (1531-1593). He married Margaret Cliff, daughter of Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland . Both his sons succeeded to the earldom. Ferdinando Stanley (1559-1594) built Leasowe Castle. He married Alice Spencer, but was without male issue and was succeeded by his younger brother William Stanley (1561-1642). William married Elizabeth de Vere daughter of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604). Their son James Stanley (1607-1651) succeeded to the earldom on his father's death. James was a staunch Royalist. In 1643 he moved to the Isle of Man and established it as a Royalist stronghold. He was beheaded by the Parliament forces. His wife was Charlotte de la Trémouille (?-1663) daughter of Claude de la Trémoille, Duc de Thouars, is known as the heroine who defended Lathom House in 1644 and the Isle of Man in 1651. Their son Charles Stanley, 8th Earl of Derby (1628-1672) became the 8th Earl. He had two sons; who both succeeded to the earldom. He married Dorothea Helena Kirkhoven, daughter of Baron Rupa of the Netherlands. The 8th Earl's eldest son William Richard George Stanley (1655-1702) became the 9th Earl. He married Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Thomas Butler, Earl of Ossory (1634-1680), and sister of James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde (1665-1745). He had two daughters and one son but he outlived his son and was succeeded by his younger brother. James Stanley (1664-1736). James had one son who died in infancy. When the 10th Earl died the line died out, and the earldom passed to the "Stanleys of Bickerstaffe".

Edward Stanley, 11th Earl of Derby (1689-1776) was descended from the brother of the 2nd Earl, and he succeeded to the earldom in 1736. He married Elizabeth Hesketh. His residence was Bickerstaffe Hall near Ormskirk, Lancashire, and he became Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, and Member of Parliament for the County of Lancaster. The 11th Earl's younger brother was the Hon. and Rev. John Stanley, Rector of Bury Parish Church 1743-1778. Edward's eldest son, James, Lord Stanley was commonly called Lord Strange. Edward outlived James (who died in 1771) and he was succeeded by James' son Edward Smith-Stanley (1752-1834). The 12th Earl founded the Epsom Derby horse-race. He married Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of the Sir James Hamilton, 6th Duke of Hamilton . His second marriage was to a Drury Lane actress, Elizabeth Farren. The 12th Earl's first marriage produced his heir Edward Stanley (1775-1851). He was a politician and natural historian. His zoological collections founded Liverpool Museum. He was also a patron of the arts, especially of the poet Edward Lear who wrote The Owl and the Pussycat for the Earl's children. He was married to Charlotte Hornby. In 1844, he had a church built on the Knowsley Estate, St. Mary the Virgin, where several Stanleys found their final resting place.

His son, Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley (1799-1869), succeeded him to become the 14th Earl. He became Member of Parliament for Stockbridge, a seat bought by his father. Although a Whig, he became a member of the Tory government. He was Prime Minister three times, and he procured several government appointments for his son and heir. He was married to Emma Wilbraham daughter of Edward Bootle-Wilbraham, 1st Baron Skelmersdale . They had a daughter and two sons, both of whom succeeded to the earldom. The eldest son Edward Henry Stanley (1826- 1893) was Member of Parliament for King's Lynn. His father, as Prime Minister, gave him the jobs of Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Colonial Secretary and Foreign Secretary. He became Foreign Secretary again under Benjamin Disraeli and Colonial Secretary under William Ewart Gladstone. His brother Frederick Arthur Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby (1841-1908) was married to Lady Constance Villiers, daughter of George William Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon. He was the Member of Parliament for Preston and held the office of Governor-General of Canada between 1888 and 1893. He was succeeded by his son Edward George Villiers Stanley (1865-1948) who married Alice Montagu daughter of William Drogo Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester . A pair of Memorial Gates were erected in 1958 on Knowsley Lane on the Knowsley Estate in his memory. He outlived his eldest son Edward Montagu Cavendish Stanley (1894-1938) who was known as Lord Stanley and was succeeded by grandson Edward John Stanley, 18th Earl of Derby (1918-1994) who became the 18th Earl. He established Knowsley Safari Park in 1971. He married to Isabel Miles-Lade, but was without issue. He was succeeded by Edward Richard William Stanley, 19th Earl of Derby (born October 10, 1962) the son of Hugh Henry Montagu Stanley (1926-1971), the younger brother of the 18th Earl. He is married to the Hon. Caroline Neville. The heir to the earldom is Edward John Robin Stanley, Lord Bickerstaffe (born April 21, 1998).

The Earls of Derby own the Knowsley Estate and Greenhalgh Castle ; they were the Lords of Mann, i.e. the Isle of Man. Several Earls of Derby are buried in St. Mary's Church, Knowsley.

Earls of Derby, first Creation (1138)

Earls of Derby, second Creation (1337)

Earls of Derby, third Creation (1485)

The heir to the earldom is Edward John Robin Stanley, Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe (born April 21, 1998).

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