STANLEY, Hon. James (1664-1736), of Knowsley, Lancs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1685 - 1687
1689 - 1690
1690 - 5 Nov. 1702

Family and Education

b. 3 July 1664, 8th but 3rd surv. s. of Charles Stanley, 8th Earl of Derby; bro. of Hon. Charles Stanley*.  educ. St. Paul’s.  m. Feb. 1705 (with £60,000), Mary, da. and h. of Sir William Morley*, 1s. d.v.psuc. bro. as 10th Earl of Derby 5 Nov. 1702.1

Offices Held

Capt. Earl of Pembroke’s (Thomas Herbert†) Ft. Mar. 1688, 1 Ft. Gds. 1689; col. 16 Ft. 1692–1705; brig.-gen. 1702–4; maj.-gen. 1704–5; groom of bedchamber 1689–1702; chancellor, duchy of Lancaster June 1706–10; PC 10 June 1706; capt. yeoman of the guard 1715–23.2

Burgess, Wigan by 1684; ranger of the five forests, Lancs. 1694–1710; ld. lt. Lancs. and N. Wales 1702–10, 1714–d.; v.-adm. Lancs. 1702–12; chamberlain of Chester 1702–d., mayor, Liverpool 1707–8, 1734–5.3


Stanley was far more concerned with advancing his military than his political career, but his family’s influence in Lancashire secured him a safe seat in the Commons. One of the officers who deserted James II for William of Orange in 1688, he was rewarded in February 1689 by his appointment as groom of the King’s bedchamber. At the time of this appointment William Banks† commented that ‘his shy and reserved humour sticks so close to him that I believe he will befriend but a few’, but Stanley, perhaps aided by his Dutch mother, remained in high favour throughout the reign.4

Returned unopposed for Lancashire in 1690, Stanley was classed as a Tory by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). This may have been due to Stanley’s vote in the Convention to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, but for the remainder of his life he was to be a committed Whig. The leave of absence he was granted on 13 Dec. to go to his command in Holland foreshadowed the priority he was to give to his military career throughout the 1690s. He served in Flanders for most of the Nine Years War, and his military commission led to his being classed as a placeman and Court supporter in a number of lists of the 1690 Parliament. There were reports that he had been killed in action in the summer of 1693, and, although wounded, he had recovered sufficiently to take part in the siege of Namur in 1694.5

Stanley remained a loyal supporter of the Court, and was forecast in January 1696 as likely to support the government on the council of trade. He signed the Association and voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s., and once the 1695–6 session had ended, accompanied the King to Holland. He voted on 25 Nov. for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† but his only other significant activity in this Parliament involved his insistence upon his parliamentary privilege as a legatee in a suit concerning Katherine Savage, being heard in his place on 7 Jan. 1698 when the House ordered that he had no privilege ‘except for his person only, against any commoner, in any suit or proceedings in courts of law or equity’. In the summer of 1698 he was classed as a placeman, and, returned unopposed for Lancashire in the autumn, was classed as a Court supporter in a comparison of the old and new Houses. He naturally voted on 18 Jan. 1699 against the third reading of the disbanding bill, but his own regiment had already been placed on the Irish establishment in February 1698. In October 1699 the death of Stanley’s nephew, the only child of the 9th Earl of Derby, placed Stanley in line for the family title. In March 1700 he returned to Windsor from Loo with letters of condolence from the States General to the Prince and Princess of Denmark on the death of their son, the Duke of Gloucester, and he returned to Holland in May 1701. He had by this time fallen out with Derby due to a combination of personal disagreements and the Earl’s dissatisfaction with Stanley’s support of his attempts in the 1690s to regain Lancashire’s lord lieutenancy. Despite Derby’s opposition in both 1701 elections and that of 1702 Stanley continued to be returned as knight of the shire. He presented an estate bill on behalf of his kinsman Sir Thomas Stanley, 4th Bt.*, and in November 1702 succeeded his brother to the earldom.6

For a while the new Lord Derby appeared to involve himself wholeheartedly in politics. In the Lords he became associated with the Junto, was a member of the Kit-Cat Club, and attempted to exert a greater influence on Lancashire elections, especially after his appointment as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster in 1706. Despite this activity, one local Whig complained that Derby was ‘not as active as some men are’, and his employment of local Tories in duchy offices, such as George Kenyon*, and his unwillingness while chancellor of the duchy to enact drastic alterations of the county magistracy in favour of the Whigs suggests that he found it difficult to throw off his family’s traditional aspirations to unite Lancashire society and pursue ends which were purely partisan. Once removed as chancellor of the duchy and lord lieutenant in 1710 Derby distanced himself from politics, spending most of his time in Sussex where he had acquired lands through marriage, and devoted most of his energy to the development of his Derby seat at Knowsley, Lancashire. He emerged from this semi-retirement in 1734 to oppose ministerial candidates in the elections of that year at Preston and Liverpool, but this was to be his final political exertion. He died on 1 Feb. 1736, and was buried at Ormskirk. He was succeeded by Sir Edward Stanley, 5th Bt.†7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. P. Draper, House of Stanley, 252.
  • 2. HMC Kenyon, 218; Somerville, Duchy of Lancaster Official Lists, 4.
  • 3. NLS, Crawford mss 47/3/78, list of burgesses, Dec. 1684; Somerville, 144; J. J. Bagley, Earls of Derby, 127, 128; Draper, 258.
  • 4. HMC Kenyon, 218; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 11.
  • 5. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 150; HMC Le Fleming, 336.
  • 6. Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 1; Cal. Treas. Bks. xv. 378; Add. 30000 D, f. 255; 17677 UU, f. 292; 29588, ff. 121–2; Lancs. RO, Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/928, Thomas Wilson to Roger Kenyon*, 18 Jan. 1694[–5]; Lancs. RO, Stanley mss DDK 15/22, copy letters of Ld. Derby, 15 Jan. 1700–1.
  • 7. Cheshire RO, Arderne mss DAR/F/33, Samuel Daniell to [–], 31 July 1702; HMC Kenyon, 434; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 519; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 288–9; Norris Pprs. (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, ix), 166; John Rylands Univ. Lib. Manchester, Legh of Lyme mss corresp. Derby to freemen of Liverpool, 24 Apr. 1734.