William Stanley is in a trail badged by the Magna Carta Project to surety baron Saher de Quincy (see text below).
William Stanley was the son of Thomas Stanley, K.G., 1st Lord Stanley and Joan Goushill. His birth date is uncertain: his older brother Thomas was said to be 24 when he succeeded to his father's estates in 1458/9, so William may have been born in about 1435 or soon after.
In the early years of the Wars of the Roses, William gave his support to the Yorkists, fighting in the Battle of Blore Heath in September 1459, when the Yorkists were victorious. The following year he probably fled from England, like other Yorkist leaders. On 11 June 1460 he was one of the Yorkists declared a traitor, with his rank given as "squier".
William's adherence to the Yorkist cause was rewarded in 1461, when Edward IV gained the throne. He was made Chamberlain of Chester, Constable of the Castle of Flint, and Sheriff of Flintshire. He was knighted in July 1461. He helped to secure North Wales and the North of England, and took part in the 1462 siege of Alnwick, Northumberland, supplying 400 archers. In 1464 he fought in the Battle of Hexham. Afterwards he was granted the lordship of Skipton, Yorkshire, which had previously been held by John Clifford, along with other Clifford lands.
Before 7 December 1471 William married again, his second wife being Elizabeth Hopton, widow of John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, who had been beheaded by the Lancastrians the previous year. The marriage to the widow of such a prominent Yorkist was probably facilitated by the continuing adherence William had shown to Edward IV: when Edward returned from exile in 1471, William was one of the first to come to his support with troops. On 7 December 1471, William and Elizabeth were granted the custody of John Tiptoft's lands and of his heir Edward, Elizabeth's son by her marriage to him, during Edward's minority.
When Edward IV's oldest son, the future Edward V, was made Prince of Wales in the summer of 1471, William was appointed Steward of the Prince's household.
In 1475 William exchanged the lordship of Skipton for that of Chirk, Denbighshire. That year he led a small group of lancers and archers in Edward IV's brief invasion of the Calais region of France.
In 1483 William helped to suppress the rebellion of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham against Richard III. He was rewarded with the position of Chief Justice of North Wales, and the manor of Thornbury, Gloucestershire, both of which had been held by Stafford. The following year he was granted Holt Castle, Denbighshire and acquired the lordship of Bromford and Yale (surrendering the manor of Thornbury as part of the transaction).
On 18 February 1485 William was cited as owing 2000 marks to Richard III, to be paid at Easter that year.
William's support for Richard III was not whole-hearted, and he seems to have been in contact with Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII, while Henry was in exile. When Henry invaded, William ordered the town of Shrewsbury to admit his forces, though he did not openly declare for the invader at this stage. During the Battle of Bosworth, on 12 August 1485, William and his brother Thomas at first held their forces back, but at a critical moment William committed his troops to Henry's cause.
William was made Chamberlain to Henry VII. In 1487 he was made a Knight of the Garter. In 1489 he helped put down a rebellion in Yorkshire. He became one of the wealthiest people in England below the peerage.
In early 1495 he fell from grace. He was arrested on suspicion of treason, being accused of having given encouragement and at least verbal support to the pretender Perkin Warbeck in 1493. In February his brother Thomas presided over his trial. William confessed, was found guilty, and was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. The sentence was commuted to mere beheading, which took place at Tower Hill, London, on 16 February. William was buried at Syon Abbey, Middlesex, with the cost coming out of royal funds. His lands were seized by the Crown.
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