James Stanley, Bishop of Ely

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James Stanley, Bishop of Ely

Birthplace: Hutton, Lancashire, England
Death: Died in Manchester, Lancashire, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby and Eleanor Neville, Countess of Derby
Husband of unknown mistress
Father of John Stanley, Knight
Brother of Edward Stanley, 1st Baron Monteagle; George Stanley, 9th Baron Strange of Knockin; William Stanley; Richard Stanley; Alice Stanley and 5 others
Half brother of Isabella Stanley and Ann Barton

Managed by: Private User
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About James Stanley, Bishop of Ely

James Stanley (bishop)

James Stanley (c. 1465–1515), scion of a distinguished aristocratic family, was Bishop of Ely from 1506 to 1515. His father was Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby.[1]

Described as the tallest man in England and reputed to be some 6 feet 7 inches tall, he took holy orders after university study, but, although regarded as a popular man, was not considered either a natural scholar or celibate. (There is an apocryphal story of Erasmus turning him down as a pupil.[2]) Like most senior churchmen of his period, he was a pluralist[3] and is believed to have lived with a woman, fathering at least one illegitimate child. Besides being renowned as a skilled soldier and an enthusiastic huntsman, he is also credited with a great interest in cockfighting.[4] He was cited in Protestant propaganda of later centuries as an example of the corruption of the Medieval Church, although his decision to take orders can hardly have been voluntary, but rather a further means of consolidating the dynastic ambitions of his already powerful family. His appointment as bishop was made by papal bull of Pope Julius II.

He held the office of Archdeacon of Richmond from 1500 to 1506.[5]

He was buried in a tomb in what is now Manchester Cathedral, then a collegiate church, patronised by several generations of the Stanley family, and which he had enriched as Warden. The tomb, together with the Ely Chapel that housed it, was destroyed during the Blitz although the original, contemporary brass memorial has survived. There is also a memorial for the safe return of his alleged son (and certainly kinsman) Sir John Stanley from the Battle of Flodden in 1513;[6] the St John the Baptist chapel, which incorporates the original site of the Ely Chapel, was built by James and John.[7] The Stanley coat of arms can still be seen decorating the roof of this chapel, which is now dedicated to the memory of the Manchester Regiment.

He died on 22 March 1515 and was later remembered thus:

  • " A goodlie tall man as was in all England
  • And sped well all matters that he took in hand
  • King Harrye the VIIth a prynce noble and sage
  • Made him Bishop for wisdom and Parentage
  • Of Ely. Many a day was he bishopp there
  • He builded Sommersome the byshoppe's chief manner
  • A great vyander as any in his days
  • For Byshoppes that then was, this is no dispraise.
  • Because he was a priest I dare do no lesse
  • But telle, as I know not, of his hardiness
  • What proud priest hath a blowe on the ear sodenlye
  • Turneth the other ear likewise for humilitye
  • He could not so do by the crosse in my purse
  • Yet I trust his soule fareth never the worse.
  • He did end his life in merry Manchester
  • And right honorablye lieth he buried there
  • In his chapel, which he began of freestone
  • Sir John Stanley built it out when he was gone
  • God send his soule to the heavenlye companye
  • Farewell godlye James Byshopp of Elye. "

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Stanley_(bishop)


  • James Stanley, Bishop of Ely, Deacon of Cheshire1,2,3,4,5
  • M, #32576, b. circa 1466, d. 22 March 1515
  • Father Sir Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl Derby, 2nd Lord Stanley, Constable of England, Chief Justice of Chester & Flint6,7 b. c 1435, d. 29 Jul 1504
  • Mother Eleanor Neville6,7 b. c 1438, d. a 6 Apr 1464
  • James Stanley, Bishop of Ely, Deacon of Cheshire was born circa 1466 at of Lathom & Knowsley, Lancashire, England; Age 16 in 1482.3,4,5 He died on 22 March 1515 at Manchester, Lancashire, England; Buried in Ely Chapel on the north side of the Collegiate Church. By his housekeeper at Somersham manor, he had 1 illegitimate son (Sir John).3,4,5
  • Citations
  • [S74] Brent Ruesch's Research Notes.
  • [S11581] Burke's Dormant & Extinct Peerages, p. 503.
  • [S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 680.
  • [S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 93.
  • [S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. V, p. 30.
  • [S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 91-92.
  • [S4] Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry, Vol. V, p. 28-29.
  • From: http://our-royal-titled-noble-and-commoner-ancestors.com/p1085.htm#i32576


  • James Stanley1
  • M, #13852
  • Last Edited=6 Mar 2011
  • Consanguinity Index=0.58%
  • James Stanley was the son of Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby and Eleanor Neville.1
  • He held the office of Bishop of Ely.1
  • Citations
  • [S37] BP2003 volume 1, page 1103. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • From: http://www.thepeerage.com/p1386.htm#i13852


  • James STANLEY (Bishop of Ely)
  • Born: ABT 1471
  • Died: 22 Mar 1514/5, Manchester
  • Notes: See his Biography.
  • Father: Thomas STANLEY (1° E. Derby)
  • Mother: Eleanor NEVILLE
  • Associated with: Margaret ? (m.2 Sir Urian Brereton)
  • Children:
    • 1. John STANLEY of Honford (Sir)
  • From: http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/STANLEY1.htm#James STANLEY (Bishop of Ely)
  • Sixth son of Thomas first Earl of Derby. He passed some time both at Oxford and Cambridge, and finally graduated at the latter University in or about 1458, in which year he took holy orders and was made prebendary of Holywell in the church of St Paul in London. Probably without much regard to his own inclinations he was early destined to the Church, in which, for at least several generations before him, there had always been at least one cadet of the house of Lathom to be found. His uncle, a churchman of his own name, probably gave him his name at the font and chose his profession for him.
  • In, 1470 he was appointed prebendary of Driffield, in the church, of York. In 1479 he was collated to the prebend of Dunham in, the church of Southwell; and so quickly did preferments come upon him that on 22 Jul 1485, he succeeded his uncle in the valuable wardenship of the Collegiate Church at Manchester. A pluralist already still, further promotion awaited him. In 1491, he was installed in the, prebend of Yatminster Prima, of the Church of Salisbury, and the next year in the prebend of Beaminster in the same church.
  • In 1493 he was made dean of the royal chapel of St. Martin's-le-Grand in London, in 1478 rector of Rostherne, Cheshire, in 1500 archdeacon of Richmond, and in 1505 precentor of Salisbury. We can hardly suppose that all these preferments could have flowed in upon him without his having some good qualities, which history has omitted to record, and there is an improbability in the story which Jortin tells of him, that when Erasmus was in Paris with Lord Mountjoy and some other young nobles, in 1490, he was offered promises and a pension if he would take under his tuition James Stanley and fit him to be made a Bishop, for James Stanley had then been long in the church, and was no longer young; moreover, though he was always said to be armis quam libris peritior, it is hardly likely that one who had mixed as he had done in his father's halls with Hugh Oldham, Bishop of Exeter, William Smith, Bishop of Lincoln, and the other learned persons whom Margaret of Richmond drew around her, there could be an illiterate person. For his next step in dignity, his advance to the mitre, he is believed to have been indebted to the Countess of Richmond, which it has been said we must not reckon amongst her many good deeds, but as the very. worst thing she ever did.
  • On the 17 Jul 1506, Pope Julius II. Signed his bull of provision constituting him Bishop of Ely, and in the following year the University of Oxford granted and decreed that he might be created a doctor of decrees by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishop of London placing a cap upon his head. At this. time, if not before he resigned the living of Winwick. On Holyrood Day, 3 May 1495, when the Earl of Derby as constable of England sat in the King's Chamber at Westminster to hear and decide a suit of arms between Sir Thomas Assheton and Sir Piers Legh, knight, as to the right of the latter to quarter-the Assheton arms, James Stanley, then warden of Manchester, and his brother Sir Edward Stanley, attended to hear and, witness the Earl's decision, and in the same year, when the King and Queen came on a progress to Lathom to visit the King's mother and the Earl of Derby, they slept at Winwick on the night of the 20 Jul, where they were probably the guests of the rector. In the very next year the King, who never spared his friends when money was concerned, sued the rector under the statute of liveries. Let us hope that the offending livery had, not been used during the royal visit to Winwick.
  • After James Stanley's promotion to the See of Ely, he resided chiefly at the Episcopal Palace at Somersham, which he much improved, but he was very often both at Manchester and at Lathom. In 1508 two notices of the Bishop occur in the memorials of Bemard of Tholouse. In the first, dated in Jan, he mentions the Bishop's coming to London; but in the second, dated six months later, he records the Bishop's coming to Court after being long kept away by his bodily, infirmity and the necessary attendance on his private affairs. But perhaps that circumstance in his life to which Fuller alludes may have had something to do with the Bishop's absence from Court. "I blame not the Bishop for passing his summer with the Earl of Derby, but for living all the winter with one who was not his sister, and who wanted nothing to make her his wife save marriage". It was the stain upon his birth that made his son Sir John Stanley of Honford, write up so frequently the Scripture text "Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas", and at last drive him to retire into a convent.
  • The barbarous sport of cock-fighting, which had so long been popular in Lancashire that according to the sheriffs King John kept there no less than 260 birds of game, had lost none of its popularity in the days of the Bishop of Ely. By previous appointment, and in compliance with a custom then seemingly common at Winwick, a great cock fight took place there on 27 Apr 1514, and, as was not unusual, a great quarrel took place among the gentry who were present, and several angry law suits were the result; and the fight in the cock pit was followed by another fight in a court of law. The Bishop of Ely, though he is said to have fixed the day and place of the cock fight, was not himself present there; but the amusement seems not to have been held unclerical, for the evidence in the suits shows that several priests and ecclesiastics were present and were among those who took an active part in it. It required a better monarch than King John to discountenance so barbarous a sport as cock-fighting, which, except during a short interval when it was forbidden by Cromwell, continued to hold its ground to our own day, when, to the glory of the present reign, it was abolished by law; and it is to be hoped has now finally and for ever disappeared.
  • When all Lancashire was astir with the King's summons before Flodden, the Earl of Surrey, as we are told in the "Scottish Field", supposing the Bishop to be either at Manchester or at Lathom, caused a messenger to ride.
    • To the Bishop of Eley
    • That bode in those partes.
  • By no means slack in answering the call, the Bishop mustered his large contingent, and being semper paratus ad arma in his calling and, if the infirmities of years had not forbidden it, he would have imitated Anthony de Bak, the famous old Bishop of Durham, and put himself at their head; as it was, however, he found an able substitute in Sir John Stanley of Honford, whom he sent in his stead.
  • The Bishop appropriated the rectory of Great Shelford to Jesus College, in Cambridge, and he compiled the statutes of that college and obtained the confirmation of them from Pope Julius II. He added largely to and improved the episcopal palace of Somersham, and in conjunction with Sir John Stanley of Honford, he undertook to build the large chapel of St. John the Baptist on the north side of the collegiate church of Manchester.
  • He died at Manchester, 22 Mar 1514/5, and was buried in the above chapel under a tomb of grey marble, on which there was a small figure of him in brass and this inscription: "Of your charity pray for the soul of James Stanley, sometime Bishop of Ely, and warden of Manchester, who deceased out of this transitory world the 22nd day of Mar, 1515, upon whose soul and all Christian souls Jesu have mercy.
    • Vive Deo gratus, toto mundo tumulatus
    • Crimine inundatus semper transire paratus.
    • Filii hominum usque quo gravi corde ut quid diligitis vanitatem et quocritis mendacium. Utinam saperent et intelligerent ae novissima providerent"
  • In the rhyming chronicle of the Stanleys, where there is a notice of the Bishop's death and burial, we have a flattering portrait of his appearance.
    • A goodly tall man he was as any in England
    • He did end his life in merry Manchester
    • And right honourably he lies buried there.
  • The chronicler's laudation of the Bishop extends only to comeliness of person and his great stature; but Godwin, forgetting that men's good deeds being written in water die with them, and that their evil deeds being written in brags survive them, and remembering only the scandal of the Bishop's private life, for which to the King's honour he was discountenanced at Court, and laboured under the Pope's sentence of excommunication until he went to the grave, would rob the Bishop of every good quality. Perhaps it would be safer to suppose that having attained the mitre it proved too heavy for his head and made him forget the good qualities which had led to his previous advancement.
  • After the Bishop's death his executors instituted a suit in court to recover some arrears of a pension due to him.
  • From: http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Bios/JamesStanley(BishopofEly).htm


  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 54
  • Stanley, James (1465?-1515) by Albert Frederick Pollard
  • STANLEY, JAMES (1465?–1515), bishop of Ely, born probably about 1465, was sixth son of Thomas Stanley, first earl Derby [q. v.], by his first wife, Eleanor, daughter of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury [q. v.] Edward Stanley, first baron Monteagle [q. v.], was his brother. He is said to have studied both at Oxford and Cambridge, and to have graduated at the latter university, but he was certainly M.A. of Oxford (Reg. Univ. Oxon. i. 46). He has been confused by Newcourt, Le Neve, and Cooper with his uncle James, who became prebendary of Holywell, London, on 26 Aug. 1458, prebendary of Driffield on 11 Nov. 1460, archdeacon of Chester in 1478, prebendary of Dunham in Southwell Cathedral, warden of the collegiate church of Manchester in 1481, and died in 1485 or 1486. The nephew's first preferment was the deanery of St. Martin-le-Grand, London, which he was given on 20 Sept. 1485, probably through the influence of his father's second wife, Margaret Beaufort, countess of Richmond and Derby [q. v.], the mother of Henry VII (Campbell, Materials, i. 19, 125–6). In the same year he succeeded his uncle as warden of the collegiate church of Manchester, the buildings of which were considerably extended during his tenure of office (Hibbert-Ware, Hist. Collegiate Church Manchester, i. 48–55). In June 1492 he received a dispensation from the pope to study at Oxford, although he held a benefice with cure of souls. In 1496 he was at Paris, and is stated to have been the rich young priest who had declined a bishopric and was living in Erasmus's house at Paris. He made tempting offers to Erasmus to induce him to become his tutor, but Erasmus refused (Knight, Erasmus, p. 19; Budinzsky, Die Universität Paris, p. 85). On 19 Nov. 1500 he became archdeacon of Richmond, and on 10 Sept. 1505 he was collated to a prebend in Salisbury Cathedral (Le Neve, ii. 643). Early in the following year he was appointed by papal bull to the bishopric of Ely, and the temporalities were restored to him on 5 Nov. following. On 18 June in the same year the university of Oxford conferred on him the degree of D.Can.L. During his tenure of the see he took part in his stepmother's foundation of St. John's and Christ's colleges, Cambridge (Baker, Hist. St. John's College, i. 66, 68, 71; Willis and Clark, Architectural Hist. of Cambridge, ii. 194, iii. 301, 516). He also compiled statutes for Jesus College, Cambridge, to which he appropriated the rectory of Great Shelford, and improved his episcopal residence at Somersham. He resigned the wardenship of Manchester in 1509, and died on 22 March 1514–15. He was buried in the collegiate church at Manchester, where there is an inscription to his memory. His will, dated 20 March and proved 23 May 1515, is printed in Nicolas's ‘Testamenta Vetusta,’ ii. 535–6. Stanley's loose morals afforded an easy mark for protestant invective (cf. Godwin, De Præsulibus, ed. Richardson, p. 271). By a lady who shared his episcopal residence at Somersham he had at least two sons, John and Thomas, and a daughter, Margaret, who married Sir Henry Halsall of Halsall. The elder son, John, fought at Flodden Field on 9 Sept. 1513, was knighted, and founded the family of Stanleys of Hanford, Cheshire.
  • [Authorities quoted; Campbell's Materials for the Reign of Henry VII (Rolls Ser.); Andreas's Historia, pp. 108, 125 (Rolls Ser.); Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, ed. Brewer, vols. i. and ii.; Rymer's Fœdera; Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy, passim; Collins's Peerage, iii. 48; Fuller's Worthies; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ii. 704–5; Dodd's Church Hist.; Hibbert-Ware's Collegiate Church of Manchester, i. 48–64; Warden and Fellows of the Collegiate Church of Manchester (Chetham Soc. new ser.); Hollingworth's Mancuniensis; Churton's Lives of W. Smyth, &c., pp. 13, 548–9; Seacome's Memoirs of the House of Stanley, edit. 1840, pp. 70–1; Ormerod's Cheshire; Bentham's Ely; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 16, 525; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Chambers's Book of Days.]
  • From: https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Stanley,_James_(1465%3F-1515)_(DNB00)



From http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/GEN-MEDIEVAL/2013-04/1366634959

There has clearly been confusion in the past between James Stanley Bishop of Ely, and James Stanley the Archdeacon of Chester. One problem may be that both were Wardens of Manchester. See Samuel Hibbert, etal; History of the foundations in Manchester of Chirst's College ..., Volume 1; page 50 @ books.google.com/books?id=a-EHAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA50. The Archdeacon was warden 1481-85, his nephew was warden 1486-1509, and was not named Bishop of Ely until 1506. The two are sometimes conflated. The ODNB statement that the Bishop was b. 1465 may be somewhat late since he is often linked to the person called 'Magistrum Stanley' and said to be a scholar as well as tutor in 1482 [books.google.com/books?id=y389AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA484] - but one suspects this might have been the archdeacon who was then warden of the College of Manchester, not the younger James Stanley.

From VCH: 'Parishes: Somersham', A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2 (1932), pp. 223-230. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42487&strquery=Stanley Date accessed: 07 October 2013.

Nothing remains of SOMERSHAM PALACE, the ancient house of the Bishops of Ely, the site of which is now occupied by the modern house known as Somersham Park surrounded by an oval-shaped moat. All that survive of the episcopal palace are the abutments of the bridge over the north arm of the moat and the 16th-century brick wall on the north and east sides of the garden. Somersham was no doubt used by the Abbots of Ely as a residence before the foundation of the bishopric in 1109, but immediately after the manor had been assigned for the endowment of the bishopric it became an episcopal residence. The bishops had to travel frequently from Ely to London, and Somersham was the first stage in the journey, which was apparently made by water. (fn. 35) In 1279 the house and garden covered 4 acres, and the fishponds, the remains of which still exist, covered 2 acres, while the park included 200 acres. (fn. 36) The Bishops of Ely were frequently at Somersham; John de Hotham died there in 1337, and it was visited by kings. Edward III was there in 1334. The palace was enlarged, it is said, by that 'lewd and luxurious' bishop James Stanley, who had brought up a family in it. (fn. 37) Bishop Nicholas West in 1520 speaks of his 'poor house at Somersham' (fn. 38) and in a letter to Wolsey said that he was so surrounded with water that he could not leave and no one could go to him without great danger except by boat. The banks, he wrote, were in great danger and 500 men were working on them to prevent the low country there from being drowned, and 100 men watched at night, in case the water should break through, in order to stop it and to warn the country by the ringing of bells, which they had done several times. (fn. 39)


  1. [S74] Brent Ruesch's Research Notes.
  2. [S11581] Burke's Dormant & Extinct Peerages, p. 503.
  3. [S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 680.
  4. [S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 93.
  5. [S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. IV, p. 91-92.
  6. 37 Brit. (Ed. Gough) ii, 399; Cole MSS. Add. 5847, p. 56.


  1. East Cheshire: Past and Present: Or, A History of the Hundred of Macclesfield, in the County Palatine of Chester. From Original Records, Volume 1 (Google eBook) John Parsons Earwaker The author, 1877 - Cheshire.  Page 253.  "Handforth-Cum-Bosden"


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James Stanley, Bishop of Ely's Timeline

Hutton, Lancashire, England
Age 29
March 22, 1525
Age 54
Manchester, Lancashire, England