Henry de Ferrers was a Norman warlord from Ferriers, and the Lord of Longueville in Normandy who, it is generally believed fought at Hastings and was afterwards granted some 210 lordships and manors in fifteen counties and became the largest landowner in Derbyshire and later built castles at both Duffield in Derbyshire and at Tutbury in Staffordshire.
On Henry's death in 1088, his various English possessions passed to his younger son Robert de Ferrers and in the year 1138 it was this Robert that took a large contingent of men north at the behest of the Archbishop of York in order to resist the invasion of David I of Scotland. The resulting battle of the Standard, fought near North Allerton in Yorkshire on the 22nd August 1138 was a resounding victory for the defending English. King Stephen was naturally grateful to those that had successfully defended the kingdom from the rampaging Scots and Robert de Ferrers was made Earl of Derby.
Robert the 1st Earl died in 1139 and was succeeded by his son, another Robert who married Margaret Peverel the daughter and heiress of a William Peverel of Nottingham. Their son William, the 3rd Earl supported the king's sons in their rebellion of 1173 against their father Henry II, and took the opportunity to plunder Nottingham. The rebellion was unsuccessful and William was thereafter deprived of his titles. He later went on crusade to the Holy Land and died in 1190. (Sources differ as to whether he died during the siege of Acre or on his way home.)
William's son, another William de Ferrers was unable to immediately inherit the title due to his father's previous attainder. He eventually won the restoration of the title in 1199 when John acceded to the throne. This William de Ferrers married Agnes, daughter of Hugh of Kevelioc, the Earl of Chester, a family connection that enabled his son William who became the 5th Earl in due course, to get his hands on the Honour of Lancaster following the death of the last Meschinnes Earl of Chester in 1232.
The 5th Earl was married twice; firstly to Sibyl daughter of William Marshal, the Earl of Pembroke, who eventually turned out to be a valuable heiress and through which he obtained his share of the Marshal family estates; and secondly to Margaret, daughter and coheir of Roger de Quincy, the Earl of Winchester by which means a further substantial portion of landed wealth made its way into the hands of the de Ferrers family. Which meant that the 5th Earl's son, Robert was, when he became the 6th Earl in 1254, one of the wealthiest men in the country.
It was this Robert the 6th Earl that joined Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, in his rebellion against Henry III and fought at the battle of Lewes in 1264. But following the royal victory at the battle of Evesham in 1265, Robert de Ferrers had his estates confiscated by the king. His sisters interceded with Henry III on his behalf and persuaded the king to restore his estates in return for the payment of a large fine and an oath of loyalty. However Robert rebelled again in 1266 and after his defeat at the battle of Chesterfield by Henry of Almain, Robert was convicted of high treason, and his titles and lands declared forfeit.
Robert's life was however spared and he was even given the opportunity in 1269 of buying back his lands for the sum of £50,000 but was unable to raise the money. After his death in 1279, his son John de Ferrers made a further attempt in 1298 to raise the necessary funds, but Henry III decided that enough was enough and refused to allow the transaction to proceed.
A note on the de Ferrers title
The de Ferrers Earls seem to have variously styled themselves as Earls of both Derby and Nottingham (which is understandable as both counties then formed one shrievalty) and also been known by the titles of 'Earl of Tutbury', as well as that of 'Earl Ferrers' or even the 'Earl of Ferrieres'. William de Ferrers the 5th Earl was for example, referred to as 'Comes Ferrieres' when he witnessed the charter by which king John conceded England to the Pope in 1213.)
Whilst it is therefore meaningful to speak of the de Ferrers line as holding both the Earldoms of Derby and Nottingham it is worth noting that there was no separate earldom 'of Tutbury', 'Ferrers' or 'Ferrieres', they are just alternate names.
The confiscated de Ferrers estates, together with the title Earl of Derby were granted by Henry III to his second son Edmund Crouchback later Earl of Lancaster on the 12th July 1265. It seems probable that the title Earl of Derby was amongst those honours inherited by Edmund's eldest son Thomas in 1296, but by no means certain as some sources limit Thomas to inheriting the dignities of Lancaster and Leicester. Edmund it seems, did not use the title, and Thomas is only recorded as having used the title once in a letter to the Pope.
Thomas subsequently led an unsuccessful rebellion against Edward II in 1321, and after his defeat at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 he was executed as a traitor and was attainted. Since Thomas died without issue, him heir was his younger brother Henry of Lancaster who was naturally viewed with suspicion by Edward II as the brother of a condemned traitor. (Henry was away in France at the time of the rebellion and therefore not directly involved and escaped condemnation.)
Henry was only able to win restoration as Earl of Leicester from Edward II, and had to wait until 1327, when Edward II was replaced by Edward III to win back the title of Lancaster. However he never seems to been restored to the title of Earl of Derby. The title therefore appears to have been created anew for his son Henry of Grosmont in 1337.
Henry of Grosmont died without male issue, but he had a daughter Blanch who had married John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III. Therefore on the death of his father-in-law in 1361 John of Gaunt claimed, by right of his wife, the earldom of Derby amongst other things, which was granted to him in 1362. The title of Earl of Derby was subsequently transmitted to his son Henry Bolingbrooke and merged with the crown when Henry became Henry IV in 1399.
The Stanley family trace their origins back to the twelfth century Adam de Stanley who came from the village of Stanley near Leek in Staffordshire. One of his descendants a John Stanley, served as Lord lieutenant of Ireland and became king of the Isle of Man in 1405 and married an heiress of the Lathom family and thus came into possession of some valuable estates in Lancashire. His grandson Thomas Stanley also served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and in 1456 was raised to the peerage as Lord Stanley.
It was Thomas Stanley, the 2nd Lord Stanley married Margaret Beaufort daughter and heiress of John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who was incidentally a descendant of the aforementioned John of Gaunt. This was Thomas' second and his wife's third marriage; most importantly Margaret had previously been married to Edmund Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, with whom she had a son named Henry Tudor.
Hence although Thomas Stanley turned up at Bosworth Field ostensibly on the side of his then king Richard III, his sympathies were naturally with his stepson Henry. Unsurprisingly the forces under his command played little part in the battle until such time as it became apparent that Richard III was losing, at which point his forces enthusiastically joined in on the winning side and it was said that it was Thomas Stanley who crowned Henry as king on the battlefield.
The new king Henry VII rewarded his step-father by creating him the Earl of Derby on the 27th October 1485. Although the Stanleys had no particular connection with Derbyshire as such, it is worth noting that their estates including their caput at Knowsley were actually located in the Lancashire hundred known as West Derby; a factor which may well have effected the choice of title.
His son also named Thomas Stanley, duly succeeded as the 2nd Earl and had the distinction of being the last Stanley crowned as King of the Isle of Man. (Thereafter the Stanleys contended themselves with being mere Lords of Man.) The 2nd Earl's son Edward Stanley followed as the 3rd Earl, helped suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, but was otherwise a devout Roman Catholic who was later dismayed by the policies of Edward VI, happy to welcome Mary I as queen and remained under suspicion of disloyalty throughout the reign of her successor Elizabeth I. He nevertheless managed to survive with land and titles intact which were inherited by his son Henry Stanley, the 4th Earl.
Henry Stanley died in 1593 and was followed by two of his sons, Ferdinando and William who respectively became the 5th and 6th earls of Derby. William was followed by his son James Stanley, the 7th Earl and sometimes known as the 'Great Earl of Derby'. He kept his distance from the political disputes of the time but became an enthusiastic if somewhat ineffectual supporter of Charles I when the Civil War broke out in 1642. He was active on the king's behalf in the north of England and held the Isle of Man for the Royalist cause, but was eventually captured and executed as a traitor at Bolton on the 15th October 1651.
James was succeeded by his son Charles who was in turn succeeded in turn by his sons; William, the 9th Earl and James, the 10th earl, neither of whom managed to produce sons of their own. The title therefore passed to an Edward Stanley, a descendant of a younger son of the 1st Earl, who duly became the 11th Earl.
On his death in 1776 Edward Stanley was succeeded by his grandson, Edward Smith Stanley. The 12th Earl was a keen horse-racing enthusiast and in 1779 he and his fellow enthusiasts organised a race for their three-year-old fillies which the Earl named 'The Oaks' after his estate. They had so much fun that in the following year they organised a further race for both colts and fillies which was named 'The Derby'. (It is said that Edward and his friend Charles Bunbury, tossed a coin to decide on who should have the honour of naming the race. Presumably had Edward lost the toss, we would now be speaking of 'The Bunbury' and the 'Kentucky Bunbury' etc.)
Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, the 14th Earl was a notable parliamentarian described as the most perfect orator of his day. Although he began his political life as a Whig he later gravitated to the Conservative party and served as Prime Minister in 1852, 1858-1859 and 1866-1868. He resigned due to ill health in 1868 and was replaced as Prime Minister by Benjamin Disraeli, and died a few months later on the 23rd October 1869.
His son and successor Edward Henry Stanley, also enjoyed a political career. The 15th Earl reversed his father's political journey, leaving the Conservative party in 1880 to join the Liberals. He served as Colonial Secretary under William Gladstone between the years 1882 and 1885, he later quit the party in 1886 over the question of Irish Home Rule and was one of the founders of the Liberal Unionist Party.
The 15th Earl died on 21st April 1893 and was succeeded by his brother Frederick Arthur Stanley who happened to be Governor General of Canada at the time. (And whilst he was in Canada Frederick, who bore the title Lord Stanley of Preston at the time, donated a trophy to Canadian National Hockey League, which was naturally named after him as the Stanley Cup.) Frederick was followed by his son Edward George Villiers Stanley who served as Secretary of State for War under Herbert Asquith and was later appointed as the British Ambassador to France despite his lack of prior experience and a complete ignorance of the French language.
Edward George was succeeded in 1948 by his grandson Edward John who subsequently died in 1994 and the title passed to his nephew Edward Richard who is the current and 19th Earl of Derby and also holds the titles of Lord Stanley of Bickerstaffe and Lord Stanley of Preston.
THE EARLS OF DERBY
Forfeited in 1173, restored in 1199
Note on the sequence of de Ferrers earls
There are some sources that interpose an extra two generations before the William de Ferrers, 3rd Earl who died in 1190, and include an additional William de Ferrers as 3rd Earl, followed by another Robert de Ferrers as 4th Earl; making the 3rd Earl the 5th Earl and so forth.
First creation 12 July 1266
Second creation 16 Mar 1337
Third creation 1362
The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for
DERBY, EARLS OF
De Ferrers genealogy at
Stanley genealogy at
For the Stanley Earls of Derby also see
Also see the family tree of the Stanley Earls of Derby at
Royal Genealogy information held at University of Hull see
RoyaList Online at http://www.royalist.info/royalist/index.html
Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
THE ENGLISH PEERAGE or, a view of the ANCIENT and PRESENT STATE of the ENGLISH NOBILITY London: (1790) see