James Stanley (bishop)

Last updated

James Stanley (c. 1465–1515), scion of a distinguished aristocratic family, was Bishop of Ely from 1506 to 1515. He was the third son of 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 Master or St James and St John Hospital at Brackley from 1472 and 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 the Ancient Metrical History of the House of Stanley.

Related Research Articles

Roger Northburgh 14th-century Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield and Treasurer of England

Roger Northburgh was a cleric, administrator and politician who was Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield from 1321 until his death. His was a stormy career as he was inevitably involved in many of the conflicts of his time: military, dynastic and ecclesiastical.

John Kite was successively Archbishop of Armagh, 1513–1521, and Bishop of Carlisle, 1521–1537.

Nicholas West

Nicholas West, was an English bishop and diplomatist, born at Putney in Surrey, and educated at Eton and at King's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow in 1486. He also had periods of study at Oxford and Bologna.

Robert Waldby was a native of York and friar of the Order of Saint Augustine who followed Edward, the Black Prince into Aquitaine. After studying at Toulouse, he became professor of theology there.

Lawrence Booth 15th-century Archbishop of York and Chancellor of England

Lawrence Booth served as Prince-Bishop of Durham and Lord Chancellor of England, before being appointed Archbishop of York.

John Waltham 14th-century Bishop of Salisbury and Treasurer of England

John Waltham was a priest and high-ranking government official in England in the 14th century. He held a number of ecclesiastical and civic positions during the reigns of King Edward III and Richard II, eventually rising to become Lord High Treasurer, Lord Privy Seal of England and Bishop of Salisbury. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

Archbishop of York Senior bishop in the Church of England

The Archbishop of York is a senior bishop in the Church of England, second only to the archbishop of Canterbury. The archbishop is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and the metropolitan bishop of the Province of York, which covers the northern regions of England as well as the Isle of Man. The archbishop of York is an ex officio member of the House of Lords and is styled Primate of England; the archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England.

John Sherwood was an English churchman and diplomat.

John Booth (bishop) 15th-century Bishop of Exeter

John Booth was a 15th-century English prelate who held numerous appointments in the church and royal service.

Roger Niger was a thirteenth-century cleric who became Bishop of London. He is also known as Saint Roger of Beeleigh.

Robert de Chauncy was a medieval Bishop of Carlisle.

John Arundel (bishop of Chichester) 15th-century Bishop of Chichester

John Arundel was a medieval Bishop of Chichester.

Thomas Kempe was a medieval Bishop of London.

John Blyth (bishop) 15th-century Bishop of Salisbury

John Blyth or John Blythe was a medieval Bishop of Salisbury.

Robert de Stretton was Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield following the death of Roger Northburgh in 1358. A client of Edward, the Black Prince, he became a "notorious figure" because it was alleged that he was illiterate, although this is now largely discounted as unlikely, as he was a relatively efficient administrator.

Robert Booth (priest)

Robert Booth (1662–1730), an aristocratic 18th-century Anglican priest, served as Archdeacon of Durham from 1691 and also as Dean of Bristol from 1708.

James Bowstead

James Bowstead (1801–1843) was an Anglican clergyman who served in the Church of England as the Bishop of Sodor and Man (1838–1840) and Bishop of Lichfield (1840–1843).

Henry Bridgeman was an Anglican clergyman who served in the Church of England as the Bishop of Sodor and Man from 1671 to 1682.

William Forster, D.D. was an Anglican clergyman who served in the Church of England as the Bishop of Sodor and Man from 1633 to 1635.

Henry Man

Henry Man was an English clergyman who served as the Bishop of Sodor and Man in the 16th century.



  1. thePeerage.com - Person Page 1386
  2. WINWICK: Its History and Antiquities
  3. The parish of Winwick - Introduction, church and charities | British History Online
  4. Untitled Document Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. Jones Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300-1541: volume 6: Northern province (York, Carlisle and Durham): Archdeacons: Richmond Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine
  6. UK National Inventory of War Memorials : J Stanley, Bishop of Ely and Sir J Stanley - Thanksgiving
  7. https://web.archive.org/web/20080206203646/http://www.manchestercathedralonline.co.uk/timeline2.html. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2008.{{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Bishop of Ely
Succeeded by