On 24th September 1459 Lord Thomas Stanley wrote to Queen Margaret making his apologies for not arriving at Blore Heath in time. He also wrote to the Earl of Salisbury, congratulating him on his victory. In fact, Sir Thomas had been with his men just some two miles from the battle and prevaricated over which side to join.
The Stanley reputation forged at Blore Heath
The Stanley family gained something of a reputation during the Wars of the Roses for avoiding fighting unless there was a definite gain in it for them. The first such example of this sitting on the fence approach was at Blore Heath.
Stanley’s army at Blore Heath
Sir Thomas had a force of 2000 men, whom he chose to keep at roughly 2 miles from the battlefield. He had found himself in an awkward situation. The Queen had given him direct orders; however, his wife was the Earl of Salisbury’s daughter. This was a scenario that was to be repeated later in the conflict, with Lord Stanley most famously watching the battle of Bosworth with his large retinue not committing.
Correspondence and Assurances
As a result of his family ties, Stanley had been corresponding with the Earl of Salisbury. Assurances had been made to him but also to the Queen. Having sat out the battle, he wrote to the Queen to apologise for having not turned up for the battle. To the Earl of Salisbury, he sent his congratulations on the battlefield victory and the way he then evaded other Lancastrian forces.
Stanley’s reputation for ensuring that they were always on the winning side grew as the wars rumbled on. He failed to support the Earl of Warwick, his brother-in-law, in his rebellion of 1470. Then he gave the appearance of supporting the readeption but failed to intervene when Edward landed at Ravenspur. He took no part in the Battle of Tewkesbury, even though it was possible for him to have participated. He also sat out the Battle of Bosworth.
Stained glass at Ordsall Hall, Salford, Lancashire, showing the arms of Stanley: 1st grand quarter: quarterly – 1&4: Stanley; 2: Lathom (erased); 3: de Warenne, Earl of Surrey; 2nd & 3rd grand quarters: King of Man; 4th grand quarter: quarterly – 1&4: Strange of Knockyn; 2: Woodville; 3: Mohun of Dunster Castle, Baron Mohun. All circumscribed by the Garter. Possibly the arms of Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby (1435–1504), KG. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). CC BY-SA 4.0 Via Wikipedia