THE BUNBURY’S FIRST IRISH CONNECTION
SIR WILLIAM STANLEY, LISMORE CASTLE & THE GUNPOWDER PLOT
Thomas Bunbury of Stanney (1542–1601), father of the first Sir Henry Bunbury, is the first known member of the Bunbury family to have had any involvement with Ireland. This occurred in 1585, shortly after the Desmond Rising, when he became one of the executors of Lismore Castle in County Waterford on behalf of his half-brother Sir William Stanley, a man destined for an extraordinary life.
During the conquest of Munster, Stanley’s loyalty and competence was such that he was appointed Governor of Lismore Castle. He was also under serious consideration for the office of Viceroy of Ireland until he turned against Queen Elizabeth and allied himself with Catholic Spain, becoming intricately involved with the Babington Ploy, the Spanish Armada and the ill-fated Gunpowder Plot orchestrated by Guy Fawkes.
SIR WILLIAM STANLEY
William Stanley was the eldest son of Sir Rowland Stanley of Hooton and Storeton, Cheshire, the head of the senior branch of the house of Stanley and the oldest knight in England at his death aged 96 in 1614. [i] His mother Lady Margaret Stanley was the widow of Henry Bunbury (1509–1547), Lord de Bunbury, and daughter of Hugh Aldersey, a prosperous merchant who served as Mayor of Chester in 1528, 1541 and 1546. He was thus a half-brother to Thomas Bunbury of Stanney (1542–1601), father of the first Sir Henry Bunbury and a distant forbear of mine.
Born in 1548, Stanley was raised as a Catholic and educated by a Dr Standish at Lathom, under the patronage of his kinsman, Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby. At the age of 12 was married to Ann Dutton, a bride of ten, but the marriage was dissolved in 1565. Like most teenage boys of his class, he sought a military career and, in 1567, he sailed for the Netherlands– then largely under Spanish control – where he served under the notorious Duke of Alba.
IRELAND & THE DESMOND REBELLION
In 1570, the 22-year-old arrived in Ireland where he was to serve for the next fifteen years alongside men such as Sir Walter Raleigh and the poet Edmund Spenser. He was destined to come to the fore during the Desmond Rebellion of 1579 when Gerald Fitzgerald, 15th Earl of Desmond, launched a new offensive against the English forces in Munster. Desmond, had been in open rebellion against the Dublin administration since 1569. In 1579 he received some assistance from Philip II of Spain in the shape of a small army.
As well as coming in pursuit of land, the Tudor conquest should be considered in terms of the view that Ireland posed an existential threat to England’s status as a fledgling Protestant dominion. France, Spain and Poland were the three biggest powers in Europe at the time and all three were Catholic; England was a second-rate Protestant upstart. The kingdom was always on the cusp of becoming Catholic again, although it did become increasingly secure as a Protestant stronghold under Queen Elizabeth and councillors like Cecil. However, Ireland was inevitably viewed with great concern, not least when Irish chieftains like Desmond, who controlled the Munster coastline, were so clearly on side with French and Spanish Catholics seeking to land armies in the vicinity.
Despite his adherence to the Catholic faith, Captain William Stanley was amongst the most proactive officers in the Tudor army, securing much of County Limerick for the Crown. He led the English force that captured the Geraldine stronghold of Adare. He also commanded the cavalry that chased the Irish from the field during a battle that took place beside the Cistercian abbey of Manister (Monasternenagh). Contemporaries record how he subsequently ‘burned and spoiled the [surrounding] countrie, and put to the sword whomsoever they thought good’.
For these ‘gallantries’, he was knighted in Waterford by Sir William Drury, Lord Justice of Ireland.
Stanley’s leadership skills were exceptional. He also had a magnetic charm that enabled him to become one of the greatest recruiters of his day. Many Irishmen felt comfortable in his ranks because he was such a devout Catholic.
In 1580, Fiach Hugh O’Byrne led an ambush on the English at Glenmalure in the Wicklow Mountains in which over 800 English soldiers died. Stanley was ordered to make haste for the Pale to defend it against any further attack. He soon became notorious as a rebel hunter from the Wicklow Mountains all the way to the Blackwater Valley. He burned Fiach Mac Hugh’s house at Ballinacor and slaughtered hundreds of Kavanaghs, which earned him high regard from both the Irish treasurer, Sir Henry Wallop, and the president of Connaught, Sir Nicholas Malby.
He also wrestled control of the mighty Geraldine castle of Castlemaine that once stood at the entrance to the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry. He was duly appointed the castle’s new Constable.
In 1583, Lord Desmond was betrayed and captured in a forest near Tralee; his severed head was sent to rot on London Bridge as a warning to would be traitors. “The territory over which he had ruled like a monarch was quickly annexed to the English crown and, three years later, the Munster plantations began. An estimated 300,000 acres of good land was involved”.[ii]
At some point, Stanley was appointed commander of the garrison at Lismore Castle in County Waterford by Black Tom Butler, Earl of Ormond. On 1st December 1585 a feoffment (ie: a trust) was set up by Sir William Stanley of Hooton with regard to the future of Lismore Castle “to the use of his wife and children”.[iii] The manor and castle of Lismore, located on the banks of the River Blackwater, were leased by Patrick, Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, to Sir William Drury for 61 years on 8th October 1576.[iv] However, Sir William Stanley is recorded as paying rent for the castle to Anne Thickpenny, widow of John Thickpenny, from 1584-1586. The three executors of this trust were his two brother-in-laws John Egerton [the Younger of Olton, Cheshire], John Poole [of Poole] and his half-brother, Thomas Bunbury of Stanney.[v]
Stanley had great ambitions. Following Malby’s death in March 1584, he wrote to the Queen’s two top men – Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham – and urged them to appoint him President of Connaught. His request was turned down although he was made sheriff of Cork, in which capacity he boasted of having hanged 300 rebels and of leaving the rest so petrified that ‘a man might now travel the whole country and none molest him’.
At the end of 1584, he was dispatched to Antrim to confront the Ulster rebel Sorley Boy MacDonnell. However, he was ambushed near Ballycastle and so severely wounded that he was obliged to return to England where he was widely hailed as a hero.
Stanley may have been a Catholic but it was clear that his first loyalty was to the English Crown, irrespective of religion. As such, he had good cause to anticipate a share of the spoils when Elizabeth’s Privy Council began to carve up some 500,000 acres of Munster forfeited by Desmond and his allies.[vi]
Much to his disappointment, Stanley’s remarkable service was ignored during this massive redistribution of land, while his comrade Walter Raleigh secured over 42,000 acres – the equivalent of 170 km2 – and went on to become Mayor of Youghal. Many others who had served on the fringe were also handsomely rewarded.
THE BABINGTON PLOT
Stanley was still smarting when he was ordered to accompany the Earl of Leicester, one of the Queen’s favourites, to help the Dutch Protestants oust the Spanish from the Netherlands.
Upon receiving this command, he journeyed to Ireland where he amassed a regiment of some 1,200 troops, mainly Irish Catholic pikemen. However, there is a strong suggestion that he had, in fact, recruited this force to assist in a major coup to assassinate Elizabeth and install her Catholic cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, on the English throne.
Known as the Babington Plot, this conspiracy was apparently hatched by the Spanish and Catholic Jesuits in England. People would later swear that they had seen Sir William in consultation with various Jesuit priests. He was certainly in communication with Bernardino de Mendoza, the former Spanish Ambassador who had been expelled from England for his involvement in a similar plot to murder the Queen.
Stanley kept his Irish regiment on standby while he awaited the outcome of the Babington Plot. Upon hearing of its failure, he hastily departed for the Netherlands where he led his pikemen into action at the battle of Zutphen.[vii] He fought with such passion that Leicester declared him ‘worth his weight in pearls’.
A HERO TURNS TRAITOR
Stanley then helped capture Deventer, regarded as the most important town in the Netherlands after Antwerp and Amsterdam. Widely hailed for his heroism across Protestant Europe, Sir William was duly appointed Governor of Deventer and his own troops were assigned to garrison the harbour town.
However, just months later, on 29 January 1587, Stanley stunned his English compatriots when he surrendered Deventer to the Spanish Governor of Zutphen.
It is widely believed that he committed this brazen act of treachery in direct response to the failure of the Elizabethan government to reward him for his service in Ireland.
As such, he must have kicked himself when he learned that, unbeknownst to him, the Queen had personally proposed him as a new Viceroy of Ireland shortly before his betrayal.
His popularity with English Protestants plummeted still further when Cardinal Allen – the man who persuaded the Pope to excommunicate Elizabeth – came to his defence, stating that all Englishmen should follow Stanley’s example, under the pain of eternal damnation, because Elizabeth was ‘no lawful queen’ in the eyes of God.
He was immediately declared an outlaw and his wife was stripped of all her goods and assets, including Lismore Castle, by order of the English Privy Council. However, Thomas Egerton, the Solicitor General in Ireland, successfully pleaded her case and, despite loud objections from Raleigh, the Sheriff of Waterford was subsequently ordered ‘to make restitution of goods previously seized from Lady Stanley’.
Whether Thomas Bunbury knew of Sir William’s divided loyalties when he became executor to the Lismore feoffment is unknown but he was still in that position on Shrove Tuesday (ie: 20th Feb) 1588 when Roger Wilbraham wrote a letter to himself, Egerton, Poole and the elderly Sir Rowland Stanley (Sir William’s father) asking for an explanation of a lease made by the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore to Sir William Stanley.[viii]
Having now so clearly declared his support for Catholic Spain, Stanley journeyed to the Spanish court where he gave Philip II of Spain his advice on how best to invade England. He specifically recommended using Ireland as a launch pad, confident the Catholic Irish would quickly rise up in support of Spain.
His advice was ignored. In 1588, Philip II dispatched the Spanish Armada to invade England directly. It transpired to be one of the greatest disasters in Spanish history. Sir George Beeston, grandfather of the future Sir Henry Bunbury’s wife, was one of the Admirals who helped defeat the Spanish.
By 1590, Stanley was in Madrid, commanding the English Legion, a force of 1,000 Irish and English soldiers whom he led into action against the Dutch Protestants and French Huguenots during the ensuing years.
Amongst the most prominent officers in his ranks were Guy Fawkes and Tom Wintour, two of the key conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. Both men had direct Irish connections. Maria Pulleyn, wife of Fawkes, was affiliated with the Cuffe’s of Castleinch, County Kilkeny, while Wintour had been served under the Earl of Essex in Ireland.
THOMAS BUNBURY & HENRY BUNBURY
Thomas Bunbury’s wife Bridget Aston was the scion of a prominent Catholic family, being a daughter of John Aston (d 05.08.1573) of Aston in Bucklow Hundred, Cheshire, by his marriage (1546) to Margaret Ireland (dau of Thomas Ireland of The Hutt in Lancashire. Her only brother was Sir Thomas Aston of Aston, who served as Sheriff of Cheshire (d 1613) and who was married in 1569 to Elizabeth Mainwaring, daughter of Sir Arthur Mainwaring of Ightfield. Her other siblings included Elizabeth Aston (d 1602, who married John Massy of Coughins, d. 1610, son of George Massy of Podington); Margaret Aston (d 1632) who m1. Thomas Egerton of Walgreve and m2. Sir Edward Tirrel of Thornton; Eleanor Aston, who m. James Whitlock; Winifred Aston, who m. Peter Derby; Ellen Aston, who m. George Mainwaring (of the Ightfield family) and Ursula Aston, who m. Geffrey Halcroft of Hurst. It is also to be noted that Thomas and Bridget Bunbury were the great-uncle and great-aunt of Sir Arthur Aston (1590-1649), an ally of the Earl of Ormonde, the ill-fated governor of Drogheda when Cromwell’s army laid waste to the port in 1649.
Thomas and Bridget Bunbury were the parents of six sons and five daughters, as per the ‘Cheshire and Lancashire Funeral Certificates’ by John Paul Rylands:
1) Sir Henry Bunbury of Stanney Hall who married (1) Anne, daughter of Jeffery or Geoffrey Shakerley of Shakerley and (2) Martha Norris.
2) Thomas Bunbury
3) John Bunbury, who married Jane Moyes and lived in Kent and had issue.
4) Richard Bunbury.
5) Jeffry Bunbury.
6) Rouland Bunbury, who died young.
7) Margaret, the eldest daughter, who married Hugh Shakerley, son and heir apparent of Jeffery or Geoffrey Shakerley of Shakerley, Lancaster County.
8) Elizabeth, married Henry Bould, son and heir apparent of Peter Bould of Upton, County Chester. They had Peter, Thomas, Richard, Edward, Elizabeth, Anne and Eleanor.
9) Mary married John Gryffin of Batherton, County Chester, and was mother to Richard, John, Edmund, Thomas, John and Margaret.
10) Eleanor married William Meales of Wallesey, County Chester, gent, and had three daughters, Bridget, Katherine and Isabell.
11) Bridgett, the fifth daughter, married William Wilkockes of Fareley, County Salop, gent, and by her had children who died young.
Thomas Bunbury died on May 5th 1601, some six months before Lord Mountjoy’s English army annihilated the combined Spanish-Irish forces at Kinsale and effectively brought Celtic Ireland to its absolute end. He was buried on the ‘xjth’ [?] day of the same month at Stoke.
Two years later, on 23rd July 1603, his eldest surviving son and heir, Henry Bunbury (d. 1634), was knighted by King James. Through his son Thomas, he was grandfather to Benjamin Bunbury of Killerig. [x]
THE GUNPOWDER PLOT
Stanley continued to encourage anyone willing to knock Elizabeth from her throne. When he learned of her death in 1603, he sent Guy Fawkes and Christopher Wright, an emissary of Robert Catesby, to warn the Spanish king that the new king, James, was likely to be no better. He also reminded the Spanish monarch that Ireland would make an ideal place for any invasion of England.
In November 1605, Stanley was placed under house arrest in Brussels on suspicion of high treason. By the time of his arrest, he had probably heard that Guy Fawkes, Tom Wintour and their fellow conspirators had been captured. The Gunpowder Plot, as it became known, had failed. The House of Lords had not been blown up and King James was still alive.
It is still not clear how much Stanley was involved in the Gunpowder Plot. He was quick to cover his tracks from the moment the plot failed. He was placed under house arrest in Brussels and held on suspicion of conspiracy. Fawkes claimed he was involved but the authorities preferred Wintour’s confession in which he insisted Stanley knew nothing.[xi]
One theory holds that Stanley provided vital information to Sir Robert Cecil, the Secretary of State, in a bid to secure a pardon from the Crown. If so, it worked. On 30th January 1606, Cecil exonerated Stanley from the charge.
Upon his release, Sir William held a public thanksgiving in St Rumbold’s Cathedral in the Flemish city of Mechelen (French Malines).
Following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, Stanley seems to have accepted that the restoration of Catholic power in England was a lost cause. He became something of a recluse for the remainder of his life, helping to establish a Jesuit novitiate in Liege in 1614, before taking office as Governor of Mechelen. His repeated efforts to be allowed to return to England failed and he lived his last years with the English Carthusians in Ostend. He died at Ghent on 3 March 1630 and was buried at Mechelen.
By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Egerton of Egerton he had two sons and three daughters. His grandson succeeded to the family estates at Hooton in Cheshire, and his great-grandson was created a Baronet in 1661.
By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Egerton, Stanley had two sons and three daughters. Eventually his grandson succeeded to the family estates at Hooton in Cheshire, and his great-grandson was created a Baronet in 1661.
Philip Sidney comments that it is sad such a man of noble birth who received such high distinction and honors from England lived out his final days as a pensioner of Spain .
One wonders what impact Sir William Stanley’s colourful life had upon his half-brother, Thomas Bunbury of Stanney, or upon his “nephew”, Sir Henry Bunbury? It is interesting that Sir William was a Roman Catholic; I have not yet discovered when or why the Bunbury family changed religion.
However, the fact that Henry was willing to accept a knighthood from King James while Sir William was communicating with the same King’s would-be assassins suggests “uncle” and “nephew” might not have been of the same persuasion. Nonetheless, it is excellent to see a Bunbury meddling with the affairs of Ireland in 1586, which now becomes the earliest known date of reference to the family in Ireland. And it’s fun to speculate that long-haired Bunburys were drinking fireside ales into the late hours with such Elizabethan formidables as Raleigh, Spenser, Egerton, Beeston and Stanley.
Any thoughts or criticisms of this theorizing are most welcome!
With thanks to John Cooper.
Comments by Peter R Bunbury:
‘I would guess that your theorizing, in all likelihood is valid. The world was a lot smaller in those days and the landed gentry of a single county are very likely to have known one another and interacted as much as the religious divide at the time would have allowed.
Margaret Aldersey the mother of both of them was clearly not a strict adherent to either persuasion, with her son Thomas Bunbury reared a Protestant whilst her son William was brought up a Catholic, so she had a foot in both camps.
In view of Thomas Bunbury being named an executor in a trust established by his half brother William Stanley, and the trust was in favour of a property in Ireland, there is no doubt that there must have been some Irish contact for Thomas Bunbury. He likely never went there as this would not have been necessary, but if he fulfilled his function as an executor, then he must have acquired a knowledge of things in Lismore, Waterford. Thomas died at the age of 59 so he would have been mature enough to apply his executorship. His half brother was a bit of an opportunist, with his loyalties often changing, but clearly Thomas did not change, as his son Henry was given a Knighthood shortly after Thomas’ death. There is of course a clear possibility that Thomas’ experiences may have led to hearsay being passed down to his great grandson Benjamin of Killerig, but the time frame is too tenuous, and a civil war intervened’.
APPENDIX: SIR WILLIAM STANLEY
(from Dictionary of National Biography by Rory Rapple)
Stanley, Sir William (1548-1630), soldier, was the eldest son of Sir Rowland Stanley (c.1516-1612) of Hooton and Storeton, Cheshire, head of the senior branch of the house of Stanley, and Margaret Aldersey. Aged twelve, at Christmas 1560 he married Ann Dutton of Hatton, a bride two years his junior; the union was dissolved in 1565. Records concerning the annulment state that Stanley was educated at the school of Dr Standish of Lathom and had also served in the household of his aristocratic relative Edward Stanley, third earl of Derby. It is probable that William was brought up adhering to the old religion, as his father, a justice of the peace and a former sheriff of Chester, was suspected of being a recusant in 1583. In the late 1560s Stanley pursued a military career, serving until 1570 with the duke of Alva during his coercive governorship of the Netherlands.
Service in Ireland and the Netherlands
On his return from the Low Countries Stanley went to Ireland and remained there for fifteen years. He came to prominence in the campaign of 1579 against the earl of Desmond. In recognition of the quality of his service Lord Justice Sir William Drury knighted Stanley at Waterford that year. Notable engagements included those at Youghal, Monasternenagh, and Adare. After a short visit to England Stanley was heavily involved in the suppression of Viscount Baltinglass’s rebellion in Leinster in 1580. He wrote a vivid eyewitness account of the morale-sapping reverse suffered by ambushed crown forces in Glenmalure at the hands of Fiach Mac Hugh O’Byrne. His subsequent actions against local septs in Wicklow, especially the torching of Fiach Mac Hugh’s house at Ballinacor and the slaughter of hundreds of Kavanaghs, earned him high praise from the Irish treasurer, Sir Henry Wallop, and the president of Connaught, Sir Nicholas Malby.
During another sojourn in England Stanley joined a syndicate run by Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Thomas Gerrard which aimed to plant America with recusants, but he returned to Munster in early 1583 when the project lost momentum. The earl of Ormond, the new lord president of the province, then appointed him constable of Castlemaine and captain of the garrison at Lismore. It is certain that Stanley intended to settle in Munster. In a letter to Sir Francis Walsingham in May that year he wrote of his plans to make Castlemaine ‘a town of English’ and he unsuccessfully sought lands adjoining the manor of Lismore (CSP Ire., 1574-88, 432, 484). His troops played a crucial part in the mopping-up operations that brought the rebellion to a close, notably the pursuit and assassination of the earl of Desmond. In March 1584 he unsuccessfully petitioned Lord Burghley and Walsingham for the presidency of Connaught, vacant following Malby’s death. Despite the failure of this suit he held other important offices in Ireland including the sheriffdom of Cork and the reversion of a commission as master of the ordnance. He was entrusted with politically sensitive positions such as keeper of the peace in Munster during the earl of Ormond’s absence, and the pro-presidency of Munster while Lord Deputy Perrot’s appointee, John Norris, served in Ulster.
Stanley’s reputation for military prowess led to his removal to Antrim in early January 1585, by order of Lord Deputy Perrot, to stave off an invasion of redshanks under the leadership of Sorley Boy Mac Donnell. In this engagement his band was driven from its position near Ballycastle by a force of over 2000 Scots, and Stanley received three severe wounds, which put him out of service for much of the rest of the year. Even as late as June he had to have an arrowhead cut out of his back. In October he returned to England in order to have some lands conveyed to him by his father.
Following the suppression of the Munster rebellion and the subsequent partition of the Desmond estates it became obvious, for reasons both of financial prudence and political stability, that the province would have to be demilitarized. The earl of Leicester’s campaign to defend the United Provinces of the Netherlands against Spain was seized upon as a convenient outlet for the redeployment of the queen’s soldiers, especially those who were native Irishmen. In March 1586 Stanley, who had accompanied the earl on his initial Dutch foray the previous December, returned to Ireland to levy over 1000 troops. Stanley’s exclusion from the lucrative Munster plantation left him little option but to continue his military career, despite his role in facilitating the preliminary survey of attainted lands.
By the time Stanley had brought his band to London to be transported to the Dutch wars, he was already being referred to as a Catholic subversive. Gilbert Gifford, a double agent posing as a priest, alleged to the exiled Spanish ambassador Mendoza that Stanley was aware of and complicit in the conspiracy associated with Anthony Babington that aimed to assassinate Elizabeth and enthrone Mary Stewart with the military assistance of Spain. In mid-August 1586 Mendoza expressed to Philip II his hopes that Stanley would use his regiment quartered in London to seize the queen’s ships, a step that Philip himself described in his annotations to the memo as ‘the most important thing of all’ (CSP Spain, 1580-86, 603-8). By the time Mendoza had written this, however, Stanley had already joined Leicester’s forces in the Netherlands. From the very start he played a prominent role in Leicester’s attempts to launch a renewed offensive, participating in the seizure of Doesborg and a pyrrhic assault on the heights overlooking the Spanish-held town of Zutphen. At this point the earl turned his attention to Deventer, the third most important mercantile centre in the Netherlands, which lay 5 miles from Zutphen. An anti-Spanish faction within the town was looking for an opportunity to hand Deventer over to the United Provinces.
On the night of 23 October 1586 Stanley’s regiment entered Deventer, which had been left unguarded, in small groups. The town capitulated peacefully the following morning. The magistrates of the Spanish party were imprisoned and a new municipal government, made up of figures amenable to the English presence, was appointed in their place. Despite the protests of the states general, Leicester appointed Stanley governor of Deventer. Before his departure in mid-November the earl, demonstrating antipathy to his deputy Sir John Norris, granted separate commissions to Stanley and Rowland York, captain of the fort at Zutphen sconce. These exempted them from obedience to Norris. In his capacity as governor of the provinces, Leicester also forbade the Dutch council of state from putting aside any of his appointees to the government of towns or forts.
By December the burghers of Deventer were complaining to the council of state about Stanley’s high-handedness as governor. They alleged that he had violently seized the keys of the city’s gates, infringed their liberties, and, through his soldiers’ constant menacing of the population and firm hold of all fortifications, kept the city in the grip of a reign of terror. It was further rumoured that Stanley’s Irish troops were in league with Catholics within the walls to give the city over to the Spanish garrison at Zutphen. Stanley, however, described his conduct as the application of severe justice to ensure his men received victuals from the Dutch, who, he claimed, had a chronic tendency towards disobedience. His entire regiment, at this stage, was forced to live on £3 a day. Matters came to a head on 18-19 January 1587 when Stanley handed Deventer and the most part of his garrison over to Tassis, the Spanish governor of Zutphen. On the same day York gave his fort to the Spaniards. These actions nullified at a stroke the benefits accrued from Leicester’s recent campaigning.
In London the court identified Stanley and his regiment of defectors as a serious threat to English security. This alarm was accompanied by an intense feeling of betrayal, stemming from the high regard Stanley commanded as one of Elizabeth’s most skilled military captains. Leicester stated that Elizabeth had been willing to entrust ‘whole kingdoms’ to the traitor, an indication that Stanley may have been in line to become lord deputy of Ireland. Indeed, throughout the 1590s the privy council in London and the Irish council in Dublin feared that Stanley and his men, ‘over well acquainted with the service and state of [Ireland]’, might return and undermine England’s hold on the country on Spain’s behalf. Stanley himself stated that ‘in Ireland [he would] open such a game of war as the Queen [had] never seen in her life’ (Correspondentie, ed. Brugmans, 2.86; CSP Ire., 1586-8, 266; Bagwell, 3.162).
Stanley remained in place as governor of Deventer for a year. In this period he made the acquaintance of the English Catholic community in Flanders. He subsequently came into contact with Cardinal Allen, who in 1587 published an apologia for Stanley’s actions aimed at inducing English soldiers to follow his example. Allen, using orthodox thinking on the just war, argued that Stanley ceded Deventer to the Spaniards because he believed it rightfully belonged to King Philip. Therefore England’s war in the Netherlands was ab initio unjust, and any soldier participating in it on Elizabeth’s side was guaranteed that his soul was in mortal sin. London countered with a pamphlet that accused both Allen and Stanley of bad faith, and asserted the justice of England’s involvement in the conflict. Rumours also abounded that the English government sought to eliminate Stanley by poisoning. In 1589 he left the Netherlands and travelled to Spain, no doubt hoping to receive adulation and greater military responsibilities. But he received remarkably little favour in the Spanish court; indeed there are indications that the Spaniards held Stanley’s defection to be unchivalric, despite the benefits that resulted from it. Philip II even refused to place his garrison under the direct assistance of the Spanish treasury, thereby making it hard for Stanley to recruit more troops.
Henceforth Stanley endeavoured to interest Philip in plans to intervene militarily in English affairs. But the Spanish king, despite Stanley’s petitions, initially refused to give the regiment any specific project or campaign to engage in. By 1591 Stanley had received some support from Philip for his plan to seize Alderney as part of a post-Armada project to menace England and threaten Henri IV, France’s new protestant king, from Flanders and the Channel Islands. But, despite England’s intervention in Brittany in 1591 under Sir John Norris, financial constraints and a lack of will combined to make the Spanish council of war reluctant to endorse the enterprise.
On his return to Flanders in 1591 Stanley found his regiment in disarray and beset by internal tensions. The following year, forecasting further English intervention in Brittany, he suggested that England must be directly attacked as a counterbalance. But this proposal also received little support and Stanley remained with his regiment in the Low Countries. Another opportunity for active employment offered itself in spring 1597, when Philip II suggested to the Archduke Albert that Stanley might raid the English coast from Dunkirk with a fleet of seven ships. This plan, however, did not receive endorsement in Brussels. Subsequently the regiment’s membership dwindled to such an extent that it was disbanded and its members distributed among other bands.
By this stage Stanley’s intrigues against England had acquired a more overtly political character. Along with other English exiles, he endeavoured to establish a board in Flanders dealing with English affairs, which could become a court in exile centred around the infanta. The intention was that her claims to the English throne might be advanced, following Elizabeth’s death, not by Spaniards but by Englishmen. In the case of a succession dispute Stanley hoped he might lead 3000 men in an attack on England to divert forces away from engaging a fresh Armada. Again these stratagems were put aside. In 1600 Stanley repaired once more to the Spanish court to try and influence the new king Philip III to support direct raids on England from a Flemish base, and also to collect the arrears on his salary. However, the catastrophic Irish enterprise, which foundered with the decisive English victory at Kinsale, was being pursued at the time. In December 1602 the Archduke Albert’s council of war unambiguously and finally rejected Stanley’s invasion plans, but admitted him to their company, effectively ending his active soldiering career.
Following the accession of James I, the treaty of London made all Stanley’s plans for harrying England obsolete. Nevertheless, following the Gunpowder Plot he was accused by his former standard-bearer Guy Fawkes of continuing to harbour designs to invade England. To placate the English king Stanley