OK, that sounds a little like a plot for Midsomer Murders.
Actually, it’s my ancestor. Yep, I have a killer in my genes (something that sounds so much like a line from a Carry On movie when I read it out loud).
The man in question was my 21x Great Grandfather, Sir John Stanley, KG, born in 1350 and destined to become Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the titular King of Mann.
John was born to well-to-do parents who brushed with the nobility. John’s father Sir William de Stanley was Master-Forester of the Forest of Wirral and was well known for his tendency for repressive methods of governing.
John and his elder brother William (who inherited his father’s position as Master-Forester) also clearly also inherited his ruthlessness, and became involved in many criminal cases, including a forced entry case, and culminating in a conviction in 1376 for the murder of one Thomas Clotton.
John had, by this time, escaped to France and was serving with no little distinction in the English Army, which led his commander, Sir Thomas Trivet, to successfully petition for his pardon.
In 1385 John married Isabel Lathom, heir to the extensive lands of Sir Thomas Lathom in south-west Lancashire. The marriage took place despite the opposition of John of Gaunt, then head of the English Government, and gave John the sort of wealth and financial security he could never have hoped to have had as the younger son in his own family. John and Isabel had four sons and two daughters.
In 1386, John Stanley began his rise to prominence by taking the role of Deputy to Robert de Vere, Duke of Ireland. After successfully leading an expedition on behalf of de Vere and King Richard II to quell a revolt, he was given the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He proved himself very adept at keeping potential rebels down, and remained a royal favourite. However, John was far more adept at politics than the King imagined, turned his back on Richard, and swore loyalty to Henry Tudor, soon to become King Henry IV.
John fared equally well under Henry’s rule, and his lands and estates grew under the King and his successor, Henry V. In 1405, he was awarded the Knight Order of the garter, granted the position of Sovereign Lord of the Isle of Man, and he self-titled himself King of Mann.
John continued to serve Henry V throughout england and Ireland until his death (during a second spell as Lord Lieutenant) in County Louth in 1414.