[From Manx Note Book vol 3]

A Short Account of  Sir John Stanley

Decorative Heading - Douglas harbourTHE FIRST SIR JOHN STANLEY DOES NOT SEEM TO HAVE EVER VISITED HIS LITTLE REALM OF MANN, which was granted by King Henry IV. to him and his heirs in 1406. He died in lreland, of which kingdom he was Lord Lieutenant on the 6th of January, 1414. Sir John Stanley Il. (see annexed portrait), his eldest son by Isabel, only daughter of Sir Thomas Latham, of Latham, and Knowsley, had "received the Land as Heyre apparent" in his father's days. There is, however, no record of his having returned there until 1417, when a serious rising against his Lieutenant-Governor, John Letherland, required his presence. On his arrival he proceeded to hold a Tynwald Court at St. John's, to which the Barons, Deemsters, Officers, Tenants, Inhabitants and Commons of the Land were summoned according to ancient custom. When all were assembled the Deemsters declared the "Constitution of Old Time"; they instructed their Lord in the proper ceremonial of the Tynwald Court; they informed him of the fealty due from the Barons and Commons and of the penalty for not doing it; they enumerated the duties of "Watch and Ward," also the regulations as to garrisons, the rents payable to him, and the Coroner's procedure in arrests"and, finally, they decided that those who had risen against the Lieutenant were legally liable to be "drawne, hanged, and quartered," as the Lieutenant represents the person of the King.1 ,These," says Sacheverell, "are the oldest records we have extant, and may truly be called the original of their laws, to which the people by a universal acclamation gave their assent."2 Sir John departed soon after this, having appointed Thurstan de Tyldesley and Roger Haysnap as his Commissioners to settle the affairs of the Isle. In January, 1417, we find that they drew up an indenture with the Deemster and Keys concerning the rights of sanctuary, from which it would appear that the spiritual Barons who had not yet made their fealty, and who, in the constant absences of their king, had probably become accustomed to virtual independence, were still abdurate. The two commissioners departed at the end of the year (February), and early in 1418, John Fazakerly was appointed Governor [fpc - see notes to Garrison Roll]. He was succeeded in 1422 by John Walton, whom the people, who were evidently discontented with the strict system of law now inaugurated, attempted to kill while sitting in Court at Kirk Michael, in the early summer of that year. Learning of this Sir John came to the Island and summoned a special Tynwald Court of all the "Tennants and Commons of Mann"3 to meet him at the Hill of Rencurling, close by the scene of the recent disturbance. At this Court, which took place on the 22nd of August, the culprits were sentenced to death " without quest," but such as submitted to the Lord's grace were pardoned. Fealty was then done by the Bishops and other spiritual Barons, who had probably found that the struggle against their Lord was hopeless; "Watch and Ward" were again ordained and proclaimed, and the laws were confirmed by "Sir John Stanley, by the Grace of God, King of Mann and the Isles, and by the best of the Commons of the Isle of Mann."3 Later on in the year he summoned his Deemsters and the 24 Keys to Castle Rushen to inform him upon the law in various points which he laid before them; "To which the said Deemsters with the XXIV. gave for law that these be the points of your prerogatives."3 These prerogatives related to aliens, outlaws, murders, robberies, &c. ; the law against santuary was then confirmed; regulations for agriculture, trade, maintenance of soldiers, &c., were laid down; and, most important of all, the following statement concerning the ancient constitution was placed on record :-" that there was never 24 Keys in certainty, since they were first that were called taxiaxi, these were 24 Free Houlders, viz., 8 in the out Isles, and 16 in your land of Mann, and that was in King Orrye's Days ; but since they have not been in certainty. But if a strange point had come, the which the Lieutenant will have reserved to the Tynwald twice in the yeare, and by leave of the Lieutenant the Deemster were to call of the best to his Councell in that point as he thinketh to give judgement by, and without the Lord's will none of the 24 Keys be."3 After events shewed that this statement was considered incorrect, and contrary to the true constitution, but, as the Island was probably well garrisoned, discontent was smothered, if not supressed. In 1428, Henry Byron [sic ? Byrom] was appointed Lieutenant-Governor, and, in the following year, he presided in "a court of all the Commons of Mann holden at Tynwald,"3 when trial by battle was abolished, and a uniformity of weights and measures established. These were useful measures, though they would seem of small account to a people who were clearly still struggling to obtain the right of elealng their representatives. Their struggles, however, soon resulted successfully, as,in 1430, Byron, doubtless after consulting his master, held "a court of all the Commons of Mann," at which "vj men of every shedding were chosen by the whole Commons."3 From the thirty-six thus elected, the Governor, as we learn from the original record, selected the "24 worthiest." Two years after this great reform, Sir John Stanley died at the early age of forty-one.4

He may justly be considered an enlightened and upright ruler, much in advance of his time. He caused the ancient laws and constitutions of his little kingdom to be reduced to writing, he humbled the overbearing ecclesiastical authorities, and, after he had practically concentrated all power into his own hands, he wisely conceded a representative form of government. Whether the Isle of Mann had enjoyed such a constitution before 1430 or not, we cannot tell, for on this point we have only the assertion of Sacheverell to rely upon, but, however this may be, it is at any rate clear, that it was afterwards lost, either through the usurpation of Sir John Stanley's successors, or the neglect of the people.

1 Statute Law Book.
Manx Society, Vol. 1.
Statute Law Book
4 This is the date given by
Seacombe, the family historian, who is probably the most reliable authority on this subject.




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