Lord Thomas Stanley was created the 1st Earl of Derby in 1485 after the Battle of Bosworth when Richard III lost the crown of England to Henry Tudor. The Earldom is a local title, coming from the Hundred of West Derby, an important administrative area until the 17th century which included Knowsley and the small port of Liverpool.
Since then the history of the Stanley family has been closely intertwined with the history of the country as a whole. It was Lord Stanley who recovered the crown of the slain Richard III and placed it on his stepson Henry Tudor’s head. The fifth Earl maintained a company of actors one of whom was William Shakespeare. William, the sixth Earl, continued the family’s patronage of Shakespeare; indeed `A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was first performed at his wedding to Elizabeth de Vere in front of Queen Elizabeth I.
James, the seventh Earl, was beheaded at Bolton after the Battle of Worcester in 1652 for his loyalty to the Stuart monarchy. The twelfth Earl (pictured left) gave his name to the famous Derby horserace which he started in 1780. Edward, the thirteenth Earl, was an eminent natural historian who maintained a menagerie in Knowsley Park. His son, the fourteenth Earl was Prime Minister three times during Queen Victoria’s reign.
The fifteenth was Foreign Secretary in a Conservative Government and Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Liberal Government. The sixteenth Earl was President of the Board of Trade and Governor General of Canada. The seventeenth was Minister of War during the First World War and British Ambassador to France after the war. The eighteenth Earl founded the Safari Park in 1971; his nephew, the current Earl, inherited the title and Estate in 1994.