Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stanley, Charlotte
STANLEY, CHARLOTTE, Countess of Derby (1599–1664), born at Thouars early in December 1599 (Louise de Coligny, Corresp. ed. 1887, p. 166), was the second child but eldest daughter of Claude de la Trémoille, duc de Thouars, by his wife Charlotte (1580–1626), third daughter of William the Silent, prince of Orange, by his third wife, Charlotte de Bourbon (‘Chartrier de Thouars,’ 1877, pp. 153, 162, 272–9, apud Documents Historiques et Généalogiques; Sainte-Marthe, Hist. Généalogique de la Maison de la Trémoille, 1668, p. 260; Les La Trémoille pendant Cinq Siècles, Nantes, 1890–6). Louisa, wife of the elector palatine Frederick IV, was her aunt; the Duc de Bouillon, head of the French protestants, and Prince Maurice of Nassau were her uncles. Her father died in 1604, and Charlotte spent most of her early days at Thouars, occasionally paying visits to her relatives at The Hague. Her mother came to England in 1625 in the train of Charles I's queen, Henrietta Maria, and during her visit arranged a marriage between Charlotte and James Stanley, lord Strange (afterwards seventh Earl of Derby) [q. v.] Charlotte was then staying at The Hague with Elizabeth, the daughter of James I and fugitive queen of Bohemia, whose husband, Frederick V, was Charlotte's cousin. There the marriage took place on 26 June 1626 (Belli, Osservazion, p. 95), the ceremony being disturbed by a contest for precedence between the English and French ambassadors. The statement that she was of the same age as her husband was a polite fiction to cover the fact that she was seven years his senior. For sixteen years after her marriage Lady Strange lived quietly with her husband at Knowsley or Lathom House, and during this period she bore him nine children (Stanley Papers, III. ii. pp. cclxxxviii–ccxcii). She remained at Lathom House when, on the outbreak of the civil war, her husband joined the king. Lancashire, however, favoured the parliamentary cause, and by May 1643 Lathom House was the only place held by the king's adherents. No serious steps, however, were taken for its reduction until February 1643–4. On the 25th of that month Sir William Fairfax [q. v.] encamped between Wigan and Bolton, and on the 28th Lathom House was invested. The garrison consisted of three hundred men under six captains and six lieutenants (ib. pp. xciii–iv), but the Countess of Derby (as she had become in the preceding year) reserved all important decisions to herself. A week was occupied in parleys, but the countess rejected with scorn all proposals for surrender, declaring that she and her children would fire the castle and perish in the flames rather than yield. These words were backed by spirited sorties of the garrison on 17–18 and 20 March. On the latter occasion two messengers broke through the enemy's lines, conveying urgent appeals for aid to Prince Rupert and the Earl of Derby. Fairfax now left the command to Alexander Rigby [q. v.] On 10 April the parliamentarians opened a destructive fire with a new mortar, which threatened to put a speedy end to the defence; but about four A.M. on 26 April the garrison made a brilliant sortie and captured the mortar. This exploit disheartened the besiegers, and on 26 May they received news of Rupert's approach from Newark. They retired to Bolton, which Rupert stormed on the 28th, sending the countess as a present twenty-two banners that had lately waved over the heads of her besiegers. The parliamentarians spread a report that the countess, being a better soldier than her husband, dressed herself in man's clothes and in this disguise conducted the defence of Lathom House.
The respite was not of long duration. The battle of Marston Moor (2 July) ruined the royalist cause in Lancashire, and before the end of the month Lathom House was again besieged. The earl, however, had removed with his wife and children to the Isle of Man, and on 8 Dec. following Lathom House surrendered. The countess remained in the Isle of Man until after her husband's execution in 1651. The island was then surrendered by William Christian [q. v.], the deputy-governor, to the parliamentarians, and the countess removed to Knowsley, where she lived until the Restoration, occasionally visiting London. On 9 June 1660 she petitioned that her husband's ‘murderers might be brought to condign punishment.’ But the obloquy cast upon her because of her alleged persecution of Christian is said to have been unmerited (Stanley Papers, III. ii. pp. cclxxiv et seq.). She died at Knowsley on 21 March 1663–4, and was buried near her husband in Ormskirk church.
Vandyck's group of the Earl and Countess of Derby and child in the Clarendon Gallery is one of his finest pictures. The sketch of Lady Derby's figure for this picture is among the original Vandyck drawings in the British Museum (Lady Theresa Lewis, Friends of Clarendon, iii. 338). A portrait by Janssen formerly belonged to the Earl of Liverpool, and two others belong to Earl Fitzwilliam. A portrait belonging to the Earl of Derby, engraved by C. H. Jeens, is prefixed to Madame de Witt's ‘Lady of Latham.’[The large collection of letters from the Countess of Derby to her French relatives, in the possession of the Duc de la Trémoille, were used by Madame de Witt in her Lady of Latham, London, 1869, 8vo, and by M. Marlet in his Charlotte de la Trémoille, Paris, 1895. The latter is the best biography of the countess. Other lives of her are given in Cummings's The Great Stanley, 1847, and the Stanley Papers (Chetham Soc.). For the siege of Lathom House see two anonymous manuscripts, one of which, extant in Ashmolean MS. A. Wood, D. 16, is printed as a sequel to the Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson, 1846; the other, extant in Harl. MS. 2043, was published in 1823, 12mo, and in Ormerod's Civil War Tracts in Lancashire (Chetham Soc.), 1844. The countess is portrayed in Scott's Peveril of the Peak and in Harrison Ainsworth's Leaguer of Lathom. See also Correspondance de Louise de Coligny, ed. MM. Marchegay et Marlet, 1887, passim; Chartrier de Thouars, 1877; Warburton's Prince Rupert; Thurloe and Rushworth's Collections; Gardiner's Civil War; Collins's and G. E. C.'s Peerages; Intermédiaire des Chercheurs et Curieux, xxiv. 588; authorities quoted in Marlet's Charlotte de la Trémoille, pp. xiv–xv, and in art. Stanley, James, seventh Earl of Derby.]