Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 1/Hornby Chapel and Sir Edward Stanley

Part I: Legends and Traditions; Hornby Chapel and Sir Edward Stanley.


Sir Edward Stanley, fifth son of Thomas, first Earl of Derby, early received the notice and favour of Henry VIII. It is said of him that "the camp was his school, and his learning the pike and sword." The King's greeting when they met was, "Ho! my soldier." Honour floated in his veins, and valour danced in his spirit. At the battle of Flodden he commanded the rear of the English army, and through his great bravery and skill, he mainly contributed to that memorable victory. A sudden feint inducing the Scots to descend a hill, their stronghold, an opening was caused in their ranks, which Sir Edward Stanley espying, he attacked them on a sudden with his Lancashire bowmen. So unexpected an assault put them into great disorder, which gave the first hopes of success, and kindled fresh courage through the English ranks, ending in the complete overthrow and discomfiture of their enemies. Upon this signal achievement, Sir Edward received from the hand of his royal master a letter of thanks, with an assurance of some future reward. Accordingly, the following year, the King keeping Whitsuntide at Eltham, in Kent, and Sir Edward being in his train, his majesty commanded that, for his valiant acts against the Scots at Flodden—an achievement worthy of his ancestors, who bore an eagle on their crest—he should be created Lord Monteagle; and he had a special summons to Parliament in the same year by the title of Baron Stanley, Lord Monteagle. On various occasions in France, and also in the northern rebellions headed by Aske and Captain Cobbler, he rendered great service both by his bravery and his craft. Marrying into the family of the Harringtons, he resided the latter part of his life at Hornby Castle, engaged in schemes for the most part tending to his own wealth and aggrandisement. Foul surmises prevailed, especially during his later years, as to the means by which he possessed himself of the estates which he then held in right of his lady, and those, too, that he enjoyed through the attainder of her uncle. Sir James Harrington. Stanley acknowledged himself a free-thinker and a materialist—a character of rare occurrence in that age, showing him to be as daring in his opinions as in his pursuits. Amongst his recorded expressions are—"That the soul of man was like the winding-up of a watch; and that when the spring was run down, the man died, and the soul was extinct." He displayed a thorough contempt for the maxims and opinions of the world, and an utter recklessness of its censure or esteem. Dr Whitaker says of him, "From several hints obliquely thrown out by friends as well as enemies, this man appears to have been a very wicked person, of a cast and character very uncommon in those unreflecting times ... There certainly was something very extraordinary about the man, which, amidst the feudal and knightly habits in which young persons of his high rank were then bred, prompted him to speculate, however unhappily, on any metaphysical subject. Now whether this abominable persuasion [of atheism] were the cause or effect of his actual guilt—whether he had reasoned himself into materialism in order to drown the voice of conscience, or fell into the sin of murder because he had previously reasoned himself out of all ideas of responsibility, does not appear; but his practice, as might have been expected, was suited to his principles, and Hornby was too rich a bait to a man who hoped for no enjoyment but in the present life, and feared no retribution in another. Accordingly we find him loudly accused of having poisoned his brother-in-law, John Harrington, by the agency of a servant; and he is suspected also of having, through subornation of perjury, proved, or attempted to prove, himself tenant of the Honour of Hornby." Mr Roby has written a pleasant fiction, based on the character and imputed crimes of Lord Monteagle, in which he represents him as occupying midnight vigils in the castle-turret, in "wizard spells and rites unholy." He sends for the parson of Slaidburn, that he may put him to shame in an argument on the authenticity of the Christian religion; but the parson has the better of the argument, and does not fear to taunt the ruthless baron with the murder of John Harrington, whom he styles "my lady's cousin." The dispute with the parson ends with an apparition of the murdered man, in the form of a thick white cloud, and the unbelieving baron becomes an altered man. Under the ministrations of the worthy parson, he became gradually more enlightened; his terrors were calmed, and he at length accepted Christianity as truth. Soon afterwards arose that noble structure the chapel of Hornby, bearing on its front the following legend:—"Edwardus Stanley, Miles, Dñs Monteagle, me fieri fecit"—(Edward Stanley, Knight, Lord Monteagle, caused me to be erected). Its foundation was generally ascribed to some vow made at Flodden; but at that time the bold soldier was not a vower of vows; and Mr Roby thinks that his conversion from infidelity is the more probable cause of his chapel-building. It is recorded that Edward Stanley, Baron Monteagle, died in the faith he had once despised.