SIR WILLIAM STANLEY OF HOLT: POLITICS AND FAMILY ALLEGIANCE IN THE LATE FIFTEENTH CENTURY* IT is difficult to evaluate the political careers of younger sons. They were often faced with the need to reconcile broader family loyalties with their own concern to establish a separate landed estate (and in some cases a separate title) and to hand it on to their descendants. Such tensions can be seen at work in the case of John Neville in the difficult years 1469-71, when the failure of Edward IV's arrangements to compensate him for the loss of the earldom of Northumberland was as important as any wish to demonstrate his sympathy for the ambitions of his elder brother, Warwick the Kingmaker.' Similar complexities emerge in any attempt to assess the significance of Sir William Stanley, the younger brother of Thomas, second Lord Stanley. Recent work on the Bosworth campaign has rightly placed much greater emphasis than hitherto on the assistance received by Henry Tudor from Sir William in the crucial phase of his march, as he crossed from central Wales to the west midlands. William's intervention may well have assisted Henry's entry into Shrewsbury and his subsequent recruitment of followers in Shropshire and Staffordshire. In addition, William Stanley's office of chief justice of north Wales enabled him to assemble a powerful retinue of his own at his castle of Holt: a following which was committed with decisive effect on the field of battle.2 How far had he, as a successful and able younger son, been able to exploit the influence and affinity built up by his family over I am grateful to Dr. A. D. Carr and Dr. R. E. Horrox for their comments on this article. According to the chronicle of John Warkworth, Edward IV of late tyme hade made hym Markes of Montagu, and yaff a pyes neste to mayntayne his astate withe, wherefor he yaff knoleage to his peple that he wulde holde withe the Erie of Warwyke, his brothere, and take Kynge Edwarde if he myght J. Warkworth, A Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of the. Reign of King Edward the Fourth, ed. J. O. Halliwell (Camden Soc., 1839), pp. 10-11. Some examples of conflict of interests between older and younger sons are given in R. A. Houlbrooke, The English Family, 1450-1700 (1984), p. 42. 2 R. A. Griffiths and R. S. Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (Gloucester, 1985), pp. 150-52; M. J. Bennett, The Battle of Bosworth (Gloucester, 1985), pp. 170-75. The emphasis on the role of Sir William Stanley before and during Bosworth is one of the themes of the Stanley literary tradition. The Most Pleasant Song of Lady Bessy (Percy Soc., XX, 1847) describes how Sir William enabled Henry Tudor to enter Shrewsbury (pp. 34-36), an account made more plausible by the support for Tudor within the town from Sir Richard Corbet, Stanley's step-son: H. Owen and J. B. Blakeway, A History of Shrewsbury (2 vols., 1825), I, 248. A significant reference in a later ballad, on the battle of Flodden, ascribes the rivalry between Howards and Stanleys to Sir William's slaying of the duke of Norfolk at Bosworth: The Stanley Papers, I (Chetham Soc., XXIX. 1853), 8. The military importance of Stanley's office of chief justice can be seen from the career of William, Lord Herbert, chief justice of south Wales, 1461-68: R. A. Griffiths, The Principality of Wales in the Later Middle Ages, I (Cardiff, 1972), 24, 155-56.