HENRY STANLEY, FOURTH
EARL OF DERBY
DURING THE DERBY embassy to Paris, Sir Edward Stafford had written to Walsingham that his affairs were so hectic he could hardly think straight. The main cause of confusion was "my lord of Derby, for though he is so good a natured man that he will be ruled, he is too good a natured man; for when my back is turned every one of his men can over-rule that which anybody hath done with him." 1 Walsingham and the rest of the Privy Council were already well acquainted with the all too malleable, mercurial quality of Derby's character, one that caused him to accede to opposing forces: on the one hand his unruly family and the rest of the Catholic Lancashire gentry; on the other, the fatal power of the Tudor Crown. Following in the footsteps of his father Edward Stanley, the third Earl, Henry Stanley had adapted more successfully than had the Percy family and others to new conditions that dictated an altered style for the ancient nobility.
No longer able to exercise the sweeping authority of earldom that had characterized the tenures of their ancestors, the heads of the Stanley lineage declined to meddle in dissident politics. At the time of the 1569 Rising of the Earls, the aging Edward Derby received an appeal from Northumberland and Westmoreland for help in the common cause, "the Mayntenance of God's trew Religion, and the conserving of the ancyent Nobilitie, with the Safety of your Freinds and their Howses." Derby made no response but forwarded the Earls' rebellious manifesto to the Queen with an explanatory letter stating that he would not "swarve so farre from the Dutie of any good Subjects." 2 Yet Cecil's agent Sir Francis Leek wrote that despite such expressions of loyalty, "ytt resteth dowte‐ full that all the keyes of Lankeshyer do not presentlye hange att the Earle