During the medieval period the ownership of the Isle of Man was disputed between the kingdoms of England and Scotland. By the early fifteenth century the Island came into the possession of the English crown and in 1405 Henry IV (1367-1413) made a lifetime grant to Sir John Stanley (c.1350-1414) and his descendants for the Manx feudal and bishopric rights; John Stanley became the King of Mann. In return the Stanley family paid a feudal fee in which they rendered homage and provided two falcons to all future Kings of England on their coronations.
Sir John’s duties to the Crown led him to spend most of his time in Ireland and he never visited the Isle of Man. His son John (c.1386-1437) became King of Mann in 1414 and was recorded to have visited the Island on at least three occasions in 1417, 1422 and 1423; he was known to have presided over two meetings of Tynwald. Sir John was the first King to have the Manx laws written down with the earliest Manx statutes dated from the 1422 Tynwald. Sir John also attempted to reduce the power of the church on the Island and consolidate his rule. For example he stopped canon law taking precedence over civil law, he abolished the right of sanctuary and he made it the clergy’s responsibility to return any sanctuary seekers who were wanted by the law.
Subsequent Kings of Mann Sir Thomas Stanley (c.1405-1459) and Thomas Stanley (1435-1504), 1st Earl of Derby did not visit the Island. Between 1437 and 1507 and beyond the Isle of Man was administered by series of governors and local Manx officials on behalf of the ruler. Thomas Stanley (1485-1521), 2nd Earl of Derby was the first Stanley to adopt the title Lord of Mann; this was most likely a gesture of submission to the newly established Henry VII (1457-1509); despite the downgrade in title his privileges as ruler of Mann did not diminish. Thomas visited the Island in 1507 due to local unrest. By 1572 Henry Stanley (1531-1593), 4th Earl of Derby was Lord of Mann and visited the Island in 1577, 1583 and 1585 for numerous legal and financial matters.
In 1593 Ferdinando Stanley (1559-1594) became Lord of Mann. His premature death in 1594 led to a time of uncertainty for the Stanleys because Ferdinando’s heirs consisted of two daughters and one brother. When his brother William Stanley (1561-1642) became the 6th Earl of Derby, Ferdinando’s daughters felt it was their right to inherit the Isle of Man. The decision was left to Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) and the law lords on the Privy Council. The succession dispute ranged from 1594 until 1609 during which interim Lords of Mann were appointed - Henry Howard (1540-1614), Earl of Northampton in 1607 followed by Robert Cecil (c.1563-1612), Earl of Salisbury in 1608. The Privy Council eventually declared that Ferdinando’s eldest daughter Anne (1580-c.1647) had the right to the Island. Her uncle agreed to purchase the Lordship of Mann and its rights and took his position in 1609. In 1642 James Stanley (1607-1651), 7th Earl of Derby became Lord of Mann but in fact he had represented his father on Island for approximately fifteen years previously (1627). The 7th Earl visited the Island regularly and was known as Yn Stanlagh Mooar ‘The Great Stanley’.
Stanley’s rule was blighted with various issues such as smuggling and the English Civil War (1642-1651). He refused demands that the Isle of Man be surrendered to parliamentary forces after the execution of Charles I (1600-1649) in 1649. In 1651 Stanley was captured in Cheshire and charged with high treason against the Commonwealth of England. He was found guilty and put to death. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) appointed Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671) as his successor during the English Interregnum (1649-1660).In 1660 the English monarchy was restored and Charles II (1630-1685) confirmed the return of the Earl of Derby’s titles and estates to Charles Stanley (1628-1672), 8th Earl of Derby.
The Stanley family ruled the Island uninterrupted from 1660 until 1736 when James Stanley (1664-1736) 10th Early of Derby died without any male issue. His rights to the Island were passed to his closest living male relative, James Murray (1690-1764) 2nd Duke of Atholl, a Scottish cousin. Murray was the grandson of Lady Amelia Sophia Stanley (1633-c.1702), daughter of the 7th Earl of Derby. The Island was governed by the Murray family until 1765 when they sold their feudal rights for £70,000 and revested them to the British Crown.