The Stanley family or Audley-Stanley family is a family with many notable members including the Earls of Derby and Barons Audley who are descended from the early holders of Audley, Staffordshire, England. The Audley family in the male line has lost prominence after their considerable estates were passed by a number of female heiresses in different branches of the family.
The use of "Stanley" as a first name began with political followers of the family.
The first mention of Audley, Staffordshire is in the Domesday book of 1086, when it was called Aldidelege (Aldithley), when the lands were held by an English thegn called Gamel. The descent of the Audley and Stanley families can be traced back as far as an Englishman named Ligulf of Aldithley, who held the estate not long after the Domesday survey but whose relationship, if any, to Gamel is unknown. The family later fabricated a Norman origin, at that time more prestigious than an English one, by presenting Ligulf, despite his non-Norman name and the English etymology of Aldithley, as the lord of a fictitious 'Aldithley in Normandy', and his son Adam as a follower of William the Conqueror.
The extended Audley family, originally of Audley Castle but who later built (or re-built) Heighley Castle, Madeley, Staffordshire in 1226, had several additional households including Red Castle at Hawkstone in Shropshire, Buglawton Manor in Congleton, Newhall Tower at Newhall, Cheshire  and a home in Nantwich. In the early 12th century Adam's grandson William married Joan de Stanley heiress of Stoneleigh, Staffordshire thereby becoming William de Stanley of Stoneleigh. This branch of the Audley thus took the name Stanley and Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby was a direct descendant.
The main line of the Audley family, who had become Baron Audley in 1313, failed in 1391 when Nicholas Audley, 3rd Baron Audley died without a male heir. His sister Joanne married Sir John Tuchet (b 1327) for whose descendant John Tuchet (b 1371) the title of 4th Baron Audley was granted in 1408. He was succeeded by his son James Touchet, 5th Baron Audley. Later generations of the Tuchets became Earl of Castlehaven.
Another branch of the Audley family was created by Hugh Audley of Stratton Audley, Baron Audley from 1317, whose son became 1st Earl of Gloucester. His daughter and heir Margaret de Audley, 2nd Baroness Audley was abucted by Ralph de Stafford, 1st Earl of Stafford to become his second wife, which despite some scandal, the king allowed.
The last very prominent male to carry the Audley name was Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden KG, PC, KS (c. 1488 – 30 April 1544), an English barrister and judge who served as Lord Chancellor of England from 1533 to 1544, and earlier Speaker of the House of Commons. In typical Audley style, he left no sons and his estates passed via his daughter Margaret Audley, Duchess of Norfolk to the Howard family. She was both the cousin and sister-in-law of Lady Jane Grey, the latter by her first marriage to Lord Henry Dudley, the youngest son of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, who later died.
Between 1405 and 1736 the Stanleys were first King of Mann and later Lord of Mann (this with some gaps), a title reflecting the special status of the Isle of Man, that was later sold back to the Crown.
The Audley and Stanley families and their descendants remained prominent throughout the history of England and Ireland into modern times. The Stanleys were, at one time, one of the richest landowning families in England.
Latham family and "Eagle and child" Coat of Arms
In 1385, Isabella de Lathom, the eldest daughter of parents who had no male heir, married Sir John Stanley and the Latham family (originally Lathom or Lothe Hom – "Brick house" from Lathom, Lancashire) and Stanley families became linked. Following this marriage, the Stanley family adopted the 'eagle and child' arms of the Lathom family and continue to use it to this day.
Several successive generations of the Stanley Earls, along with other members of the family, have been prominent members of the Conservative Party, and at least one historian has suggested that this family rivals the Cecils (Marquesses of Salisbury) as the single most important family in the party's history.
- Baron Audley
- Henry de Aldithley/Audley c. 1175–1246, Lord of the Welsh Marches, governor of Carmarthen castle and Cardigan Castle, Sheriff of Salop and Staffordshire from 1216 until 1221, constable of Shrewsbury Castle and Bridgnorth Castle,Governor of Shrewsbury, Chester Castle and Beeston Castle, governor of Newcastle-under-Lyne. He married Bertred Mainwaring.
- James de Aldithley c. 1220–1272, a prominent marcher lord and High Sheriff of Staffordshire and Shropshire.
- Emma de Audley c. 1224, daughter of Henry de Audley & Bertrade de Mainwaring, who married Gruffydd II ap Madog, Lord of Dinas Bran Prince of Powys
- Hugh de Audley, 1st Earl of Gloucester c. 1291 – 10 November 1347
- James Audley founder knight of the Order of the Garter c. 1316–1386
- Margaret de Audley, 2nd Baroness Audley c. 1318–1347, successor of her father, Hugh de Audley, 1st Earl of Gloucester and wife of Ralph de Stafford, 1st Earl of Stafford
- James Touchet, 5th Baron Audley
- Thomas Audley, 1st Baron Audley of Walden Lord Chancellor
- Earl of Derby, first creation and later creations
- Baron Stanley
- Baron Stanley of Alderley
- John I Stanley of the Isle of Man 1350–1414, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1413-9, Lord and titular King of Mann from 1406.
- Thomas Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley 1405–1459 King of Mann, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Constable of Chester Castle, Comptroller of the Royal Household in 1439.
- Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby 1435–1504
- Thomas Stanley, 2nd Earl of Derby 1477–1521
- Edward Stanley, 3rd Earl of Derby 1509–1572, Lord High Steward.
- Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby 1531–1593, Lord of Mann
- Ferdinando, the fifth Earl of Derby, Baron Strange of Knockin, 1559–1594, patron of, amongst others, William Shakespeare
- Lady Frances Stanley 1583–1636, daughter of Ferdinando (who married John Egerton, 1st Earl of Bridgewater, son of Thomas Egerton, 1st Viscount Brackley, Chancellor of England, created 1st Lord Ellesmere)
- Edward Stanley, Earls of Derby
- Stanley (surname) List of people with Stanley surname