James Stanley (bishop)
Described as the tallest man in England and reputed to be some 6 feet 7 inches tall, he took holy orders after university study, but, although regarded as a popular man, was not considered either a natural scholar or celibate. (There is an apocryphal story of Erasmus turning him down as a pupil.) Like most senior churchmen of his period, he was a pluralist and is believed to have lived with a woman, fathering at least one illegitimate child. Besides being renowned as a skilled soldier and an enthusiastic huntsman, he is also credited with a great interest in cockfighting. He was cited in Protestant propaganda of later centuries as an example of the corruption of the Medieval Church, although his decision to take orders can hardly have been voluntary, but rather a further means of consolidating the dynastic ambitions of his already powerful family. His appointment as bishop was made by papal bull of Pope Julius II.
He was buried in a tomb in what is now Manchester Cathedral, then a collegiate church, patronised by several generations of the Stanley family, and which he had enriched as Warden. The tomb, together with the Ely Chapel that housed it, was destroyed during the Blitz although the original, contemporary brass memorial has survived. There is also a memorial for the safe return of his alleged son (and certainly kinsman) Sir John Stanley from the Battle of Flodden in 1513; the St John the Baptist chapel, which incorporates the original site of the Ely Chapel, was built by James and John. The Stanley coat of arms can still be seen decorating the roof of this chapel, which is now dedicated to the memory of the Manchester Regiment.
He died on 22 March 1515 and was later remembered thus:
|“||A goodlie tall man as was in all England
And sped well all matters that he took in hand
From the Ancient Metrical History of the House of Stanley.
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- Jones, B. Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1300-1541: volume 6: Northern province (York, Carlisle and Durham): Archdeacons: Richmond. Institute for Historical Research.
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|Catholic Church titles|
|Bishop of Ely