Sir John Fastolfe was an influential member of the gentry. He held lands in East Anglia and positions in London. Fastolfe died without natural heirs, and the execution of his will became a long and bitter affair. The arrangements were handled mainly by William Worcester, who on 21 July 1460 was working on the matter in Norwich. What is particularly interesting about Worcester’s work on the execution of the will is its timing. He was travelling as the Wars of the Roses bursts into life.
In the year from May 1460 to May 1461, Worcester travels extensively. He travelled to London on 9 May 1460 and stayed until 6 June. Then he returned to Norwich via Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds. Another journey to London saw him arrive in the capital on on 21 July 1460. He travelled through the Midlands to Bristol, taking in Buckingham, Coventry and Withybridge en route from London. He then returned to London briefly before returning to Norwich. He again visited London in January of 1461.
In February 1461, he sent an assistant on a journey, the only time he chose not to travel himself. He then travelled again in spring. There were 5 major battles in this period, a siege of London, a destructive advance south by Queen Margaret’s army and numerous commissions of array.
The roads are busy with armies marching. And yet Worcester can move freely around the country, with little hindrance to own work. As historian K. B. McFarlane noted, for many people, the Wars of the Roses had minimal impact on their way of life; it went on as usual.
Sir John Fastolfe’s Will
Fastolfe’s Will is a long and sometimes difficult to read document. Several translations of it are available online. Like many people, Sir john wrote drafts of his will, amended it, created inventories of his possessions, and itemised his wishes in great detail. This provides a historian with a great deal of information about the wealth accumulated by Sir John as a result of his participation in the Hundred Years War.
Sir John Fastolfe’s Will, November 1459.
A wide range of letters and documents pertaining to Sir John Fastolfe’s will, death, the execution of his will, and his financial arrangements are collated in Selection from the Paston letters as transcribed by Sir John Fenn. Arr. and edited by Alice Drayton Greenwood, Part V.
The Gutenberg Project provides Volume 3 of the Paston Letters in several formats. Ebook reader files with and without images are available, as either epub or kindle files, and the entire volume is also available as a html page.
Sir John Fastolfe. Portrait of Sir John Fastolf, bust-length, turned to the right, looking upwards with his visor open and a feathered crest on his helmet, in fanciful plate armour and with a large broadsword held over his shoulder, a medallion on a chain about his neck, his shield on his right arm with two escallops within a bend dexter; after an illustration in the Oxford Almanack (1731), illustration to Harding’s “The Biographical Mirrour” (1796). Etching with stipple. O’Donoghue 1908-25 / Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum (1) © The Trustees of the British Museum, released for non commercial uses under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.