The Trial and Execution of William, Lord Hastings

William, lord Hastings was executed in June 1483 on charges of plotting against Richard duke of Gloucester, the Protector of the Realm. Arrested at a Council meeting on 13th June, he was said to be implicated along with the Archbishop of York and Bishop of Ely of a conspiracy. Others, including Thomas, lord Stanley, were also held for a short period of time in relation to the threat to the Protector. The Trial and Execution of William, Lord Hastings eliminated a potential threat to Richard duke of Gloucester. It is not entirely clear whether Hastings was involved in a plot, or whether Richard had ulterior motives. 

Context behind the Trial and Execution of William, Lord Hastings

Whether or not there was any plot involving Lord Hastings is hard to establish. The timing of his arrest and subsequent execution [date of execution is contested, either the 13th June or 20th June, 1483] is days after Richard had written to the City of York asking for assistance [military] against those working in conjunction with the Queen’s family against his governance. Politically it was a time of great tension, there was evidence of some of the Woodville family bearing arms [Edward Woodville]. Whether Hastings, who had ensured Richard heard of Edward IV’s death at the earliest opportunity, had really opted to conspire with them so soon after ensuring they did not control the young king, is very much a matter of debate.

Trial and Execution of William, lord Hastings
Trial and Execution of William, lord Hastings

The Trial and Execution of William, Lord Hastings

Croyland Chronicle

In the meanwhile, the lord Hastings, who seemed to wish in every way to serve the two dukes and to be desirous of their favour, was extremely elated at these changes to which the affairs of this world are so subject, and was in the habit of saying that hitherto nothing whatever had been done except the transferring of the government of the kingdom from two of the queen’s blood to two more powerful persons of the king’s; and this, too, effected without any slaughter, or indeed causing as much blood to be shed as would be produced by a cut finger. In the course, however, of a very few days after the utterance of these words, this extreme joy of his was supplanted by sorrow. For, the day previously, the Protector had, with singular adroitness, divided the council, so that one part met in the morning at Westminster, and the other at the Tower of London, where the king was. The lord Hastings, on the thirteenth day of the month of June, being the sixth day of the week, on coming to the Tower to join the council, was, by order of the Protector, beheaded. Two distinguished prelates, also, Thomas, archbishop of York, and John, bishop of Ely, being, out of respect for their order, held exempt from capital punishment, were carried prisoners to different castles in Wales. The three strongest supporters of the new king being thus removed without judgment or justice, and all the rest of his faithful subjects fearing the like treatment, the two dukes did thenceforth just as they pleased.

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