William, Lord Hastings

HASTINGS, WILLIAM, Lord Hastings (1430?–1483), was son of Sir Leonard Hastings, who was descended from a younger son of William Hastings, steward to Henry II, and was a retainer of Richard, duke of York; his mother was Alice, daughter of Lord Camoys. He was born about 1430, and on the death of his father succeeded to the family estates in Leicestershire and Warwickshire, and was named sheriff of both counties. He received an annuity from the Duke of York on condition that he should serve him before all others, and at all times, his allegiance to the king alone excepted. He was highly recommended by the duke to his son, afterwards Edward IV. Edward, on his accession to the throne, rewarded Hastings’s services in the civil war by appointing him receiver of the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall (1463), master of the mint (1461), grand chamberlain of the royal household (1461–1483), chamberlain of North Wales (1461–1469), and lieutenant of Calais (1471). In the last capacity he is several times alluded to in the ‘Paston Letters,’ about the years 1474 and 1477. He was made a baron in 1461, and received large grants of the forfeited estates of the Lancastrians. In right of his wife Katherine, daughter of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, and widow of Lord Bonville, he obtained additional gifts of estates in Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, and Suffolk. He was present at the king’s coronation at Westminster in 1461; next year he accompanied Edward in his expedition to the north, and was one of the lords sent to Carlisle in July to receive the Queen of Scots (Paston Letters, ii. 110). He undertook the siege of Dunstanburgh with a force of ten thousand men. On 21 March 1462 he was installed knight of the Garter, and in 1464 was joined in a commission with the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Northumberland to treat with James III of Scotland for a truce between the two countries. While master of the mint he introduced the coinage of gold nobles worth 100d., and two other gold pieces worth 50d. and 25d. respectively. On 28 March 1465 he was deputed, together with Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, to treat with the representatives of Charles the Bold for an alliance, and in May Warwick, Hastings, and five others were directed to treat with the ambassadors of Philip, duke of Burgundy, for mercantile intercourse, and also to treat with Francis of Brittany, Lewis of France, and Charles the Bold (Fœdera, xi. 541–3). In 1466 he was one of the ambassadors to treat with Burgundy as to commercial relations, and to negotiate marriages between Margaret, sister of Edward IV and Charles the Bold, and between George, duke of Clarence, and Mary, daughter of Charles; and in this year he was again directed to conduct negotiations with the French king (ib. xi. 562–6). In 1467 he was once more negotiating for the marriage between Charles and Margaret (ib. xi. 590). Upon Edward’s escape from Middleham Castle to London in 1469, Hastings aided him in raising new forces. He was at this time reappointed chamberlain of North Wales. Upon Warwick’s invasion in 1470 Hastings informed the king of the danger, urged him to escape, and accompanied him on horseback to Lynn in Norfolk, whence Edward sailed to Holland. During Edward’s absence Hastings was active in stirring up the zeal of the Yorkists. A bond (preserved in Dugdale’s Baronage, although dated four years later) was probably first entered into at this juncture. It is signed by two lords, nine knights, and forty-eight esquires, who engage to aid Hastings against all persons within the kingdom, and to raise as many men as they can, to be armed at the expense of Hastings. Upon Edward’s return in March 1471 Hastings was instrumental in bringing over Clarence to his side, and was present at their first interview thereupon at Banbury. At the battle of Barnet Hastings commanded the third division, which was opposed to that of Montague, and included three thousand mounted horsemen. He is said to have taken part in the death of the Lancastrian Prince Edward after the battle of Tewkesbury. In 1475 Hastings was sent to France with an invading force. A treaty of peace followed. The French and English kings met at Picquigny, near Amiens, and Hastings received from Louis a yearly annuity of two thousand crowns. He was apparently the only English noble present, who made some difficulty about receiving the money, and he formally refused to grant any receipt for it, alleging as a reason that he did not wish it to be said that the chamberlain of England was a pensioner of the king of France. He was less scrupulous with the Duke of Burgundy, from whom he received a yearly annuity of a thousand crowns. Comines, who says that he first introduced Hastings to Charles and afterwards to Louis, knew Hastings well, and describes him as a person of singular wisdom and virtue, in great authority with his master, whom he had served faithfully. Comines states that Louis XI gave Hastings on one occasion a service of plate of the value of ten thousand marks. Hastings was one of the lords who swore fealty to King Edward’s eldest son. Hastings was on bad terms with the queen, who had been offended by his appointment to the governorship of Calais, which post she desired for her brother Earl Rivers. But he had been able to maintain a high position, on account of his well-known tried fidelity to the king. The king on his deathbed entreated him to be reconciled to the queen. When she afterwards proposed to the council that her son, Edward V, should be escorted to London with a strong army, Hastings passionately demanded whether the army was intended ‘against the people of England or against the good Duke of Gloucester.’ He threatened to retire to Calais if Rivers approached with an army. When, however, Gloucester tried by means of William Catesby [q. v.] to bring Hastings into his designs, Hastings seemed disposed to join the queen’s party. He attended the council in the Tower (14 June 1483) in spite of a warning from Stanley. The scene which followed is described by Sir Thomas More, who heard of it from Cardinal Morton, then bishop of Ely, an eye-witness (Gairdner, Richard III, p. 81). More’s account is dramatised by Shakespeare. Gloucester charged Hastings with treason, and he was immediately taken out and beheaded on a block of timber at the Tower. His body was buried in the north aisle of the chapel of St. George’s in Windsor Castle, near the tomb of Edward IV. Edward, his son and heir, who was seventeen years of age at this time, was father of George Hastings, first earl of Huntingdon [q. v.] Hastings also left two younger sons, Richard and William, and a daughter Anne, married to George, earl of Shrewsbury. There are many slight references to Hastings in the ‘Paston Letters,’ including two letters by Hastings to John Paston (iii. 96, 107).

[Stow’s Annals; Holinshed; Dugdale’s Baronage, i. 580; Rymer’s Fœdera, orig. ed.; De Comines’ Mémoires; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Doyle’s Official Baronage.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 25
Hastings, William by James Gainsborough Fotheringham ‎


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