Wednesday, 2 February 2011

William, Lord Hastings

Relatively few men were knighted in the immediate aftermath of Towton, but one of them was William Hastings. Hastings came from a family with a long record of service to the House of York. In addition, William was a remote cousin of Edward IV, being descended from the Mortimers via Hotspur's widow, Elizabeth Mortimer's second marriage to Lord Camoys. More importantly he was a close personal friend of Edward and few men, if any, had more influence over the new King.

Although remotely related to the 14th century Hastings earls of Pembroke, William's circumstances were quite modest, more gentry than nobility, and in less interesting times he might have remained an obscure squire. After Ludford Bridge he was pardoned for his life only, and his fortunes were very low indeed. Now, knighted on the field, he was soon afterwards promoted to the peerage as Lord Hastings of Hastings (Sussex). He was also made Lord Chamberlain which gave him control of Edward's personal staff and the key advantage of being able to regulate access to the King's person. Unless you were very grand indeed, if you wanted to access Edward you had to go through Hastings. This was obviously a source of profit, as were the various additional lucrative offices that Hastings was able to secure for himself over the rest of the reign.

Hastings seems to have been a popular figure; even Warwick at his most aggressive never took against him. Of course Hastings was (inevitably) married to one of Warwick's sisters, but close kinship was not always a protection from the great earl's wrath. Hastings was to share Edward's more intimate moments - some have suggested that he was more or less or exactly a royal pimp - but there was more to him than this. He was a political manager on a grand scale, a man of unquestionable loyalty, and a good personal friend. Monarchs tend to find such friends in short supply.