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.

4 comments:

Caroline said...

Brian, thanks for the posts on Towton and Lord Hastings. I once read a comment on a blog (I can't remember which one) which stated that RIII might have been better off if he'd summarily executed Stanley and kept Hastings alive. I'm not so sure...Hastings first loyalty was to EIV above everyone else, and if he came to believe that RIII was planning to take the throne for himself, he would have fought for EV's rights tooth and nail.
As for Hastings being a royal pimp, I'm sure that's at least partly true. I believe that's how EIV met Elizabeth Woodville- she caught Hastings' eye after arranging the marriage of her son to his daughter, and out of courtesy he let best friend the King have a go at her first. Of course, not one anticipated EW wouldn't let desperation get the best of her and instead decide to hold out for marriage.

Ragged Staff said...

Nice post, Brian! Hastings certainly seems to have been a colourful character. If his words about her in his will are anything to go by, he may not have been faithful to his wife (Katheryn Nevill) but he did at least seem to have been fond of her.

Caroline, you might have read that bit you refer to on the Feast, where I quoted it from Hancock's book. He was talking more about Bosworth than anything else. I tend to agree with you, Richard would have had a hard time with Hastings if he'd survived. And an interesting point about EW. Maybe things would have worked out better if Hastings hadn't been thinking of his friend the king...

John Foelster said...

Now I have this image in my mind of Hastings hanging around the court with numerous gold chains, rings, a walking stick, and an enormous feathered hat. Now that I think about it, that isn't so inaccurate.

Chris Blackwell said...

Apparently Lord Hastings is my Great x-15 Grandfather! I'm having a lot of fun reading more about him. Thank you!