Hastings, William, Lord Hastings

(c. 1430–1483)
   William Hastings, Lord Hastings, was a personal friend and loyal supporter of EDWARD IV, and, as the most important supporter of EDWARDV in 1483, was summarily executed by Richard, duke of Gloucester (see Richard III, King of England).
   Born into a Leicestershire GENTRY family that had long served the house of YORK, Hastings, like his father, was a RETAINER of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York. He was with the Yorkist army at the Battle of LUDFORD BRIDGE in 1459 and joined the forces of York’s son, Edward, earl of March, after the earl’s victory at the Battle of MORTIMER’S CROSS in 1461. Present in LONDON when March was proclaimed king as Edward IV, Hastings was several weeks later knighted by Edward on the field of TOWTON. Quickly rewarded with lands and offices, Hastings was soon known to be high in the king’s confidence, a personal friend of unshakable loyalty who shared Edward’s tastes. He was a member of the COUNCIL by April 1461 and a member of the PEERAGE by the following June. In the same year, he was appointed master of the mint and lord chamberlain. The latter office was highly lucrative, for it allowed Hastings to control access to the king. Many important people, including both Elizabeth WOODVILLE, on her first appearance at COURT, and Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, paid him to exercise his influence with Edward on their behalf. By the 1470s, Hastings was receiving handsome pensions from both LOUIS XI of FRANCE and Duke CHARLES of BURGUNDY. The king also granted Hastings extensive estates in the Midlands, a traditionally Lancastrian region that Edward was anxious to pacify. Thanks largely to the position of trust that he enjoyed at court, Hastings soon became so influential in the Midlands that he could retain men simply on the promise of “good lordship” without the usual monetary payment (see Bastard Feudalism).
   In 1470, Hastings fled with Edward to Burgundy. On their return to England in 1471, Hastings quickly raised 3,000 men on his Midland estates, the first significant body of reinforcements to join Edward. Hastings commanded the Yorkist left at the Battle of BARNET and the right wing at the Battle of TEWKESBURY. After Edward’s restoration, Hastings served on various diplomatic missions, becoming well known at foreign courts, especially Burgundy, where he had helped negotiate the duke’s 1468 marriage to Edward’s sister, MARGARET OF YORK. He accompanied Edward on the French expedition of 1475 and was named governor of CALAIS in 1471, an appointment that angered the queen, who wanted that important post for her brother, Anthony WOODVILLE, Earl Rivers. The queen also disliked Hastings because he was, in the words of Dominic MANCINI,“the accomplice and partner of [the king’s] privy pleasures” (Ross, Edward IV, p. 74). Although Hastings seems, for one of his position, to have had few enemies—in his HISTORY OF KING RICHARD III, Sir Thomas More called him “an honourable man, a good knight and . . . passing well-beloved” (Ross, Edward IV, p. 73)—his rivalry with the WOODVILLE FAMILY, and especially with the queen’s son, Thomas GREY, marquis of Dorset, so intensified in the early 1480s that Edward IV tried to reconcile the two on his deathbed. After the king’s death in April 1483, Hastings’s antipathy toward the Woodvilles made him an early ally of Richard, duke of Gloucester, Edward’s brother. However, Hastings’s loyalty to Edward V, his late master’s son, was deep, and when Gloucester realized that the influential peer would not countenance Edward’s removal from the throne, the duke struck Hastings down. At the famous COUNCIL MEETING OF 13 JUNE 1483 in the TOWER OF LONDON, Gloucester accused Hastings of plotting treason with the queen and Jane SHORE, a former mistress of Edward IV with whom Hastings may have recently begun a relationship. Seized by Thomas HOWARD who led armed men into the council chamber on Gloucester’s command, Hastings was summarily executed on Tower Hill without trial. Although no evidence of any Hastings-Woodville conspiracy exists beyond Gloucester’s accusation, such a plot is not impossible given Hastings’s well-known loyalty to Edward IV and his sons.
   See also Usurpation of 1483
   Further Reading: Hicks, Michael,“Lord Hastings’ Indentured Retainers?” in Richard III and His Rivals: Magnates and Their Motives in the Wars of the Roses (London: Hambledon Press, 1991); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Seward, Desmond, The Wars of the Roses (New York:Viking, 1995);“William Lord Hastings,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1991), pp. 345–346.

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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