Section One

The de Verdun (1027 - 1316)


"Know present and future people that I Rohesia de Verdun, have granted and by this my charter confirmed, to god and St Mary and to the church of the holy trinity of the grace of god at Belton and to the servants of Christ, the nuns in the same church serving god, in pure and perpetual alms, for me and my Heirs, and for the souls of my parents and all my ancestors, and of my husbands all the manor of Belton".

 So begins the charter of foundation of Gracedieu priory in Leicestershire, confirmed by king Henry III in 1242. The lady who made this seemingly generous gift to the nuns of the order of St Austin was Rohesia de Verdun, the daughter of Nicholas de Verdun and Joan (or Jeanne) Fits-Piers. Some two hundred and fifty years before, the homeland of her ancestors had been the hills of the Ardennes and here her forebears became increasingly important through advantageous marriages with the local ruling families.

 A descendant of these early de Verduns was Gonthalon count of Verdun and duke of Lower Lorraine. In 1027 he was granted the duchy of Upper Lorraine and in this same year he married Junea, daughter of Berengarius II of Italy, a descendent of Charlemagne. Junea bore her husband three sons; Godfrey, known as “the bearded”, became duke of Lower Lorraine; Gonthalon II became duke of Upper Lorraine and Frederick Junian became a monk at Liege.

 Duke Godfrey, was ambitious and in 1047, after much activity against the interests of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III, he was forced into exile. Godfey found employment with his cousin Pope Leo IX, at a time when the papal armies were busy repulsing Norman adventurers in southern Italy. It seems that Frederick, the one time monk of Liege was now in command of several hundred men and though the Papal forces suffered defeat both he and his brother Godfrey covered themselves with personal glory. Frederick soon became a cardinal and Godfrey, who had been married to Ida (or Oda) daughter of Alberic of Namur, now married Beatrice the widow of Boniface of Tuscany and in so doing became marquis of Tuscany in 1053. Beatrice had a nine year old daughter (sired by her previous husband) by the name of Matilda, and Godfrey now married her off to his son Gonthalon III.

 It was not long before Godfrey and his brother Frederick were again in difficulties. They came once again into conflict with the Holy Roman Emperor this time in northern Italy and were forced to seek refuge for a time at the monastery of Monteccasino

 Pope Leo died in 1055 and his successor, Pope Victor II made Frederick Junian his papal legate to Constantinople. Two years later Victor died and Frederick was his chosen successor, taking the name of Stephen. Frederick himself died at Florence on 29th March 1058. He was buried in the church of St Reparata.

 On the succession of Henry IV as Holy Roman Emperor, Godfrey de Verdun was pardoned and allowed to pay homage for his lands in Lower Lorraine. He left Tuscany to live in his castle at Bouillon where he died in 1069. His son, Gonthalon III, succeeded to the family titles and estates but he himself died childless, his wife, the young Matilda, had so loathed him that she left him and never returned.

 The first mention of the de Verdun family that I have found in England is that of Ida de Verdun the youthful bride of count Eustace II of Boulogne. Eustace's first wife had been Goda, the sister of Edward the Confessor. Goda had obtained the royal manor of Farnham, which had belonged to Queen Edith, prior to the Queen’s fall from favour in 1051. When countess Goda died, Eustace married the fifteen year old Ida de Verdun, daughter of Godfrey the Bearded. The manor of Farnham she received as her dower. It is however with another of the children of Godfrey that our own history must be concerned and my earliest information on this distant ancestor dates from the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066

 Bertram de Verdun came to England as a retainer of count Robert of Mortain who was one of William the Conqueror's principal commanders at Hastings. Bertram held lands in Mortain, Avranches and, after the conquest; he was given fiefs in England. Later, the lands of Eustace of Boulogne, who vainly rebelled against King William, were confiscated and the manor of Farnham, held by Ida, was given to her brother Bertram. At the time of the great survey of 1086/87 Bertram de Verdun held lands in Buckinghamshire, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. Amongst the first of the Leicestershire fiefs were Newbold Verdun, Market Bosworth and Belton. Hamo le Breton conveyed the manor of Lutterworth to Bertram de Verdun as follows:

 “Know ye that I have granted Bertram De Verdun and his heirs, Lutterworth with all appurtenances to be held by me and my heirs for one Knights fee, and in consideration of this Bertram has given me 13 marks, a coat of mail and grieves and three horses”.

 In 1100, the year in which William the Conquerors heir, William Rufus died in mysterious circumstances in the New Forest, Bertram de Verdun was in York. In this same year he became sheriff of that county but it seems that soon after he himself was fined for breaking forest laws.

 Bertram's second wife may have been a Saxon noblewoman for it is believed that on her death the manor of Alton in Staffordshire passed to Bertram who later conferred it upon his son Nicholas (the Norman) de Verdun. Nicholas was a chamberlain to King Henry I. He married Laceline de Clinton, whose father Geoffrey was the king’s treasurer and is perhaps best remembered as the builder of Kenilworth castle. It was in 1130 that Nicholas was acknowledged as lord of Alton. Nine years later he paid 100 shillings for Lutterworth and a further sum for livery of his lands at Belton.

 In 1135 began the 19 year reign of King Stephen and much has been written about the chaos that ensued. The powerful barons seized the opportunity to build castles without licence from the crown. On the accession of Stephen's successor Henry Plantagenet five hundred of the eleven hundred castles built during the previous reign were pulled down. During the anarchy of Stephen’s reign, Nicholas had fortified Brandon castle, a stone motte and bailey fortress Located on the north bank of the river Avon 6 miles east of Coventry. Nicholas was allowed to retain Brandon as a mark of the new king’s trust. Nicholas died in 1159 leaving his son Bertram as his heir. This Bertram would, in the course of his life, hold very high office. He married Maud the daughter of Robert de Ferrers 2nd earl of Derby. Maud was a minor and it is unlikely that the marriage was ever consummated; in any event she died young without progeny. Soon after, Bertram married Rohese de Salford who gave her husband eight children

 In 1169 Bertram became sheriff of Warwickshire. Four years later he rebuilt in stone his house at Alton, which had, up to that time, been little more than a wooden hall.

 At the beginning of the reign of Henry II a papal bull was obtained authorizing the King to conquer Ireland and bring the Irish church in line with the rest of Europe. Henry had not found the time to act upon it but, in 1169, Dermot MacMurrough the expelled king of Leinster, together with Richard Fits-Gilbert (Strongbow) earl of Pembroke and Clare landed in Ireland. Dublin was taken and held against both Norse and Irish attacks. Henry II decided to go to Ireland to clarify his own position as Strongbow's liege Lord. Bertram de Verdun was appointed seneschal for the undertaking, that is to say he was responsible for provisions and stores. The expedition left for Waterford on October 16th 1171.

 From 1172, Bertram was one of the king’s”Justices in Eyre” (circuit judges) along with William Basset of Sapcote ( see chapter 3 The Bassets ). Later, in 1175 he became one of the regular members of the Curia Regis. By 1173, it appears that William Basset of Sapcote was sheriff of Warwickshire. Basset was accused of misappropriation of treasury monies and Bertram de Verdun, who was at that time with the king in Caen, was sent, together with Richard de Humet, to investigate. It seems that Bertram was later given the two shrievalties of Warwickshire and Leicestershire.

 Henry II had undertaken policies to put the kingdom into good order after the anarchy of the previous reign. This however did not meet with everyone's approval and many of the powerful barons rebelled against the crown. The French were not slow in attempting to gain an advantage from the situation and neither were the Scots. Bertram de Verdun, whose lands were in the main surrounded by rebel lords, supported the king and successfully defended Kenilworth. He also fought at Alnwick against the Scots. Here William the Lion, the Scottish King was taken and shortly afterwards the rebellion was finally put down. Henry Plantagenet was now able to devote his time to completing his reforms in England.

Bertram de Verdun was sheriff of Leicestershire until 1183, but I am unsure as to whether he held this office continually. He spent a good deal of his time in both Ireland and Normandy where he founded or endowed many monastic houses not to mention his patronage in England. He was a close friend of his sovereign Henry II and it is likely that he was with the king in France when Henry became ill in 1189. The king retired to Chinon, where he died on July 6th. 

 On the death of Henry II, his son Richard became king without opposition. Richard's wish was to lead a crusade and gain glory in the holy land. Bertram de Verdun set sail with king Richard on what has come to be known as the third crusade, and after many delays (including the king’s marriage to Berengaria of Navarre) finally reached Acre in 1191. The Christians lay siege to the city which soon fell and Bertram together with Stephen Longchamp was appointed governor. On August 25th 1192, St Bartholomew's day in the old calendar. Bertram died at Jaffa three days before the signing of the treaty allowing free passage to Jerusalem for pilgrims. His sword, banner and armour where returned to Alton castle

 Nicholas de Verdun who lived in a moated manor at Belton in Leicestershire was the third son of Bertram, however, both his elder brothers had been killed in Ireland and both died without issue. This of course meant that Nicholas inherited the family estates, but there was a complication. Richard de Camville had married Eustacia the widow of Nicholas's brother (Thomas de Verdun) and now he laid claim to the de Verdun lands. Several years elapsed before Nicholas was finally declared the rightful heir of Bertram de Verdun. He married Joan (or Jeane) Fits-Piers and from 1203 he spent much of his time on his Irish estates between Ulster and Meath. He may well have been in Ireland, when in 1208, Pope Innocent III placed England under a papal interdict which forbade services to be held in English churches. This was in part due to a dispute between the Pope and king John over the election of the archbishop of Canterbury.

 Nicholas, who up to the time of Magna Carta had always been the king's man, now found himself at odds with his sovereign. It appears that the king's exchequer reported that Nicholas's father had died owing monies to the crown; from the time he was sheriff of Leicestershire and Warwickshire. Nicholas claimed his father had left no debts and refused to pay the £551 demanded. The King ordered William de Cantilupe to take control of de Verdun lands. This seems to have persuaded Nicholas to join the rebel Barons in England.

 Nicholas's mother Rohese died in 1216 and on October 19th of that year king John died of dysentery at Newark. His successor King Henry III restored Nicholas's lands in 1217. The charges against Bertram de Verdun were found to be groundless by the Curia Regis in 1218 and in 1221, on the death of his one time sister in law Eustacia, Nicholas received the manor of Farnham

 Nicolas's daughter, Rohesia de Verdun, like her father spent much of her time in Ireland.. She was almost certainly there in 1208, as Nicholas would no doubt have brought her to his Irish estates while the papal interdict was in force in England. Rohesia's son, John, was born circa 1225 but there is some speculation as to the paternity of the child. One suggestion is that she had an illicit marriage to Nicholas de Beaulieu, a love match, which if true was without the approval of the king. Whether this marriage ever took place is very uncertain but at the age of twenty four she married Theobald de Boteler an Irish lord. She bore her husband three sons and a daughter though tradition has it that she was very unhappy with the match. Of her three sons; Humphrey became vicar of Alton; Nicholas later held the manor of Clonsmore; and Theobald held lands in Staffordshire. The little girl was named Maud. She spent much of her time in Ireland around the estates at Ormond, Arklow and Dublin

 Rohesia's father, no doubt missing the companionship of his daughter - not to mention the practical need for a hostess - decided to re-marry. There is record of the dower of his wife Clementia dated 1228 who brought with her the manor of Winelsford near Devises.

Theobald de Boteler died on July 19th 1230 during an expedition to Gascony. His remains were returned to Ireland were they were interred at Arklow abbey. Little is known of what happened to Rohesia immediately after his death but on October 23rd 1231 notice was given that Rohesia de Verdun made a fine of 700 marks for her relief that she might have seizin of her fathers lands and that she might not be constrained to marry. This implies that her father was dead by this time and that her stepmother Clementia had bore no heir. By 1233 it seems that Rohesia had full seizin of her father's lands.

 In Ireland, four and a half miles west of Dundalk, on an outcrop of rock, which rises steeply from the level, ground Rohesia built castle Roche. This building earned her the name amongst the Irish of Rois mhor ni ghairbhe Gaelic for Rohesia great lady of the rock. Much is thought to have been added by her son John but the main structure was constructed by 1236. Local tradition implies perhaps a darker side to Rohesia's character for it asserts that during the construction work she had a workman thrown from the west window of the castle.

 Though no widow, according to Magna Carta could be compelled to marry, it was not uncommon for the king to arrange many such unions in order to raise monies. At a time when Rohesia's son John was training for knighthood orders went out that certain widows were to marry those men who were prepared to pay the right price. If, as was there right, they refused the king ordered that the amount he would lose in revenue be distrained from their lands. Rohesia's name would almost certainly have been on the list of widows to be disposed of in this way. Perhaps it was to avoid conforming to the king's orders that  Rohesia announced her intention of becoming a nun, for it would buy her the time she needed to allow her son to come of age and thereby inherit undiminished estates. After a woman had taken a vow to become a nun her property could not be touched by a court of law until after a legal period had elapsed. Rohesia took her vows in 1242 the year of the charter of Gracedieu priory in Leicestershire that she had ordered built and where she would spend her remaining years. By taking the veil she confounded the king and preserved for her son his inheritance intact.

 Rohesia de Verdun died on February 10th 1247 and was buried at Gracedieu. Some three hundred years later during the dissolution of the monasteries Gracedieu's last prioress Agnes Litherland surrendered the priory on October 27th 1539. Tradition asserts that Rohesia's remains were removed to Belton church where they were hidden in the tower for reburial at a quieter time. Rohesia's fine alabaster tomb can indeed be seen today in Belton church at the west end of the north aisle, however, it seems that in 1839 the reverent J. Eddowes gave  permission for her remains to be conveyed to the new catholic chapel which had recently been consecrated at Gracedieu manor The tomb was duly opened but it seems that no remains were found

 By February 22nd 1247, mandates had gone out to the sheriffs in the counties where Rohesia held lands, ordering that her lands be taken into the king’s custody until her debts to the crown could be ascertained. By May 3rd John de Verdun possessed all his mothers lands and paid a fine of 13000 marks.

 Like his predecessors, John de Verdun gave land to the clergy. One such grant was for a Franciscan friary at Dundalk, the stone bell tower of which can still be seen and is known locally as Sea Town Castle. Apart from his estates in Ireland, where he spent much of his time, John held lands in eight of the counties of England. He was constantly on the move on the kings business. Henry III was desperately in debt and the in the hope of raising monies a parliament was called in 1258 often referred to as the “mad parliament”. John de Verdun was summoned to attend this assembly held under the leadership of Simon de Montefort and Richard Earl of Gloucester. These two lords took it upon themselves to reform the administration and take government out of the king’s hands. John de Verdun appears to have favoured this move, however, he appears to have changed his opinion when de Montefort proposed force

 The government was to be carried out by council, this became known as the “Provision of Oxford” and king Henry took an oath to accept this reform. Later he asked the pope to absolve him from his oath and this set the scene for open war between the king and many of his Barons. When matters came to a head at the battle of Lewes John de Verdun fought on the king’s side and was captured but he was released after a short time. The government now lay firmly in the hands of de Montefort and John was summoned to attend his parliament of 1265. Later that same year the kings son Edward defeated de Montefort at Evesham John rode with the king’s forces to London where de Montefort had received his main support. Soon after, John wrote to the king informing him of the surrender of the city. Things settled down in England. John was given Odisham castle in Surrey but was rarely there. Brandon castle he restored and held of the king for four palfreys a years. At about this time John married Elinor Fitzwalter. His first marriage to Margaret de Laci had been blessed with many children.

 The latter years of Henry III reign were years of surprising prosperity. This greater stability enabled Prince Edward to contemplate a crusade and at the age of 56 John de Verdun vowed to accompany him. He left England in 1270 but was not away for long. In 1272, the King died. Prince Edward returned to England at a leisurely pace taking two years to make the journey. John de Verdun on hearing of the death of his two eldest sons in Ireland returned at once.

 King Edward I was crowned in Westminster abbey on August 18th 1274. John de Verdun would, almost certainly, have been present. John himself died at Alvaston castle a few months after the coronation. His body was taken for burial to the Cistercian abbey at Croxton near Uttoxeter which had been founded by his ancestor Bertram de Verdun. Originally the abbey was occupied by monks from Aunay in Normandy and sited at Alton, but, in 1179 the abbey was constructed at Croxton where it’s ruins can be still seen.

 Theobald de Verdun, John’s son and heir, was 27 years old at the time of his father’s death. He left Ireland in 1275 to do homage for his lands and occupied Brandon castle. He appears to have spent some time at Alton for in 1277 he built a fine chapel at Croxton and generally extended the abbey buildings. In 1283 he attended parliament but soon after he returned to Ireland. Theobald's estates suffered at this time from attacks by those Irish who were “beyond the pale” that is to say beyond the influence of the English crown. At least three of his castles were destroyed. Circa 1297 he travelled with the King to Flanders as a prelude to a proposed invasion of France, however, the King’s plan had to be modified due to rebellious Barons at home and events in Scotland which were now demanding his attention. During the King’s absence the Scots, under the leadership of William Wallace, had attacked and defeated the English army at Cambuskenneth near Stirling. This was a dangerous time for Edward; however, the following year the king himself invaded Scotland and met Wallace at Falkirk. Edward carried the day. The Scots were however by no means subdued and the King was in the process of dealing with the Scottish problems, in particular Robert Bruce Earl of Carrick, when he died near Carlisle in 1307.

 Theobald de Verdun’s health was also failing and soon after the coronation of Edward II he returned to Alvaston. He was summoned that year to attend parliament but ill health prevented his presence there. Theobald Lord Verdun Constable of Ireland died on St. Bartholomew’s day 1309 and was interred at Croxton on October 12th, though in his will, dated 1295, he stated that his wish was to be buried at Gracedieu priory in Leicestershire which had been founded by his grandmother. Of his surviving sons: Nicholas was given Clonsmore; Bertram became a priest and Theobald became Lord chief justice of Ireland. This Theobald returned to England within a year of taking up his post of chief justice - for which incidentally he received a salary of 500 pounds. The reason for this hasty return appears to have been the sudden death of his wife at Alvaston.

 King Edward II inherited the problems with Scotland, which had plagued his father, and it became increasingly important to bring Robert Bruce to battle. This was achieved at Bannockburn, under the very walls of Stirling and here it was that the English were soundly beaten. Theobald had been summoned to Scotland by the King but arrived to late for the battle. This victory encouraged the Scots to help the Irish, and indeed themselves, by creating a second front, which would dilute English military resources and hopefully put an end to English rule. Edward, the brother of Robert the Bruce, led this Scottish force which soon began to resemble an army of occupation rather than an army of liberation. A terrible famine made matters worse and so when Theobald returned to Ireland he found the family wealth had suffered greatly. Theobald remarried. His new wife was Elizabeth de Burgh whom it seems he married against the wishes of the King. It was at Alton that Theobald spent his final years. He died at daybreak on the 27th of August 1316. His body was embalmed and buried at Croxton.

Theobald’s daughter Margaret after two earlier marriages now married Sir John de Crophull and their granddaughter Agnus in her turn married Sir Walter Devereux in 1384. Some two hundred years later and eight generations on, Barbara Devereux, a descendant of this union would marry into another family of distinguished pedigree, her husband being Sir Edward Hastings, of Mire Vale, the fourth son of Francis Hastings Earl of Huntingdon.

The Hastings (1066 - 1544)

It is said that the first man to carry the name of Hastings was a Norman named Robert who fought at Senlac with the Conqueror and subsequently became Portreeve of the town of Hastings, from which he no doubt took his name. Of his time before Hastings I have been able to find little or no information, but it is likely that he was a retainer of one of the great lords that accompanied Duke William on this grand enterprise and from a family of the minor nobility. Events of great political and historical importance can often open a window in the mist of time and this is very true of the Battle of Hastings . From Telham Hill, just after dawn, Robert may have caught his first glance of the enemy as the seven thousand strong Norman host advanced toward the English line. The French and Fleming contingents to the right, the Bretons peeling off to the left, and the Normans - stronger than the other two combined - in the centre. A thousand yards away  the surprised Saxon army, whose bulk was still stretched out down the London road, hurriedly arrayed themselves for battle, and at the centre, the two standards of the Dragon of Wessex and King Harold’s own banner of the fighting man flew side by side. The part played by Robert in this battle that changed the course of English history is of course obscure however In the years that followed Hastings England saw a massive redistribution of wealth. William needed to reward his followers both great and small and where else should he find the means but by appropriating the lands of the Saxon Thegn -hood. Robert amongst many others profited from this redistribution of land.  He held lands in Warwickshire, was lord of Fillongley and a Steward to the king.

 His son and heir, Walter de Hastings, became Steward to king Henry I and was granted the manor of Ashill in Norfolk. Walter's wife, Hawise, gave him a son, Hugh, who succeeded to his father's estates and to the office of king's Steward. Hugh held, together with his wife Erneburga, the daughter of Hugh de Flamenvile, the manor of Gissing in Norfolk. By her he had two sons. The younger son, Richard, became Rector of Barwell in Leicestershire, William, the elder son, became Steward to king Henry II and, like his father before him, held the Stewardship of St Edmundsbury abbey in Suffolk. William de Hastings married twice, his first wife being Maud, the daughter of Thurston Banaster, by whom he had two sons. Henry, his heir, died without issue and William the younger son, on the death of his brother, inherited the family estates. The second wife of William de Hastings was Ida, daughter of Henry Earl of Ewe. Ida gave her husband two more sons, Thomas and John. Though many illustrious families derived from these early Normans it is the line of Thomas de Hastings that our particular history must follow. One of these descendants was Sir Ralph de Hastings who in the early part of the 14th century held lands in Yorkshire. In 1337, he became sheriff of that county and governor of York castle.

 A few weeks after the English so decisively defeated the French at Crecy, the French king Phillip, in an attempt to raise the siege of Calais, persuaded his allies the Scots to cross the border and invade the north of England. An English army raised by Queen Phillipa met the Scots on October 17th 1346 at a place afterwards known as Nevill's Cross, near Durham. As at Crecy, the English archers carried the day. Sir Ralph Hastings was severely wounded in the battle and died a few days later. He was buried, in accordance with his will, in the abbey of Sulbey Northamptonshire of which he had been patron. His wife Margaret, daughter of Sir William de Herle, chief justice of the court of common pleas, had bore him a son also named Ralph. This Ralph became in 1365 possessed of the manor of Burton (afterwards Burton Hastings) in Warwickshire and following the death the previous year of his uncle, Sir Robert de Herle, he inherited the manor of Kirby in Leicestershire which remained the family's main residence for the next 109 years. Sir Ralph de Hastings was governor of York castle and a retainer of Henry Plantagenet duke of Lancaster. In 1377 he became sheriff of Yorkshire. He died in 1398 and was buried with his father at Sulbey.

 Sir Ralph's first wife had been Isabel of Sadyngton in Leicestershire whose mother Joyce was the sister of Rodger Bishop of Salisbury (1315 - 1329). This union produced a daughter who they named Margaret. His second wife (according to Mr Nugent Bell in his book the Huntingdon Peerage) was Maud, daughter of Sir Robert de Sutton, of Sutton in Holderness Yorkshire. This second marriage brought him the manors of Sutton and Berwick and produced five sons and a daughter. The eldest son was attained and beheaded in 1405 for his part in the conspiracy against king Henry IV which involved the Percies, the Mortimers and Owen Glendower. Sir Richard the second son was sheriff of Leicestershire and Warwickshire in 1414, 1422 and again in 1432. He held the office of sheriff of Yorkshire in 1426 and 1434 and died three years later in 1437. His marriage to Elizabeth Beaumont produced no children. The third, and for the purpose of this history, the most important son was Sir Leonard de Hastings. At Kirby Muxloe in 1430 the lady Alice, wife of Sir Leonard de Hastings, gave birth to their eldest child William - afterwards Sir William lord Hastings Baron Hastings of Ashby de la Zouch. At the age of 16, William was presented by his father to Richard Plantagenet duke of York at Fotheringhay castle where he was received as a squire

 In 1455 William became Ranger of the forest of Were. In that same year his father died leaving vacant the post of sheriff of Leicestershire and Warwickshire to which William was appointed. The year of 1455 also saw the beginning of the conflict between the houses of York and Lancaster which later generations would style the wars of the roses. The death of the duke of York at the battle of Wakefield deprived William Hastings of a powerful friend and patron, however, the duke's son Edward earl of March revived Yorkist hopes by defeating the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross just over a month later. On reaching London he was received by the citizens as their king. The new king - perhaps mindful of the esteem in which William de Hastings had been held by the late duke of York, not to mention his service at Mortimers Cross - showered Hastings with many offices and honours. Over the years, Hastings became a very influential man. He was Master of the mints of London and Calais, Steward of the honour of Leicester and the manors and castles of Donnington, Higham Ferrers and Daventry together with the king's manors in Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Huntingdon and part of the duchy of Lancaster. He was constable of the castles of Leicester, Higham Ferrers, Donnington and, together with his brother Ralph, joint constable of the castle of Rockingham. Also he held the Stewardship of the royal manors, within the forest of Rockingham, was ranger of Leicester forest and Chamberlain of the royal household.

 On July 26th 1461 he was created baron Hastings of Ashby. In this same year he was invested with the order of the garter, probably after the battle of Towton which was fought in March of that year.. Subsequently he obtained the castle and rape of Hastings in Sussex and some years later, was appointed constable of Beaumaris on Anglesey. During the 1460's William lord Hastings was involved with England's foreign policy, holding negotiations with the ambassador of Lewis XI of France and arranging the details for the marriage of King Edward's sister Margaret to Charles duke of Burgundy.

 During the early part of Edward IV reign his hold on the crown was anything but secure. He still had a powerful enemy in Margaret of Anjou the wife of the deposed king Henry VI. With Scottish and French aid, she rallied her forces, but was defeated at Hedgely moor in 1464 and forced to seek refuge in France with her cousin Lewis XI. Later in 1471 she made another attempt to seize power and, as a result, Edward IV together with his brother Richard duke of Gloucester, William lord Hastings and a small retinue fled the country. From Doncaster they hurried to Kings Lynn in Norfolk and embarked for the continent in a small vessel, which the king, according to legend, paid for with his cloak and the promise of further rewards when he returned. They reached Alcmaer in Holland and from there travelled to the court of Edward's brother in law Charles the Bold duke of Burgundy. Charles gave the fugitives his protection and supplied the means for a return to England. Edward's fleet set sail on March 11th 1471 but the first attempt at a landing on the English coast was repulsed, steering northward, they eventually disembarked at Ravenspur in Yorkshire.

Edward's support was strong and on April 14th 1471 the issue of who would wear the crown was decided at the battle of Barnet where William lord Hastings commanded 3000 cavalry. William's brother in law, the earl of Warwick (the king maker), commanded the opposing army. During the battle Warwick was slain and his army was routed, but it was at Tewksbury that the hopes of Margaret of Anjou were finally dashed when she and her son, the young prince Edward, were taken prisoner and brought before Edward IV. It is said that the king, in a fit of temper, struck prince Edward with his gauntlet and that this was the prelude to the greater violence that followed. The king’s brother Richard duke of Gloucester, together with William lord Hastings and two other lords bundled the young prince into an adjoining chamber where they stabbed him to death. It must be said that later generations have charged Gloucester (later king Richard III) with every species of crime and it may be that the above account of prince Edward's untimely end is merely a product of Tudor propaganda. 

 In 1471, William lord Hastings was appointed Captain of Calais an office that he held for twelve years. A year later he became constable of Nottingham castle, keeper of the gate and warden of Sherwood. Other appointments at this time were Chamberlain of the Exchequer, chief warden of the high peak and of Tutbury and chief ranger of the parks and chases of the duke of Clarence. Lord Hastings also obtained the very lucrative wardship of Mary daughter of Sir Thomas Hungerford. He arranged that in due course his son Edward should marry her and that if Edward should die beforehand then one of his younger brothers would take her to wife

 In 1474 the king, then in Nottingham, issued letters patent giving licence to lord Hastings to enclose 3000 acres of land and wood at Ashby, 2000 acres at Bagworth and Thornton and a further 2000 at Kirby. Licence was also given to wall up and embattle his estates in these places. Ashby castle was built as a result and this magnificent building, remarkable in later years as the temporary prison of Mary Queen of Scots, became the family residence. That same year Hastings was appointed Constable and Steward of the Honour of Tutbury

 In 1475, lord Hastings, in command of forty men at arms and three hundred archers crossed with other forces of Edward IV to France. Lewis XI was anxious not to involve France in another war and made a treaty with Edward at the bridge of Pecquigny. Lewis paid the English king a large sum of money and a yearly pension; lord Hastings share of these spoils was 2000 crowns. It is a measure of his wealth that lord Hastings kept as retainers two lords, nine knights, fifty eight squires and twenty gentlemen of note.

 By his wife, Katherine daughter of Richard Neville earl of Salisbury and Alice Montagu, he had five children of which Edward was the eldest. It seems that lord Hastings was of an amorous nature and one of his affairs is noteworthy in so far as it has a bearing on his death. Lord Hastings was very taken with a beautiful young girl by the name of Jane Wainstead of Cheap-side with whom he had an affair. In order to protect her honour her father arranged a marriage with a wealthy goldsmith named Mathew Shore. Even though she now was a respectable married woman, Hastings tried to renew his association with her, though she repulsed his advances. However, she came under the eye of the king and soon became his mistress.

 Edward IV died somewhat unexpectedly in 1483 at the age of 42 and his son the 13 year old prince Edward was proclaimed king. The late kings brother Richard duke of Gloucester was appointed protector and William Hastings, who was a member of the council, supported the appointment. Gloucester now moved to secure the crown for himself. Realising that in this matter he would not get the support of his long time friend the powerful lord Hastings he took steps to remove this obstacle to his ambitions. Hastings and other members of the council were summoned to attend Gloucester at the tower on June 13th 1483 During the meeting Gloucester accused Hastings of treason and conspiracy, had him taken to the tower courtyard and beheaded on a block of building timber. Jane Shore, Hastings erstwhile mistress, was also implicated and was lodged as a prisoner in the Tower. Even though Jane cleared herself before the council she was handed over to an ecclesiastical court whose tribunal forced her to walk barefoot from the bishop of London's palace to St Paul's. She died some years later in poverty. 

 William lord Hastings was buried in St George's chapel Windsor close to his friend and sovereign Edward IV. The duke of Gloucester now claimed the throne on the grounds that Edward's marriage with Elizabeth Woodville was invalid under cannon law because the late king had been betrothed to Lady Eleanor Butler and that the right of his brother's (the duke of Clarence executed 1478) children was barred by their father's attainder. Dr Ralph Shaa, brother of the Lord Mayor, who preached a sermon at St Paul’s Cross on June 22nd repudiating the Woodville marriage, supported this view.

 Richard duke of Gloucester became king Richard III in June 1483 and it may be said that his accession was received without surprise and perhaps with some relief for the country could ill afford another long minority. After lord Hastings's execution his lands were confiscated however Richard III repented of this harsh measure and restored most of the property. Hasting's widow, the lady Katherine, acted as executrix.

At the age of ten Edward, son of William lord Hastings was invested with the order of the bath. He was summonsed to King Richard's parliament of 1484 as Edward lord Hastings of Hungerford in right of his wife Mary heiress of Thomas lord Hungerford, Botreaux, Moulins and Moels. It can be imagined what the young lord Hastings feelings were toward his sovereign, the murderer of his father, and it is not surprising that he entered into an understanding with the Stanley's whose treachery at Bosworth cost King Richard his crown and his life. The victor of Bosworth, Henry Tudor, claimed the throne and as Henry VII he restored to Edward the remainder of his estates. Edward lord Hastings spent much of his time at court and his only son George was a playmate of the king's own son prince Henry   (later Henry VIII). Edward's daughter Ann married Thomas Stanley though Edward did not live to see the payments - as laid down in the marriage contract - made, for he died on November 8th 1506. He was interred at Blackfriars chapel London. In 1511 his widow married Richard Sacheverell receiver general of her late husband's estates.

 George only son of Edward Hastings was born in 1490. Like his father much of his time was spent at court, and Henry VII gave him the office of captain of his personal guard. A few years after the death of his father George petitioned his friend now king Henry VIII; " that he might have the benefit of his own marriage and marry at his own liberty; and also to have special livery of the manors of Ashby de la Zouch and Barrow upon soar, the Stewardships and bailiwicks of the town of Leicester, and all those belonging to it, within the county, together with all the offices of the forest and chase of Leicester," binding himself to pay the sum of 4000 marks to the king. He also obtained the office of keeper to the several parks of Frith, Beaumondleys, Barrow, Tolee and Stridley. In 1509 he was appointed Steward of Enderbey. Four years later he accompanied the king of whose privy council he was a member, on an expedition to France where he fought at Guinegaste known as the battle of the spurs and took part in the sieges of Serouane and Tournay. In 1529 by favour of the king he was granted the manor of Evington and in the November of that year he was created earl of Huntingdon

The 1536 act of parliament by which many of the lesser monastic houses were dissolved caused great resentment particularly in the north. The northern counties rose in rebellion led by a lawyer named Robert Aske. George Hastings was sent by the king to suppress this insurrection which came to be known as the pilgrimage of grace . After the dissolution of the monasteries, which incidentally did nothing to harm Hastings pocket, he retired from public life with the intention of living quietly at Ashby however the king had other plans and his retirement was cut short when a royal commission ordered him northward again to stamp out the last of the rebels.

. This turned out to be his last service for the king. He spent his remaining years at his manor of Stoke Poges and died there on March 24th 1544. Eight years later his son, Edward Lord Loughborough, built the chapel here that carries the Hastings name.  George Hastings left five sons and three daughters by his wife Anne the daughter of Henry Stafford 2nd duke of Buckingham.                               

The Bassets (1066 - 1378)

 Thurstine Basset was another Norman adventurer that came to England with Duke William of Normandy 1066 and profited from the division of the spoils that followed the famous battle of Hastings. Thurstine probably came from Ouilly Basset in Normandy where his family had lives for the previous 200 years. His father may have been Osmund Basset but some accounts claim Osmund was in fact his brother and that his father was Fouque de Aulney.  By 1086, the year of the great survey, it is recorded that he held five hides of land in Drayton Staffordshire.

 In 1100, Henry, brother of the late king William Rufus, and younger son of William the Conqueror, was crowned king of England by Maurice bishop of London. Ralph son of Thurstine Basset of Drayton rose high in the new kings favour indeed to the rank of chief justice of the realm. Ralph Basset was a great benefactor to the monks of Abingdon and it was in Abingdon that he was buried. His son Richard succeeded him.  

Richard Basset Lord of Drayton - like his father before him - attained the high office of chief Justice and remained in that role during the latter part of King Henry's reign and throughout the reign of Henry's nephew Stephen of Blois. Richard married Maud, daughter of Sir Geoffrey Riddel Lord of Wetheringe, and the granddaughter of Hugh Lupus Earl of Chester. By the year 1139 Richard Basset was sheriff of no less than ten counties including that of Leicestershire.  

Richard's son Ralph inherited the estates at Drayton. He became sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire and in 1163 his brother William Basset of Sapcote became his deputy. Later William became sheriff in his own right and in 1177 he added the county of Lincoln to his jurisdiction, however in 1173 he was fined for abusing the power of his office ( see chapter 1 the de Verduns page 4 ) . At about this time William Basset acquired the manor of Cheadle and between the years of 1175 and 1178 he acted as an itinerant justice for the counties of Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Stafford, Warwick and Northampton. An itinerant justice was the representative of the Curia Regis who visited the shire moots to dispense the king’s justice. He died possessed of the manors of Sapcote and Cheadle.

William Basset was succeeded by his son Simon who, in 1194, married a daughter of William Avenel of Hadden in the peak. Their son Ralph became lord of Sapcote manor after his father's death. Circa 1231, Ralph Lord Basset married Millicent, the daughter of Robert de Chaucumbe of Lincoln. Ralph became sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1240 and remained in that office until 1244. He, like his grandfather William some seventy years earlier, was implicated in fraud during his time as sheriff, it was however not uncommon to find corrupt officials and Ralph Basset may well have been the rule rather than the exception. In 1258 Ralph Basset with a strong force of men under his command answered the summons of king Henry III to attend him at Chester in order to put down the Welsh. In this same year he was appointed Governor of Northampton.

Henry III was a weak king and his reign a troubled one. In 1265, after the battle of Lewes, the government fell into the hands of Simon de Montefort and Gilbert earl of Gloucester. These lords called the celebrated parliament of 1265 to which Ralph Basset was summoned. The rule of Simon de Montefort however was short lived. The king's son Edward raised an army and defeated de Montefort at the battle of Evesham and during the course of this battle Ralph lord Basset was slain. His son and heir Simon lord Basset held the lordship for thirty years until his own death in 1295. During the reign of Edward II Simon's own son Ralph fought in Scotland and took part in the battle of Bannockburn where the English though superior in numbers were routed by the Scots under Robert the Bruce

Ralph Basset married Elizabeth Colville of Lincoln and their son Simon succeeded his father in 1326. Simon died soon after coming into his inheritance and left a widow Isabella, the daughter of William lord Boteler of Wemme, and a son Ralph who inherited the manor of Sapcote. It was this Ralph Basset who fought with great distinction for king Edward III during the king's bid to gain the crown of France.

Edward III invaded France by way of Flanders but the French king wisely decided against a pitched battle and Edward running short of funds returned to England in 1340. For five years little progress was made in the French war until July 1346 when Edward raised another army and landed in Normandy. After plundering Caen the English army marched on Rouen but Phillip the French king held the bridge over the Seine and so Edward turned towards Paris burning and plundering Vernon and Mantes on route. The French army, keeping to the right side of the river, followed Edward's movements. The English managed a crossing at Poissy and then marched north closely pursued by Phillip. Finally north of the river Somme, on the high ground behind the village of Cressy, the English turned to fight. Edward drew up his men in three bodies each composed of men at arms with archers to the front. In their ranks that day (the 26th of August 1346) fought Ralph lord Basset of Sapcote. The English won the day inflicting high casualties amongst the French. After the battle Edward and his army marched north and besieged the port of Calais which held out for almost a year before finally falling to the English king. Ralph Basset returned home after the siege probably in 1347 and just ahead of the dreadful Black Death that was soon to ravage the country.

Ralph Basset escaped this awful decease and in the years that followed he would have seen changes taking place that few could have predicted. The Black Death had struck down so many people that labour was at a premium. The laws of supply and demand brought about the end of surfdom in a a few short seasons. Ralphs would now have to compete with his contemparies for what labour there was. In post plague England the peasant could now demand and indeed get better wages or if he rented his land from a local Lord he could now negotiate fairer rents, and if the lord refused there was always another lord who had a greater appreciation of the new economic reality. Ralph died on July 28th 1378 possessed of the manors of Sapcote, Stanton and Breedon in Leicestershire, Cheadle in Staffordshire and Brentingfield in Northamptonshire.

Alice, the daughter of Ralph Basset, was thirty years old at the time of his death and married to Sir Laurance Dutton. In later years she married Sir Robert Moton of Peckleton and from this union descended Anne Moton whose great granddaughter Jane Vincent would unite the houses of Vincent and Faunt.

The Faunts (1385 - 1620)

The Leicestershire village of Foston began to disappear some 400 years ago, when the process of enclosure, started by Anthony Faunt, forced the local people from the land. Today all that remains of a community founded in Saxon times is the ancient church dedicated to St Bartholomew with it's fine Norman arches dating from 1081.

Anthony Faunt’s ancestry was Irish and in 1385, William Faunt, whose forebears had founded the castle and Cistercian abbey of Mellefont near Drogheda, fled to England after the killing of baron Hoothe in order to gain the pardon of the king. He bought property in Norwich where he lived with his wife Isabel, the daughter of John Moyne. Their son William bought land in Walsingham, Huntingdon, Wistow and Ramsey. He married Joan Moulton by whom he had at least two children, Alice and John. On the death of his father John inherited the family estates and arranged for his father's remains to be interred in Ramsey abbey. Little remains today of the abbey save a highly decorated 15th century gatehouse. The local grammar school now incorporates what remains of the medieval abbey's 13th century lady chapel. John Faunt became a lawyer and later bailiff of Wittelsmere. He married Alice Clarvaux who gave him three sons. John Faunt died at Wistow near Ramsey and was buried there. His son and heir also named John married Ann Hide and their son William in due time married Isabel daughter of John Syor.

In 1496, William Faunt of Wistow and his wife Isabel had a son. He was named William and in later years he made a career of the law becoming a fellow of the inner temple in London and a justice of the peace. Circa 1549, this gentleman bought property in Leicestershire at Foston, Twyford, Clawson, Somerby and Harby and in 1553 he represented Leicestershire at Parliament. He married Jane Vincent of Peckleton and fathered eight children. On September 4th 1559, at the age of 63, William Faunt died at Foston. His eldest son and heir also named William had attended court and was held it seems in some regard by Queen Elizabeth.

Spain at this time was a major power in Europe and fiercely catholic. King Philip of Spain was determined to impose the inquisition in his more liberal dominion of the Netherlands and in 1568 he sent troops to crush the heretics. William of Nassau prince of Orange escaped to Germany where he set about raising an army to oppose the Spaniards. The sympathies of the protestant English queen were of course with the Dutch and many Englishmen were to be found in the army of prince William. One such Englishman was William Faunt of Foston who secured a colonelcy in the prince's service commanding 7000 men. On April 14th 1574, on the battlefield of Mookerheede William Faunt was struck down by a poisoned ball from a Spanish musket. He died without issue and so his 23 year old brother Anthony, who was also serving with the prince of Orange, inherited his estates.

In due course Anthony returned to England in order to take control of his inheritance. He married Elizabeth Noel of Dalby and by her had four children. In 1587, Anthony Faunt became sheriff of Leicestershire and a year later, in readiness for the possible invasion of England by the Spanish; he was appointed Lieutenant general of the forces of the shire. His appointment was however opposed by the earl of Huntingdon who set aside Anthony in favour of his own brother Walter Hastings. A year later, on the 11th of May 1588 (the 21st of May by Spanish reckoning),1 ten days after the first ships of the Spanish armada cast off from there Lisbon quay-sides, Anthony Faunt died. He was buried as instructed by his will in the church of St Bartholomew at Foston. At the time of his death he had already enclosed much of the common land around Foston and had no less than 1300 sheep grazing there. His Eldest son Sir William Faunt continued the process of enclosure and by 1622 when the enclosures were virtually complete the village to all intents and purposes ceased to exist. Anthony's son Henry inherited property in Newton Harcourt and Wistow and it is his memorial that can still be seen in Foston church.

Anthony Faunt's wife Elizabeth remarried twice. Her second husband was William Brown K.B. and her third Joseph Harper of Swarkston Derby. She died on April 11th 1620. Mabel daughter of Anthony and Elizabeth married Henry Hastings of Humberstone a Grandson of Francis Hastings second earl of Huntingdon.

1 There was ten days' difference between the "old style" calendar still used by the English and the "new style" employed by the Spanish

The Hastings ( 1513 - 1804 )

 In the church of St Helen's at Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire there can be seen, in the chapel dedicated to the Hastings family, an ornate tomb; its recumbent figures bearing witness to the earthly rank and position of Francis 2nd earl of Huntingdon and his wife Catherine Pole.

Francis Hastings was born in 1513 during the reign of Henry VIII. He was the son of George 3rd baron Hastings and 1st earl of Huntingdon and his wife Ann Stafford. When only fifteen years old Francis was summoned to parliament under the title Lord Hastings and at about this time he became steward of the monastery of Laund, St Mary's Coventry and ( together with Sir Richard Sacherevill ) steward of the collegiate church of St Mary's, Leicester. Two days before the coronation of Anne Boleyn, at the age of nineteen, he was created Knight of the Bath. In this same year he married Catherine Pole a great granddaughter of George duke of Clarence. By this marriage Francis greatly increased the fortunes of the Hastings family and extended its influence.

It will be remembered that Francis's father, George, had been the childhood friend of young prince Henry ( later Henry VIII ) and that he had retained the affection and favour of his King until his death in 1544. Francis not only inherited his fathers estates but also the goodwill of his sovereign.

Henry Tudor died just three years after his friend George Hastings and the crown passed to his nine year old son Edward. Francis Hastings commanded the royal bodyguard and carried St Edward's staff at the coronation of the young king. The duke of Somerset was made protector of the realm, however, in the ensuing power struggle, Somerset fell and John Dudley earl of Warwick seized power, creating himself duke of Northumberland. Dudley was generous to his supporters and in 1549 conferred on Hastings the order of the Garter, a reward for conducting Somerset to the Tower. Beaumont, of Cole Orton, a near neighbour of Francis Hastings who had backed Somerset was executed and his estates were given to Hastings. Beaumont's widow was left homeless, but the countess of Huntingdon pleaded with her husband and he restored the mansion and estate of Gracedieu to the unfortunate lady. In 1550, Francis commanded an expedition against the french. Soon after, he was appointed lord lieutenant of Derbyshire and Rutland. He was also a member of king Edward's privy council and in 1552 he sat as one of the peers at the trial of the duke of Somerset.

Edward V1 was destined to wear the crown for only six years. The next in line of succession according to the will of Henry VIII was to be Edward's half sister Mary. However, the duke of Northumberland formed a plan to set aside Mary and replace her With her cousin the Lady Jane Grey, who incidently, was also Northumberland's daughter in law. Francis Hastings threw in his lot with Northumberland, but the support for Mary Tudor was to strong and the coup defeated. For his part in the affair Francis was imprisoned in the tower on July 9th 1553. His countess, Catherine, wrote to her uncle Cardinal Reginald Pole, then in Brussels, begging him to intercede with the Queen on behalf of the imprisoned earl. Francis was also supported by his brother Edward lord Loughborough, a staunch catholic and high in the Queens favour. Their efforts doubtless saved Francis from the block. Francis Hastings was released after a few months. Although vigorous in the Queens service from that time, he was at heart a protestant and therefore never wholly trusted by her. During Queen Mary's last illness he was expelled from court and returned to his estates at Ashby The Queen passed away in the early hours of the morning of November17th 1558 and Francis could perhaps be forgiven for thinking her death would be to his advantage - surely times would be better with the protestant Elizabeth as Queen. In fact Elizabeth appears to have been equally cool towards him and he passed his last days in obscurity.

 Francis Hastings died in the spring of 1561 at Ashby surrounded by his large family. Catherine countess of Huntingdon lived on for fifteen more years. She died on the 23rd of September 1576. Francis's eldest son Henry, who in later times became known as the puritan earl, succeeded his father. But of necessity our history must concentrate on Francis's fourth son, Sir  Edward Hastings, who purchased Leicester abbey in 1581. He married Barbara Devereux of Mire Vale Abbey, the eldest daughter of Sir William Devereux and granddaughter of Walter Devereux viscount of Hereford. She bore her husband two sons Henry and Walter. Sir Edward died in 1603, the last year of Queen Elizabeth's reign and was succeeded by his eldest son Henry. In 1618, a curious licence was granted to Edward's widow by John Bonnet the curate of St Mary's Leicester, permitting her to eat flesh during lent on account of her great age.

Henry Hastings, heir of Sir Edward Hastings, purchased the village of Humberstone near Leicester. On April 23rd 1603, he was knighted by James 1 at Belvoir castle. This was probably due to king James I policy of creating Knighthoods in order to raise monies independently of parliament. Henry married Mabel the daughter of Anthony Faunt of Foston and Kilby, whose ancestor, William Faunt came from Ireland in the latter part of the fourteenth century and settled in Norwich. Circa 1612, James 1 granted to Henry Hastings and Henry Culter the manor of Whitwick. This had been the property of the duke of Suffolk before his attainment. In 1619, Henry Hastings became sheriff of Leicester, nine years later his wife Mabel died and was buried at St Mary's in Leicester. Henry himself died the following year and he also was laid to rest at St Mary's. Mabel had given her husband four sons. The eldest of these was also named Henry and was heir to his father's estates. This gentleman lived in Humberstone and married Jane Goodall of Belgrave Leicester by whom he had five sons. For a time during the civil wars of 1642 - 1649 he was confined at Leicester by parliamentary forces and later required to pay a heavy fine.1  As a consequence he was forced to sell Humberstone. In 1649, with the execution of Charles I, began the eleven year long commonwealth. No doubt Henry had a chuckle to himself when in 1653 Oliver Cromwell dissolved the notorious “Rump” parliament and set about the business of running the country himself. Henry Hastings, died on the 23rd of February 1654 and interred at Humberstone. He did not therefore live to see the thirty year old Charles Stuart recalled and the monarchy restored in 1660; an event which I can't help believe he would have warmly welcomed.

Richard Hastings, third son of Henry Hastings and his wife Jane, was baptised at Humberstone on the 5th May 1645. In later years he moved to Lutterworth where he became an exciseman. It is possible that he lived in Hampshire for a time but be that as it may he was living in Lutterworth when he married, quite late in life, a lady by the name of Sarah Sleath.2 He fathered two sons, Richard, born in 1699 and Henry, born two years later. Sarah died of smallpox in the December of 1709 and was buried at Lutterworth on the south side of the church. Richard Hastings died aged 69 on October 30th 1714 and was buried at Welford Richard had been born during the upheaval of the English civil wars. When Charles Stuart regained his throne he was just fifteen years old., and as a mature man he lived through the troubles caused by James II, a blatantly catholic monarch of a protestant country. What, I wonder did he think of the overthrow of James II in 1688. Did he perhaps approve of the protestant William of Orange who ousted James and became the joint ruler of England with Mary Stuart. Before his death he would witness the union of England with Scotland and so it was that his sons would grow up into what we call today Great Britain.

Henry, the younger son of Richard Hastings was born in Lutterworth. He was baptised on May 22nd 1701 in the parish church of St Mary's, made famous by its association some 300 years earlier with the reformer John Wycliffe. It was in this same church that at the age of 26 he married Elizabeth Hudson and their first child Theophilus Henry was born the following year. Their eldest daughter Sarah was born in 1730 followed by George in 1735 and later Ferdinando who died at the age of fourteen circa 1755. There is also mention of another daughter. The world into which the Hastings children were born was fast changing. What with international trade and a society based on economics, Great Britain was becoming a power house of industry. For many the pace of change brought miserable poverty, especially in the large cites, but this did not touch the Hastings of Lutterworth who were very well connected having close ties with the family of Theophilus 9th earl of Huntingdon. The earl had acted as Theophilus Henry's godfather and both Theophilus and his younger brother George were educated, along with the earl's own son Francis, by the Rev Granvile Wheeler. George's family connections obtained for him a lieutenancy in the 9th regiment of foot and after seven years he was promoted to the rank of captain. In 1746, Theophilus 9th earl of Huntingdon died and the title passed to his son Francis. Plans were made by the countess dowager, for a marriage between George and the 10th earl's sister Selina, however, fate took a hand when in 1763 Selina died after a short illness. George purchased a commission in the 3rd regiment of foot guards. He moved to London where he had apartments in St James's. In due time he became a favourite of George III who promoted him to the rank of lieutenant colonel

On 2nd April 1769 at St James's church Westminster he married Sarah the daughter of colonel Hodges, by whom he had four children.

 Theophilus Henry Hastings made a career of the church. He was admitted to St John's college Cambridge on May 25th 1748. It is of interest that his father, Henry Hastings, is recorded in the register of admittions as a shoe maker. In 1763, at the age of 35, he secured the living of Belton. Soon after taking up the position at Belton he married Sarah Pratt a girl from the nearby village of Shepshed, however, she died within the year and their union produced no children. Years later, at the age of seventy, Theophilus married Betsy Warner. Betsey had once been a maid in the service of the earl of Huntingdon at Donnington park and with whom Theophilus had an association in his youth.

 The Rev Theophilus Henry Hastings was well aware of his ancestry and when Francis, the 10th earl, died without issue in 1789 he assumed the title. Though styling himself 11th earl of Huntingdon he never pressed his claim, a claim that would almost certainly have been upheld. In fact the title eventually passed to Hans Francis Hastings, the son of colonel George Hastings ( nephew of the Rev Theophilus Hastings ) who took up his seat in the house of Lords in 1819.

In 1790, Colonel George Hastings fell from his horse whilst out riding in St James park. He suffered severe head injuries and it seems he was plagued with bouts of insanity for the rest of his life. He died on the 6th of February 1802 at Belton and was buried beneath the centre aisle of the parish church. No memorial remains to commemorate his passing as some fifty years later a new floor was laid in the church covering many of the earlier tombstones.

At the age of 32, Sarah, eldest daughter of Henry Hastings and his wife Elizabeth, married Thomas Needam at St Mary's Lutterworth. In 1765, she gave birth to a son who was christened George, no doubt named after his uncle colonel Hastings. Two years later, a second son was born and he, somewhat predictably, was given the name of

Theophilus Henry. It will be seen that these two boys were cousins of Hans Francis Hastings the future 11th earl of Huntingdon.

.Sarah's father Henry died in 1786 at the age 85. Her mother died two years later. It would seem that Sarah was by this time already a widow. She moved to Belton where she passed her remaining years. Sarah died aged 73 in 1803 and was buried at Belton on January 30th. In the quiet well kept graveyard of Belton church, leaning against the wall near the south door one can still see Sarah's gravestone, the epitaph on which reads " Sacred to the memory of Sarah relict of Thomas Needam of Lutterworth and sister to the Rev Theophilus Henry Hastings 32 years vicar of this parish ".  Theophilus himself died a year later on April 2nd. The  memorial in the church at West Leake ( see inset ) pays tribute to the man.

1 Henry Hastings was required to pay £2072.13s.4d

2 Sarah had been married previously and was the widow of Joseph Bolard ( History & Antiquities of Leics vol    III part II )


Section Two