HASTINGS, Sir George (c.1540-1604), of Etwall and Dale, Derbys., Gopsall, Leics.; later of Loughborough, Castle Donington and Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leics.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1540, 2nd s. of Francis, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, and bro. of Sir Edward and Francis I. m. 1557, Dorothy, da. and coh. of Sir John Port (d.1557) of Etwall, Derbys., 4s. inc. Francis II 2da. suc. bro. as 4th Earl of Huntingdon 1595. Kntd. 1565.2
J.p. Leics. 1564, q. by 1569, temp. rem. 1587; sheriff 1571-2, commr. musters 1573, dep. lt. by 1587; j.p. Derbys. from c.1599; ld. lt. Leics. and Rutland 1596; dep. bailiff of Rodman, Staffs. division of honour of Tutbury, duchy of Lancaster 1573-4; receiver of Dunstanburgh, duchy of Lancaster 1596-8; steward, master forester and receiver of honour of Leicester, duchy of Lancaster 1597; master of the hart hounds by 1604.3
In 1564 Hastings purchased the estate of Gopsall and took up residence there and public duties in the county. By 1586 however, he was living at Loughborough, where he remained until he succeeded his brother in the earldom. By the 1580s he was one of the leading men of the county. In September 1586 he was called on with his brothers, Sir Edward and Francis, to help conduct Mary Queen of Scots to Fotheringay. The Privy Council summoned him to attend her funeral at Peterborough on 1 Aug. 1587. In contrast to his elder brother, the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, and Sir Edward and Francis Hastings, all strong puritans, Hastings himself was conservative, if not Catholic, in his religious sympathies. Camden states that the brothers lived in fraternal harmony though divided in religion. On the other hand Hastings was the victim of a whispering campaign, being accused of using witchcraft in the attempt to outlive his brother and of harbouring ambition for the crown.
The return of Hastings as knight of the shire for Derbyshire at a by-election in 1566, following the death of Sir William St. Loe, is not surprising, since he held property there and was a person of some consequence in the county, where his wife had inherited estates. Similarly, his election as county Member for Leicestershire in 1584 and 1586 is self-explanatory: the only puzzle is why he did not sit in 1571, instead of his younger brother Francis. It must remain doubtful, however, whether Hastings ever attended the 1586 Parliament, in view of a note in the parliamentary journals (17 Mar. 1587): ‘Sir George Hastings hath pardon of his absence this Parliament’. All the knights of the shires were appointed to the subsidy committee on 24 Feb. 1585.
His brother the 3rd Earl’s death confronted Hastings with serious problems. The estate was over-burdened and his sister-in-law distracted. She refused to bury her husband or administer his goods, and in February 1596 Burghley was obliged to write to Hastings, now the 4th Earl, asking him to see to the funeral, without assuming responsibility for his brother’s debts. The 3rd Earl was buried in April, at a cost of £1,400, and the problem of his debts remained unsolved.4
In his last years, Huntingdon was concerned with his duties as a duchy of Lancaster official, though furious to find that his patent of 14 Nov. 1597 conferring on him the stewardship, receivership and master forestership of the honour of Leicester, did not also carry with it the town clerkship of Leicester, as it had done in Sir Edward’s time. He wrote to Cecil, pointing out that this omission was contrary to the express words of his warrant, but failed to obtain an amendment. His interest in the affairs of the borough of Leicester dated from at least 1557, and the chamberlain’s accounts frequently refer to small payments and gifts to him. He had attempted to influence the borough’s selection of MPs as early as 1584, when he put forward Thomas Johnson as his candidate. The mayor had replied that the borough’s choice was already made, but they would please him if they could, and in the event Johnson was returned. In 1597 Huntingdon wished them to return a man named Thomas Beaumont, and he evidently received some assurance on the matter. At the election, however, Beaumont was rejected as ‘an encloser’. Huntingdon was to be even more severely rebuffed in 1601 when his enemy, George Belgrave, obtained a seat at Leicester, despite his express instructions. This time Huntingdon brought a Star Chamber case against Belgrave, but when the matter was raised in the House of Commons, most of the Members, including Huntingdon’s brother Francis, sympathized with Belgrave.5
Exactly a week after the Essex rebellion in February 1601, Huntingdon wrote to Cecil from Castle Donington, thanking him for his ‘loving counsel and friendly watchword in regard of my duty and true allegiance to her Majesty’, and affirming his loyalty to her. On 11 Feb. he had been summoned by the Privy Council to attend at the arraignment of the Earls of Essex, Rutland and Southampton. On 22 Mar., when all was over, he again wrote a letter of thanks to Cecil from Smithfield, referring to ‘these unfortunate accidents’, saying that, because of ‘an extreme cold’ and Cecil’s troubles, he would not visit him, but would return home the following day. He was called on by the Privy Council to proclaim James I King, and he entertained Queen Anne and Prince Henry in June 1603 at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, on their way south to London. He died 30 Dec. 1604, and was buried at Ashby-de-la-Zouch 25 Mar. 1605. Administration of the estate was granted on 1 May of that year.6
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. CP; Nichols, Leics. iii. 608.
- 3. Egerton, 2345; Lansd. 53, f. 189; Nichols, iii. 589; HMC Foljambe, 25; Somerville, Duchy, i passim; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 164.
- 4. G. F. Farnham, Quorndon Recs. 176; Nichols, iii. 589; iv. 855; Lansd. 99, ff. 92, 244-5; 103, ff. 62-3; APC, xv. 152; Camden, Annals (1717 ed.), 76; SP12/193/50, 252/56; D’Ewes, 416; Lansd. 43, anon. jnl. f. 171; LC4/193, p. 81; Vis. Cambs. (Harl. Soc. xli), 28; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 523; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 220; HMC Hastings, ii. 38, 44-55.
- 5. Somerville, i. 572; HMC Hatfield, vii. 518; xii. 119; Leicester Recs. iii. 92, 168, 209, 336-7, 435-6; Neale, Commons, 171 seq.; HMC Hastings, iv. 187; D’Ewes, 672.
- 6. HMC Hatfield, xi. 55, 143; HMC Hastings, ii. 48; iv. 191; Nichols, iii. 589-90; Leicester Recs. iii. 146, 241, 335; iv. 3; PCC admon. act bk. 1605-10, f. 169; Quorndon Recs. 325; HMC 8th Rep. 417, 427; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 251.