HASTINGS, Ferdinando, Lord Hastings (1608-1656), of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leics.; later of Donington Park, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. 18 June 1608,1 1st s. of Henry Hastings, 5th earl of Huntingdon, and Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Ferdinando Stanley, 5th earl of Derby. educ. L. Inn, entered 1623; privately (Robert Cottisford) 1625; Queens’, Camb. 1626. m. 7 Aug. 1623 (with £6,500), Lucy (d. 14 Nov. 1679), da. and h. of Sir John Davies* of Englefield, Berks., 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da. (2 d.v.p.). summ. to Lords in fa.’s barony Oct. 1640; suc. fa. 14 Nov. 1643. d. 13 Feb. 1656.2 sig. Fer[dinando] Hastings.
Commr. subsidy, peerage 1641.6
Capt. of horse (parl.) 1642.7
The Hastings family arrived in Leicestershire from Norfolk in the early fourteenth century, and first represented the county in 1365. In 1461 William Hastings was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Hastings and appointed lord chamberlain of the Household. The following year the new Lord Hastings was granted the castle of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, in north-west Leicestershire, which became the family’s principal residence. The family reached the pinnacle of its fortunes in 1529, when William’s grandson, George Hastings, was created 1st earl of Huntingdon in 1529.8 Massive debts accumulated by the 3rd earl subsequently triggered the family’s long-term decline. In 1596, despite raising £20,000 by selling off land, the earl still owed £18,000.9 It was this difficult financial situation, as much as personal inclination, which led Hastings’ father, the 5th earl, to play only a limited role in national politics, although he remained a dominant figure in Leicestershire.
Huntingdon cautioned Hastings to ‘match not thy son before he come to ripeness’, but he himself followed the family tradition of early marriages when it came to his heir. On 7 July 1623, at the age of 15, Hastings was married off to the ten-year-old daughter and heir of Sir John Davies, the former attorney-general of Ireland. The wedding was extremely irregular: according to Hastings’ son, the licence was ‘forgotten to be procured’, and no clergyman could be found to officiate. On learning of these proceedings, Archbishop Abbot ‘threatened an excommunication on the whole assembly’, so causing a second ceremony to be held a month later in the parish church of Englefield, where Davies lived, conducted by the local parson. The marriage was not consummated for another four years, the bride remaining with her parents while the groom completed his education.10 Hastings did not travel abroad, but in the summer of 1624 he toured the northern assize circuit with his father-in-law, who was one of the justices. Davies was impressed with the conduct of his young son-in-law, reporting that ‘he hath carried himself so sweetly and so discreetly as ... he hath ... purchased the love and praise of all men’. He also observed that Hastings was ‘very diligent to observe all men, matters and places worthy of observation’.11
While still 16 Hastings was returned for Leicestershire to the first Caroline Parliament, presumably at his father’s nomination, but he left no trace on the surviving records. In November 1625 John Mansel, the vice-chancellor of Cambridge, wrote to Huntingdon that, if he intended Hastings to ‘spend sometime in the university, it is high time now to begin’. Consequently Hastings was not elected to the 1626 Parliament but was sent instead to Queens’ College.12
Hastings seems to have been a rather timid man. Indeed, in 1649 he was described as ‘Ferdinand the meek’ by the father of his chaplain. In 1627, after the death of Davies, it was reported that ‘he would not lie with his lady’, and so establish his right to her father’s property, until he had her mother’s consent.13 This willingness to comply with the wishes of his mother-in-law, the prophetess Lady Eleanor Davies, did not stop the latter from embroiling him in a lawsuit over the manor of Englefield, which she claimed as her jointure on the death of her husband. She lost the case when it was proved that the lands had been left to her for her widowhood only and she had forfeited them on her second marriage, to Sir Archibald Douglas.14
Hastings was re-elected for Leicestershire, still under age, in 1628. He made no recorded speeches and his only appointment was to attend the conference of 22 Mar. 1628 on the joint address for a general fast.15 He was not mentioned in any of the surviving accounts of the second session of 1629, although he clearly did attend, as he wrote to his wife on 14 Feb. that ‘the Parliament sits very hard, and as yet proceeds in no business but concerning religion’.16
Hastings sat in the Lords in the opening sessions of the Long Parliament, and commanded a troop of horse in the parliamentarian army at Edgehill. His panic-stricken flight from the field spread alarm and despondency in London, and in the following year he withdrew discreetly into Leicestershire. After the death of his father he took up residence at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, although it was then a royalist garrison under the command of his brother, Henry, during which time his estates were sequestered. He submitted to Parliament in 1645, when he claimed that he had been forced to take refuge in Ashby after being kidnapped by parliamentarian soldiers and taken to Nottingham. He also asserted that he had played no part in the royalist cause and had never gone to Oxford during the war. This was patently false, as Charles I had appointed him custos rotulorum of Leicestershire in succession to his father in December 1643 and he had subscribed to a letter sent by the royalist peers in Oxford to the Scottish Privy Council in early 1644. Hastings was allowed to compound for his lands, but he estimated that the war had cost him £1,000 p.a. through the loss of his Irish estates and the reduction in value of his English property from £1,808 to £900 p.a. So pressing did his debts become that he was for a time incarcerated in the Fleet until he obtained an Act of Parliament in 1653 enabling him to sell some of the entailed estate. He drafted a brief will on 11 Feb. 1656, and died two days later ‘of an asthma’ and was buried at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. None of his legitimate descendants sat in the Commons.17
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Paula Watson / Ben Coates
- 1. HMC Hastings, iv. 352.
- 2. CP, vi. 658-9; LI Admiss.; Al. Cant.; HEHL, HA4835; E.S. Cope, Handmaid of the Holy Spirit, 26.
- 3. C231/5, p. 57; Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 117.
- 4. C181/5, f. 90v.
- 5. HMC 4th Rep. 22, 27; Sainty, Lords Lieutenants, 26; LJ, iv. 451; vi. 700.
- 6. SR, v. 72.
- 7. Army Lists of the Roundheads and Cavaliers ed. E. Peacock, 49.
- 8. Nichols, County of Leicester, iii. 607; OR.; Oxford DNB sub Hastings, William; CP, vi. 655.
- 9. L. Stone, Crisis of the Aristocracy, 145, 778.
- 10. HMC Hastings, iv. 332, 352; Stone, 654.
- 11. HMC Hastings, ii. 66; Cope, 27.
- 12. HEHL, HA9146, 5507.
- 13. HEHL, HA10543; T. Pestell, ‘On the Untimely Death of Henry Lord Hastings’, Lachrymae Musarum ed. R. Brome (1649), p. 19; Oxford DNB sub Pestell, Thomas.
- 14. C78/393/6.
- 15. CD 1628, ii. 42.
- 16. HEHL, HA4862.
- 17. HMC Hastings, ii. 87, 138; iv. 351; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, ii. 377; LJ, vii. 675; Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, v. 562; T. Cogswell, Home Divisions, 290-1; CCC, 1043; PROB 11/256, f. 223v.