HASTINGS, Sir Francis (c.1546-1610), of Holwell, Som.; formerly of Market Bosworth, Leics. and North Cadbury, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1604 - 16 Sept. 1610

Family and Education

b. c.1546, 5th s. of Francis, 2nd earl of Huntingdon (d.1560), and Catherine, da. and coh. of Henry, 1st Bar. Montagu; bro. of Sir Edward† and Sir George†.1 educ. Magdalen, Oxf. by 1565; G. Inn 1574.2 m. (1) c.1567, Magdalen (d. 14 June 1596), da. of Sir Ralph Longford of Longford, Derbys., wid. of Sir George Vernon† of Haddon, Derbys., s.p.; (2) c.1598, Mary, da. and h. of Richard Watkins of Holwell, wid. of James Hannam of Purse Caundle, Dorset, s.p.3 kntd. 1592.4 d. 16 Sept. 1610.5

Offices Held

J.p. Leics. 1569-c.1587, c.1593-4, Dorset 1584-1605, Som. by 1591-1605;6 sheriff, Leics. 1572-3, 1580-1;7 commr. musters, Leicester 1580,8 recusants, Leics. 1584;9 dep. lt. Leics. 1587-1605, Som. 1590-1605, Dorset 1604-5;10 commr. sewers, Som. 1603, Dorset 1605;11 col. militia ft. Som. to 1605.12

Commr. Union with Scotland 1604.13


Hastings was the youngest son of Francis, 2nd earl of Huntingdon, the dominant figure in mid-Tudor Leicestershire. He was under-age when his father died, leaving him property at Market Bosworth, in Leicestershire. Consequently it was his elder brother, Henry, 3rd earl of Huntingdon, who placed him in the care of Lawrence Humphrey, the puritan president of Magdalen College. Between 1571 and 1586 Hastings represented Leicestershire three times in Parliament, despite the fact that in 1583 he moved to the West Country to supervise his family’s lands there. In 1586 he exchanged his Market Bosworth property for his elder brother’s lands at North Cadbury in Somerset, and in 1589, and again in 1593, he represented Somerset in Parliament. Hastings now seemed to have settled permanently in Somerset, but following the death of his first wife in 1596 he sold up and returned to Leicestershire, which county he again represented in Parliament the following year. Shortly afterwards, however, he moved back, having married the heiress to property at Holwell, in the Vale of Blackmore. After serving for the nearby borough of Bridgwater in 1601, he was elected to the first Stuart Parliament as Somerset’s senior knight of the shire.14

Described by Anthony à Wood as ‘a learned gentleman, well read in authors, especially those relating to the controversies between Protestants and Papists’, Hastings penned three treatises on religion. One - his ‘Discourse of Predestination’ -was never published and seems not to survive. Of the other two works, the first, an anti-Catholic treatise, appeared in print in 1598, and was entitled A Watch-Word to all Religious, and True Hearted English-men. Its argument that Catholicism was inherently seditious provoked a reply the following year from the Jesuit Robert Parsons, whereupon Hastings responded with his second published work, An Apologie or Defence of the Watch-Word. After reiterating his view that Catholic doctrine was incompatible with true allegiance to the Crown, Hastings acknowledged that many ordinary Catholics were loyal, for ‘we have many of that profession in recusancy, who are in simplicity led by the line of their superstition very far, which yet will not shake hands with them in their treasons’. However, this admission was regarded as insufficient by Parsons, who published a rejoinder in 1602.15

In both of his tracts, Parsons questioned Hastings’ adherence to England’s established church, and described both him and the 3rd earl of Huntingdon as ‘puritans in religion’. He also referred to Hastings’ ‘presbytery of puritan ministers at Cadbury’.16 Far from denying that he was a puritan, Hastings sidestepped the issue, describing Parsons’ distinction between puritans and Protestants as a ‘trick of cunning ... to disjoin our affections’. Although ‘some dissent hath appeared’ between Protestants, it was only about ‘outward things’. Indeed, ‘our church-men’ were united by ‘the doctrine of faith’ and loyalty to the queen.17 In Parliament, however, Hastings was considerably less coy about his true opinions. During the debate on the church attendance bill on 12 Dec. 1601, for instance, he argued that there was a need for more ‘evangelical puritans, which insisteth wholly upon the scriptures’.18 In private, Hastings was even more frank. ‘The word of truth’, he declared in a letter to his great-nephew, the 5th earl of Huntingdon in 1605, ‘must needs work in us a daily increase in holiness of life and conversation’. If such an opinion was enough to earn him ‘the title of puritan’ then he ‘must undergo it’, even though he personally hated the term, describing it as ‘that abusive name’.19

Although Hastings was a religious zealot, the extent to which he wished to see the Church of England reformed is a matter for debate. In his 1605 letter to Huntingdon he derided many of his fellow Anglicans as ‘carnal gospellers’, stressed the importance of preaching, but denied holding any ‘concealed opinion’ which others might imply by the term ‘puritan’. By this he presumably meant that he had no sympathy for Presbyterianism. However, at the time Hastings was keen to emphasize his moderation, as he was then in disgrace for petitioning on behalf of deprived ministers. A letter written 15 years earlier to his brother Sir Edward Hastings†, who probably shared his religious views, suggests that in reality Hastings wanted radical changes to be made to the Church of England, which he described as having ‘many defects’. Indeed, his main disagreement with the Presbyterian reforms then being urged by ‘Martin Marprelate’ was not over ends but means: in his opinion further reformation was the responsibility of the ‘sovereign magistrate’ rather than the private individual.20

At the beginning of James’s reign, however, the most pressing issue facing Protestant reformers like Hastings was not episcopacy but the fate of those puritan ministers who were unwilling to submit themselves to the discipline and ceremonies of the Church of England. Preventing their suspension was vital, as it would prove impossible to staff a full preaching ministry without employing Nonconformist ministers. Achieving this goal was probably Hastings’ main political objective, both inside and outside the Commons, in the Jacobean period.

A veteran of seven parliaments, Hastings was one of those whose name was ‘muttered’ for the Speakership on 19 Mar. 1604. However, after some hesitation, the Commons decided to accept the Crown’s choice, Hastings’ fellow knight of the shire for Somerset, Sir Edward Phelips.21 During the course of the first session Hastings was named to 55 committees and made 19 recorded speeches. He was appointed to the committee for privileges on 22 Mar. and to committees named to consider the grievances presented by Sir Robert Wroth I* and Sir Edward Montagu* the following day.22 As the member of a prominent noble family he was employed by his colleagues to carry messages to the Lords, taking seven bills to the Upper House on 10 May and a further six on 5 July.23

On 27 Mar. Hastings was appointed to help draft an explanation of the Commons’ proceedings in the disputed Buckinghamshire election. The following day he was among those named to assist the Speaker in delivering it to the king.24 However, on 30 Mar. he tried to play down the dispute, stating that it should ‘not be termed a difference between His Majesty, and the Commons’ and that it was a question of judgment not privilege. Consequently he argued that the Commons should consult the judges, as the king had requested the previous day. He was nevertheless among those ordered to write down the House’s reasons for seating Sir Francis Goodwin*.25 On 5 Apr. he was named to attend the conference with the judges, and one week later he marshalled the delegation that accompanied Phelips with a vote of thanks to the king ‘for his gracious presence and direction’ in resolving the dispute.26

Hastings was appointed on 27 Mar. to the committee to consider ‘all the questions and doubts’ in the case of Sir Thomas Shirley I, a Member imprisoned for debt. On 12 May the lieutenant of the Tower wrote to inform the Speaker that the warden of the Fleet asked to be ‘resolved therein’ by Hastings and Nathaniel Bacon*. Two days later Hastings argued that it was more appropriate for the House to send its own officers to release Shirley than to apply to the judges, although he did not disdain the assistance of the Crown.27

On 14 Apr. Hastings was named to attend the conference with the Lords about the Union. He evidently favoured this project, perhaps in the belief that if the king was granted his wishes in respect of the Union he would look more favourably on puritan grievances. In the debate on whether to abandon the names of England and Scotland in favour of ‘Great Britain’ on 23 Apr. he argued that James was ‘worthy the greatest name’, which suggests that he supported Sir William Maurice’s* proposal that James should assume the title of emperor of Great Britain. In the debate on 2 May concerning the king’s letter of the previous day, criticizing the Houses’ proceedings about the Union, Hastings was permitted to speak first after he and Sir Richard Leveson both rose at the same time. Hastings wanted those who had misrepresented the House to the king to be ‘sifted out’, and proposed that an address to James should be prepared ‘to satisfy him’. Hastings was subsequently appointed to the committee for drafting this address which, in the event, was abandoned. Ten days later Hastings supported Sir Robert Wingfield’s successful motion to nominate the commissioners for the Union, thereby opposing Sir Edwin Sandys’s attempt to delay matters by having the bill read first. He was subsequently nominated one of the commissioners himself.28

Hastings’ main concern in the 1604 session was with religion. On 31 Mar. he introduced a bill ‘against puritans’, which was given its first reading two days later. The text has not survived, but when the measure was debated at second reading on 25 Apr. the crypto-Catholic John Good* complained that it defined puritanism so narrowly as to restrict it to ‘certain obscure and imaginary sectaries’. He also suggested that the real intention of the bill was to protect ‘the known puritans’. This intervention apparently earned Good a rebuke at the bar of the House, but it also forced Hastings to defend his bill. He explained that there were, in his view, four types of puritanism: Cathar heretic, Catholic, Anabaptist and Protestant. (In the debate on the church attendance bill in 1601 he had given the four types as ‘Catholics’, ‘Papist’, ‘Brownists or Family of Love’, and ‘Evangelical puritans’). Hastings, it seems, was trying to suggest that ‘puritanism’ was a trait present in all forms of Christianity.29

The bill against puritans was referred to the committee for religion, from which it failed to emerge. This committee had been established at Hastings’ motion on 16 Apr. to consider the ‘establishing of religion and for the increasing, settling, continuing and maintaining of a learned ministry’. Hastings himself was the committee’s first-named member after the privy councillors and probably took the chair during its proceedings.30 On 18 Apr. he moved to confer with the Lords about religion, and consequently the following day his committee was instructed to draft proposals for discussion.31 Hastings seems to have been worried that religion was not as high a priority among his fellow Members as he would have liked. On 24 Apr. he declared that he wanted ‘the king of kings’ to ‘have his full entrance in this House’, and reminded the Commons that ‘religion is no temporary thing’.32 Nevertheless the conference was deferred until 17 May, when it was held in the presence of the king in the Council chamber at Whitehall.33

At this conference James called for the appointment of a subcommittee consisting of members of Both Houses. Consequently, over the next few days this new body was established.34 Naturally, Hastings was appointed one of its members, and on 24 May he reported that it had resolved to proceed in a bill against pluralism, which had been referred Hastings’ committee on 21 May, and to consider legislation to settle a learned ministry. However, his suggestion that members of Convocation should attend the joint subcommittee was rejected by the Commons.35 Hastings again reported from the subcommittee on 8 June, when he announced that one of the subcommittee’s members, the bishop of London, Richard Bancroft, had read out a paper from Convocation declaring that the Commons had no right to interfere in ecclesiastical matters as this ‘prejudiced the liberties of the church’. As Bancroft and the other bishops now refused to have anything more to do with the joint committee, Hastings recommended that the Commons should abandon its attempt at working with the Lords and proceed instead to petition the king. At this the House instructed Hastings’ committee to search for precedents that proved that the Commons was entitled to ‘intermeddle’ in ecclesiastical affairs, and to draw up a petition requesting that the king allow puritan ministers to dispense with the need to conform ‘in matters indifferent, and of ceremony’.36

Five days later Hastings reported ‘many precedents and laws’ to substantiate the Commons’ claim to possess jurisdiction in religion. He also presented the House with his committee’s draft of the petition to protect Nonconformist ministers, which he successfully supported in the subsequent debate. Three days later, after it had been ‘fair written’ by the clerk, it was agreed that Hastings should help deliver the petition to the king.37 The matter of the paper from Convocation was raised again on 21 June by Edward Duncombe, whereupon Hastings was sent to the Lords to request a conference so that the Commons might protest. However, at this meeting, which Hastings reported on 2 July, Bancroft proved conciliatory, declaring that as he and the bishops ‘conceived the privilege of Parliament to stand upright’ he wished that ‘there might be no more ado made of it’. Hastings was evidently dissatisfied with this response, but Carleton, ‘taxing Sir Fr. Hastings, in his Speech, as was thought’, quoted part of an old adage, ‘that the hare’s foot might be set against the goose giblets’, meaning that it was better to leave things as they were. Consequently, the matter was allowed to rest.38

On 27 Apr. Hastings was named to the committee for the bill to transfer to Melcombe Regis the church of Radipole, a large Dorset parish. Melcombe Regis was the major population centre in the parish but was a mile-and-a-half from the church and was served by only a small chapel of ease. However, the living belonged to Hastings’ second wife’s family, and consequently Hastings wanted to ensure that the inheritance of his son-in-law was safeguarded. The bill was subsequently enacted with a clause which stated that the patronage of the church would remain unaltered. A note on the text of the Act in the borough archives states that Hastings ‘allowed’ the bill, but in fact Hastings retained residual qualms about his son-in-law’s rights which re-emerged in the 1606 session.39

On 10 May Hastings was appointed to the committee for the London tithes bill, which he reported on 14 June as ‘mischievous and injurious’; he delivered a substitute bill which the committee had drafted, but it was rejected at second reading on 23 June.40 On 16 May he reported the bill to restore in blood the Catholic peer, Lord William Howard, without any amendments, which was passed.41 The bill ‘to retain the King’s Majesty’s subjects in their due obedience’ was referred to Hastings’ committee on 21 June, and the text was delivered to Hastings two days later. The committee divided the bill into two parts, one of which was reported under the title ‘an Act for the due execution of statutes made against recusants’ on 25 June. This bill subsequently completed all its Commons’ stages but disappeared after it was sent up to the Lords on 28 June.42

Hastings was appointed to the committee to confirm the letters patent granted to the chancellor of the exchequer, Sir George Home, on 30 May.43 On 12 June he wrote to Home reporting his efforts to ‘to sound out the disposition of the House to a subsidy’. After stating that he had heard ‘that His Majesty’s treasure is far spent’, he told Home that he thought it ‘a fault not to be excused’ to let the king ‘want our best supplies’. Nevertheless he considered a request for supply untimely, since the collection of the subsidies granted in 1601 was still incomplete. This fact, taken alongside ‘the poverty the country is generally into’, and the widespread expectation that peace would bring a lessening of taxation, meant that it was unlikely that the Commons would grant supply. However, Hastings assured Home that he was willing to employ ‘the best of my wit and judgment to sound the minds of men yet further’. Perhaps hoping that if he was instrumental in coaxing a grant of supply from the Commons James would look more favourably on his programme of religious reform, he added that ‘none [would] be more forward’ than himself on this issue. During the supply debate of 19 June, Hastings warned his fellow Members not to sleep while ‘the Papists persuade, that Protestants are their friends’ and moved for ‘a selected number’ to be chosen ‘to consult how to express our love to King James’. However, as Hastings had predicted, the proposal to vote taxation proved very controversial, and a week later the king disclaimed any interest in subsidies, blaming ‘divers Members’ of the Commons, who were ‘otherwise strangers to our affairs’ for raising the matter in the first place. As a result of this rebuke, Hastings was forced to apologize for his motion.44

During the debate on the continuance of expiring statutes on 18 June, Hastings offered a proviso ‘touching an imitation of clothing in several counties’, including his own constituency; but it was ordered ‘to sleep till the next session’.45 Five days later he contributed to the debate on the sumptuary bill, and despite speaking against the navigable rivers bill that same day he was appointed to the committee.46 On 29 June he was again ‘taxed’ by Dudley Carleton, this time, apparently, for criticizing Sir John Hungerford and Richard Martin for ‘speeches of collusion’.47

Following the 1604 session, Hastings drew up the petition on behalf of those Northamptonshire ministers who had been deprived and suspended for failing to subscribe to the 1604 Canons. It was presented to the king by the Northamptonshire gentry, including Sir Edward Montagu* and Sir Valentine Knightley*, in February 1605. The petition strayed dangerously close to the distinction that Hastings himself had drawn between the role of the private individual, ‘whose place is to entreat, not to enjoin’ reformation, and the ‘sovereign magistrate’. Hastings was summoned before the Privy Council and questioned for two days, during which time the king was occasionally present. It has been suggested that, on the first day of his examination, Hastings incurred James’s wrath by taking him to task for his lenient policy towards Catholics. However, this is entirely speculative, as this day’s proceedings are undocumented. The record of Hastings’ examination the following day suggests that it was the Northamptonshire petition itself which was the focus of the Council’s interest, with Lord Chancellor Ellesmere (Thomas Egerton†) describing it as ‘mutinous, seditious, malicious, factious, [and] tending to rebellion by the combination of many hands against the law’. Hastings acknowledged his fault in dealing ‘for another country’, but defended the petition, and was accordingly ordered to retire to Somerset, ‘and desist from all dealing in matters concerning the king’s service’. Dismissed from the bench and the lieutenancy, he lobbied Viscount Cranborne (Robert Cecil†) to restore him to favour, but to no avail. Indeed, his initial hope that he might hold on to his militia colonelcy was shattered when he was replaced by Somerset’s lord lieutenant, the 1st earl of Hertford, in September 1605.48

In the second session Hastings received 28 committee appointments, made ten recorded speeches and, despite failing eyesight, performed the duties of a teller when the House divided over whether to vote additional subsidies (18 March). The Journal does not record for which side he acted. His standing in the Commons remained unaffected by his disgrace at Court, as his name was frequently towards the top of committee lists. He also continued to act as a messenger to the Lords, taking four bills to the Upper House on 3 Apr. and a further five on 25 April.49

Hastings was at Westminster when the Gunpowder Plot was discovered, as he was appointed to the committee for privileges on 5 Nov. and the committee for the better execution of the penal laws the following day.50 He lost little time in writing to Cecil, by now earl of Salisbury, informing him that ‘the eyes of all the godly subjects of the land are fast fixed’ on him in expectation that he would ‘suppress and disable by wholesome laws duly executed such wasting caterpillars and cankerworms’.51

When the session resumed in January 1606 Hastings seconded Sir George More’s motion of 21 Jan. to consider how ‘to settle the safety of the king and prevent the danger of papistical practices’. Describing the Plot as dangerous and desperate, he reminded Members of their duty to God, to the king, and to themselves. He was then named after Secretary Herbert to the committee ‘to consider of some course for the timely and severe proceeding against Jesuits, seminaries, and all other popish agents and practisers, and for the preventing and suppressing their plots and practices’.52 Two days later he was among those instructed to consider the bill to establish an annual thanksgiving for the failure of the Plot, and on 6 Feb. he was named to the committee to recommend the best procedure ‘to prevent the danger of such as do or shall serve in the Spanish wars’, such as Guy Fawkes.53 On 4 Feb. he agreed with Sir Edward Montagu that Members should not reveal ‘our articles now in hand and treaty here in this House’ for suppressing recusancy at the forthcoming conference with the Lords but should instead discuss only ‘the laws now in force’.54

On 22 Jan. Hastings was appointed to the committee established on Thomas Wentworth’s motion to draft a law to establish a learned ministry and combat non-residence.55 Undaunted by his disgrace, on 26 Feb. he also delivered a bill for restoring ministers deprived for failing to subscribe to the 1604 Canons. This measure received its first reading two days later and was committed on 7 Mar., when Hastings was named first after the privy councillors. He reported the bill a week later with a new title, ‘for enabling deprived ministers to sue and prosecute their appeals’. However, after Henry Yelverton announced that there was ‘course taken for helping the intention of this bill’, further proceedings were stayed.56 Yelverton may have been referring to the grievances that the Commons were preparing to present to the king, for when these were read out by Nicholas Fuller the following day they included a clause concerning deprived ministers. In the ensuing debate Hastings opposed Sir William Strode’s motion to consult the bishops to find out whether the ministers had been justly deprived. Arguing that it was ‘an ordinary way’ for the Commons to petition the king on such matters, he cited the petition of the previous session concerning Nonconformity as evidence of this fact, and tried to disassociate the deprived ministers from Presbyterianism and ‘innovation’.57

Despite the grievances petition, Hastings had not abandoned the bill for deprived ministers. Indeed, he reported it again on 27 Mar., when he made ‘a long speech’ in which he exploited the heightened fears of the threat from Catholicism to persuade his listeners that the puritan clergy were necessary to staff a preaching ministry. After referring to his advancing age, declining health and approaching death, all of which imposed upon him a duty to speak plainly, he declared that England’s Catholics were ‘desperate, subtle and simple’ and in as much need of instruction as discipline. The priority therefore was ‘to settle teaching’, which was ‘the ground of all obedience to God and His Majesty’. Hastings’ words fell on receptive ears, and consequently the bill was not only ordered to be engrossed but received its third reading on 2 April. The following day Hastings took the bill and three other measures up to the Lords. It may have been at his motion that it was commended to the Lords as the most important item of the batch, but despite this recommendation it progressed no further than first reading in the Upper House.58 The poor response of the Lords to the bill may explain Hastings’ continued interest in the ecclesiastical grievances. Although not among the Members appointed on 10 Apr. to prepare for the forthcoming conference with the Lords about this matter, he may have attended the committee regardless, as he was appointed to the subcommittee established to consider the first article, which concerned the deprived ministers.59 On 13 May he was among those appointed to draft the speech to be delivered by the Speaker at the presentation of the ecclesiastical grievances to the king the following day.60

On 17 Feb. Hastings contributed to the debate on the third reading of the Sabbath bill. His words are unrecorded but observance of the Sabbath was a subject about which he felt strongly, for in 1609 he was arrested for debt after he had refused to transact business on a Sunday and in 1601 he had introduced a bill ‘for the more speedy coming to church on Sundays’.61 On 22 May he spoke to unknown effect in the debate concerning the Lords’ amendments to the bill for the establishment and continuance of religion.62

On 23 Jan. Hastings was appointed to consider another bill concerning Radipole, which was promoted by the parson of the parish who, following the 1604 Act, sought increased remuneration. The measure was opposed by the parishioners, who argued that the Act had not increased his duties. Hastings was named first in the list of the committee and, according to a record of the committee’s proceedings in the borough records of Melcombe Regis, he was ‘was chiefly put in trust [of the bill] by the House’. However, he seems to have been mostly concerned with securing the rights of his son-in-law, about which, despite the clause in the 1604 Act, he was still anxious. On 25 Feb., finding that the committee was against the parson, Hastings ‘put up the bill’, but threatened that unless the inhabitants of Melcombe Regis agreed to arbitration to settle his son-in-law’s rights he would introduce a new bill himself to repeal the 1604 Act, and ‘would hazard his credit in the House for the effecting thereof’. The burgesses of the borough replied that ‘that they would yield to any thing which the said Sir Francis Hastings counsel should think good for the establishing of the right to the patron, but desired Sir Francis to let the parson and the town try their rights’. There were no further proceedings in the bill, which was never reported to the Commons, and there is no evidence that Hastings ever introduced a measure of his own, which may suggest that he managed to reach an agreement with the townsmen.63

On 26 May Hastings participated in the debate concerning the ‘invective sermon’ recently preached by Dr. Roger Parker, precentor of Lincoln Cathedral, at St. Paul’s Cross, in which Parker evidently attacked the Commons for supporting deprived ministers. After calling for unity and for ‘the names of Protestant and puritan to be taken away’, Hastings successfully moved for Parker to be sent for by the serjeant-at-arms and cast doubt on the claim that Parker, as a member of Convocation, lay outside the Commons’ jurisdiction.64

Hastings again supported a generous grant of taxation to the king, but this time, perhaps, as a means of winning back royal favour. In the supply debate of 10 Feb. he strongly supported an immediate grant of two subsidies and four fifteenths. ‘He gives twice who gives quickly’, he reminded the Commons, or at least those Members who had kept up their Latin, before declaring that ‘the love of his citizens is an impregnable defence for a king’. He was subsequently ordered to help draft the subsidy bill.65

On 20 Mar. Hastings was appointed to consider the bill to confirm the reversion of a lucrative legal office to William Davison†, the puritan former secretary of state who had been disgraced for his part in the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Hastings was named first to the committee after the privy councillors, and reported the bill six days later, when it was ordered to be engrossed.66 At the third reading debate on 5 Apr. he assured the House that Sir John Popham†, the lord chief justice and one of Hastings’ constituents, had informed him, on the authority of the master of the Rolls, ‘that the king is well pleased the bill shall pass’. Hastings cast doubt on the competing claims of Sir John Leigh to the reversion but agreed to Sir Maurice Berkeley’s suggestion that Leigh’s counsel should be heard before the bill passed. However, three days later, on Berkeley’s motion, all further proceedings were stayed.67

Concerned at falling attendance in the Commons, on 31 Mar. Hastings reported from the privileges committee a proposal that the Speaker should write to the parliamentary boroughs and the sheriff of every county to recall those who had departed without licence. Hastings subsequently reported a draft letter three days later, but James then forbade the Commons from sending instructions to the sheriffs, who were answerable only to him. Although the king offered his assistance the matter was referred back to the committee, whose spokesman reported the following day that it would be best to rely upon the forthcoming call of the House to improve attendance. Bowyer records, probably correctly, that Hastings was the spokesman concerned, but the Journal records that it was Sir Francis Goodwin.68

In 1606 an anonymous manuscript tract arguing for toleration of Catholicism was circulated and cast as a petition to Hastings, ‘that this may be delivered and published to the High Court of Parliament’. However, there is no evidence that Hastings ever received it. Subscribed as being from ‘your well beloved countrymen, kinsman, clients and friends’, those responsible for the tract were probably trying to make capital out of the contradiction between Hastings’ political anti-Catholicism and his amicable relations with individual Catholics, like his brothers, with whom, according to William Camden, he ‘agreed well in brotherly love, but not in religion’, and the crypto-Catholic privy councillors, Edward, 4th earl Worcester (his brother-in-law) and Henry, earl of Northampton, whom he approached in December 1606 to secure his restoration to royal favour.69

In the third session Hastings was appointed to 18 committees and made six reported speeches. In addition he carried bills to the Lords on three separate occasions (10 Dec. 1606; 9 Mar. 1607; 22 June 1607).70 On 18 Mar. he informed the Commons that Speaker Phelips was too ill to attend the House.71 He deployed his extensive experience of Commons’ proceedings in the debate concerning (Sir) Christopher Piggot’s speech attacking the Scots (16 Feb. 1607), and after citing various Elizabethan precedents he argued against referring the issue to a committee.72 He was again concerned at the problem of low attendance, and on 3 Mar. drew attention to the departure of Lawrence Hyde I, who had left for the assizes without permission.73 The following day he spoke in the first reading debate on the bill for better attendance of the Commons.74

Hastings was again active in promoting puritan legislation, especially measures to shield Nonconformists. On 11 Dec. 1606 he was named immediately after the privy councillors to the committee for the bill to prevent ministers from being compelled to subscribe to any canons not confirmed by Parliament. In addition, he was among those named to consider the bill against pluralism on 4 March. When he carried these two measures up to the Lords on 9 Mar., along with three other bills, he moved for permission to commend them to the peers. On his return he reported that had told the Upper House that ‘the abuse sought to be redressed by those bills was a great scandal to the church, and the greatest hindrance to the instruction of God’s people’. The other measures he took up included bills against drunkenness and unlicensed alehouses, but evidently Hastings attached a higher priority to issues involving the clergy than to moral reform.75

On 18 May Hastings was named to help draft a petition to the king calling for the better execution of the laws against Jesuits and Catholic priests, and for the introduction of laws against pluralism and for ‘the more free preaching of the gospel’. This petition, which included a request for the toleration of Nonconformist ministers, was reported on 11 June, but five days later, after a motion to have it read again, the Speaker announced that the king wanted the matter dropped. Hastings was outraged, and argued that it was ‘against the liberties of the House, not to read it’. While the king was perfectly entitled to refuse to yield to the petition, he had no right to pre-empt their discussion. The matter was subsequently referred to the privileges committee, whose members apparently put Hastings in the chair. On rising to report the committee’s deliberations two days later, however, Hastings was pre-empted by the Speaker, who delivered a second message from the king, which declared that James was now willing to allow the petition to be read. Most Members were evidently content at having successfully asserted their liberties and were keen to avoid a quarrel, and so, after the petition was read, they agreed to let the matter sleep. Poor Hastings was then left to complete his report from the privileges committee, which concerned a letter from the king to the Speaker concerning cross-border malefactors.76

By the fourth session Hastings was practically blind.77 Nevertheless he received 28 committee appointments, made 25 recorded speeches and attended several meetings of the privileges committee, one of which concerned the reintroduced bill to improve Commons’ attendance.78 On 7 May Hastings reported from this same committee concerning a point of procedure which had arisen two days earlier when a bill was brought from the Lords with the title written inside rather than on the back.79 On 18 May Sir Francis Hastings successfully moved for ‘a fortnight further respite’ for his nephew Thomas, Lord Clinton, knight of the shire for Lincolnshire, who had been summoned to the Lords the previous February. A successor had been elected, but Hastings wanted to delay his swearing in to allow Clinton a little more time in the Commons.80

On 17 Feb. Hastings was named to the committee for the bill to transfer the rectory of the depopulated parish of Frome Whitfield to the borough of Dorchester to fund a preacher, a school and an almshouse. The measure was subsequently rejected by the Lords, whereupon a new bill was introduced annexing a large part of the revenue to Holy Trinity parish in Dorchester. Hastings supported the new bill when it was debated on 7 June, no doubt because the incumbent was the notable puritan, John White.81 In the debate on ecclesiastical grievances on 24 Apr., Hastings argued ‘that the word grievance may be suppressed’ and a petition drafted calling for the better enforcement of the recusancy laws, the restoration of silenced ministers, the prohibiting of nonresidence, and the introduction of restrictions to prevent excommunication from being abused. On 11 May Hastings reported ‘the form of the ecclesiastical grievances’, and again moved that they be presented ‘by way of a petition’.82 One week later Hastings called for the expulsion of recusants from London. He was followed by Sir William Bulstrode, who moved for an investigation into the activities of Catholic priests in the prisons.83 Hastings reiterated Bulstrode’s complaint of 25 May, that there were more recusants now than at any time since the beginning of the reign.84 The following day he was among those appointed to accompany the Speaker to the king with an address about recusancy.85

On 6 June Hastings presented a petition from Thomas Felton, a former commissioner for recusant lands, against Henry Spiller*, the Exchequer official responsible for collecting recusancy revenue. Felton accused Spiller of accepting bribes from Catholics to frustrate the laws in force against them. The issue was referred to the committee for grievances, and six days later Hastings called for Catholic priests to be punished, ‘laws executed, [and] dangers prevented’. However Spiller defended himself so ably that on 15 June the Commons decided that further proceedings against him should ‘surcease for this time’.86 The following day, at the committee for grievances, Sir John Leveson complained that Hastings had accused him of opposing the examination of Spiller, whereupon Sir Julius Caesar, ‘desired a peaceable conclusion between them’.87

Despite the collapse of the proceedings against Spiller, Hastings continued to pursue the issue of recusancy. On 19 June he moved for further consideration of the activities of Catholic priests in prison.88 On 5 July he supported Sir William Bulstrode in calling for an investigation into the accusations of William Uvedale, a professional informer, who had claimed that pursuivants had been arresting priests in order to collect bribes for releasing them from prison. Hastings argued that it was ‘no time now to grow cold in this business’, and attacked the ‘too much countenancing’ of Catholics at court and ‘corruption of officers’. Nevertheless, he reiterated his belief that the principal reason for the growth of Catholicism was ‘want of instruction’, and he argued that ‘we should rather provide for instruction than punishment’. Hastings was appointed to the committee to consider Uvedale’s information and the following day he was one of those to whom Uvedale was ordered to provide details of his accusations.89

Speaking on 14 Mar. on the proposal to thank the king for permission to discuss the abolition of feudal tenures, Hastings pointed out that there was ‘no precedent of thanks but by the Speaker’. However, as there was ‘no precedent for such an overture before’, he desired ‘in a case so unusual to join with the Lords’. He was the last Member appointed to draft a message accordingly.90 He insisted on a full report of the conference of 4 May, at which the archbishop of Canterbury had delivered some scathing comments on the frothy orations in the Lower House.91 By now, Hastings seems to have lost some of his former enthusiasm for voting taxation. In the debate on 13 June he agreed with Sir Thomas Beaumont I that Members should defer a vote of supply until they had received an answer concerning their grievances and the Great Contract had been concluded, for although they had a ‘duty, [of] loyalty [and] liberality to the king’ they also had a ‘duty, [of] conscience [and] respect to the people’. He also reproached the courtier Humphrey May for being ‘too bitter against those that were not of his opinion’.92

After Speaker Phelips delivered a message, ostensibly from the king, forbidding further discussion of impositions (11 May), Hastings supported Thomas Wentworth I’s motion for a committee to draft a reply. Later in the debate he confirmed the Elizabethan precedents cited by Sir William Twysden and argued that the House was within its rights to ask how messages were sent to it.93 Hastings contributed to the debate in grand committee on the same subject on 18 May as he was appointed to the ‘subcommittee of such as then spake’ for drafting a reply.94 He was alarmed at the constitutional implications of the king’s claim, made on 21 May, to levy impositions as of right. The following day he opened the debate, arguing that if these levies were legal ‘His Majesty then hath a power in all our properties’. He called for a committee to consider ‘some satisfaction between the king and the subject’, which he wanted drafted ‘dutifully, carefully and strongly’.95

West Country matters continued to form part of Hastings’ legislative interests. On 23 Feb. he spoke in favour of the Minehead harbour bill and was appointed to the committee.96 Moreover, when the bill to facilitate the carriage of sea-sand for agricultural purposes was debated on 13 Mar. he obtained leave for the gentlemen of Devon and Cornwall to be heard by counsel at the committee, and he opposed the measure when it was again debated on 4 May.97 Another bill in which Hastings took an interest concerned William Davison, who had died in 1608. The 1606 bill to confirm his reversion to office was revived in 1610 in favour of his son, Francis. Hastings supported it at the second reading on 27 Mar. and was appointed to the committee. Progress with the measure was slow, however, and on 10 July he moved that counsel might be heard by the House for an hour. This motion seems not have been adopted, and there is no evidence that the bill emerged from committee.98 Hastings’ puritanism may account for his interest in the bill for houses of correction. On 18 May he successfully moved to give the bill a second reading and was named to the committee. Six days later he moved for the committee to meet that afternoon.99 A generous benefactor of the universities, he supported their continued exemption from taxation when this right was questioned by Sir John Sammes on 14 July.100

Hastings died on 16 Sept. 1610, during the recess, and was buried at North Cadbury. He had drafted two wills, the first of which consisted merely of a long religious preamble; the second was invalidated by his first wife’s death and his subsequent remarriage.101 Star Chamber proceedings revealed that he had given away most of his scholar’s library, that his apparel was either in pawn or ‘very mean’, and that his entire property could not be valued at above £350, although his debts exceeded £2,000. As his widow refused to sue out letters of administration, Bishop Thornborough instructed the registrar of the diocese of Bristol to protect the creditors’ interests. Neither of Hastings’ stepsons would have afforded him much satisfaction; the elder married into a Catholic family, adopted his wife’s religion, and sold all his estates, while the younger was reduced to receiving relief from the parish.102

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / John. P. Ferris / Ben Coates


  • 1. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings 1574-1609 ed. C. Cross (Som. Rec. Soc. lxix), p. xiii.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; C. Cross, Puritan Earl, 33; GI Admiss.
  • 3. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, pp. xiv, xxiv, 64-7, 72; Oxford DNB.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 90.
  • 5. C.H. Mayo, ‘Par. Reg. of Milborne Port, Som.’ Som. and Dorset N and Q, ii. 184.
  • 6. CPR, 1569-72, p. 226; E163/14/8; Hatfield House ms 278; CPR 36 Eliz. ed. S.R. Neal (L. and I. Soc. cccix), 154; C66/1620; Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 48.
  • 7. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 75.
  • 8. HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), p. 417.
  • 9. Nichols, County of Leicester, i. 404.
  • 10. HMC Foljambe, 25; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 603; APC, 1590, p. 71; 1601-4, p. 511; Earl of Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs. ed. W.P.D. Murphy (Wilts. Rec. Soc. xxiii), 18, 44; Winwood’s Memorials, 48.
  • 11. C181/1, ff. 70, 118.
  • 12. Earl of Hertford’s Ltcy. Pprs. 80.
  • 13. CJ, i. 208b.
  • 14. Oxford DNB; Ath. Ox. ii. 82-3; Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, pp. xxi-iv.
  • 15. Ath. Ox. ii. 83-4; Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, p. xxxii; F. Hastings, Apologie or Defence of the Watch-Word (1600), p. 170.
  • 16. R. Parsons, Temperate Ward-Word (1599), pp. 4, 78; R. Parsons, Warn-word to Sir Francis Hastinges Wast-Word (1602), p. 6.
  • 17. Hastings, Apologie, sig. [A4], 13.
  • 18. Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. ed. T.E. Hartley, iii. 474.
  • 19. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 99.
  • 20. Ibid. 46, 99-100.
  • 21. CJ, i. 141b.
  • 22. Ibid. 151a, 151b.
  • 23. Ibid. 206-7, 252b.
  • 24. Ibid. 156b, 157b.
  • 25. Ibid. 159b-160a, 940a; CD 1604-7, p. 37.
  • 26. CJ, i. 169a, 945a.
  • 27. Ibid. 155b, 208b, 971b.
  • 28. Ibid. 172a, 197a, 208b, 955a, 970b.
  • 29. CD 1604-7, p. 61; CJ, i. 161b, 184b, 956b-7a; Lansd. 776, ff. 14-16; Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. iii. 474.
  • 30. CJ, i. 172b, 173a, 184b, 948b; CD 1604-7, p. 68.
  • 31. CJ, i. 178a, 949a.
  • 32. Ibid. 956a.
  • 33. Ibid. 212b; LJ, ii. 300b.
  • 34. CJ, i. 214a; 215a, 215b; LJ, ii. 302b.
  • 35. CJ, i. 224b, 979a.
  • 36. Ibid. 235a, 988b-989a; CD 1604-7, p. 86.
  • 37. CJ, i. 238a-b, 240b-1a, 991b.
  • 38. Ibid. 244a, 250a-b, 1000b; T. Dekker, Shoemaker’s Holiday ed. D.J. Palmer, 21.
  • 39. Ibid. 203a; H.J. Moule, Descriptive Cat. of Chs., Min. Bks. and Other Docs. of Bor. of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, 192-3; Dorset RO, Weymouth bor. ms S189/5.
  • 40. CJ, i. 205a, 238b, 245a.
  • 41. CJ, i. 211a-b; Oxford DNB (Howard, Lord William).
  • 42. CJ, i. 244a, 247a, 248a, 997a, 997b.
  • 43. Ibid. 228b.
  • 44. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 85-6; CJ, i. 246a-7b, 994b, 998a.
  • 45. CJ, i. 241b.
  • 46. Ibid. 245a-b, 997a.
  • 47. Ibid. 999b. Martin had apparently repeated one of Hungerford’s jokes and had been followed by Hungerford who suggested that Martin should be recorded ‘for a good jester’ and himself ‘for a man of good religion’. Hungerford was anxious to assert his Protestantism after opposing Hastings’ petition for Nonconformist ministers on 13 June. Ibid. 991b, 998a, 999b.
  • 48. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 46, 88-96; D. Newton, Making of the Jacobean Regime, 88, 94-5; D. Newton, ‘Sir Francis Hastings and the religious education of James VI and I’, HJ, xli. 927; Winwood’s Memorials, ii. 48.
  • 49. CJ, i. 293a, 301b.
  • 50. Ibid. 256a, 257a, 286b; Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 88.
  • 51. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 102-4.
  • 52. CJ, i. 257b; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 45.
  • 53. CJ, i. 258b, 264b.
  • 54. Bowyer Diary, 25, W. Notestein, House of Commons, 1604-10, p. 451.
  • 55. Bowyer Diary, 3; CJ, i. 258a.
  • 56. Bowyer Diary, 55-6, 78; CJ, i. 279b, 284a.
  • 57. CJ, i. 285a.
  • 58. Ibid. 290b, 292a, 293a; LJ, ii. 408b.
  • 59. CJ, i. 296b; Cott. Cleopatra F.II, f. 239.
  • 60. CJ, i. 308b.
  • 61. Ibid. 269b; Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 112-13; Procs. in Parls. of Eliz. iii. 401.
  • 62. CJ, i. 311b.
  • 63. Ibid. 259a; Dorset RO, Weymouth bor. mss S189/5; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 457.
  • 64. CJ, i. 313a; Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae, 1541-1857, IX: Lincoln Dioc. comp. J.M. Horn and D.M. Smith, 12.
  • 65. CJ, i. 266a-b.
  • 66. Ibid. 287b, 290a.
  • 67. Bowyer Diary, 101, 108; CJ, i. 294b, 295a.
  • 68. Bowyer Diary, 96, 99, 101; CJ, i. 293a-b.
  • 69. HMC Downshire, ii. 444;W. Camden, Annales trans. A. Darcie (1625), p. 66; Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 108.
  • 70. CJ, i. 319a, 350b, 397a.
  • 71. Ibid. 353b.
  • 72. Ibid. 1014b.
  • 73. Ibid. 346a, 1025a.
  • 74. Ibid. 346a.
  • 75. Ibid. 329b, 347b, 350b-1b.
  • 76. Bowyer Diary, 341, 343; CJ, i. 384b-5b, 1053b.
  • 77. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 110.
  • 78. CJ, i. 416b; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 184.
  • 79. CJ, i. 425a.
  • 80. Ibid. 429a.
  • 81. Ibid. 394b, 435b.
  • 82. Ibid. 421a, 427a.
  • 83. Ibid. 429b.
  • 84. Ibid. 432b.
  • 85. Ibid. 433b.
  • 86. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 377-8; CJ, i. 436b, 440a; Birch, i. 116.
  • 87. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 16v.
  • 88. CJ, i. 441b.
  • 89. Ibid. 446a-b; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 22.
  • 90. CJ, i. 411b.
  • 91. Ibid. 425b.
  • 92. Parl. Debates, 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 55; CJ, i. 438a.
  • 93. CJ, i. 427a-b; Procs. 1610, ii. 83-4.
  • 94. HMC Lords, n.s. xi. 123.
  • 95. CJ, i. 430b.
  • 96. Ibid. 399a.
  • 97. Ibid. 409b-410, 424b.
  • 98. Ibid. 448a.
  • 99. Ibid. 429b; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 13v.
  • 100. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 24v.
  • 101. Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 113-19.
  • 102. T. Gerard, Particular Description of the County of Som. ed. E.H. Bates (Som. Rec. Soc. xv), 191; STAC 8/1/40; SP16/12/71; Hutchins, iv. 569; SP23/152/655.