On June 13, 1483, as most readers of this blog know, William Hastings was seized at a council meeting, dragged out to Tower Green, and executed without trial, or as the Crowland Chronicler put it, “without justice or judgement,” by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, soon to be Richard III. I’ve written about Hastings’ execution here and here, so I’ll spare you my rant on the subject today and stick to the title topic.
Hastings might have died without a trial, but he did not die without a will. Hastings’ lengthy will, made two years before his death, is printed in full in volume 1 of The Logge Register of PCC Wills, 1479 to 1486, edited by Lesley Boatwright, Moira Habberjam, and Peter Hammond; an abstract can be found here at Testamenta Vetusta (page 368).
Hastings, who was about 53 when he died, made his will in London on either June 26 or 27, 1481 (the Logge transcription of it contains both dates). Most people at the time did not make their wills far in advance, but waited until they were seriously ill, old, or getting ready to undertake a hazardous enterprise, such as going to war. Hastings’ will makes no mention of an illness. At the time, however, Edward IV was preparing to lead an army against the Scots; indeed, on June 22, a few days before the date of Hastings’ will, Edward IV had adjourned the courts in order to deal with the Scottish threat. Perhaps, therefore, Hastings was anticipating going to battle, though in the event he did not participate in the Scottish campaign, which was led by Gloucester. It may be, however, as the editors of the Logge Register suggest, that Hastings simply “was the sort of man who liked to do things well in advance.”
Hastings was certainly not in a hurry when he wrote his will: it takes up eight and a half pages in the Logge Register, so I’ll just point out some of the highlights here.
Famously, Hastings started his will by noting that Edward IV had allowed him to be buried “in a place by his grace assignid” in the Chapel of St. George at Windsor, where Edward IV himself was “disposid to be buryed.” He bequeathed 100 marks for the cost of his tomb and asked that on the day of his burial, 20 pounds be given to the ministers of divine service, to the poor knights present at his burial, and for other alms. Hastings also requested that a jewel of gold or silver to the value of 20 pounds be given by his executors to the dean and canons of the chapel.
Hastings devoted much time in his will to the welfare of his soul, providing for daily masses and yearly obits and giving many bequests to places of religion. He asked that a priest be found to pray daily for his soul, his wife’s soul, for the king’s prosperous estate during his life and for his soul after his death, and for all Christian souls. (The king in question, of course, was Edward IV.) On the anniversary of his death, 20 shillings in alms were to be distributed. Hastings also asked that 100 pounds be dispersed to the friars of Notthingham, Northampton, Leicester, and Derby and to other prisoners and poor folks of those shires.
Lord Hastings was generous toward his family. His sister, Elizabeth Donne, received 100 marks; he gave 300 marks toward the marriages of various nieces. Much of his will is taken up with arrangements for the marriage of his daughter Anne, who Hastings intended to marry his ward George, Earl of Shrewsbury.
Hastings’ eldest son was named, not surprisingly, Edward. He had three other sons: Richard, George, and William, though George was probably dead by 1481, since he is not mentioned in the will. Hastings made arrangements for both of his younger sons to receive lands when they reached the age of 18. He assigned certain manors to his widow and arranged for plate, jewels, and “stuff” to be divided between his daughter, his two younger sons, his wife, and his heir, Edward Hastings.
Touchingly, Hastings charged his heir to be “feythfull and trewe to the kinges grace, to my lord prince, and there heiris.” He named “Kateryn my enterly belovid wiff,” his eldest son, Sir William Husee, Chief Judge of the King’s Bench, and Richard Pygot, one of the king’s sergeants at law, as his executors. For “the more parfite and sure execution” of his will, Hastings also made John Morton, Bishop of Ely (arrested along with Hastings in 1483) and John, Lord Dynham (Hastings’ lieutenant at Calais), surveyors of the will. He closed his will by beseeching Edward IV to be a good and gracious lord to his wife, his heir, and to all of his children, who in turn he charged to be “tru sogettes and servaunts” to the king and to all of his issue. Loyalty might have been Gloucester’s motto, but as Hastings’ will shows, it was the guiding principle of Hastings’ life.