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William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings (c. 1431 – 13 June 1483) became one of the great powers of the Englishmarker realm during the reign of Edward IV of England.

Hastings' father was Sir Leonard Hastings, a member of the English gentry who moved his seat to Leicestershiremarker from Yorkshiremarker where the family had long been established. His mother was Alice Camoys, daughter of the 1st Baron Camoys, by his second wife Elizabeth Mortimer, widow of Henry "Hotspur" Percy and daughter of Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March, and Philippa of Clarence, daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, second son of Edward III.

Hastings succeeded his father in service to the House of York and through this service became close to his distant cousin the future Edward IV, whom he was to serve loyally all his life. He fought with Edward at the Battle of Mortimer's Crossmarker and was present at the proclamation of Edward as king in London on 4 March 1461 and then when the new king secured his crown at the Battle of Towtonmarker shortly thereafter. With the establishment of the Yorkist regime, Hastings became one of the key figures in the realm, most importantly as Lord Chamberlain, an office he held for the duration of the reign and which made him one of the most important means of access to the king. He was also created Baron Hastings, a title reinforced by grants of land and office, primarily in Leicestershire and Northamptonshiremarker. His importance in these years is recorded in a number of sources and was recognized by the greatest peer in the realm, Warwick the Kingmaker, who gave Hastings his widowed sister Katherine Neville in marriage. Katherine's first husband William Bonville, 6th Baron of Harington had been killed at the Battle of Wakefieldmarker on 31 December 1460, leaving her with a six-months old daughter, Cecily Bonville, who succeeded to the Bonville titles and estates. Hastings and Katharine had three surviving sons, including Edward Hastings, 2nd Baron Hastings who married Margaret Hungerford, heiress, and a daughter Anne, who married George Talbot, 4th Earl of Shrewsbury (1468-1538).

Despite this matrimonial relationship with the Nevilles, when Warwick drove Edward IV into exile in 1470, Hastings went with Edward and accompanied the king back the following spring. Hastings raised troops for Edward in the English Midlandsmarker and served as one of the captains of the Yorkist forces at both Barnetmarker and Tewkesburymarker. His service, loyalty and ability, along with the fall of his Neville in-laws, meant that Hastings was an even more important figure during the second half of Edward IV's reign. He continued to serve as chamberlain but was also appointed to be lieutenant of Calaismarker, which made him an important player in foreign affairs, and he was given authority over an increasingly large section of the English Midlands.

On the death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483, Hastings allied himself with Richard duke of Gloucester (after June 26, 1483, Richard III, King of England) in opposition to Edward IV's wife Elizabeth Woodville and her family. Hastings and Richard took control of the minority government of Edward V, however, when it became apparent that Hastings would not have the same control in the Protector's government as he had in Edward's, Hastings joined with the Woodvilles and others to rebel against the Protector's government. After hearing of the threat on his life, Richard of Gloucester had Hastings seized while the two of them and other political leaders were meeting at the Tower of Londonmarker and had Hastings beheaded immediately in the courtyard: the first recorded execution at the Tower of Londonmarker. The extra-juridical nature of this action was reflected in the fact that Hastings' wife and sons were allowed to inherit his lands and properties and Hastings himself was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsormarker, next to Edward IV.

Further reading

  • Seward, Desmond. A Brief History of the Wars of the Roses (Robinson, 1995)
  • Ross, Charles. Edward IV (Berkeley, 1974) [33847]
  • Carpenter, Christine. The Wars of the Roses (Cambridge, 1997) [33848]
  • Horrox, Rosemary. Richard III : a study of service (Cambridge, 1989) [33849]
  • Dunham, William Huse. Lord Hastings' indentured retainers, 1461-1483 (New Haven, 1955) [33850]

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