HASTINGS, Francis I (aft.1545-1610), of Bosworth, Leics.; later of North Cadbury, Som. and of Holwell, then Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. aft. 1545, 5th s. of Francis, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, and bro. of Sir Edward and Sir George. educ. Magdalen Coll. Oxf; ?G. Inn 1574. m. (1) Magdalen (d.1596), da. and coh. of Sir Ralph Langford, wid. of Sir George Vernon, s.p.; (2) by 26 June 1599, Mary da. and h. of Richard Watkins of Holwell, Som., wid. of James Hannam of Purse Caundle, Dorset, s.p. Kntd. 1592.2

Offices Held

Sheriff, Leics. 1572-3, 1580-1, j.p. from c.1573, q. by 1586, dep. lt. by 1587; j.p. Dorset from c.1584, Som. from c.1590; surveyor of duchy of Lancaster north of Trent by 1587; dep. lt. Som. by 1590, Dorset by 1604.3


Hastings was under 15 in 1560 when his father died, leaving him, when he should attain his majority, manors to the annual value of £41. His education was supervised by his eldest brother and the Oxford divine, Dr. Laurence Humphrey, and Hastings may also have passed some time at Cambridge. He became an intimate of several puritans, including Thomas Cartwright, but was repelled by Marprelate. ‘It is a good thing to desire the amendment of things amiss, but it cannot be good to seek to amend them by a wrong course’. Until about 1587 Hastings lived in Leicestershire, where he held county and borough office, acting as commissioner for musters in Leicester in 1580. In September 1586 he and his brother Edward were called on to assist in the safe removal of Mary Queen of Scots to Fotheringay.4

When Hastings first entered the House of Commons in 1571 it was as a senior knight for Leicestershire. For an unknown reason his elder brother, Sir Edward, sat in this Parliament for a Cornish borough, while Sir George, who had previously represented Derbyshire, was not returned at all. In 1572 it was Hastings’s own turn not to sit, though Sir George, who was then sheriff of Leicestershire, could presumably have assisted him. Perhaps Hastings was expecting to become sheriff later in the year. In 1584 and again in 1586, he and Sir George took both county seats, helped no doubt on the second occasion by the government’s directive to re-elect those returned previously. It was between the 1586 and 1589 Parliaments, and perhaps after an interval spent at Mortlake in Surrey, that Hastings moved from Leicestershire to North Cadbury in Somerset—a property inherited by the Hastings family from the Hungerfords. Here he rebuilt the house and managed the family estate as steward of his brother, the 3rd Earl. Much of the correspondence between them on business matters has survived. As a result of his change of residence, he sought and obtained the senior county seat for Somerset in 1589 and 1593, returning however in 1597 to Leicestershire, where this time he had the junior seat in deference to his elder brother, Sir Edward. A friend of the Earl of Essex, Hastings wrote to Cecil after the Essex rising confessing that he had dearly loved him, but recognised the justice of his sentence. At the next election Hastings had to be content with a Somerset borough seat.5

From the beginning Hastings was an active Member of the House, and as his parliamentary experience grew, his role as a spokesman of the puritan party became increasingly important. In 1571, his first Parliament, he was appointed to three conferences with the Lords to discuss church attendance (5 May, 19 May) and corrupt presentations (25 May). During his second Parliament he was named in 1584 to committees on the better observing of the Sabbath day (27 Nov., 10 Dec.), eccelesiastical livings and the maintenance of the navy (19 Dec.), and the subsidy (24 Feb. 1585). On 2 Dec. 1584, after the disorderly second reading of a legal bill, Hastings moved:

that in respect of the gravity and honour of this House, when any member thereof shall speak unto a bill, the residue would forbear to interrupt or trouble him by unnecessary coughing, spitting or the like.

A period of absence from the House was excused by the Speaker on 11 Mar. 1585 on the ground that Hastings had been employed in the Queen’s service.

On 8 Nov. 1586 he spoke in favour of a bill urging ‘the rooting out of papistry’ and new measures to protect the Queen from the supporters of Mary Queen of Scots. On 28 Feb. 1587 when, despite the Queen’s confiscation the previous day of Sir Anthony Cope’s bill and book, the House debated ecclesiastical affairs, Hastings made an eloquent plea for further reformation in the church, painting a depressing picture of ignorance and sloth among both the clergy and the laity, and of the incursions of the seminarists. He was appointed to committees concerning the Queen’s safety (4 Nov.), a learned ministry (8 Mar. 1587), the levying of a supply for the expedition in the Netherlands (11 Mar.) and the puritan Members sequestered in the Tower (13 Mar.). During the Parliament of 1589 he was named to five committees: returns (8 Feb.), inns (13 Feb.), purveyors (27 Feb.), pluralities (1 Mar.) and the debts of Thomas Hanford (18 Mar.). He was one of those appointed to have audience with the Queen about purveyors on 6 Mar.; and he spoke on a matter of privilege on 21 Mar. He was appointed to committees in 1593 dealing with privileges and returns (26 Feb.), the subsidy (26 Feb., 1 Mar.), recusancy (28 Feb., 4 Apr.), the city of Lincoln (10 Mar.), the punishment of rogues (12 Mar.) and spinners and weavers (26 Mar.). On 7 Mar. 1593 he suggested a new scheme for the assessment of subsidies:

And I would wish three subsidies to be levied in this matter; in the first of them those to be charged of five pound lands and five marks goods; in the second those of twelve pound lands and eight pound goods, and in the third all to be charged as these have been.

On 16 Mar. 1593 a private bill was delivered to him concerning Anthony Cooke; and he reported the progress of a committee concerning cloth on 19 Mar.

Hastings took a very active part in the 1597 Parliament, initiating an investigation into the excessive number of penal laws on 8 Nov. 1597. Two days later, on 10 Nov., he moved for a committee to be appointed to look into monopolies and was named to the committee. He was also appointed to the following committees: privileges and returns (5 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), tillage and enclosures(5 Nov., 14 Nov.), rebuilding Langport Eastover, Somerset (10 Nov.); a hospital in the town of Warwick (18 Nov.), a legal bill (3 Dec.), a private bill (16 Dec.), mariners and soldiers (26 Jan. 1598) and the continuation of certain statutes (3 Feb. 1598). On 11 Nov. he reported the progress of the committee concerned with tillage and enclosures which was at the same time dealing with vagrants and poor relief. He commented that the committee had devoted all its time to the first two subjects, and asked the House to receive bills drawn up informally by various Members which would deal specifically with poor relief. On 18 Nov. he asked for more time to be spent considering bills for rebuilding houses and tillage.

His most memorable effort in the puritan cause was made in the 1601 Parliament. On 18 Nov. he was appointed to the committee of a bill, introduced by Sir Robert Wroth, designed to enforce church attendance. The bill was thrown out by a small majority, but a week later Hastings followed it up with another of his own (27 Nov.). The chief criticism of his bill was that it increased the powers of the j.p.s, and several speeches were made against these officials, notably by Edward Glascock. Hastings was outraged. The battle against Glascock and his supporters began on 1 Dec. and by the 2nd Hastings was involved in a lengthy and acrimonious debate, echoes of which reverberated until the very end of the Parliament. ‘I never in my life before heard justices of the peace taxed in this sort’, he said, recommending that Glascock be brought before the bar of the House and severely punished for his speeches. The House refused to take such action. However, Hastings was successful in getting his bill committed: ‘For God’s, the Queen’s and the country’s sake, I beg the bill may be committed’. He reported it on 5 Dec. It had been drastically modified in committee although under his own surveillance, but it was still defeated by one vote, on 12 Dec. As Cecil said ‘lost it is and farewell it’.

Glascock and Hastings clashed over other issues during this Parliament, namely the bill against blasphemous swearing introduced by Hastings on 5 Nov., delivered to him on 10 Nov. and reported by him on 18 Nov.; and the bill against alehouses also committed to Hastings (5 Nov.), and reported by him on 24 Nov. On both occasions Hastings typified the attitude of the old-fashioned puritan in contrast to the younger and more critical faction of the House, here represented by Glascock. Hastings’ conservatism can also be seen in his attitude to the royal prerogative. In the debate on monopolies on 27 Nov. it was suggested that the Queen’s promise concerning them be recorded in the journals of the House. Hastings retorted that they should ‘be kept in the tables of our hearts’. Similarly he appealed to the House for moderation in its campaign against the Crown’s monopoly in iron ordnance on 8 Dec.

Hastings was not without compassion, as two small incidents reveal. On 6 Nov. he complained of ‘the lewd misdemeanours of pages and other unruly persons upon the outer stairs in the passage into the House’. He himself had been the victim of an incident that same day, and as a result had one Rowland Kendall committed to the serjeant-at-arms and kept in his custody overnight. Next day, however, Hastings secured his release, saying that one man should not be made a scapegoat and punished for the offences of the whole group. On 16 Nov. Hastings intervened on behalf of an elderly civil lawyer at whose tedious and barely audible speech Members ‘hawked and spat and kept a great coil to make him make an end’. He reminded the House ‘of the ancient usage that every man here should speak his conscience, and that both freely and with attention, yea, though he speaks never so absurdly’.

During the debate (8 Dec.) on the George Belgrave privilege case, when Hastings defended Belgrave’s reputation vigorously, Townshend described a lively exchange between Hastings and Francis Bacon:

Sir Francis Hastings offered to speak again in this matter; but Mr. Bacon interrupted him and told him it was against the course of the House. To which he answered, he was old enough to know when and how often to speak. To which Mr. Bacon answered, it was no matter for that, but he needed not to be so hot in an ill cause. To which Sir Francis replied: In several matters of debate a man may speak often, so I take it is the order. He (pointing to Mr. Bacon), talks of heat: if I be so hot as he was yesterday, then put me out of doors.

Hastings was an active committeeman also in 1601, being named to committees concerning privileges and returns (31 Oct.), the better observing of the Sabbath day (4 Nov.), procedure (11 Nov., 13 Nov.), pluralities (16 Nov.), letters patent (20 Nov.), legal matters (25 Nov., 10 Dec.), the payment of tithes at Norwich (27 Nov.), private bills (28 Nov., 15 Dec.), the Dunkirk pirates (3 Dec.), the Belgrave privilege case (8 Dec.), iron ordnance (8 Dec.) and the relief of soldiers and mariners (11 Dec.). He reported the committee stage of the bill concerning the Sabbath day on 5 Nov., and also reported the committee about the Denbighshire elections on 13 Nov. He spoke on a privilege case on 14 Nov., and in support of the bill against pluralities on 16 Nov. He also spoke on a point of procedure on 20 Nov. Speaking on the subsidy (7 Nov.), he suggested that it should be levied only on lands worth £4 and more, remarking that he had known poor people pawn their pots and pans to pay their contribution. Cecil took him to task over this suggestion on 9 Nov.

Two days before the last Elizabethan Parliament was dissolved, Hastings took advantage of a lull in the proceedings to comment on some recent business. He observed that the country had still two chief enemies, Rome and Spain: ‘Thence all our rebellions have proceeded, endangering the Queen’s life’. Moreover, Jesuits and seminarists were on the increase with their attendant evils, bragging that they had 40,000 true-hearted Catholics—‘for so they call them’—in England. The situation was dangerous, but Hastings for his part was ready to lay down his life in the Queen’s service.

In addition to the above, Hastings may also have attended several other committees by virtue of his position as knight of the shire: in 1589, the subsidy committee (11 Feb.); in 1593, a legal committee (9 Mar.), and two cloth committees (15 and 23 Mar.); and in 1597, the subsidy committee (15 Nov.) and a committee on the poor law (22 Nov.).6

In or about 1599 Hastings took up residence at Holwell parsonage in Dorset, the property of his second wife’s son, then a minor, and it seems that he resided there for the rest of his life, though spending time at North Cadbury until at least 1602. In his last Parliament he was suggested as Speaker in opposition to the government candidate, but he fell into debt and disfavour, sold the Cadbury property and lived in obscurity. He died at Holwell and was buried at North Cadbury, 22 Sept. 1610. He left two draft wills. The first, drawn up before he left Leicestershire for Somerset, was a detailed confession of his religious faith, containing no bequests. The second, made before his first wife’s death in 1596, left small bequests to South Cadbury and other nearby Somerset parishes, on condition that they discontinued their church ales, which profaned the Sabbath and corrupted youth.7

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: J.E.M. / M.A.P.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Som. and Dorset N. and Q. xxviii. 168-9; S. W. B. Harbin, Som. MPs, 131-2; Stowe 570, f. 555; Neale, Parlts. ii. 403; HMC Hatfield, ix. 207; C66/1495.
  • 3. Egerton 2345; Lansd. 737; C66/1421; HMC Foljambe, 25; APC, xix. 71; xxxii. 511; HMC 8th Rep. 1, p. 432.
  • 4. PCC 8 Loftes; Scott Pearson, Thomas Cartwright, 69, 72, 384; Knappen, Tudor Puritanism, 325, 327; HMC Hastings, ii. 37, 39; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1, p. 417; Nichols, Leics. i. 340, 404, 406; iv. 345; Lansd. 103, ff. 62 seq.
  • 5. HMC Hastings, ii. 38; HL, Hastings mss, ex inf. Dr. Claire Cross; Nichols, iii. 775; HMC Hatfield, v. 287; ix. 43; x. 372; xi. 211; APC, xxxi. 391, 463; xxxii. 91.
  • 6. D’Ewes, 181, 186, 188, 333, 335, 337, 343, 356, 365, 394, 395, 413, 414, 415, 430, 431, 432, 440, 441, 443, 447, 451, 471, 474, 477, 481, 486, 491, 496, 499, 500, 501, 502, 507, 510, 517, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 557, 558, 559, 561, 566, 567, 574, 588, 592, 610, 622, 626, 629, 630, 633, 635, 636, 637, 638, 640, 641, 642, 646, 647, 651, 654, 657, 658, 661, 663, 666, 668, 671, 672, 673, 677, 679, 682, 683, 684, 686; Townshend, Hist. Colls. 17, 22, 71, 72, 73, 102, 103, 106, 111, 116, 138, 191, 195, 198, 211, 212, 214, 220, 235, 246, 254, 258, 268, 273, 274, 277, 278, 294, 295, 297, 319, 320, 327, 330, 331; CJ, i. 91, 92; Neal, Parlts. ii. 154, 380, 396, 397, 413.
  • 7. HMC Hatfield, x. 26; xii. 546; CJ, i. 350; HL, Hastings mss, ex inf. Dr. Claire Cross; DNB.