HASTINGS, George (c.1590-1641), of Gray's Inn, London and Hackney, Mdx.; later of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Mdx. and Weybridge, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. c.1590,1 2nd s. of Francis Hastings†, Lord Hastings (d.1595) and Sarah, da. of Sir James Harington† of Exton, Rutland.2 educ. Sidney Sussex, Camb. 1605; G. Inn 1611, called 1616.3 m. 6 May 1619, Seymour, da. and coh. of Sir Gilbert Prynne of Allington, Wilts., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.). 4 kntd. 3 Nov. 1619.5 d. 1 July 1641.6
Ancient, G. Inn 1611-?d.7
Hastings was the younger brother of Henry Hastings, 5th earl of Huntingdon, the dominant magnate in early Stuart Leicestershire. Despite extensive land sales by the 3rd and 4th earls, the Hastings’ estates remained crippled by debts, which totalled £57,470 by 1612.8 Consequently, Hastings was forced to embark on a legal career. After entering Gray’s Inn in 1611, he was quickly admitted to the chief place at the ancients’ table, possibly thanks to the favour of Sir Francis Bacon*, the Inn’s treasurer.9
In 1614 Hastings was nominated by Huntingdon for election at Leicester, but withdrew after securing the more prestigious county seat.10 He was appointed to no committees, but made one recorded speech, on 7 June, supporting Sir Herbert Croft’s motion to vote one subsidy and two fifteenths.11 In 1615, as a result of a resettlement of his mother’s jointure, Hastings was granted out of his brother’s estate a life annuity of £200, plus a further £200 p.a. to finish his legal studies. To this he later added a further £100 p.a. which he purchased from his younger brother Edward, who needed to raise capital to join Sir Walter Ralegh’s† 1617 expedition to Guyana.12 Hastings was called to the bar in 1616 after less than five years’ study. In May 1617 he was picked to move the opening motion before Bacon when the latter sat in Chancery for the first time as lord keeper, but was apparently taken by surprise and, according to the letter writer John Chamberlain, he ‘performed it but poorly’.13
In 1619 Hastings married the younger daughter and coheir of Sir Gilbert Prynne, a prominent Wiltshire knight. Although Prynne’s main estate had already been assigned to the elder daughter when she married Sir Francis Seymour* in 1613, it seems likely that Hastings thereby acquired the manor of Biddestone, in Wiltshire.14 Hastings nevertheless remained tied to his elder brother, for whom he acted as legal agent. This continued dependence was evidently a source of grievance, for in 1630 Hastings complained that he had ‘too just cause to know the slavery of younger brothers’.15
In 1620 the puritan John Brinsley, who had been appointed master of Ashby school in Leicestershire by Hastings’ great-uncle, the 3rd earl of Huntingdon, dedicated his translation of Virgil to Hastings. Brinsley stated that Hastings was ‘addicted’ to his studies, and that he had, ‘out of that maintenance, which in regard of your high birth and noble line might seem far too little for yourself’, maintained ‘sundry poor scholars in the university’.16 That same year Hastings sought re-election for Leicestershire, along with his kinsman Sir Henry Hastings. However, the election was contested by Sir Thomas Beaumont II*, who had the support of the sheriff, Sir Alexander Cave. The latter was a former supporter of Henry, 1st Lord Grey of Groby who, before his death in 1614, had been the earl of Huntingdon’s rival for power in Leicestershire. All the sources agree that Hastings obtained far more votes than Beaumont, and an indenture was accordingly drawn up for his election, but Cave refused to return it and adjourned the election until the afternoon, when he returned Beaumont and Sir Henry instead.17 Hastings was outraged, and decided to appeal to the Commons, despite receiving a letter from Beaumont’s kinsman, the marquess of Buckingham, asking him to ‘desist therein’.18 To this end a petition was prepared in the name of the freeholders of Leicestershire, which was read at the privileges committee on 6 Feb. 1621. In response Beaumont claimed that, in addition to various irregularities at the election, Hastings was ineligible because he was not resident in the county and owned no freehold land there. However, the House accepted the argument of Hastings’ counsel that the annuity from his brother’s estates in Leicestershire qualified him as a freeholder and that the residency qualification had never been strictly applied. Consequently, the Commons ruled on 9 Feb. that the original indenture which declared that Hastings had been elected should be returned.19
Hastings’ kinsman and namesake Sir George Hastings also sat in 1621, having been elected for Christchurch. As Hastings had himself been knighted in 1619, there is potential for confusion between the two. However, matters are simplified because neither Member received any committee appointments. Moreover, most of the references to Sir George Hastings in the surviving records of the first sitting can be confidently ascribed to this Member because, other than those relating to the Leicestershire election dispute, they refer to the impeachment of Hastings’ patron Bacon, who had been appointed lord chancellor in 1618.
At the committee concerning the courts of justice on 14 Mar. 1621 a petition from Christopher Aubrey was read. This alleged that, on Hastings’ advice, Aubrey had delivered £100 to Hastings in June 1618 to be given to Bacon to obtain a favourable order in Chancery concerning a suit in that court between himself and Sir William Brounker. The order had not been forthcoming, although Aubrey claimed that Hastings had affirmed that Bacon had received the money. On the same day another petition was read, this time submitted by Edward Egerton, who alleged that Hastings, along with Bacon’s secretary Sir Richard Young*, had been party to Egerton’s own attempt to win a favourable hearing from Bacon by bribery. Hastings and Young were both present at the committee and initially attempted to shield their patron from these allegations. Hastings admitted that he had given Aubrey’s money to Bacon but claimed that he had told the latter that it had been given to himself by a grateful client and that he was presenting it to Bacon ‘as pledge of his thankfulness’. He and Young also stated that Bacon had been told that the money from Egerton had been given for work done before Bacon became lord keeper.20
At the committee the next day, realizing that he himself was in danger, Hastings changed his story. According to Sir Robert Phelips’ subsequent report to the Commons, Hastings, ‘struggling with himself betwixt ingratitude and honesty’, admitted that Bacon knew that the money had come from litigants. Hastings stated that two or three weeks previously he had been summoned to the lord chancellor’s bedchamber and asked to persuade Aubrey not to prosecute his petition. Hastings agreed, in return for Bacon’s pledge to help Aubrey. As this promise had not been kept, Hastings went on, he had warned the chancellor after the committee proceedings on the 14th that he must speak out, whereupon Bacon had replied, ‘if you do, George ... I must deny it upon my honour’. When John Finch II, another Bacon client, suggested in the ensuing debate that Hastings had solicited the bribes on his own behalf and was only accusing Bacon to save himself, Hastings replied that he had in fact acted out of ‘commiseration of the poor man’s person and estate’. He expressed penitence, and begged forgiveness, though he would ‘rather perish with a just sentence here than escape with a guilty conscience’. He subsequently reiterated his testimony against Bacon on 19 March.21 The same day the accusations against Bacon were delivered to the Lords, and the following day, at the request of the Upper House, the Commons gave permission for Hastings to give his testimony under oath. Hastings was subsequently examined by a committee of peers, and his evidence was read to the Lords on 19 April. Faced with the evidence from Hastings and others, Bacon with drew his defence and confessed himself guilty of corruption on 30 April.22
Hastings played no further role in the sitting, although his name may have been mentioned again on 21 May. On that day a letter from one ‘Jenison’ complaining of the warden of the Fleet was read in the Commons. According to the Journal the letter was written to Sir Henry Hastings, but one diarist identifies the addressee as Hastings himself. ‘Jenison’ may have been William Jenison*, who studied at Gray’s Inn in the 1580s, or Michael Jenison, a barrister of the Inn.23
In the second sitting of the 1621 Parliament two recorded speeches were delivered by Hastings or his namesake. The identification of the speaker on both occasions is uncertain, but Hastings is the more likely candidate as he would have been a more familiar figure than the Member for Christchurch, who was sitting for the first time and had not previously played any recorded part in proceedings.
On 26 Nov. Hastings delivered a widely reported speech advocating intervention in the Thirty Years’ War. Arguing that Spain was ‘the fountain, from whence all cometh’, he called for a ‘diversive war’ in the Spanish Netherlands, arguing that ‘that country [is] easier over run than the Palatinate’. He stated that 30,000 men could be raised to fight before Christmas by requiring every parish to maintain one soldier, ‘which’, he added, ‘would be an easy charge’. He evidently had a widely exaggerated idea of the number of parishes in England. He also called for ‘a course to stop the fountains of Spain’, presumably a reference to the silver from America; to this end he suggested that ‘our English merchant[s] may go [to sea] with their swords in their hands’. This, he asserted, was the panacea to cure all financial problems, as it would enrich those who set out ships, as the queen had done, and ‘enable us to maintain the war, [and] supply the Palatinate’, whereas ‘relying on a defensive war will exhaust our treasure and make us poor’. He added that ‘there are younger brothers enough here in England to go with the merchants’, although he showed no indication that he was willing to go to sea himself, possibly because his own younger brother, Edward, had died on Ralegh’s expedition to Guyana. He concluded that he wished ‘that the king would take his sword in his hand and throw away the scabbard, that we might show ourselves true Englishmen’. The speech does not seem to have been well received and was dismissed by Pym as ‘some unseasonable motions’.24 Two days later, after the Commons agreed to vote another subsidy to the king to fund the war, Hastings, responding to proposals that recusants should pay double, suggested that anyone who had not attended church for three months should be treated as a recusant even if they had not been convicted. However, there is no evidence that his proposal was accepted and the subsidy was lost when the Parliament was dissolved.25
In 1624 Hastings was nominated by Huntingdon for a seat at Leicester. Writing to the corporation on 15 Jan. the earl stated that he had told his brother that ‘he need not make means to be a burgess of a town in Wiltshire’, where his marriage seems to have opened up alternative electoral possibilities. However the borough elected an alderman of the town instead, and used the fact that it had also elected Huntingdon’s other nominee, the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, (Sir) Humphrey May*, to excuse its rejection of Hastings.26 Hastings proved more successful at Leicester the following year. However, he may have been disappointed with this place, as Huntingdon had initially intended to nominate him for one of the county seats, but had subsequently changed his mind. Hastings left no trace on the surviving parliamentary records.27
Elected to the second Caroline Parliament at Huntingdon’s nomination, Hastings was appointed to two committees. The first of these was to attend the Lords on the summons issued by the Commons to Buckingham (4 Mar.) and the second was to consider a private bill (23 March). In the debate concerning the defence of the kingdom on 25 Feb., Hastings proposed that the Commons should first ‘consider what our strength is’, and he criticized secretary of state (Sir) John Coke, who had ‘propounded nothing’ in his speech on the Navy. On 3 Apr. 1626 he was granted leave of absence, but he had returned by 21 Apr., when he testified that Buckingham had used his own funds to purchase the lord wardenship of the Cinque Ports from Edward, 11th Lord Zouche.28
During the summer Hastings became involved in the financial problems of his brother, Huntingdon, whose lands had been extended by the Crown for debts of £4,500, as he took a lease of part of the Leicestershire estates while the debt was cleared. It was presumably financial difficulties of his own which obliged him to join with his father-in-law in selling Biddestone that same year.29 He was nevertheless in Wiltshire, presumably staying with Prynne, when he paid his Forced Loan assessment of £10 in February 1627.30 There is no evidence that he sought election to the third Caroline Parliament, although by then he was living in St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Middlesex, near the parish church. He was summoned by the House of Lords on 10 June as a witness to the sermon preached by Roger Manwaring at St. Giles on 4 May, in which Manwaring had reiterated his views on the duty of obedience to the king. However, Hastings ‘answered that he could not remember anything ... as was interrogated’.31 In 1631 he sold a further 210 acres in Wiltshire and by the following year was living in Weybridge, Surrey.32 He died intestate and of the plague on 1 July 1641 and was buried at St. Bartholomew’s, Smithfield three days later. Administration of his estate was granted to his widow on 10 August. His sons all died unmarried, and without parliamentary experience.33
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to Sidney Sussex, Camb.
- 2. Nichols, County of Leicester, iii. 590.
- 3. Al. Cant.; GI Admiss.; PBG Inn, i. 224.
- 4. Memorials of St. Margaret’s, Westminster ed. A.M. Burke, 327; Collins, Peerage, vi. 658.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 174.
- 6. Nichols, iii. 590.
- 7. PBG Inn, i. 193.
- 8. T. Cogswell, Home Divisions, 70-1.
- 9. W.R. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 369.
- 10. Nichols, i. 344
- 11. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 439.
- 12. Nichols, iii. 599; H.N. Bell, Huntingdon Peerage, 109.
- 13. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 73.
- 14. Abstracts of Wilts. Inquisitiones Post Mortem ed. G.S. Fry and E.A. Fry (Brit. Rec. Soc., Index Lib. xxiii), 53-4; J. Aubrey, Wilts. ed. J.E. Jackson, 53.
- 15. Cogswell, 207; HEHL, HA5309.
- 16. J. Brinsley, Virgils Eclogues (1620), sigs. A2-A3; Oxford DNB sub Brinsley, John.
- 17. Cogswell, 82; CJ, i. 511b; CD 1621, iv. 29-30; v. 445; vi. 360; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 21-2.
- 18. HEHL, HA12993; Cogswell, 89.
- 19. CD 1621, iv. 22; vi. 360-1; CJ, i. 511b-12a, 513b, 515b-16a; Nicholas, i. 21-4.
- 20. CD 1621, iv. 155-6; vi. 64-5; Nicholas, i. 160-1.
- 21. CD 1621, ii. 237-41; iv. 160-1, v. 44-5, vi. 66-7, 74; Nicholas, i. 171-2, 183-4, 195; CJ, i. 560a-1b, 563b.
- 22. CJ, i. 564b; LJ, iii. 53-6, 79, 85; Oxford DNB sub Bacon, Francis.
- 23. CJ, i. 623a; CD 1621, ii. 375; PBG Inn, i. 229.
- 24. CJ, i. 646b; CD 1621, ii. 450; iii. 454-5; iv. 439; v. 213; vi. 320
- 25. CD 1621, ii. 468; CJ, i. 650a.
- 26. HEHL, HA5481, 8524.
- 27. Procs. 1625, pp. 690-1.
- 28. Procs. 1626, ii. 131, 195, 347, 423; iii. 41; iv. 244-5.
- 29. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 370, 570; Aubrey, 53.
- 30. E401/1386, m. 64.
- 31. Lords Procs. 1628, v. 608, 612, 615-16.
- 32. Cal. of Docquets of Ld. Kpr. Coventry ed. J. Broadway, R. Cust and S.K. Roberts (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xxxiv-vii), 167, 609.
- 33. Nichols, iii. 590; Collins, Peerage, vi. 658; HMC Cowper, ii. 289; GL, ms 6777/1, f. 98; Index to Admons. in the PCC 1631-48 ed. M. Fitch (Brit. Rec. Soc. c), 192; Bell, 320.