Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hastings, Henry (1535-1595)

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HASTINGS, HENRY, third Earl of Huntingdon (1535–1595), born in 1535, was eldest son of Francis Hastings, second earl [q. v.], by Catherine, daughter and coheiress of Henry Pole, lord Montacute, brother of Cardinal Pole. Edward VI, whose companion he was in youth, knighted him 20 Feb. 1547–8. On 25 May 1553 he was married at Durham (afterwards Northumberland) House in the Strand, London, to Catherine, daughter of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland [q. v.] He was summoned to parliament as Baron Hastings 23 Jan. 1558–9. He succeeded to the earldom of Huntingdon on the death of his father, 20 June 1561. Through his descent on his mother's side from Edward IV's brother George, duke of Clarence, he claimed after Elizabeth the succession to the throne, in opposition to Lady Catherine Grey and Mary Queen of Scots. His claims were supported by probably the majority of protestant nobles, and during the severe illness of Elizabeth in 1562 the current of opinion pointed towards him as her successor. His pretensions to the succession sometimes occasioned Elizabeth much irritation. In a letter to his brother-in-law Leicester in 1564, Huntingdon relates that when his wife came to court ‘it pleased her Majesty to give her a privy nippe especially concerning myselfe’ (Bell, Huntingdon Peerage, 2nd ed. p. 64). Huntingdon had puritan leanings, and was a strong sympathiser with the Huguenot struggle in France. In 1569 he petitioned Elizabeth for permission to sell his estates and join the Huguenot army with ten thousand men (Don Guerau to Philip of Spain in MSS. Simancas, quoted in Froude, England, cab. ed. ix. 69).

As was only natural, Huntingdon was strongly adverse to the proposed marriage between Mary Queen of Scots and Norfolk. He held meetings at his house to organise resistance to it, and his energetic measures had considerable influence in frustrating the designs of the northern conspirators in 1569. When rumours arose of a possible northern rebellion, precautions were taken by Elizabeth to prevent the escape of the Queen of Scots. Recognising that Huntingdon had special reasons of his own for opposing the schemes of the conspirators, she, on 15 Sept., gave instructions that Shrewsbury, then in charge of Mary, ‘shall, as he see cause, advertise the Earl of Huntingdon and Viscount Hereford, and require their assistance to withstand any attempt to carry her away by force, and that they be in readiness with such company of horsemen as they think themselves well assured of’ (Cal. Hatfield MSS. i. 419; Haynes, Burghley State Papers, p. 522). Huntingdon arrived at Wingfield on the 19th, and assisted Shrewsbury in conveying the Queen of Scots, for greater safety, to Tutbury, which he garrisoned with five hundred men. On 22 Sept. 1569 Elizabeth sent instructions to Huntingdon to supersede Shrewsbury, the ground of the ‘direction so sudden and strange’ being ascribed to ‘the said Earls infirmities and request for help, and to the Queens fear of some escape’ (Cal. Hatfield MSS. i. 422; Haynes, p. 526). The order caused much commotion in the household of the Queen of Scots, who, when she learned it, wrote to the French ambassador Fénelon to take note of the illegality of placing her in the hands of one who had rival claims with her to the throne of England (Labanoff, Letters of Mary Stuart, iii. 182). Shrewsbury affected to ignore the order, on the ground that Elizabeth was under an entire misunderstanding in regard to the state of his health, and Huntingdon, recognising that he had been placed in a false position, wrote on the 25th requesting ‘either his discharge or to be solus, or to have some other match’ (Cal. Hatfield MSS. i. 424; Haynes, p. 530). Orders had, however, been despatched on the same day making him and Shrewsbury joint custodians. This arrangement continued till November, when, finding his position uncongenial, Huntingdon on the 4th obtained liberty to depart, and on the 7th left Tutbury, ‘well contented and friendly.’ On the 20th, in view of the threatened rising in the north, Huntingdon was made a lord-lieutenant of Leicestershire and Rutlandshire, to which was added afterwards the office of lord-president of the north, 1 Dec. 1572. On the 23rd orders were sent him to remove the Queen of Scots from Tutbury to Coventry. This he and Shrewsbury did, but the place being found unsuitable, she was subsequently removed to Shrewsbury's castle at Sheffield, after which Shrewsbury returned to court.

Huntingdon was one of the nobles specially summoned to meet the privy council on 14 Dec. 1569 to consider the evidence that had been brought against the Queen of Scots by the regent Moray and the other Scottish commissioners. In 1573 he sat upon the trial of Norfolk for high treason, and the same year he was constituted lieutenant of the counties of Leicester and Rutland, as well as of those of York, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, and the bishopric of Durham. In this capacity he had a conference in 1575 with the regent Morton to settle the dispute arising from the raid of Redswire. On 15 June 1579 he was installed a knight of the Garter, and the following year was appointed one of a commission to inquire into the recusancy of certain of the gentry. After the apprehension of Morton in 1581 [see Douglas, James, d. 1581], Huntingdon was directed by Elizabeth to raise in Yorkshire a force ‘of persons well affected in religion,’ and conduct them to Berwick. Here Huntingdon speedily arrived with two thousand footmen and five hundred horse, but was kept in idleness on the borders, notwithstanding repeated warnings and remonstrances on his part that the attempt to negotiate with Lennox was ‘madness,’ and his scornful condemnation of the proposal of the attempt to save Morton's life by the assassination of Lennox. His words were unheeded until the services of the troops were rendered valueless; and Randolph at last saw ‘that nothing now could save Morton's life.’ The troops were thereupon dismissed to their homes. Huntingdon was active in taking measures against the threatened Spanish invasion of 1588. He died without issue, 14 Dec. 1595, and was interred at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. His countess survived him till 4 Aug. 1620. Huntingdon had compiled in 1583, under his own immediate inspection, a complete history of his family, of which there is a manuscript copy in the British Museum (MS. Harleian 4774). He settled on Emmanuel College, Cambridge, the rectories of Loughborough and Thurcaston in Leicestershire, those of Aller and North Cadbury, Somersetshire, and the vicarage of Piddleton, Dorsetshire, but the last was lost to the college through some flaw in the deed. Camden says ‘he was of a mild disposition, but being a zealous puritan, much wasted his estate by a lavish support of those hot-headed preachers.’ By some his support of the puritans was attributed to policy and the desire to create in the country a sentiment in support of his claims to the throne. He was succeeded by his brother George as fourth earl. A portrait (dated 1588, ætatis suæ 52) by an unknown painter is in the possession of Lord Bagot.

[Bell's Huntingdon Peerage, 2nd ed. 1821, pp. 62–84; Collins's Peerage of England, 5th ed., iii. 94–6; Cal. Hatfield MSS.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser., reign of Elizabeth; Haynes's State Papers; Nichols's Leicestershire, especially iii. 583–8; Camden's Annals; Froude's Hist. of England; Hill Burton's Hist. of Scotland; Leader's Mary Queen of Scots in Captivity, 1880.]

T. F. H.