Henry Hastings

Henry Hastings - Lord Loughborough

Born in 1609, Henry Hastings was the second son of the fifth Earl of Huntingdon, the Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire. Henry's father was insular in outlook and ill equipped to uphold the family name in the national crisis of Civil War. Henry had already proved himself of different ilk when in the 1640's, as Deputy Lieutenant he was responsible for raising troops for the King's wars with Scotland. Therefore due to the inactivity of the Earl and the parliamentary inclinations of Ferdinando his heir, it fell to Henry to uphold the Royalist cause as the storm clouds gathered. In the spring of 1642 Henry saw his place as being with the King and joined His Majesty in York.

On June 12th 1642 the first Royal Commissions of Array were issued to Leicestershire. Of the three notables named and empowered with royal warrants to raise the Trained Bands only Henry Hastings undertook to complete his commission, The Earl of Devonshire having absented himself abroad and Henry's own father showing no inclination to serve due to the political leanings of his heir.

On taking up the Royal commission Henry was declared a delinquent by Parliament and following a failed attempt to raise Loughborough for the King was forced to flee back to York where he was appointed High Sheriff of Leicestershire by his Majesty. Within a month the King had raised his standard in Nottingham and covert hostilities became open war. Immediately Prince Rupert began a systematic seizure of arms to supply the Royal armies and the first of these attacks was made with the help of Hastings' newly raised Horse upon Bradgate, the home of the Hastings family's rival, the Earl of Stamford.

During late September the local leaders from Leicestershire joined their respective armies. Hastings joined the King at Shrewsbury. The whereabouts of his troops at Edgehill are unknown but he is reputed to have been wounded in the battle. Likewise, although his brother is on the roll of Parliament troop commanders, his location at the battle is uncertain. It may be surmised that he was on the left wing routed by Rupert early in the fight since he arrived in London soon after the battle proclaming a Parliamentry defeat. When the King arrived in Oxford Hastings was made a Doctor of Civil Law and given command of a regiment of dragoons. On 26th November he was supplied with three hundred weight of powder, three of bullets and one of match and dispatched to his family castle at Ashby-de-la-Zouche to establish a royalist garrison. Hastings quickly established satellite garrisons at Swarkstone, Kings Mills near Donnington and Wilne Ferry near Shardlow.

In January 1642-3 Sir John Gell attacked the 300 strong Swarkstone garrison and after two days dislodged Hasting's men from the bridge and the house of Sir John Harper, one of Hasting's commanders. Gell then joined Lord Grey of Groby, Governor of Leicester, and attacked Ashby in the same month. However, Hastings was a valued asset to the Crown and Prince Rupert was dispatched from Oxford on the 21st to raise the seige. The garrison had been driven out of the town and into the castle when news of Rupert's approach caused the besiegers to withdraw.

On 5th February 1643 Hastings was informed by the Secretary of State that Leicestershire, Rutland, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire were to be amalgamated and that the King, “intends to make you commander in chief of them all, under the title of Colonel General”. Hastings went on the offensive in late February and defeated a Parliamentry force at Burton upon Trent. On 19th March Hastings, allied to the garrison of Stafford sallied from that town and defeated another Parliamentarian force at Hopton Heath, capturing all their artillery. On 21st April, Prince Rupert with General Hastings recaptured Lichfield ending Parliament's attempt to control Staffordshire. Then when the Queen landed in Bridlington with munitions from Holland Hastings was assigned the task of supplying troops to escort her south and dispatched several troops of Horse to renezvous with her at Newark.

On 23rd October in recognition of his services, General Hastings was, by Letters Patent, created Henry, Baron Loughborough.

Hastings was in action again in March 1644 making a first unsuccessful attempt to raise the siege of Newark, fortifying Burleigh House with the Governor of Belvoir,Sir Gervase Lucas, and fighting an action at Cotes Bridge on the 18th. The successful raising of the siege of Newark at the end of March saw Hastings once again allied with Prince Rupert for Parliament's most complete defeat of the war. However Lord Loughborough was renowned more for his activities as a “rob carrier” than his military successeshaving extracted £97,000 from Leicestershire in 1644 alone. As the tide of the war turned in 1644-5 Lord Loughborough's now waning career was given a brief respite when he was appointed Governor of Leicester with a garrison of 1200 to which he added 400 new recruits following that town's siege ans storm by the King. After the disaster of Naseby however the New Model Army forced the surrender of Hasting's garrison which was allowed to march out of the town with its colours and staves towards Lichfield where Loughborough was briefly arrested by his unsympathetic master. For the remainder of the First Civil War the Ashby garrison was closely confined by the enemy at Coleorton. By late summer 1645 the sixty men left in the castle were stricken by plague. Six hundred reinforcements arrived in November and by December the garrison was again mounting limited offensive expeditions. The last success of this part of the King's “flying army” was the destruction of the enemy garrison's quarters at Coleorton.

Following the fall of Belvoir and Chester the position at Ashby became untenable and terms were agreed with Colonel John Needham, Governor of Leicester. Lord Loughborough, not concerned with his own sequestrations, “his estate being little or nothing of worth,” would not submit unless the estates of his brother Ferdinando and Ashby's governor, Colonel Perkins, were freed from sequestration. The terms were submitted to Parliament on 28th February 1646.

Henry Hasting's, Lord Loughborough was in charge of the commissary during the second civil war during the siege of Colchester. In 1648 he was sentenced to be exiled only to have the sentence revoked by the House of Lords. He escaped from captivity at Windsor and fled to Holland where he was a founder member of the Royalist secret society dedicated to putting the King back on the throne - the Sealed Knot. After the Restoration Charles II rewarded his loyalty by again appointing him Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire although he made his home in London. Hastings died in 1667.

It is a matter of record that Lord Loughborough's Horse, Dragoon and Foot regiments all wore blue coats. The Foot were all drawn mainly from the mining areas of Derbyshire owned by the Earl of Huntingdon and included both pike and musket. It is probable that due to the musket shortages Hastings suffered, his Foot would have a ratio of one pike to one musket. Like most under strength regiments it may be safe to assume that Lord Loughborough's Foot would be under five hundred strong. Hastings' colours bore a fiery furnace on a red field with the motto “Quasi ignis conflatoris,” (Like the fire of the founder). His only guns were on loan. He loaned three in March 1642-43, possibly drakes or sakers, although he may have received a share of those taken as spoil at Hopton and Newark.

Bibliography.

The Aristocratic Estate, Henry Hastings in Leicestershire and South Derbyshire by Martin Bennett.