Sir Hugh Hastings brass, Elsing, Norfolk


This detailed brass engraving of Sir Hugh Hastings at Elsing Church, Norfolk is bordered by eight 'weepers', four on each side of the main image. Essentially these weepers represent eight fellow knights of King Edward III's reign who fought with Sir Hugh in Scotland, at the Battle of Crecy (1346) and / or were present with him at the Siege of Calais (1347).

                                                        Sketch from 1782

King Edward III             Sir Hugh Hastings Henry (Plantagenet) 4th earl of Lancaster+
Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick Lawrence Hastings, earl of Pembroke*
Sir Hugh le Despenser^ Ralph Stafford, lord Stafford
Sir John Grey of Ruthin Almeric, lord St. Armand

                                                   + Not present at the Battle of Crecy 1346.  * Not present at the Siege of Calais 1347

                                                    ^ This panel was lost before 1770, a replica was provided by Prof. Ian Taylor of Melbourne Australia

Sir Hugh Hastings 

Born about  1307 was the son of  John I de Hastings, 1st baron of Hastings and baron of Abergavenny a 'Competitor' for the Scottish Crown (1290-1292). He was also the younger half-brother of John II de Hastings who was governor of Kenilworth Castle in 1323 and the father of Laurence 1st earl of Pembroke. His mother was Isabelle le Despenser the second wife of John de Hastings the 'Competitor'.

By his marriage in 1330 to Margaret Foliot, Sir Hugh gained Fenwick and Norton in South Yorkshire and Elsing in Norfolk . The Hastings like the Foliots had their chapel at Norton Priory. [Hunter, S. Yorks. vol. II, p. 470.]

In 1346 he was Edward III's captain and acting Lieutenant in Flanders. He recruited 60,000 Flemings here and took them into France where he joined the king at Crecy. After taking 300 French prisoners to England he returned to France in 1347 to assist at the siege of Calais. However in July of the same year he was recalled to England to quell a serious riot at Boston, Lincolnshire, but within two weeks had been killed there, probably by rioters.

Sir Hugh may have died in 1347 his will is dated 22 July 1347 and was proved 5th August, with his wife Margaret as executor.

DNB: Hastings's life as a man of action is admirably commemorated by one of the most celebrated of all English brasses, in which his armoured image is flanked by smaller figures bearing the arms of some of the great men with whom he had been associated during his military career, including the king and the earls of Lancaster, Warwick, and Pembroke. Investigation of the contents of Hastings's tomb in September 1978 revealed a man about 5 feet 10 inches tall, who had been buried wearing a cow-hair wig or hat. The cause of death was not revealed, but various injuries, including damaged incisor teeth, apparently the result of a severe blow to the mouth, and the presence of osteoarthritis in shoulder and elbow joints, suggest that Hastings's military career had taken its toll. His widow, Margery, died on 8 August 1349, leaving two sons, John (c.13281393) and Hugh (d. 1369), and a daughter, Maud.



1. King Edward III. Born 1312, reigned 1327 until his death in 1377.

2. Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. Son of Guy de Beauchamp (pron: 'Beecham') Earl of Warwick & his second wife Alice de Toeni (Tosny) He was born on 14 February 1314 at Calais and died 13 November 1369 being buried in the Beauchamp Chapel,  St. Mary's Church, Warwick. In 1315 he succeeded his father at the age of two as the earl of Warwick and thus became a ward of Edward II.  Thomas was married by Papal dispensation on the 19 April 1319 to Catherine  de Mortimer, daughter of Roger de Mortimer (Amour of Queen Isabella) 1st Earl of March & his wife Joan de Genville. At the accession of Edward III he was knighted at the age of thirteen whereupon his was given livery of his lands including those of his mother who had died three years earlier.  In 1344 he was elected Knight of the Garter as one of the twenty-five founder knights of the order. He died of the pestilence (plague). 

3. Sir Hugh le Despenser Sir Hugh was present at the 2nd Dunstable Tournament 1334 and  the siege of Calais where on both occasions he bore: argent quarterly with gules a fret or overall a baston sable with a label of three points azure - the same as his ill-fated father by the same name who was cruelly executed in 1326. [Foster 1995, p. 79.]

4. Sir John Grey of Ruthin. A knight of the Garter. He married Constance Holland of Totnes, daughter of Sir John Holland, 1st duke of Exeter in his line and Elizabeth (Plantagenet) daughter of John of Gaunt..

5. Henry (Plantagenet) 4th earl of Lancaster. Wm. Ormerod in his book 'Henry of Lancaster' says he was born ~ 1310 and as a  second cousin of Edward III, represents the last male Pllantagenet in the line of the House of Lancaster.

27th March 1332 Tower of London -Grant to Henry de Lancastre, the king's kinsman, for the special affection which the king bears him, and because his father Henry earl of Lancaster has not yet made such provision for him as becomes his estate, and also for his better maintenance in the king's service, of 500 marks yearly at the Exchequer.  [CPR]

28th November 1335 - Pardon to Henry de Lancastre, the king's kinsman, of all arrears due at Michaelmas last of the extent reserved to the king in the letters patent of 20 February last whereby he was appointed to the custody of the lauds of the inheritance of Laurence, son and heir of John de Hastyngcs, tenant in chief of Edward II., which came into the king's hands by the death of Isabella de Hastynges.  [CPR]

1337 - referred to as earl of Derby - this title may distinguish him from his father :

March 18. 1337 at Westminster - Grant to Henry de Lancastre, the king's near kinsman, on his creation by the advice of the last Parliament at Westminster to be earl of Derby, of 1000 marks yearly out of the king's customs in the following ports, to wit, 400 marks in the port of London, 300 marks in the port of Boston, and 300 marks in the port of Kyngeston-upon-Hull, to be received for the life of his father, Henry, earl of Lancaster.  [CPR]

3rd October 1337 Westminster - Grant to Henry de Lancastre that, whereas the king in consideration of his creation as earl of Derby lately granted to him by letters patent 1000- marks out of his customs to wit, 400 marks in the port of London, and 300 marks in the ports of Boston, and Kyngeston upon Hull, respectively, until he should grant to him 1000 marks yearly of land and ront for the life of Henry, ear] of Lancaster, his father, lie shall have the manor of Wyghton and the hundred of Northgreneho, co. Norfolk, and the manor of Laghton in Morthyng, co. York, late of Ralph, count of Eu, an alien, and now taken into the king's hands, to hold in satisfaction of 121. 7s. 6d. of the said 1000 marks. [CPR]

HE WAS A HOSTAGE WITH WILLIAM MONTAGUE EARL OF SALISBURY 4th December 1339 at Antwerp - Promise to John, duke of Lorraine, Brabant and Limburg that the king, who is going to England with his consent, will return within the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. In the meantime, Henry de Lancastre, earl of Derby, and William de Mountague, earl of Salisbury, will remain as hostages. French. [Foedera; CPR]

IMPRISONED OVERSEAS FOR KING'S DEBTS 10th January 1341 Westminster - Appointment of the king's serjeants-at-arms, William Bysshop and Francis.Forcet, to accelerate the shipping of a thousand sacks of wool, which Matthew Canaceon and his fellows, merchants of the society of the Leopardi, who have undertaken to deliver the king's kinsman, Henry de Lancastre, earl of Derby, now imprisoned beyond the seas for debts of the king, have licence to take to Flanders on payment of 40s. on each sack for custom and subsidy, quit of the 40d. on each sack due for the new custom. [Foedera; CPR] 

In the spring of 1343, he was sent by King Edward III on missions to Pope Clement VI at Avignon and to King Alfonso XI of Castile. After Derby had completed his diplomatic assignments, he went on to participate, with the earl of Salisbury and Sir Thomas Holland among his officers, in the crusade against the Moors. For centuries, the Spaniards had been engaged in a sporadic war to contain and expel the Islamic invaders from Morocco. The English crusaders led by Derby returned to England probably in the late autumn of 1343.

31st March 1343 - Thomas Cok going to Spain there to stay in the company of the king's kinsman Henry de Lancastre, earl of Derby. [CPR]

10th February 1344 Westminster - Licence for jousts to be held at Lincoln every year on Monday after the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, by a certain number of knights chosen for the same, the captain of whom shall be Henry de Lancastre, earl of Derby, for his life and after his death the knights chosen for the jousts shall choose another captain, and so on after the death of each captain. [Foedera; CPR]

14th Jan 1345 at Westminster - Grant to Henry de Lancastre, now earl of Derby, that, whereas the king by letters patent lately granted to him 500 marks yearly at the exchequer until he should succeed to the lands of his inheritance orhis father, Henry, earl of Lancaster, should provide for him as befits his estate, he shall receive the said annuity out of the petty custom in thu port of London, and if the issues thereof do not suffice for the payment thereof what is deficient shall be paid out of the money arising from the great custom in that port.  [CPR]

ROUND TABLE MENTIONED 18th Jan 1345 Licence, at the request of knights of the county of Lincoln, for Henry de Lancastre, earl of Derby, whom they have elected for life captain for this and other captains chosen after him, to hold jousts at Lincoln on Monday in every Whitsun week, as well in time of war and when arms of peace be forbidden within the realm as at other times; provided always that if the king on the said feast have any assembly elsewhere within the realm by pretext of the round table, jousts or other deed of arms, the jousts at Lincoln shall not be held but the captain shall appoint another day for them within one month. [CPR]

1346 - He was present at the Battle of Crecy (1346) but not the Siege of Calais (1347)

THE COLLEGE OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF ST. MARY IN THE NEWARKE, LEICESTER: After the death of Henry 3rd earl of Lancaster (1345) the patronage of the hospital passed to his son Henry, created Duke of Lancaster in 1351, who munificently enlarged his father's foundation. [V.C.H.]

As the 4th earl of Lancaster, Henry was created 1st Duke of Lancaster in 1351.

Henry died of the Plague on 24 March 1361 at Leicester Castle and was buried at 'Newarke Abbey, Leicester' (A. Weir) on the north side of the high altar on 14th April 1361. 'Newarke Abbey' is probably meant to be St. Mary's Collegiate Church (Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary), Leicester.

6. Laurence Hastings, 1st earl of Pembroke. He was a nephew of Sir Hugh de Hastings. Born 1319 at Allesley, Warwickshire, he was created the earl of Pembroke in October 1339 (3rd creation) dying in 1348 at Abergavenny, South Wales. He was the son of Julia de Leybourne and Sir John I de Hastings 1st baron Hastings, lord of Abergavenny, and a 'Competitor'  for the Scottish crown (1290-1292).  Lawrence married Agnes de Mortimer, daughter of Roger de Mortimer (The amour of Queen Isabella), 1st Earl of March & his wife Joan de Genville. 

7. Ralph Stafford, lord Stafford. Born 1354 and killed May 1385 near Beverley. He was the son of Sir Hugh, earl of Stafford and Philippa Beaumont and married Maud (Plantagenet) of Lancaster, daughter of Henry 4th earl of Lancaster. He was present at the Battle of Crecy (1346) and the Siege of Calais (1347). However, Ralph was killed during an argument near Beverley E.R.Y. in May 1385 by Sir John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter. In the following month, Sir John Holland married the niece of the wife, (Maud Plantagenet ) daughter of Henry 4th earl of Lancaster ) of the man whom he had killed:

                                                                                                             Henry (Plantagenet) 4th earl Lancaster==============Isabel de Beaumont



                                                                                                  |                                                                                                                                                                             |

                      John (Plantagenet) of Gaunt ===Blanche of  Lancaster                                                                                                                                        Maud of  Lancaster====Ralph Stafford



      |                                                                    |                                                                                                              |

Henry of Bolingbroke                 Philippa of Lancaster                               Sir John Holland====Elizabeth of Lancaster

(Later King Henry IV)

8. Almeric (Aumary) lord and justicar of St. Amand, France. Son of John de St. Amand of the manor of Ilsley, Berkshire. Almeric succeeded to  East Ilsley in 1330. He bore arms: Or fretty sable and a chief sable with three bezants therein. In the Caerlaverock and Galloway Rolls his uncle Almeric (Aumary) bore Sable fretty or a chief of the field three bezants. Almeric  died on 11 Septmber1381


Here we see the medieval establishment entrenching itself in the landed fabric of English society, the future roots of the British Empire which was to eventually devolve during the 20th century, a devolution partly examined in the 1968 film "If" a satire of British life and the class structure of the 1960's introducing the newly emergent actor, Roddy McDowell. However as Bill Bryson says 'Here is a country that fought and won a noble war, dismantled a mighty empire in a generally benign and enlightened way, created a far-seeing welfare state - in short, did nearly everything right - and then spent the rest of the century looking on itself as a chronic failure. The fact is that this is still the best place in the world for most things.'

Detail from Sir Hugh Hastings' heraldic arms, Elsing Church, Norfolk. The label  indicates that he was the eldest son, the maunche represents a medieval lady's sleeve or La Manche, The English Channel.

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Tim Midgley. Revised August 2023.