John Hastings, 2nd Earl of Pembroke

John Hastings
Earl of Pembroke
Sir John Hastings, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, KG.png
Coat of arms of Sir John Hastings, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, KG
Born 29 August 1347
Sutton Valence
Died 16 April 1375(1375-04-16) (aged 27)
Noble family Hastings
    (m. 1359; died 1361)
      (m. 1368)
      Father Laurence Hastings, 1st Earl of Pembroke
      Mother Agnes Mortimer

      John Hastings, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, KG (29 August 1347 – 16 April 1375), was a fourteenth-century English nobleman and soldier. He also held the title Baron Abergavenny. He was born in Sutton Valence, the son of Laurence Hastings, 1st Earl of Pembroke, and Agnes Mortimer. His father died when John Hastings was only a year old, and he became a ward of King Edward III whilst remaining in his mother's care. The King arranged for John to marry Edward's daughter Margaret in 1359, which drew John into the royal family. However, Margaret died two years later. John Hastings inherited his father's earldom, subsidiary titles and estates in 1368. The same year he made a second marriage, to Anne, daughter of Walter, Lord Mauny. The following year Pembroke commenced the career in royal service that was to consume the rest of his life. The Hundred Years' War had recently reignited in France, and in 1369 Pembroke journeyed to Aquitaine.

      There he took part in a sequence of raids, sieges, and counter-measures against the French, with both notable successes and failures. The latter were compounded by his apparent inability to work alongside the famed soldier Sir John Chandos, who, although head of the King's forces there, was far below Pembroke in rank. He was, however, far above Pembroke in ability, and his subsequent death led to even more problems for Pembroke in France. A couple of years later, the earl was summoned to parliament and returned to England. There, perhaps exasperated by the political failures of the king's ecclesiastical ministers, he was responsible for forcing them from power and being replaced by laymen. Pembroke was soon to return to France again, for what was to be the last time. In 1372 he set off with a small fleet, intending to raise a new army once in Aquitaine. However, his arrival had been anticipated by the Castilian navy (whose kingdom was then allied to France). Pembroke, outnumbered and outgunned, was forced to fight at the Battle of La Rochelle, where he went down to a crushing defeat. Captured and taken to Castile, he was imprisoned in harsh conditions. It took a further three years for a large ransom to be negotiated, but in 1375, he was finally released. Returning to England through France, he was taken ill near Paris and died before reaching home. He was about 28 years old; his wife survived him, as did a son, born in 1372, whom Pembroke had never seen.[note 1] Also named John, he would eventually inherit the earldom. Pembroke was buried in Hereford in spring 1375.

      Background and youth

      Sutton Valence Castle

      John Hastings was born on 29 August 1347 at Sutton Valence Castle, Kent and baptised that day in the local church, St Mary the Virgin. He was the only son and heir.[2] of Laurence Hastings, 1st Earl of Pembroke by his wife Agnes, who was Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March's third daughter.[2] His father's mother, Juliana Leybourne, was enormously wealthy.[3] Laurence Hastings died exactly a year after his sons' birth,[4] and John remained in the care of his mother,[2] whilst becoming a ward of the King.[5] In December that year his mother was granted 100 marks a year for his maintenance and upkeep.[2] His mother soon remarried, but her second husband (one John Haklyt) was himself dead by 1357.[4] The wardship of Laurence's estates was divided between his wife Agnes, his mother (John's grandmother, Julian de Leybourne, who later married the Earl of Huntingdon), and Sir John Grey of Ruthin.[4] John himself, in what was to be a gradual process, began receiving grants of manors held by his father in 1362 and 1363. The following year, 1364, he received the wardship of all his father's lands in England and Wales,[2] and was appointed keeper of all his grandmother's dower lands. Hastings proved his age on 12 September 1368, made his homage to the King and pledged his fealty, and in return he was granted seisin of all his English inheritance. The following month, he entered into those estates his father had held in Ireland and Wales. Like his father, as well as being Earl of Pembroke, he also styled himself Lord of Wexford and Abergavenny.[2] He soon became a favourite of the King.[6]


      Pembroke married twice. The first was arranged by King Edward III, and took place on 19 May 1359 in Reading to Margaret (1347—1361), King Edward III's twelve-year-old fourth daughter. She died around 1 October 1361,[2] probably of plague.[7] and was buried in Abingdon Abbey.[2] The marriage was never solemnized[8] and they had no children.[2] This was an important match for the King;[9] the royal connection meant that, while his wife lived, Pembroke was referred to as the King's son in official records,[2] as his marriage had brought him directly into the royal family.[10]

      He then married, in July 1368, Anne Mauny (24 July 1355 – 3 April 1384). She was the daughter of the famed soldier Walter, Lord Mauny[4] and Margaret, daughter of Thomas, Earl of Norfolk, and later Duchess of Norfolk in her own right. Anne gave birth to a son by Hastings, who was known as John of Reading.[11] Since his second wife was actually related to his first (they were cousins), a Papal dispensation was sought for this marriage, and received from the Archbishop of Canterbury on 1 July 1368. In return, the Pope requested that the earl donate 1,000 gold florins to the repair of Saint Paul's, Rome.[2] When his father-in-law died, Pembroke sent two of his knights to take possession of all of Mauny's estates in Hainaut for himself.[2] Pembroke was twenty at his second marriage, whilst his bride was only thirteen; Pembroke left her in England while he carved out a career for himself in France on royal service.[4]

      Military career

      Bourdeilles Castle; captured by Pembroke soon after his arrival in France.

      Much, if not most, of John Hastings' life was devoted to royal service, and this begun in October 1364 when he was in attendance on King Edward III at Dover.[2] Five years later he entailed and enfeoffed a chunk of his earldom, with the reversion going to the King;[12] these were granted to his feoffees who granted them back to him for five years.[13] His first active service came in the same year, when he accompanied the King's son, the Earl of Cambridge to Aquitaine,[2] with a force of 400 men-at-arms, to reinforce the Black Prince's campaign which had suffered severe setbacks following his intervention in the war of Castilian succession.[4] They landed at St Malo[4]—apparently escaping the notice of a local French commander[14]—and began the long march south, aiming to join with Prince Edward in Angoulême, whom they reached in late April 1369. They arrived at a period of military setbacks for the English, and Archambaud, Count of Périgord, was attempting to join forces with the Duke of Anjou; the earls of Pembroke and Cambridge were tasked immediately to destroy as much of Archambaud's lands as possible. This they excelled at, burning property and putting inhabitants to the sword.[14] After this chevauchée into Périgord, Pembroke's force successfully captured Bourdeilles castle after an eleven-week siege[4]– mainly, in fact, due to the fact that the garrison made a mistimed sortie and allowed the English army entry.[14] Knighted soon after by the Earl of Cambridge himself, [14] he continued to campaign in both Anjou and Poitou,[2] involving much raiding, some of it alongside Edward, Prince of Wales.[2] By June Pembroke was raising a large army to relieve pressure on the north march of Poitou; he and Cambridge were joined by Sir John Chandos around this time. They arrived in the Vendée at the end of June 1369,[15] and captured Roche-sur-Yon[2] as a result of the French captain betraying the town to the English.[4] This was one of the "most significant enclaves" the French held inside English France, and it belonged to "no less a person" that the Duke of Anjou himself.[16] Following the taking of Roche-sur-Yon Pembroke led a successful campaign into the Loire Valley. Although he failed on the first attempt to capture Saumur, he took and held both of the main bridges across the River Loire between Saumur and Nantes. Already greatly fortified, Pembroke strengthened and garrisoned them. This campaign greatly diminished the ability of the French to attack through the western march of Poitou.[17]

      By this time, tensions had started appearing among the English generals, particularly between Pembroke and Chandos. This was based on their vastly different social status; as Jonathan Sumption put it, Pembroke "may have had the grander name but his inexperience showed."[18] Although Chandos had by now been appointed Seneschal of Anjou, Pembroke—with what a biographer terms "aristocratic arrogance"—refused to serve under Chandos,[4] who was, Richard Barber reminds us, only a banneret.[19] It is possible that Pembroke was acting under the advice of his council, but either way, their armies were kept separate from each other on account of this.[20] As a result, that October (or, says Sumption, December)[18] he invaded Anjou with just his own force of 300 lancers[2] on a fire-raising raid to Puirenon. Pembroke spent long enough there to attract attention; he was ambushed by Louis de Sancerre or Jean de Bueil (both commanded the French forces to the east of the Loire) and about 600 men: "Pembroke's men were still struggling to form lines across the village street when the French horsemen charged into them." About 100 of Pembroke's men were killed or captured, and he left behind a quantity of supplies, horses and materiel.[18] Not only was he unable to fight the attacking force off, but, having escaped to a house at the edge of the village, Pembroke was forced to call upon Chandos for his assistance[4] [18] "In revenge," says Cokayne in his Complete Peerage, he attacked the town again, before being despatched to relieve Belleperche,[2] in early 1370, where he raised the French siege.[4] At the same, Pembroke's own agents had recruited 300 men in England to join his force, and they were soon due to sail.[21]

      Pembroke's embarrassment, says historian R. I. Jack, "did nothing to abate the ill feeling between the two leaders" and "was a serious blow to Edward III's attempts to stabilize Aquitaine."[4] Not only had the escapade damaged the English cause in the region, but it led directly to Chandos' failure later in the year to recapture Abbey at Saint-Savin, Vienne, where Chandos' met an untimely death.[4] This was a major loss for the English, as neither of the remaining English captains in France, including Pembroke, had the personal skill or qualities that Chandos had had.[4] The A contemporary chronicler, Thomas Walsingham, reported the French King, Charles V, when he heard of Chandos' death, said that no-one was now "left able to make peace between England and France."[23]

      In early 1370 Pembroke was nominated for the Order of the Garter,[2] and his Order Robes were ordered for him, according to government accounts, on 12 March.[2] This timing allowed him to attend the order's annual feast in April. He took the stall of the deceased Thomas, Earl of Warwick.[4] The same year he accompanied the Black Prince—who was by now suffering from the illness that was to kill him—in a major campaign against Limoges.[4] Before commencing the attack, Pembroke accompanied the Prince (by now so ill that he could not stand), being conveyed on a litter – to Cognac, where the Prince's younger brother, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster was due to arrive in September 1370.[24] Notably, one of Gaunt's closest advisors was Walter, Baron Manny, Pembroke's father-in-law. Mauny had already been directing much of the English campaign from London, and was "no doubt frustrated to find himself dictating strategy to Pembroke from Westminster;"[25] and when Gaunt eventually arrived, Pembroke's father-in-law arrived with him.[26] Limoges was captured after a five-day siege in which the English successfully mined the city's walls. Following its capture in October 1370, the town was sacked and many inhabitants were killed.;[27] Pembroke appears to have taken full part in these events, dishing out harsh treatment to the occupants.[4] He may even have engaged the captains of the town's garrison in personal combat.[28]

      England, France, and defeat at La Rochelle

      Following this, in January 1371 the Prince returned to England, while Pembroke remained in France and continued to prosecute the war, now alongside Gaunt. Together they besieged Montpaon from January to February 1371, after which, Pembroke himself was recalled to London in order for him to attend the coming parliament to which he had been summoned on 8 January earlier that year.[2] By this time, Pembroke dominated the court;[5] although he was unable to persuade the King to assist him in Pembroke's dispute with Lord Grey of Ruthyn.[29]At this parliament, which sat from February to March 1371,[4] Pembroke was appointed a trier of petitions.[2] His business at this parliament was not purely administrative; Pembroke appears to have been the main leader of an anti-clerical parliamentary faction which politically attacked the king's clerical ministers.[30] At least, so he was portrayed in some contemporary chronicles.[31] His actions have been described as radical.[32] As a result of this assault, William of Wykeham and Thomas Brantingham (the Chancellor and Treasurer, respectively) were forced to resign, with their positions taken by laymen.[30] Sumption suggests that the immediate cause for Pembroke's attack was his recent experiences at the front line, in "frustrating and underfunded campaigns" whilst, at home, as the writer of a contemporary French tract colourfully put it, "the clergy reposed peacefully beneath shady canopies elegantly scoffing fat delicacies"![33]

      While Pembroke was on campaign, Grey received word that the earl had died in France, and proceeded to enter Pembroke's Northamptonshire estate. This enraged Pembroke on his return to England in early 1371, and he petitioned the King at Marlborough Castle that September. Indeed, he probably complained to anyone who would listen; certainly Lord Latimer's Chamberlain later testified that his master also discussed the event with Pembroke. Although, as Jack has since said, "Latimer could find nothing

      more comforting in reply than a reminder that Grey was, after all, Hastings next heir."[35][note 2]

      This seems to have had little effect. Although Grey attempted to make peace with Pembroke (even coming to him on the very manor he himself had entered previously),[note 3] Grey threatened him with disinheritance. "The assembled magnates protested at this": and Pembroke did not, at that time, carry out his threat.[38]

      Pembroke was still in England in early 1372 (on which occasion his wife, now aged sixteen, became pregnant).[4] Before he left—still, as far as he knew, childless—he arranged contingency plans in case he failed to return from campaign. To avoid Grey inheriting a penny in the event of Pembroke's death, the earl received the King's permission to make a further enfeoffment[39] following the one in 1369.[13] This specified that – after his debts had been paid[40] – of much of his land in favour of a cousin, William Beauchamp. Beauchamp was not only his friend but in Pembroke's eyes a worthy successor to his title. Chris Given-Wilson has commented on this episode that "few men acted in such an extreme fashion ... simply out of personal dislike."[39] However the situation never arose since he had a male heir born to him soon after.[41][note 4] Beauchamp was a younger son of Thomas, Earl of Warwick, who had died of plague in 1369, and so was a cousin to Pembroke; they were on good terms, clearly.[note 5] Thus began the process which did eventually result in Ruthin's disinheritance. Much of the Hastings estates had been enfeoffed in 1369 and returned to him; now, in April 1372, he quitclaimed them back to the feoffees again.[38] They were instructed that, if Pembroke died abroad, the Hastings estates were to go to the King and everything else to Beauchamp. Even if Beauchamp was not available, Ruthin was still out of the succession: the relatively-distantly related Sir William Clinton.[38]

      Pembroke soon returned to France and the war. It is possible that he was personally requested to lead the campaign. He was, after all, the nearest thing to a member of the royal family, as well as the fact that to the Gascons at least, his previous efforts there had been looked on favourably.[45] By this time the government too viewed Pembroke as a "military prodigy in the style of the 1330s."[25] On 5 March 1372 he indentured with the King to serve in Aquitaine, to which end he was appointed Lieutenant of Aquitaine.[46] Mark Ormrod has described the campaign as a minor one.[47] This is because was accompanied only by his personal retinue of 160, in a fleet of "little more than a dozen small vessels protected by three larger ships with towers."[4] His appointment was on 20 April, and he sailed to the Bay of Biscay in June[4] with a fleet of reinforcements.[48] Not only did he carry with him extra troops but also, intending to raise a larger force once in Aquitaine, he took £12,000 in silver coin to pay for it.[2][4] Pembroke was instructed to recruit 500 knights, 1,500 esquires, and 1,000 archers.[49] He was sailing, however, with an overly-small fleet[25] (that was "gravely inadequate" commented James Sherborne)[50] and which was, tactically, being despatched prematurely.[25]

      Traveling with Pembroke to France this time was William Beauchamp, and the later legal dockets indicate that whilst on campaign they continued to discuss Reginald Grey's disinheritance. We are told that, on one occasion when they shared a bed ("gisantz ensemble en un lit"),[note 6] Pembroke told Sr William that Grey "would not have as much of his inheritance as he thinks he will have" and that he saw Grey as being "joyful" at Pembroke's death.[38]

      Defeat at La Rochelle

      The plan appears to have been for Pembroke to land at La Rochelle, giving succour to Poitou and Saintonge,[52] and then, having strengthened Aquitaine, to have marched northwards, cross the Loire, and join up with King, in simultaneous campaigns.[53] Unknown to the English, however, Charles V's information from London was good enough that he knew of Pembroke' pending invasion of Aquitaine only a short time after Edward III's Great Council had decided upon it.[54]

      The Battle of La Rochelle as depicted in a miniature some time after 1380; note the English ships are deliberately illustrated as being lower than the Castilian.

      Pembroke though, was much delayed; although he was in Plymouth by May, his fleet could not be available until June, due to a pressing shortage of ships.[55] Indeed, in light of the fact that the government was aware of the strength of the enemy's naval forces in the area Pembroke would be sailing to, says Sumption, the earl's own fleet was extremely vulnerable. Perhaps Pembroke expected only to encounter pirates.[56] But since it was known that both the French and Castilian fleets were at sea, this was still too small. Worse, since some of them had been hired from merchants, and others were individually so small that they could not be fortified.[25] Pembroke's ships reached La Rochelle on the afternoon of 22 June. Attempting to enter the harbour (the town was still held by the English), Pembroke encountered a much larger force of twelve large Castilian galleys,[4] and eight carracks.[57] They had been lying in wait for the English force ever since the latter's battle plans had become known weeks earlier,[58] a French fleet under Owen of Wales was intended to join them, but arrived too late to take part.[59] Battle was joined. Before hand, the earl knighted some of his own squires on his flagship.[58] Pembroke was not averse to fighting; as a contemporary said, the earl and his army was "marvellously pleased... for they did not think much of the Spanish and thought to beat them easily."[25]

      Pembroke's smaller ships found themselves towered-over by the tall carracks, and Castilian archers rained arrows onto the decks of English ships, whilst well protected by their own wooden breastworks. Pembroke found his fleet caught between the enemy and the sandbanks (located off what later became La Pallice); further, the Castilian ships possessed arbalests, which caused great destruction to wooden decks.[58] Pembroke was unable to replicate the victories of earlier years (for example, at Winchelsea and Nájera) due to his lack of archers, which would otherwise allowed him to lay down a suppressing fire on the enemy crews. Likewise, Castilian command of the air meant that English soldiers were unable to board Castilian ships.[25] The battle lasted two days. The fighting broke off as night fell on the 22nd; Pembroke had lost two ships, and was now surrounded by the Castilian fleet over night. Fighting recommenced the next morning. Pembroke found his flagship attacked by four of the enemy galleys, who used grappling hooks to attach themselves to the English ship, and later managed to douse the decks of some ships with oil which could then be ignited by fire arrows.[61] Fire, said, Sherborne, played a vital role in the Castilian triumph.[62] Around this point—with horses running wild and kicking holes in the hulls[25] and his men throwing themselves overboard to avoid the flames—Pembroke surrendered,[61] much of his fleet burned or captured. Many of his retinue were killed, and those that survived were also captured. This number included Pembroke himself, as well as the Earl of Huntingdon,[2][4] and of course, the £12,000 in silver, which was discovered untouched.[61] Historians have since been universally critical of Pembroke's actions at La Rochelle. The Victorian antiquarian J. H. Ramsay described Pembroke's defeat as worst ever inflicted on the English navy,[63] E. F. Jacob, that it was a disastrous blow,[64] and Anthony Steel said that it lost England control of the Channel for several years.[65]

      Capture, imprisonment and ransom

      Curiel Castle, 2009, where Pembroke was held for the early years of his imprisonment.

      Following his capture, Pembroke was taken to Castile,[2] along with about 160 of his men, 70 of them knights[61] ("with golden spurs")[66] and was paraded through Burgos.[67] There he was confined to prison, where he appears to have been treated poorly.[2] The Spanish, according to custom, transported prisoners "bound with chains or cords, like dogs in leash,"[2] or, as reportedly at Santander, in irons.[4] Their treatment appalled even the Castilian's French allies: the French chronicler Jean Froissart wrote, of the Castilians, that "they know no finer courtesy, just like the Germans."[68]

      While in prison, he received the news as to his wife's pregnancy. A fellow prisoner, Sir John Trailly, later reported to the 1407 inquiry of Pembroke's reaction. He was not, Trailly said, happy at the news as one might expect; rather, he was moved to anger, as now he had a son, if that son died without heirs, Pembroke's careful planning against Grey might be undone.[69][note 7] A few months later, possibly after negotiation with the King of France,[70] King Henry II of Castile agreed to sell his right to Pembroke's ransom to the Constable of France, Bertrand du Guesclin,[4] for 120,000 francs. To do so, du Guesclin had to sell his Spanish lordship of Soria[2] and Molina (which he had previously captured from Spain),[4] back to the King.[2] Pembroke's agreement with du Guesclin laid down that he would pay him 50,000 francs immediately, and the remainder within six weeks of Pembroke's arrival back in England. Pembroke's imprisonment was to continue for another three years, however, as—despite Pembroke's supposed close connections at court and with the King[4]—there was little progress made in arranging for Pembroke's ransom, until early 1375.[4] Meanwhile, Pembroke's own circumstances were especially harsh. He was lodged at Curiel Castle in conditions bad enough to break his health.[71]

      The first instalment was eventually lodged in a short-term moneylending account[72] for du Guesclin with a Fleming in Bruges, by which time Pembroke was ill. He was taken by du Guesclin to Paris[2]—"in short stages as kindly and gently as could be"[73]—but the earl's increasing illness forced du Guesclin to make for Calais with all speed, as he had promised to facilitate the earl's return to England by Easter.[2]

      Death and succession

      Pembroke died in Picardy (at either Arras or Moreuil) on 16 April 1375, following his release from prison.[2] Despite a contemporary rumour that he had been poisoned by the Castilians, more likely causes were the dire conditions of (at least the early years) his imprisonment[4] and sickness and fatigue brought on by his hard years of confinement. Cockayne notes that, because Pembroke died in France, and the balance of his ransom was to be paid to du Guesclin after the earl had returned to England, du Guesclin never received the balance of the ransom.[2][note 8]

      Pembroke was buried in the choir of the Friars Preachers, in Hereford,[46] some time after 28 April 1375; the King sent offerings for the earl's funeral. Pembroke had written two wills. The first was on 5 May 1372, which was superseded by another on 26 March 1374.[2] The first one declared that the earl wanted all his debts paid "by the hands of my executors and by the hands of the feoffees of my manors."[75] The second will, proved in November 1376, made no mention of any feoffees, but did provide instructions for his funeral, particularly for his tomb. To this purpose he bequeathed £140, specifically requesting one to be built as grand as that of Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare.[76] This was also to reward of his servants, and especially those who were with him in Castile and France.[2]

      Pembroke was succeeded by his son, John, who had been born to Anne a few months after the earl's capture[2] and whom Pembroke was never to see.[4][note 9] Pembroke's wife had inherited her father's barony on his death in 1371, and outlived her husband until 1384. She continued to style herself Countess of Pembroke, as well as Lady of Abergavenny and Mauny, and received her dower in November 1375.[2] The rest of the Hastings estates were held in ward by the King during the minority of Pembroke's young son.[78]


      Contemporary rumour put his defeat at La Rochelle down to his being—as Cokayne put it—"a man of evil life, who had committed adultery, or to his having resolved to annul the liberties of the church."[2] Another contemporary chronicler described him as a "homme de graunt renoune."[2] Modern historiography has been rather more nuanced. Pembroke's recent biographer has noted a certain immaturity of character—particularly in his relationship with John Chandos—whilst also noting that the biggest defeat of his career does not necessarily indicate lack of leadership or judgement on his part. The truth, R. I. Jack says, is that "Pembroke was luckless and arrogant, but not necessarily incompetent."[4] Jonathan Sumption is more forgiving in is judgement, and describes Pembroke as an able man with, by the end of his life at least, "political stature." [73] Sumption also sees Pembroke as "intelligent, self-confident and ambitious,"[6] if also "hot-headed."[79] Michael Prestwich, meanwhile, has noted that Pembroke "lacked the outstanding ability" that Edward III's captains had possessed when the war began,[80] and Mark Ormrod that he was a "bellicose" character[81]