HASTINGS, George (1677-1705)

HASTINGS, George (1677–1705)

styled 1677-1701 Ld. Hastings; suc. fa. 30 May 1701 as 8th earl of HUNTINGDON

First sat 13 June 1701; last sat 14 Feb. 1705

b. 22 Mar. 1677, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Theophilus Hastings, 7th earl of Huntingdon, and Elizabeth (1654-88), da. of Sir John Lewis, bt., of Ledstone Hall, Yorks. educ. Eton, 1690-2;1 Tamworth School (tutor, J. Hope) 1692;2 matric. Wadham, Oxf. 3 Apr. 1693; Foubert’s Academy 1696.3 unm. d. 22 Feb. 1705; will 22 Feb. 1705, pr. 13 Apr. 1705.4

Capt. 1st Ft. Gds. 1696-7; lt.-col. 1697-1702; col. 33rd Ft. 1702-3.5

Associated with: Donington Park, Leics; Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leics, and Charles Street, St James’s, Westminster.

George Hastings, styled Lord Hastings, may have pleased his father Theophilus Hastings, 7th earl of Huntingdon with his filial devotion in December 1688. The 11-year-old Hastings wrote to his father, incarcerated in the citadel at Plymouth for his adherence to James II, offering to replace him in prison if it would secure his freedom.6 In the years following those expressions of childish affection, relations between father and son deteriorated to the point where Hastings submitted a petition against his father in the House of Lords, and Huntingdon came close to disowning him. Huntingdon had had high hopes for Hastings. He spent the years after his release from Plymouth, when his loyalty to James II pushed him into the political wilderness, supervising Hasting’s education at Eton, Tamworth and then Oxford and trying to arrange a lucrative marriage for him.7 From as early as 1692 Hastings showed a rebellious streak, and in June of that year he wrote to his father from Eton assuring him that, despite what ‘some people who make it their endeavours and employment to represent me to your Lordship in the most odious colours’ were saying, he was a dutiful son who was not ‘so undutiful and so great a reprobate … as to wish your death’.8 When Hastings was at Wadham College, Huntingdon was disturbed by his growing closeness and adherence to the Williamite regime, as exemplified by the young man’s willingness to kneel at prayers for the new monarchs. By May 1694 he had removed Hastings from the ‘ill counsels or company’ at Oxford.9 Worse was to come. Early in 1696 without his father’s permission Hastings started attending Foubert’s Academy in London with an ambition to join William’s service in the war in Flanders. Despite reports that he ‘doth frequent bad company, of which he learns very filthy language’ and that he was ‘soft and slow in his exercises and very fickle in his humours’, he found a new patron, and perhaps a new father figure, in Hans Willem Bentinck, earl of Portland, who promised to defray Hastings’s expenses for the expedition to Flanders. He was given a troop of foot guards before leaving for the campaign. To Portland, Hastings’s importance probably lay more in the advantage of attaching a future earl to the regime than in his actual character or military prowess.10

Hastings remained on campaign throughout the summer of 1696 and appears to have acquitted himself well. Portland tried to seal the young man’s allegiance by making him vague promises of a match with one of his daughters.11 By the time of Hastings’s return to England in the autumn, Huntingdon had ceased direct communication with his son and assigned an agent to transmit his rebuff to Hastings’s offer of reconciliation and requests for maintenance, for as the earl emphasized ‘I love not dialogue’.12 Hastings took this family squabble before the House of Lords and on 14 Dec. 1696 submitted a petition requesting that the House compel Huntingdon to waive his privilege so that Hastings could take legal possession of the Yorkshire properties of his maternal grandfather, Sir John Lewis; Hastings’s late mother had bequeathed these to him for his maintenance. Huntingdon, Hastings claimed, had taken control of the title deeds. He had been managing the estates as Hastings’s guardian during his minority and had even mortgaged them for £4,500 for his own benefit. Hastings complained that his father did not provide him with an allowance from these estates and that he stood on his privilege whenever Hastings tried to collect the rent from the tenants himself. Huntingdon disputed Hastings’s right to parts of the estate and insisted that he still controlled it as trustee and guardian for the underage Hastings. He also asserted that he would be willing to provide his son with an adequate maintenance if Hastings would only make a contrite and ‘dutiful submission’. On 21 Jan. 1697 the House appointed seven peers to try to effect a compromise between father and son: William Savile, 2nd marquess of Halifax, Laurence Hyde, earl of Rochester, and Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, were chosen by Huntingdon; Richard Lumley, earl of Scarbrough, John Lowther, Viscount Lonsdale, and Thomas Wharton, 5th Baron (later marquess of) Wharton, by Hastings; John Churchill, earl (later duke) of Marlborough was chosen by the House. Eight days later they reported that they were unsuccessful in their efforts at reconciliation but that the earl, nevertheless, agreed to waive his privilege if his son wished to go to law.13

Relations between Hastings and his father remained strained for the some years, especially as Hastings rose further in the court’s estimation, being promoted to lieutenant colonel in the foot guards in April 1697 and made part of Portland’s retinue in his embassy to France later that year.14 He was travelling around the continent during the peace in 1700-1 but made his way back to England after he inherited the title and estate upon the death of his father on 30 May 1701.15 He arrived back in England sometime around 10 June and first sat in the House three days later, just in time to show his adherence to the court which had supported him by casting his votes on 17 and 23 June for the acquittal of John Somers, Baron Somers, and Edward Russell, earl of Orford. In the Parliament of early 1702 he again indicated his loyalty to the Williamite regime by signing in January 1702 the Association of 1696 and the address against the Pretender’s claims to the English throne; he later took the oath of abjuration. He was also nominated to the committee to draft an address against France’s military ambitions and was further named to 11 select committees, most of them on private bills, during the 41 sittings of the Parliament that he attended. His regional interest in Leicestershire was utilized for the elections of 1702, and in April it was reported to his friend and neighbour Thomas Coke of Melborne, Derbyshire that Huntingdon ‘makes all the interest he can for the two lords’, i.e. Bennet Sherard, 3rd Baron Sherard [I], and John Manners, styled Lord Roos (later 2nd duke of Rutland). Both were eventually beaten by Coke’s candidates John Wilkins, and John Verney (later Viscount Fermanagh [I]).16

At about the time of Anne’s accession, Macky wrote of Huntingdon that:

he hath a great deal of wit with a good stock of learning; speaks most of the modern languages well, understands the ancient; a great lover of the liberty of his country and is very capable of serving it when he please to apply himself to business; of good address, of a slow lisping speech, a thin, small, fair complexion, not twenty-five years old and something of a libertine.17

Sir Arthur Onslow remembered that he was ‘known and admired for his learning and politeness and bravery, but with an alloy of vices which derogated very much from his character’.18 His bravery was in evidence in his military exploits during the campaign of summer 1702 in the renewed war against France when, while serving as a ‘volunteer’ (despite having been promoted to colonel of the 33rd Regiment of Foot in February 1702) he was seriously wounded at the assault on Keyserwaert.19 He recovered sufficiently to attend the new Parliament on 18 Nov. 1702 and attended 44, just over half, of its sittings. His principal concern during this session was his appeal, submitted on 4 Dec. 1702, against a decree issued by chancery on 12 May 1702 in favour of his stepmother, Frances, the second wife of the late earl of Huntingdon, regarding the same properties of Sir John Lewis in Yorkshire which had been contested in 1696. The new earl of Huntingdon wished to have the decree affirming that the estate was part of the late earl’s legacy to his countess reversed, and after considering the arguments of counsel for both sides on 12 Jan. 1703 the House agreed to reverse that part of the decree to which Huntingdon objected. In other matters in this session, Huntingdon voted with the Whigs. He cast his voice in favour of the ‘penalty amendment’ in the first occasional conformity bill on 16 Jan. 1703. Three days later he protested against the decision to retain in the bill for the maintenance of George, prince of Denmark (and duke of Cumberland), a clause which allowed the prince, although foreign-born, to sit in the House and to serve on the Privy Council after the death of the queen, considering that it was not a matter suitable to be included in what was in effect a supply bill.

Shortly after the end of the session Huntingdon, still recovering from his wound and perhaps thwarted in his courtship of Lady Mary Churchill, daughter of his commander Marlborough, set out on a long-delayed tour of the continent.20 He resigned his military commission and in March 1703 received a pass to travel abroad without entering enemy territory.21 His absence abroad during the second session of Anne’s Parliament forced Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, to subtract his name from his list of ‘good’ peers who would vote against the occasional conformity bill when it came before the House again in December 1703. He had returned to England by 15 Dec. 1704 when he first sat in the House again and went on to attend 17 more meetings of the House. He last sat on 14 Feb. 1705, a few days after which he caught a malignant fever. He died on 22 Feb., still a young man of 29. In his will he left annuities of £400 to his ‘bosom friend’ Colonel James Stanhope, later Earl Stanhope, £200 to Henry Hastings, a ‘natural’ son of the late earl, £100 each to his friends Susanna Karmes and Henry Sike, and £600 to his beloved sister Lady Elizabeth Hastings, to whom he also bequeathed all of his maternal grandfather’s estates in Yorkshire which he had contested in 1696 and 1702. At his death she became the sole executrix and manager of the estate, to the point where by June 1711 contemporaries estimated that her fortune amounted to £100,000.22 She never married and instead became a renowned religious benefactress and patroness. She also raised her younger half-siblings, children of the 7th earl’s second wife. Principal among these was Theophilus Hastings, styled Lord Hastings, to whom the 8th earl had bequeathed the Hastings properties in Leicestershire and Derbyshire and who succeeded as 9th earl of Huntingdon upon his half brother’s death, although he did not reach his majority until 1717.


  • 1 HMC Hastings, ii. 221, 223.
  • 2 Ibid. ii. 225.
  • 3 Ibid. ii. 250-60 passim.
  • 4 TNA, PROB 11/483.
  • 5 HMC Hastings, ii. 260; Dalton, Army Lists, iv. 10, 172, 280; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 85; 1702-3, p. 364.
  • 6 HMC Hastings, ii. 200.
  • 7 Ibid. ii. 221, 225, 227-8, 231-2, 239, 241-2, 244, 248-9, 251.
  • 8 HMC Hastings, ii. 223.
  • 9 Ibid. ii. 234, 241.
  • 10 Ibid. ii. 250-3, 255-8, 260-2.
  • 11 Ibid. ii. 262, 267-9, 283.
  • 12 Ibid. ii. 284, 286.
  • 13 LJ, xvi. 38, 51, 75-8, 86; HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 374-5; HMC Hastings, ii. 286; iv. 357-8.
  • 14 HMC Hastings, ii. 291; Dalton, iv. 172; HMC Portland, ii. 302, 303, 306-7, 309; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 126; HMC Cowper, ii. 385-6, 389-91.
  • 15 HMC Cowper, ii. 395.
  • 16 Ibid. iii. 3, 5.
  • 17 J. Macky, Characters of the Court of Great Britain, 79.
  • 18 HMC 14th Rep. pt. 9; CP, vi. 661.
  • 19 Add. 70073-4, newsletters of 6 and 18 June 1702; Add. 72498, f. 42.
  • 20 Add. 61363, f. 72.
  • 21 Add. 70075, newsletter of 4 Mar. 1705; CSP Dom. 1703-4, p. 335.
  • 22 Bath mss Longleat, Thynne pprs. 47, f. 266.