1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Huntingdon, Earls of

HUNTINGDON, EARLS OF. George Hastings, 1st earl of Huntingdon[1] (c. 1485–1545), was the son and successor of Edward, 2nd Baron Hastings (d. 1506), and the grandson of William, Baron Hastings, who was put to death by Richard III. in 1483. Being in high favour with Henry VIII., he was created earl of Huntingdon in 1529, and he was one of the royalist leaders during the suppression of the rising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. His eldest son Francis, the 2nd earl (c. 1514–1561), was a close friend and political ally of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, sharing the duke’s fall and imprisonment after the death of Edward VI. in 1553; but he was quickly released, and was employed on public business by Mary. His brother Edward (c. 1520–1572) was one of Mary’s most valuable servants; a stout Roman Catholic, he was master of the horse and then lord chamberlain to the queen, and was created Baron Hastings of Loughborough in 1558, this title becoming extinct when he died.

The 2nd earl’s eldest son Henry, the 3rd earl (c. 1535–1595), married Northumberland’s daughter Catherine. His mother was Catherine Pole (d. 1576), a descendant of George, duke of Clarence, and, asserting that he was thus entitled to succeed Elizabeth on the English throne, Huntingdon won a certain amount of support, especially from the Protestants and the enemies of Mary, queen of Scots. In 1572 he was appointed president of the council of the north, and during the troubled period between the flight of Mary to England in 1568 and the defeat of the Spanish armada twenty years later he was frequently employed in the north of England. It was doubtless felt that the earl’s own title to the crown was a pledge that he would show scant sympathy with the advocates of Mary’s claim. He assisted George Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, to remove the Scottish queen from Wingfield to Tutbury, and for a short time in 1569 he was one of her custodians. Huntingdon was responsible for the compilation of an elaborate history of the Hastings family, a manusciipt copy of which is now in the British Museum. As he died childless, his earldom passed to his brother George. Another brother, Sir Francis Hastings (d. 1610), was a member of parliament and a prominent puritan during El1zabeth’s reign, but is perhaps more celebrated as a writer. George, the 4th earl (c. 1540–1604), was the grandfather of Henry, the 5th earl (1556–1643), and the father of Henry Hastings (c. 1560–1650), a famous sportsman, whose character has been delineated by the 1st earl of Shaftesbury (see L. Howard, A Colltection of Letters, &c, 1753). The 6th earl was the 5th earl’s son Ferdinando (c. 1608–1656). His brother Henry, Baron Loughborough (c. 1610–1667), won fame as a royalist during the Civil War, and was created a baron in 1643.

Theophilus, the 7th earl (1650–1701), was the only surviving son of the 6th earl. In early life he showed some animus against the Roman Catholics and a certain sympathy for the duke of Monmouth, afterwards, however, he was a firm supporter of James II. who appointed him to several official positions. He remained in England after the king’s flight and was imprisoned, but after his release he continued to show his hostility to William III. One of his daughters, Lady Elizabeth Hastings (1682–1739), gained celebrity for her charities and her piety. Her beauty drew encomiums from Congreve and from Steele in the pages of the Tatler, and her other qualities were praised by William Law. She was a benefactor to Queen’s College, Oxford.

The 7th earl’s sons, George and Theophilus, succeeded in turn to the earldom. GEORGE (1677–1705) was a soldier who served under Marlborough, and Theophilus (1696–1746) was the husband of the famous Selina, countess of Huntingdon (q.v.). Theophilus was succeeded by his son Francis (1729–1789), on whose death unmarried the baronies passed to his sister Elizabeth (1731–1808), wife of John Rawdon, earl of Moira, and the earldom became dormant.

The title of earl of Huntingdon was assumed by Theophilus Henry Hastings (1728–1804), a descendant of the 2nd earl, who, however, had taken no steps to prove his title when he died. But, aided by his friend Henry Nugent Bell (1792–1822), his nephew and heir, Hans Francis Hastings (1779–1828), was more energetic, and in 1818 his right to the earldom was declared proved, and he took his seat in the House of Lords. He did not however, recover the estates. Before thus becoming the 11th (or 12th) earl, Hastings had served for many years in the navy, and after the event he was appointed governor of Dominica. He died on the 9th of December 1828 and was succeeded by his son Francis Theophilus Henry (1808–1875), whose grandson, Warner Francis, became 14th or 15th earl of Huntingdon in 1885. Another of the 11th earl’s sons was Vice-admiral George Fowler Hastings (1814–1876)

See H. N. Bell, The Huntingdon Peerage (1820).

  1. The title of earl of Huntingdon had previously been held in other families (see Huntingdonshire). The famous Robin Hood (?1160—?1247) is said to have had a claim to the earldom.