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Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon

Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon (10 December 1650–30 May 1701) was a 17th-century English politician and Jacobite. His family had once been the leading political power in Leicestershire, and regaining that position became the Earl's primary ambition. Initially a prominent member of the campaign to remove the Catholic James from the succession, he became a firm supporter and one of only four peers to vote against the 1701 Act of Settlement that barred Catholics from the British throne.

The Earl of Huntingdon

Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon Williams.jpg
Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon
Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire
In office
11 August 1687 – 6 April 1689
Preceded byEarl of Rutland
Succeeded byEarl of Rutland
Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire
In office
23 December 1687 – 16 May 1689
Preceded byEarl of Scarsdale
Succeeded byDuke of Devonshire
Personal details
Born(1650-12-10)10 December 1650
Died30 May 1701(1701-05-30) (aged 50)
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Lewis (1654–1688, her death)
Mary Fowler (1664–1701, his death)
Children3 sons, 5 daughters (8 died young)


Early lifeEdit

Ruins of Ashby de la Zouch castle; Kitchen Tower (l), Great Tower (r)

Theophilus Hasting was born on 10 December 1650, fourth son of Ferdinando Hastings, 6th Earl of Huntingdon and his wife Lucy. His three elder brothers died before his birth and he succeeded his father as Earl in 1656 at the age of five.

The Hastings had been the pre-eminent family in Leicestershire but declined in influence due to decades of over-spending and losses incurred during the Civil Wars.[1] The 6th Earl had remained neutral but his younger brother Henry commanded the Royalist garrison holding the family seat of Ashby de la Zouch Castle which was partly destroyed by Parliamentary forces in 1648.[2] Henry was exiled for taking part in the Second English Civil War.

Theophilus was brought up at home by his mother and his uncle who was rewarded for his loyalty after the 1660 Restoration by being made Baron Loughborough and Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire. With one or two exceptions, the Hastings family held this office almost continuously between 1550 and 1642 but when Loughborough died in 1667, he was replaced by their local rival John Manners, 8th Earl of Rutland. Regaining this position became Theophilus' over-riding ambition.[3]

Political careerEdit

In his early years, Hastings was a loyal if largely inactive supporter of the government but this changed when the 9th Earl of Rutland succeeded his father as Lord Lieutenant in 1677.[4] During the Civil Wars, the 8th Earl of Rutland had been a moderate Parliamentarian and Hastings was frustrated by Charles II's perceived lack of gratitude for his family's service. He became a prominent supporter of the Earl of Shaftesbury, leader of the Whigs during the 1679–1681 Exclusion Crisis and voted for the execution of Viscount Stafford in 1680. Moderate Exclusionists became increasingly concerned at the turmoil generated by the Popish Plot which led to the execution of 22 largely innocent "conspirators" and the accusation that the Queen had conspired to poison her husband.[5] Hastings had been banned from Court in 1680 due to the violence of his support for Exclusion but after switching sides in October 1681 became equally active in the Royalist reaction.[4] While far from unique, Hastings was one of the earliest to defect and arguably moved the greatest distance from one extreme to the other.

When James II became King in February 1685, Hastings received various honours including being made Justice in Eyre and given the Colonelcy of a Regiment of Foot.[6] In July 1686 he was appointed to the Commission for Ecclesiastical Causes but later accused of having converted to Catholicism. If true, this was extremely controversial since it implied a Catholic being placed on a body designed by James to enforce compliance on the Protestant Church of England. While he denied it, suspicions were enhanced when he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in December 1687 and exempted from the 1678 Test Act requirement that office holders swear to uphold 'the Protestant religion.'[7]

Turning point; the Seven Bishops greet the crowd after their acquittal

In late 1687, James took steps to ensure a Parliament that would vote for his Declaration of Indulgence allowing religious toleration for Catholics and Protestant dissenters. Lord Lieutenants were to assess the suitability of potential MPs by confirming their support for the repeal of the Test Act; Hastings had been appointed when his predecessors in Leicestershire and Derbyshire refused to do so themselves.[8] This canvass, the Commission for Ecclesiastical Causes and the trial of the Seven Anglican bishops for seditious libel in June 1688 looked like an assault on the Church of England itself. A key element of English support for James in 1685 was fear of civil war if he were excluded; the wild celebrations when the bishops were acquitted made it seem only his deposition could prevent one.[4] The vast majority of his Tory supporters now abandoned him; the seven signatories of the Invitation to William asking him to assume the English throne included representatives from the Tories, the Whigs, the Church and the Navy.

When William landed at Torbay in November 1688, Hastings was sent with his regiment to secure Plymouth, accompanied by his cousin Lt-Colonel Ferdinando Hastings and the Earl of Bath; both promptly declared for William and arrested him.[a][9] This ended the Earl's political career; he was one of thirty individuals exempted from the 1690 Act of Grace pardoning William's opponents, although none were actually prosecuted and he continued to sit in the Lords.[10] Hastings remained a committed Jacobite; he was arrested in 1692 for conspiracy and voted against the execution of the Jacobite Sir John Fenwick in 1696. Just before his death on 30 May 1701, he voted against the Act of Settlement that disinherited the Catholic Stuart exiles in favour of the Protestant Sophia of Hanover.[11]


Hastings was a relatively minor figure in the politics of the late 17th century whose rare appearances in the historical record describe him as a 'facile instrument of the Stuarts,' a 'turncoat' or 'outright renegade.'[12] While changing sides was common in this period, Hastings was viewed with particular disfavour by contemporaries for a number of reasons.

Support for James as King was not the same as support for his policies; five of the Seven Bishops later lost office for refusing to swear allegiance to William. Hastings was connected by marriage to Lord Scarsdale, also placed in preventive detention in May 1692 as a Jacobite loyalist and one of only four other peers to join him in voting against the Act of Settlement.[13] The breaking point for the vast majority of Tory loyalists was when James' policies seemed to go beyond being pro-Catholic to an active assault on the Church of England; Scarsdale resigned as Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire in 1687 in protest. The tiny handful of non-Catholics like Hastings who stuck with James were viewed as participants in the persecution of their own Church; he was further damaged by his actions during the Convention Parliament in first voting against a Regency, then with the Jacobite loyalists and finally the Williamites.[14]

Other factors were the speed with which he switched from loyalist to Exclusionist to loyalist combined with the tendency to adopt extreme positions in each role. The historian Peter Walker argues that his overwhelming ambition was to restore his family's position as the primary power in Leicestershire, with other issues being secondary; in the end, he simply speeded up the process of decline.[15]


Hasting was married twice, first to Elizabeth Lewis, daughter of Sir John Lewis, 1st Baronet who died on 24 December 1688. They had two sons and six daughters, including:

  1. Thomas (1674–1675)
  2. George, 8th Earl of Huntingdon (22 March 1677 – 22 February 1704), died from fever
  3. Elizabeth

Five other daughters born but dates are unknown.

In May 1690, he married Mary Frances Fowler (c. 1664–1723) and they had two sons and four surviving daughters (six others died young):

  1. Ann Jacqueline Hastings (1 May 1691 – 28 Jan 1755)
  2. Catherine Maria Hastings (19 Apr 1692 – 22 Dec 1739) who married Granville Wheler[16]
  3. Frances Hastings (8 Jan 1693 – 13 Oct 1750)
  4. Theophilus, 9th Earl of Huntingdon (12 November 1696 – 13 October 1746)
  5. Margaret Hastings (15 February 1699 – 30 April 1768)
  6. Ferdinando Richard Hastings (22 October 1699 – 9 Aug 1726)[17]


  1. ^ Ferdinando replaced his cousin as Colonel of the regiment which was sent to Scotland and formed part of the force defeated at Killiecrankie.


  1. ^ Walker, Peter (1977). "The political career of Theophilus Hastings (1650-1701), 7th Earl of Huntingdon" (PDF). Trans. Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (71): 61–62. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  2. ^ Curtis, John (1831). A Topographical History of the County of Leicester (2017 ed.). Forgotten Books. p. 88. ISBN 1528215095.
  3. ^ Walker, Peter (1977). "The political career of Theophilus Hastings (1650-1701), 7th Earl of Huntingdon" (PDF). Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (71): 62. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Walker, Peter (1977). "The political career of Theophilus Hastings (1650-1701), 7th Earl of Huntingdon" (PDF). Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (71): 64. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  5. ^ Tapsell, Peter (2007). The Personal Rule of Charles II, 1681-85: Politics and Religion in an Age of Absolutism. Boydell Press. p. 90. ISBN 1843833050.
  6. ^ Dalton, Charles (1896). English army lists and commission registers, 1661-1714. Government and General Publishers. p. Sections 89, 414, 415.
  7. ^ Walker, Peter (2010). James II and the Three Questions: Religious Toleration and the Landed Classes, 1687-1688. Verlag Peter Lang. p. 81. ISBN 3039119273.
  8. ^ Miller, John (January 2012). "Book Review; James II and the Three Questions: Religious Toleration and the Landed Classes, 1687–1688 by Peter Walker". Catholic Historical Review. 98 (1): 127–129. A good summary of the background to the Three Questions.
  9. ^ Childs, John (1986). Army, James II and the Glorious Revolution. Manchester University Press. p. 191. ISBN 0719006880.
  10. ^ Belsham, William (1802). Appendix to the History of Great Britain, from the Revolution, 1688, to the Treaty of Amiens, A.D. 1802 Volume 1 (2014 ed.). Book on Demand Ltd. p. 187. ISBN 5518964153.
  11. ^ Walker, Peter (1977). "The political career of Theophilus Hastings (1650-1701), 7th Earl of Huntingdon" (PDF). Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (71): 66. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  12. ^ Western, JR (1972). Monarchy and revolution: the English State in the 1680. Littlehampton Book Services Ltd. pp. 120, 215. ISBN 0713732806.
  13. ^ Volume 16, 22 May 1701. "Limitation of the Crown, Bill". British History Online. House of Lords Journal. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  14. ^ Jones, Clyve, Jones, David (1986). Peers, Politics and Power: House of Lords, 1603-1911. Hambledon Continuum. pp. 86–87. ISBN 0907628788.
  15. ^ Walker, Peter (1977). "The political career of Theophilus Hastings (1650-1701), 7th Earl of Huntingdon" (PDF). Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (71): 70. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  16. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Wheler, George" . Dictionary of National Biography. 60. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  17. ^ "Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon". The Peerage. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Chesterfield
Justice in Eyre
south of the Trent

Succeeded by
The Lord Lovelace
Military offices
New regiment Colonel of the Earl of Huntingdon's Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Ferdinando Hastings
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The 2nd Earl of Denbigh
Custos Rotulorum of Leicestershire
Succeeded by
The 3rd Earl of Denbigh
Preceded by
The 3rd Earl of Denbigh
Custos Rotulorum of Leicestershire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Stamford
Preceded by
The Earl of Scarsdale
Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners
Succeeded by
The Lord Lovelace
Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Devonshire
Preceded by
The Earl of Rutland
Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Rutland
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Ferdinando Hastings
Earl of Huntingdon
Succeeded by
George Hastings