Fastolff, John

, knight, and knight-banneret, a valiant and renowned general, governor, and nobleman in France, during our conquests in that kingdom, under king Henry IV. V. and VI. of England, and knight-companion of the most noble order of the garter, has been supposed, from the title of his French barony, and from his name being so often corruptly mentioned in the French histories^ owing to his long residence, and many engagements in the wars there, to have been born in France, at least of French extraction. Others, allowing him to have been a native of England, have no less erroneously fixed hist birth-place in Bedfordshire; but it is well known that he was descended of an ancient and famous English family in the county of Norfolk, which had flourished there and in other parts of the kingdom, in very honourable distinction, before the conquest: and from a train of illustrious ancestors, many of them dignified with the honour of knighthood, invested with very eminent employments, and possessed of extensive patrimonies. But one of the principal branches being seated at Castre in Fleg near Great Yarmouth in that county, which estate descending to these ancestors, he afterwards adorned with a noble family seat, it is presumed he was born therej or in Yarmouth. His father was John Fastolff, esq. of that town, a man of considerable account, especially for his public benefactions, pious foundations, &c. His mother was Mary, daughter of Nicholas Park, esq. and married to sir Richard Mortimer, of Attleburgh; and this their son was born in the latter end of king Edward the Illd’s reign. As he died at the age of eighty, in 1459, his birth could not happen later than 1378. It may fairly be presumed he was grounded as well in that learning and other accomplishments which afterwards, improved by his experience and sagacity, rendered him so famous in war and peace, as in those virtuous and religious principles which governed his actions to the last. His father dying before he was of age, the care of | his person and estate were committed to John duke of Bedford, who was afterwards the most wise and able regent of France we ever had there; and he was the last ward which that duke had: others, indeed, say that he was trained up in the Norfolk family, which will not appear improbable when we consider that it was not unusual in those times for young noblemen whilst under wardship to be trained under others, especially ministers of state, in their houses and families, as in academies of behaviour, and to qualify them for the service of their country at home pr abroad. But if he was under Thomas Mowbray duke pf Norfolk, while he enjoyed that title, it could be but one year, that duke being banished the kingdom by king Richard II. in 1398, though his younger son, who was restored to that title many years after, might be one of sir John FastoltFs feoffees. And it is pretty evident that he was, but a few years after the banishment of that duke, in some considerable post under Thomas of Lancaster, after^ wards duke of Clarence, and second son of the succeeding king Henry IV. This Thomas was sent by his father so early, according to some writers, as the second year of his reign, which was in 1401, lord lieutenant of Ireland. And it is not improbable that Fastolff was then with him; for we are informed by William of Wyrcestre, that in the sixth, and seventh years of the said king Henry, that is, in 1405 and 1406, this John Fastolff, esq. was continually with, him. And the same lord lieutenant of Ireland was again there in 1408, 10 Henry IV. and almost to the beginning of the next year, when it is no less probable that Fastolff was still with him; for, in the year last mentioned, we find that he was married in that kingdom to a rich young widow of quality, named Milicent, lady Castlecomb, daughter of Robert lord Tibetot, and relict of sir Stephen Scrope, knight; the same, perhaps, who is mentioned, though not with the title of knighthood, by sir P. Leycester, to have been the said lord lieutenant’s deputy of Ireland, during most of the intervals of his return to England; which deputy-lieutenant died in his office the same year. This marriage was solemnized in Ireland on the feast of St. Hilary, 1408, and Fastolff bound himself in the sum of 1000l. to pay her 100l. a year, for pin-money during life; and she received the same to the 24th year of king Henry VI. The lands in Wiltshire and Yorkshire which came to Fastolff by this marriage with the said lady, | descended to Stephen Le Scrope, her son and heir. We may reasonably believe that this marriage in Ireland engaged his settlement in that kingdom, or upon his estate in Norfolk, till his appointment to the command of some forces, or to some post of trust under the English regency in France, soon after required his residence in that kingdom. For, according to the strictest calculation we can make from the accounts of his early engagements in France, the many years he was there, and the time of his final return, it must be not long after his marriage that he left either England or Ireland for that foreign service; being employed abroad by Henry IV. V. and VI. in the wars in France, Normandy, Anjou, Mayne, and Guyenne, upwards of forty years; which agrees very well with what Caxton has published, in his concise, yet comprehensive character of him, little more than twenty years after his death, where he speaks of his “exercisyng the warrys in the royame of Fraunce and other countrees, &c. by fourty yeres enduryng.” So that, we cannot see any room, either in the time or the temper, in the fortunes or employments of this knight, for him to have been a companion with, or follower and corrupter of prince Henry, in his juvenile and dissolute courses; nor, that Shakspeare had any view of drawing his sir John Falstaff from any part of this sir John Fastolff’s character; or so much as pointing at any indifferent circumstance in it that can reflect upon his memory, with readers conversant in the true history of him. The one is an old, humourous, vapouring, and cowardly, lewd, lying, and drunken debauchee, about the prince’s court when the other was a young and grave, discreet and valiant, chaste and sober, commander abroad continually advanced to honours and places of profit, for his brave and politic atchievements, military and civil; continually preferred to the trust of one government or other of countries, cities, towns, &c. or as a genera^ and commander of armies in martial expeditions while abroad; made knight-banneret in the field of battle; baron, in France, and knight of the garter in England and, particularly, when finally settled at home, constantly exercised in acts of hospitality, munificence, and chanty; a founder of religious buildings, and other stately edifices ornamental to his country, as their remains still testify; a generous patron of worthy and learned men, and a public benefactor to the pious and the poor. In short, the more we coin* | pare the circumstances in this historical character, with those in that poetical one, we can find nothing discreditable in the latter, that has any relation to the former, or that would mislead an ignorant reader to mistake or confound them, but a little quibble, which makes some conformity in their names, and a short degree in the time wherein the one did really, and the other is feigned to live. And, in regard to the prince of Wales, or our knight’s being engaged in any wild or riotous practices of his youth, the improbabilities may also appear from the comparison of their age, and a view of this prince’s commendable engagements till that space of time in which he indulged his interval of irregularities, when the distance of our knight will clear him from being a promoter of, or partaker in them. For it is apparent, that he had been intrusted with a command in France some time before the death of king Henry IV. because, in 1413, the rery first year of his son, who was now grown the reformed, and soon after proved the renowned, Henry V. it appears that Fastolff had the castle and dominion of Veires in Gascoigne committed to his custody and defence: whence it is very reasonably inferred, that he then resided in the said duchy, which at that time was possessed by the English. In June 1415, Fastolff, then only an esquire, was returned, by indenture, with ten men of arms, and thirty archers, to serve the king at his arrival in France. Soon after king Henry was arrived in Normandy, in August following, with above 30,000 men, the English army having made themselves masters of Harfleur, the most considerable port in that duchy, Fastolff was constituted lieutenant thereof, with 1500 men, by the earl of Derby, as Basset in his ms history informs us; but, as we find it in others, the king, upon this conquest, constituted his said uncle Thomas Beaufort, earl of Dorset and duke of Exeter, governor of Harfleur, in conjunction sir John Fastolff; and, having repaired the fortificaplaced therein a garrison of two thousand select men, as Titus Livius numbers them; or of fifteen hundred ien at arms, and thirty-five knights, according to Hall’s account; to which number Monstrelet also adds a thousand archers. Towards the latter end of October, in the year last mentioned, he was dangerously engaged in the evermemorable battle of Agincourt, where it is said that Fastolff, among others, signalized himself most gallantly by taking the duke of Alengon prisoner; though other | historians say that duke was slain after a desperate encounter with king Henry himself, in which he cut off the crowned crest of the king’s helmet. The fact is, that, in a succeeding battle, Fastolff did take this duke’s son and successor prisoner. In the same year, 1415, he, with the duke and 3000 English, invaded Normandy, and penetrated almost to Rouen; but on their return, loaded with booty, they were surprised, and forced to retreat towards Harfleur, whither the enemy pursuing them, were totally defeated. The constable of France, to recover his credit, laid siege to Harfleur, which made a vigorous defence under sir John Fastolff and others till relieved by the fleet under the duke of Bedford. He was at the taking of the castle of Tonque, the city of Caen, the castle of Courcy, the city of Sees, and town of Falaise, and at the great siege at Rouen, 1417. For his services at the latter he was made governor of Conde Noreau; and for his eminent services in those victories, he received, before the 29th of January following, the honour of knighthood, and had the manor and demesne of Fritense near Harfleur bestowed upon him during life. In 1418 he was ordered to seize upon the castle and dominion of Bee Crispin, and other manors, which were held by James D’Auricher, and several other knights; and had the said castle, with those lands, granted him in special tail, to the yearly value of 2000 scutes. In 1420 he was at the siege of Monsterau, as Peter Basset has recorded; and, in the next year, at that of Meaulx-en-Brie. About five months after the decease of king Henry V. the town of Meulent having been surprized in January 1422, John duke of Bedford, regent of France, and sir John Fastolff, then grand master of his household, and seneschal of Normandy, laid siege to the same, and re-took it. In 1423, after the castle of Craven t was relieved, our knight was constituted lieutenant for the king and regent in Normandy, in the jurisdictions of Rouen, Evreux, Alengon, and the countries beyond the river Seine: also governor of the countries of Anjou and Maine, and before the battle of Verneuil was created banneret, About three months after, being then captain of Alengon, and governor of the marches thereof, he laid siege to the castle of Tenuye in Maine, as a French historian informs us, which was surrendered to him; and, in 1424, he was sent to oppose the delivery of Alenon to the French, upon a discovery made that a Gascoigner had secretly contracted | to betray the same. In September 1425, he laid siege to Beaumont le Vicompt, which surrendered to him. Then also he took the castle of Sillie-Je-Guillem, from which he was dignified with the title of baron: but this, revolting afterwards again to the French, was assaulted by the earl of Arundel, and retaken about seven years after. In the year last mentioned, our active warrior took also St. Ouen D’Estrais, near Laval, as likewise the castle of Gravelle, with other places of strength, from the enemy; for which dangerous and indefatigable service in France he was about the same time elected in England, with extraordinary deference to his merits, knight companion of the order of the garter. In 1426 John lord Talbot was appointed governor of Anjou and Maine, and sir John Fastolff was removed to another place of command, which, in all probability, might be the foundation of that jealousy, emulation, or competition, between them, which never was cordially reconciled. In October 1428, he had a protection granted him, being then going into France; and there he performed an enterprise of such bravery and conduct as is scarcely thought to have been paralleled in ancient or modern history. The English army, at the siege of Orleans, being in great want of provisions, artillery, and other necessaries, sir John Fastolff, with some other approved commanders, was dispatched for supplies by William de la Pole duke of Suffolk, to the regent at Paris; who not only provided him plentifully therewith, but allowed him a strong guard at his return, that he might convey the same safely to the siege. The French, knowing the importance of this succour, united two armies of very superior numbers and force to meet him; but, either in different encounters, or in a pitched battle, as the French thetnselv es allow, he totally overthrew them; slew greater numbers than he had under his command, not to mention the wounded and the prisoners; and conducted his convoy safe to the English camp. And because it was in the time of Lent, and he had, among his other provision, several of his carriages laden with many barrels of herrings, which he applied to form a fortification, the French have ever since called this victory “The battle of herrings.” But as the fortune of war is precarious, the English army was soon after obliged to raise the siege of Orleans, and though they received recruits from the duke of Bedford, they were in no degree strong enough to encounter the French army | at Patay. At the battle which happened there in June 1429, many of the English, who were of most experienced and approved valour, seeing themselves so unequal, and the onset of the French so unexpected, made the best retreat they could and, among them who saved themselves, as it is said, was sir John Fastolff vfho, with such as could escape, retired to Corbeil thus avoiding being killed, or, with the great lord Talbot, lord Hungerford, and sir Thomas Ramps ton, taken prisoner of war. Here the French tales, which some English historians have inconsiderately credited, contradict or invalidate themselves; for, after having made the regent most improbably, and without any examination, or defence, divest Fastolff of his honours, they no less suddenly restore him to them, for, as they phrase it, “apparent causes of good excuse; though against the mind of the lord Talbot;” between whom there had been, it seems, some emulous contests, and therefore it is no wonder that Fastolff found him upon this occasion an adversary. It is not likely that the regent ever conceived any displeasure at this conduct, because Fastolff was not only continued in military and civil employments of the greatest concern, but appears more in favour with the regent after the battle of Patay than before. So that, rather than any dishonour here can be allowed, the retreat itself, as it is told, must be doubted. It was but in 1430 that he preferred him to the lieutenancy of Caen in Normandy. In 1432 he accompanied him into France, and was soon after sent ambassador to the council of Basil, and chosen, in the like capacity, to negociate a final or temporary peace with France. And that year, Fastolff, with the lord Willoughby, commanded the army which assisted the duke of Bretagne against the duke of Alen^on. Soon after this he was for a short space in England; for, in 1433, going abroad again, he constituted John Fastolff, of Olton, probably a near relation, his general attorney. In 1434, or the beginning of the year after, sir John was again with the regent of France;’and, in 1435, he was again one of the ambassadors to conclude a peace with France. Towards the latter end of this year the regent died at Rouen, and, as the greatest proof he could give of his confidence in the honour and integrity of sir John Fastolff, he made him one of the executors of his. last will. Richard, duke of York, who succeeded in the regency of France, made Fastolff a grant of an annuity of | twenty pounds a year of his own estate, “pro notabili et landdbili servicio, ac bono consilio;” which is sufficient to shew this duke’s sentiments also of his merits. In 1436, and for about four years longer, he seems to have been well settled at his government in Normandy; after which, in 1440, he made his final return home, and, loaclen with the laurels he had gathered in France, became as illustrious in his domestic as he had been in his foreign character. The late Mr. Gough, by whom this article was much enlarged, had an inventory of all the rich jewels, plate, furniture, &c. that he either had, or left in France, at his return to England. In 1450 he conveyed to John Kemp, cardinal archbishop of York, and others, his manor of Castre in Fleg, and several other lands specified in the deed of conveyance. The same year, Nov. 8, the king by writ directed Richard Waller, esq. David John William Needham, and John Ingoldsby, to cause Thomas Danyell, esq. to pay to sir John FastolfF, knight, the lOOl. that he was indebted to him for provisions, and for his ship called the George of Prussia, alias Danyell’s Hulk, which ship the said Danyell took on the sea as a prize, and never had it condemned; so that the king seized it, ordered it to be sold, and sir John to be paid out of it. At length being arrived, in 1459, beyond the age of fourscore years, he says of himself, that he was “in good remembrance, albeit I am gretly vexed with sickenesse, and thurgh age infebelyd.” He lingered under an hectic fever and asthma for an hundred and forty-eight days; but before he departed he made his will on the fifth of November in that year, and died at his seat at Castre the next day after, being the festival of St. Leonard, or the eve before, as appears in the escheats, in the 39th or last year of king Henry the Vlth’s reign, and no less than thirty-six years beyond the extravagant period assigned by Fuller. He was buried with great solemnity under an arch, in a chapel of our lady of his own building, on the south side of the choir at the abbey-church of St. Bennet in the Holm, in Norfolk, which was ruined at the dissolution; and so much was he respected after his decease, that John Beauchamp, lord of Powyke, in his last will dated the 15th of Edward IV. appointed a chantry, more especially for the soul of sir John Fastolff.

The ruins of his house at Castre still remaining, shew it to have been alike capacious and strong. It was moate4 | round, but the moat is now for the most part filled up. The grand entrance was on the West. The house formed a rectangled parallelogram the south and north sides longer than east and west the stables in front the best rooms on the right hand of the square, under which side is a noble vault, and over it probably the hall. The embattled brick tower at the north west corner is standing, above one hundred feet high; and over one of the windows were carved his arms in the garter as above described, supported by angels, now removed; on one of the doors a saltire engrailed. To it adjoined a dining-parlour, fifty-nine feet long, and twenty-eight broad. East from the castle stood the college, forming three sides of a square larger than the former, with two round towers; the whole converted into barns and stables. The castle moat is said to have communicated with a navigable creek, and in a farm housa north west of the mansion, called the barge-house, is shewn a large arch, capable of receiving a boat of considerable burthen. Weever says he had licence from Henry VI. to build his house castle-wise as a fortification on that side of Yarmouth, to which perhaps relates the licence granted him 1443, 22 Hen. VI. to employ some of the king’s ships to carry materials for building and furnishing one of his mansion-houses. The current tradition is, that this house was erected by a French nobleman, who was taken prisoner by our famous knight, according to the model and architecture of his own castle in France, as the price of his ransom.

Sir John Fastolff had by his will appointed John Paston, esq. eldest son and heir of sir William Paston, the judge, one of his executors; and had given to them all his manors, lands, &c. in trust, to found the college of the seven priests, and seven poor men, in the manor-house at Castre, c. “For the singular trust and love,” says sir John, “that I have to my cousin John Paston before all others, being in every belief that he will execute this my last will.*‘ Edward IV. 1464, for 300 marks, 100 in hand, and the remainder when the foundation takes place, granted John Paston, sen. esq. licence to found the college before mentioned, and his favour and protection against Yelverton, Jenney, and others; but it appears that this John Paston* *sq. had entered on this manor of Castre, and was imprisoned in the Fleet of London by Nevill, bishop of Exeter, (on Nov. 3, 1464 ) then chancellor. On his death, in 1466, | he left it to his eldest son sir John Paston. July 6, the king granted him a warrant under his hand and privy seal, to take possession of all the lands and inheritance of his late father, or of Agnes his grandmother, or of Margaret his mother, or of William Paston, and Clement Paston, his uncles; also the manor and place of Castre, or of any other estate which his father had, by way of gift, or purchase, of the late sir John Fastolff; which lands had been seized by the king, on evil surmises made to him, against his deceased father, himself and uncles, of all which they were sufficiently, openly, and worshipfully cleared before the king.” So that all yee now being in the said place of Caster, or in any liBihode, late the sir John Paston' s, by way of gift or purchase, of the late sir John Fastolff, that was seized into our hands, avoid the possession of the same, and suffer our truly and well beloved knight, sir John Paston, to enjoy the profits thereof, with all the goods and chattels there, and pay all the issues and profits thereof, as yee did unto his father, at any time in his life."

Soon after this, on Monday before St. Bartholomew’s day, 1469, John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, laid pretensions to it; and sent sir John Heveningham, a cousin of sir John FastolfFs, to require John Paston, esq. governor of it, being a castle well fortified, in the absence of his eldest brother sir John Paston, to deliver it up to him; maintaining that the said duke had purchased the said castle of William Yelverton (that cursed Norfolk justice, as Worcester styles him), whereas sir John had ordered it not to be sold, but to be a college for priests, and an hospital for poor men. The said John Paston refusing to surrender it, the duke came before it with 3000 armed men, and with guns, culverines, and other artillery, and laid siege to it immediately. The siege continued five weeks and three days.

February 10, 1474, 13 Edw. IV. an indenture was made between sir William Yelverton, William Jenny, serjeant at law, and William Worcester, executors of sir John on one part, and Thomas Cager and Robert Kytton on the other, whereby the said Robert was appointed surveyor of the lands and tenements in Southwark, and other places in Surrey, late sir John’s, to perform his last will, and also> receiver of the rents; who was to have six marks per annum, and to be allowed, besides all reasonable costs, that | he shall do in the defence and keeping out John Paston, esq. and of all others claiming by him. Anthony lord Scales, at another time, took possession of it in the name of king Edward IV. under pretence that Paston was the king’s villan (though absolutely false), all which proved a great destruction to the goods and effects in the same; but sir John Paston, through the favour and protection of king Edward IV. had afterwards possession. Another misfortune also happened to this seat or castle about the same time, owing to the negligence of a girl, who in making a bed set fire to it by her candle, and did considerable damage. Sir John Fastolff had a house at Norwich in Pokethorp opposite St. James’s church, called Fastolff’s place; in the windows of which Mr. Blomefield saw several paintings of saints and scripture worthies, and two knights fighting, which he imagined represented sir John and his French prisoner. He likewise built a splendid seat in Yarmouth, and a palace in Southwark.

As sir John Falstoff’s valour made him a terror in war, his humanity made him a blessing in peace: all we can find in his retirement, being elegant, hospitable, and generous, either as to the places of his abode, or those persons and foundations on which he showered his bounty. At his death he possessed lands and estates in Norfolk, Suffolk, Yorkshire, and Wiltshire. He was a benefactor to both the universities; bequeathing a considerable legacy to Cambridge, for building the schools of philosophy and Jaw, for which the first order under their chancellor Laurence, bishop of Durham, is dated in June 1458; and, at Oxford, he was so bountiful to Magdalen college, through the affection he had for his friend William Wainfleet, the founder thereof two years before, that his name is commemorated in an anniversary speech; and though the particulars of his bounty are not now remembered, because he enfeoffed the said founder in his life-time, yet it is known, that the boar’s head in Southwark, now divided into tenements, yielding one hundred and fifty pounds yearly, together with Caldecot manor in Suffolk, were part of the lands he bestowed thereon; and Lovingland in that county is conceived also to have been another part of his donation. There had been an ancient free chapel of St. John the Baptist in the manor house at Castre, the ancient seat of his family, as early as the reign of Edward I. Sir John intended to have erected a college for seven monks | or secular priests (one of whom to be head), and seven poo? men; and to endow it with 120 marks rent charge, out of several manors which he gave or sold to his cousin John Paston, senior, esq. charged with this charity. Mr. Paston laboured to establish this pious foundation till his death, 6 Ed. IV. as did his son sir John Paston, knight, but whether it was ever incorporated and fully settled, bishop Tanner doubts, as there is no farther mention of it in the rolls or the bishop of Norwich’s registry. Only in the valuation, 26 Hen. VIII. there is said to have been in Castrehall a chantry of the foundation of sir John Fastolff, knight, worth tl. 135. 4d. per annum. 6 Ed. IV. from receipts it appears that the priests had in money, besides their diet, 40l. per annum, and the poor men 40$. per annum each. The foundation was certainly not completed till after his decease; for William Worcester, in a letter to Margaret Paston in 1466, tells her he had communed with her son whether it should not be at Cambridge in case it shall not be at Castre, neither at St. Benet’s (in the Holme), and that the bishop of Winchester (Wainflete) was disposed to found a college in Oxford for his sayd mayster to be prayed for, yet with much less cost he might make some other memorial in Cambridge. 1


Biog. Brit, much enlarged by Mr. Gough, from the account given by Oldys in the first edition of the Biog, Brit. Mr. Gough had all Oldys’s manuscripts on the subject.