Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Calais Letterbook of William Lord Hastings

A couple of weeks ago I attended a fascinating seminar at the IHR presented by Ed Meek on the topic of his recent book: The Calais Letterbook of William Lord Hastings (1477) and Late Medieval Crisis Diplomacy 1477-83. Some of the research as well as the publication of this exciting contribution to our understanding of Richard III’s age was funded by the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust (which was founded by the Richard III Society in 1984).

The letterbook of the title is a severely damaged manuscript that is now housed in the Huntingdon Library, California. It is a record of William Lord Hastings’s French correspondence between April and September 1477, a crucial period in England’s relations with the continent in the aftermath of Charles the Bold’s death. Meek has provided both a transcription and translation as well as a detailed introduction interpreting the significance of the letters.

He explained that the manuscript has occasionally been used by other historians. However, he argued that its importance for our understanding of English policy has not been fully realised. For one thing, we should not accept Cora Scofield’s influential interpretation that Edward IV and Hastings were at odds at this time. On the contrary what comes through most strongly about Lord Hastings from these letters is his very deep loyalty to Edward IV. I came away fully persuaded that the manuscript provides both a vivid glimpse into a crucial moment in English politics and intriguing insight into the perennially controversial Lord Hastings. The book has been published by the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust and is available from Amazon or on ebay at £35. There will be a special discount for members of the Richard III Society: see the March 2018 edition of The Ricardian Bulletin for further details.

J L Laynesmith