|Battle of Formigny|
The End of a DreamIn 1448 Fastolf advised Edmund Beaufort[i] to protect the coasts of English France;
‘Item, that of the ports of the sea there, as Harfleur, Honfleur, Le Crotoy, Cherbourg, and others, being in our obedience, be purveyed a navy of ships to help resist against your enemies when it shall need………..the sea be well kept because of conveying of victuals, and for coming over the sea of soldiers when it shall be necessary.’[ii]
As so frequently before, the government saw fit to ignore Fastolf’s wise advice, possibly financial considerations played a part in this decision; the upkeep of a navy would be a drain on the nation’s coffers.
The 11th April of 1450 saw the Battle of Formigny; a decisive victory for the French. Fastolf, although he was not present, later criticised the army’s commander Thomas Kyriell in a memorandum submitted to the great council in his role as their special adviser, writing of Kyriell as
‘Negligently tarrying in Normandy, and sped him not to go spedly to [Somerset].’[iii]
|Chateau de Vire|
Fastolf set about raising another army but the French turned south to Vire and captured it and the commander Lord Scales in a six day siege. Avranches followed not long after and that the French besieged Caen, which held the majority of the remnants of the English army and its leader the Duke of Somerset. The Bastard of Orléans took only seventeen days to bring about the defeat of the besieged forces and Charles VII made his triumphal entry into the town on 6th July 1450.
These calamities meant that Fastolf’s army was not required. Further victories at Falaise and Cherbourg resulted finally on 11th August English rule in northern France coming to an end. Seven days later John Paston’s servant wrote;
‘This morning it was told that Shirburgh is goon, and we have not now a foote of lande in Normandie.’[iv]
Keeping the Peace
In the June of 1450, as if the troubles abroad were not enough, one Jack Cade and his supporters, assembled on Blackheath, called for Henry to abdicate or for his advisers to be replaced with more competent men. The coastal regions of England were now subject to harrying by the French and little seemed to be done by the authorities to deal with the troubles of the common man.
Fastolf. was seventy years old and seemed to be keeping his wits about him. He sent one of his servants, John Payn, to get hold of Cade’s demands;
‘To take a man and .ii. of the best horse that were in his stabyll with him and ride to the commons of Kent to get the articles that they came for……I get th’ articles[v] and brought them to my maister.’[vi]
Once they reached London Cade’s control of his supporters failed and the rebels attempted to loot the city, despite having undertaken to commit no acts of lawlessness. The Londoners fought back on London bridge; ousting the rebels. To obtain a peaceful end to the rebellion Henry VI issued Cade and his men with pardons and they disbursed. Cade himself was captured on his return journey on 12th July by one Alexander Iden;[vii] he died in the skirmish.
Involvement in a Family Dispute
In 1454 Fastolf was caught up in in-fighting between the Duke of York and the king. The disagreement between the two was first made public in February 1452, when York tried to ‘bully’ the king with an ‘armed demonstration’ at Dartford in Kent. Henry had his uncle arrested and he was forced to swear never to rebel again.
On 19th August 1452 Fastolf made his will and transferred control over all his lands to his trustees in expectation of a long voyage that never took place, possibly planning to pledge his loyalty to Henry. Henry was touring the west country at the time and suppressing dissent. In December Fastolf loaned York monies[viii], secured by jewellery left in Fastolf’s possession. There were further loans.
In 1453 parliament was called at Reading and one Robert Collinson alleged that Fastolf and Lord Grey of Ruthin had been involved in organising York’s demonstration of armed force at Deptford. The two men were summonsed to appear and on 6th September 1453 Fastolf was required to put up the sum of £1,000[ix] in recognisance for good behaviour. The obligation was later cancelled;
‘For that [Fastolf] did so appear before the lords of the council on 6th November……..and made his excuse, wherefore he was by them reckoned as excused, and dismissed from further appearance.’[x]
The first real fighting of the Wars of the Roses took place on the streets of St Albans on 22nd May 1455; amongst others the dead included the Duke of Somerset. This first battle of St Albans was effectively a Yorkist victory and it benefitted Fastolf indirectly.
|Plan of Caister|
Fastolf was becoming concerned about the management of his properties, writing in 1450 to his agent Thomas Howes[xi];
‘I hear oftimes many strange reports of the governance of my place at Caister and other places, as in making profit from my chattels, my wines, the keeping of my wardrobe and clothes, my coneys at Hellesdon[xii] and in my lands……..that you suffer no vicious man to abide at my place of Caister but only well governed and diligent.’[xiii]
Paston and Thomas Howes obtained the wardship of Thomas Fastolf, a young relative of Fastolf’s. Thomas was the son of John Fastolf of Nacton. This wardship was to cause dissension between Fastolf and the Duke of Suffolk[xiv]. Suffolk’s associates Philip Wentworth and John Andrew disputed the wardship, which did not reach a successful conclusion until after the battle at St Albans.
|Arms of the Duke of Suffolk|
Suffolk carried on a war with the Paston’s and Fastolf, who in 1450 wrote;
‘I often suffered damage at the hands of the Duke of Suffolk’s officers in Lothingland[xv], on account of their great exorbitant extractions, in the distraining of my belongings and in other ways.’[xvi]
Suffolk’s reign of power ended in abruptly in January 1450[xvii] when he was arrested for high treason, impeached and banished. Suffolk was murdered by the crew of the ship taking him to France.
It was not until 1454 that Fastolf moved to live in Caister permanently. It had cost £6,000[xviii] to build. In 1456, now well ensconced with the ageing soldier, John Paston was appointed one of the feoffees of Fastolf's lands. Paston was Fastolf’s most trusted councillor and man of business. Paston also made friends with Fastolf’s secretary Worcester.
Death of a Benefactor
|Illustration from De re militari|
In June 1459 Fastolf made a will which provided that his ten executors found a college in Caister. Fastolf spent much of his later years planning a chantry college. He was also a collector of books; he is known to have brought home at least one from France; the Epistle of Othea by Christine Pisan.
By the time he died Fastolf owned at least twenty-five books, many of which were on the subject of war; a life of Julius Caesar, Livy’s histories of Rome, a volume of Josephus, and the De re militari by Vegetius. He also possessed a scientific encyclopaedia by Bartholomew the Englishman, a medical treatise by Aldobrandinus of Siena, along with religious works and volumes of Cicero, Aristotle and Justinian’s Institutes and a book on gardening by Pietro de’ Crescenzi.
Fastolf also commissioned books; he had Stephen Scrope translate the Epistle of Othea around 1440. In his introduction Scrope extolled the virtues of the Duc de Berri and the actions of Fastolf in France;
‘And God, who is sovereign chieftain and knight of all chivalry, has ever preserved and defended you in all your said labours of chivalry to this day.’[xix]
Fastolf died on 5 November 1459 after 158 days of ‘hectic fever’ and he was buried next to his wife Millicent in St Benet's Abbey in a specially built aisle on the South side of the abbey church, which fell into ruins after the dissolution of the monasteries.
After Fastolf’s death John Paston claimed that Fastolf had made a nuncupative will on 3rd November, giving Paston exclusive authority over the foundation of the college[xx]. The will provided for, after payment of 4000 marks, Paston was to have all Fastolf's lands in Norfolk and Suffolk. The Paston family moved quickly; John Paston’s brother William, a lawyer[xxi], wrote to John on 12th November;
‘On Friday last in the morning Worcester and I had come to London……….I spoke to the Lord Chancellor and I found him well disposed in all things and you will find him right profitable to you etc…….He desired me to write you a letter in his name and to entrust you to gather the goods together……….and have all his [Fastolf’s] out of every place of his….and lay them secretly where you thought them best at your choice.’[xxii]
Relying on the November will and the Lord Chancellor’s goodwill Paston took possession of the Fastolf estates and resided at times at Fastolf's manors of Caister[xxiii] and Hellesdon. The bulk of Fastolf's fortune passed to Magdalen College, Oxford.
The Hundred Years War – Alfred H Burne, Folio Society 2005
The Real Falstaff – Stephen Cooper, Pen & Sword Military 2010
The Reign of King Henry VI – RA Griffiths, Sutton Publishing 1998
The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997
John Talbot & the War in France – AJ Pollard, Pen & Sword Military 2005
The Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family – Richard Virgoe (ed), Macmillan London Ltd 1989
[i] Third son of John Beaufort and now Duke of Somerset in his father’s stead
[ii] The Real Falstaff - Cooper
[iii] The Hundred Years War - Burne
[v] Now in the archives of Magdalen College, Oxford
[vi] The Reign of Henry VI - Griffiths
[viii] Most of the nobility were land rich and cash poor
[x] The Real Falstaff - Cooper
[xi] William Worcester’s uncle by marriage
[xii] Now a suburb of Norwich; Fastolf’s death led to a fight between his relatives, the Paston’s and the Duke of Suffolk
[xiii] Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family – Virgoe (ed)
[xv] The hinterland of Lowestoft
[xvi] The Real Falstaff - Cooper
[xix] The Real Falstaff - Cooper
[xx] Which was never formed
[xxii] Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family – Virgoe (ed)
[xxiii] Although this was soon taken by the Duke of Norfolk, Paston’s ancient enemy with the assistance of Yelverton