|Thomas Beauchamp Earl of Warwick|
YouthBorn in 1380 John Fastolf was the son of Sir John Fastolf at Caister-on-Sea. Sir John was probably a descendant of Nicholas Fastolf, the first Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. Nicholas’ brother Thomas Fastolf was a specialist in canon law and later Bishop of St David’s. The Fastolfs are believed to be of Viking stock and many of the family had marine connections; one Hugh Fastolf transported the troops for Sir Robert Knolles’ Grand Chevauchée of 1340. A number of the family served as bailiffs of Yarmouth. Any profits made by the Fastolf family were invested in land.
Sir John was squire to the Earl of Warwick before he entered the royal household. He later married the daughter of a local landowner; John Fastolf the younger was born at Caister Hall at West Caister. There is no evidence as to his upbringing, but it must be assumed that he had sufficient education to enable him to perform his duties; allegedly Fastolf was page to Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Norfolk.
It was in Mowbray’s train that Fastolf travelled, along with Henry Bolingbroke[ii], firstly to Königsberg to gain real experience of fighting along with the Teutonic Knights.. The trip was fitted out in King’s Lynn where Bolingbroke’s men hired three ships to carry the crusade which left port in July 1390.
The Knights were now a power in the Baltic provinces and were engaged in a fight in Lithuania, whose people were to be forcibly baptised by religious zealots who were also busily engaged in enriching themselves. The Knights, rather than support the Christian king Jagiello, supported his cousin Vitold, as this would lead to them receiving the province of Samogitia for themselves.
The crusade of about 300 men landed at the port of Rixhoft on 8th August; on the 10th Bolingbroke reached Danzig and gathered a force of fifty lances and sixty archers and travelled post haste after the Knights who had already departed on their murderous expedition. Henry met up with Marshal Rabe and was greeted;
‘With a glad face and joyful expression.’[iii]
The joint forces marched to the junctions of the river Memel and river Wilia where Jagiello’s brother Skirjal lay in wait with an army. On the 28th August they arrived at the ford, killed three hundred men and took prisoner three dukes and eleven boyars. Skirjal took refuge in nearby Vilnius. For this victory;
‘The earl with the help of his men and especially the archers deserved many thanks.’[iv]
Bolingbroke and his men then joined in the siege of Vilnius and on 4th September the joint force stormed the ramparts. One of Bolingbroke’s men planted his standard on the topmost part, for which he was awarded 6s 8d[v].
The crusade returned to Königsberg where they spent the winter as the seas were too rough to risk returning home. And the end of April they journeyed home to a hero’s welcome for Henry. What part the young Fastolf played during these adventures is unknown.
Return to Königsberg
|von Wallenrode coat of arms|
In the autumn of 1391 Henry Bolingbroke again travelled with two hundred men to Königsberg, where to his dismay he was informed that his presence was unwelcome. The Knights had become disenchanted with the amateur assistance of sprigs of the nobility. Training with the Knights had been important part of the training for young would be soldiers. They were unable to hone their fighting skills killing the French following the 1396 truce[vi] which was still holding, if tenuously. The Grand Master Konrad von Wallenrode gave Bolingbroke £500[vii] towards his expenses as a sop to his pride.
At this point, Henry decided to use the money he’d received from his father to earn remission of his sins by going on a crusade. He sent home most of his men, Fastolf presumably was part of Bolingbroke’s retinue if it is this trip that Fastolf refers to, albeit briefly[viii];
‘From his earliest years he had applied himself in the service of the king and in arms, in the countries of England and Ireland and on the journey to Jerusalem.’[ix]
The ‘pilgrims’ arrived in Prague on 13th October, having left Danzig on 22nd September. Here they met with Richard II’s brother-in-law, the King of the Romans Wenceslaus. Bolingbroke and his entourage stayed eleven days and he indulged in visits to the local tourist sites[x] and an orgy of souvenir buying, including an ostrich. The party then travelled on to Vienna where Bolingbroke met with Sigismund[xi], another of the queen’s brothers.
Pilgrims in Jerusalem
The party then moved on to Venice arriving on 30th November. The Duke of Austria requested the Venetian senate to provide a galley to take the party and thence on to Jerusalem. Bolingbroke lounged about, taking his ease on the Isola di San Giorgio, while his men loaded up with the supplies necessary for the journey.
Bolingbroke left most of his men to spend the winter at Portogruaro, leaving himself with an entourage of about forty or fifty retainers. They sailed down the Adriatic and across the Mediterranean via Corfu, the Morea[xii] and Rhodes, arriving at Jaffa. From here Bolingbroke walked on foot the thirty miles to Jerusalem having left most of his party behind. Fastolf and Sir Thomas Erpingham were among those visiting the Holy City.
On the return journey Bolingbroke continued his orgy of souvenir buying, including a Turk, a leopard, a parrot and other marvels. Erpingham bought the material for a chasuble. Bolingbroke’s retainers were all decked out in new outfits; the new clothes for his knights and squires were fashioned from silk and Genoese velvet. Everyone was given a gilt or silver collar. It is not known when Fastolf transferred his allegiance from Mowbray, but henceforth he was to give the Lancastrian dynasty his unqualified support.
The Usurper King
There is no evidence to show that Fastolf was involved in the overthrow of Richard II and the subsequent regicide. He just was not important enough; William Worcester[xiii] wrote that, at the time Fastolf, in his early twenties, had not yet been knighted;
‘At that time an esquire.’
He did however go to Ireland where the new Henry IV, unwilling to commit to fighting in France when he needed to keep an uneasy peace at home, defended England’s sovereignty. Fastolf fought to defend the Pale around Dublin under the command of Sir Stephen Scrope, son of Richard Scrope, first Lord Bolton[xiv].
The expedition sailed in 1401 and Thomas of Lancaster, the king’s 14 year old son was in overall command. Fastolf was to serve under Thomas’ command in 1401 and from 1405-6 when the prince was Lieutenant of Ireland. Fastolf met Philip Branch while serving in Ireland; Branch was to become one of his retinue in France.
|The remains of Roxburgh Castle|
Scrope had other duties; as well as this command he was warden of Roxburgh Castle and in 1404 the Patent Rolls show that his commission was;
‘To take ships, barges, ballingers[xv] and other vessels in the port of Chester and Liverpool and masters and mariners for them for the passage to Ireland of Stephen Lescrope, deputy of the king’s son Thomas of Lancaster, lieutenant in Ireland, and his men and servants with 300 horses in his company.’[xvi]
These early years of the new century were years of much violence in Ireland and the Gaels committed rapine, arson and wholesale devastation in and around the Pale. The English were not far behindhand when violence was being meted out. Scrope and his men had a victory of sorts in 1407 over the Irish in a rout near Callan[xvii], following a raid by Walter Burke and the O’Carroll of Ely into County Kilkenny. Taig O’Carroll[xviii] and 800 men were killed during the fighting.
Social Mobility and New Found Wealth
In 1408 the Gaelic Annals of Loch Cé record the death of Scrope;
‘There was a great plague in Meath and Scrope, a very valiant knight, and deputy to the King of Saxons in Erinn, died of this plague.’[xix]
On 13th January 1409 Fastolf married Millicent Tiptoft, Scrope's widow and daughter of Robert Tiptoft[xx]. The marriage brought Fastolf great prestige as well as wealth; Millicent brought Fastolf an income of £240 per annum[xxi]. He had moved himself up the social scale in marrying his former commander’s widow.
Falstoff acquired a controlling interest in Tiptoft and Scrope manors and until his death had the use of the profits from Castle Combe where Falstoff encouraged the woollen industry by regularly purchasing the woollen cloth to clothe his men in France. The village of Oxenton[xxii] in Gloucestershire was also part of Millicent’s inheritance and Castle Combe and Oxenton were closely linked. In 1456 William Worcester wrote to the villagers at Oxenton;
‘I have reminded [Fastolf] to give a chasuble to your church…..you, Thomas Watts……send to Castle Combe 12 good lampreys powdered at the price of 20d[xxiii] the piece. And they of castle Combe shall send them to London. And forget not a couple of good lampreys for my labour in recovering the £7[xxiv] that you had almost lost of my lord’s money.’[xxv].
Richard II – Michael Bennett, Sutton Publishing Ltd 1999
The Usurper King – Marie Louise Bruce, The Rubicon Press 1998
The Hundred Years War – Alfred H Burne, Folio Society 2005
The Real Falstaff – Stephen Cooper, Pen & Sword Military 2010
Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Books Ltd 1968
The Fifteenth Century – EF Jacob, Oxford University Press 1997
John Talbot & the War in France – AJ Pollard, Pen & Sword Military 2005
[i] For Sarah
[iii] The Usurper King - Bruce
[vi] Richard II’s foreign policy involved peace with the hereditary enemy; a policy that harmed his reputation with his nobility
[viii] From court proceedings in Paris in 1435 Overton v Fastolf
[ix] The Real Falstaff - Cooper
[xi] King of Hungary
[xii] Now known as the Peloponnese
[xiii] Fastolf’s secretary
[xv] A 120 ton clinker built 2 masted ship, used as scouts and raiding ships attached to a fleet
[xvi] The Real Falstaff - Cooper
[xviii] Highly regarded by the Gaels as ‘general protector to the poets of Ireland and Scotland’
[xix] The Real Falstaff - Cooper
[xxv] The Real Falstaff - Cooper