Church Monuments Society

Nichols Chantry Chapel

The Power behind the Throne: the Hastings chantry chapel in Windsor

Month: April 2024
Type: Mixed  
Era: 15th Century

Visit this monument

St George's Chapel
2 The Cloisters, Windsor SL4 1NJ

More about this monument

The chantry chapel of a close companion of Edward IV, executed by Richard III but allowed to be buried in St George’s Chapel

More photos Click for images and descriptions

When the Queen died, she was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor only a short distance away from the Chantry Chapel of William, 1st Lord Hastings. His chantry chapel occupies such a prestigious position because he was buried near to his close companion, Edward IV, who founded St George’s Chapel as a church for the Knights of the Garter.

Dr John Goodall has characterised Lord Hastings as being “the Power behind the Throne.”* He played a vital role in both peace and war. He was Edward IV’s Lord Chamberlain throughout his reign. In the decisive battles of Barnet and Tewksbury in 1471 when the Lancastrians were finally defeated, Edward IV commanded the centre of the Yorkist army, the Duke of Gloucester (the future Richard III) the right flank and Lord Hastings the left flank.

As well as the highs Lord Hastings experienced the lows. In 1470 the Earl of Warwick, “the Kingmaker”, (who incidentally was his brother-in-law) changed sides and helped to restore the Lancastrian Henry VI to the throne. Lord Hastings accompanied Edward IV into exile to Burgundy. When Edward died unexpectedly at the age of 40 in 1483, his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, declared Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville invalid. He took the throne as Richard III and had Lord Hastings executed. It is assumed that Richard thought Lord Hastings would support the claim of Edward’s son, Edward V, (one of “the Princes in the Tower”) over his own.

When Lord Hastings made his will in 1481, he stated that: “forasmoche as the Kyng of his abundant grace for the trew service that I have doon, and at the leest entended to have doon, to his Grace hath willed and offred me to be buryed in the college or chapel of Seynt George at Wyndesore in a place by his Grace assigned, in the which college his Highness is disposed to be buried, I therefore bequeath my simple body to be buryed in the sayd chapel and college in the said place &c and wolle that there be ordeigned a tumbe for me by myne executors, and for the costs of the same I bequeath c [100] marks.” (100 marks is equivalent to over £60,000 today.)

Richard III clearly allowed Lord Hastings to be buried in St George’s Chapel but there is no other information about his burial. (Lord Hastings had also asked in his will that “in all goodly haste after my decease a juell of gold or sylver be given &c, to the Deane and Chanons of the said chapel or college there to remain perpetually to the honour of God, and for a memorial for me” but St George’s Chapel have confirmed that there is no record of a jewel being given,)

The next information we have is that in 1503 Lord Hasting’s wife, Katherine, and his eldest son, Edward, agreed a contract with St George’s Chapel for his chantry. The contract provided for a chantry priest to say daily masses and for a service to be held in June each year to mark the anniversary of his death.

Edward IV was buried in the place of honour in St George’s Chapel under the first arch immediately north of the high altar. Lord Hastings’ chantry chapel is under an arch near to Edward (Fig. 1). Dr Goodall suggests that it was built between 1503 and 1506 (and so over 20 years after his death.)

The interior of the chapel has a floor area of 8.5 ft by 5 ft. In the centre of the floor is a large un-inscribed slab of Purbeck marble, presumably over Lord Hastings’ grave. The rest of the floor is made up of smaller slabs of Purbeck marble. The chapel fills up all the space under the arch and consists on three sides of stone and on the fourth side of wood. It is 15.5 ft high and 12 ft long.

The chantry chapel is separated from the north aisle by a delicately carved screen of a fine-grained limestone (Fig. 2). Towards the western end of the chapel is a single doorway, still fitted with its original door. The ceiling of the chapel is covered by miniature fan vaulting.

The blank wall that forms the south side of the chapel interior is in fact the timber backing of the choir stalls. Painted directly on to the surface are four scenes from the life of St Stephen – preaching to the people, being judged by Herod, being stoned to death, and his soul rising to heaven (Fig. 3). The paintings are something of a puzzle. The style is primitive whereas Lord Hastings was a sophisticated patron of the arts.

* Dr John Goodall, “The Power Behind The Throne” in The Friends of St George’s, Windsor Annual Review 2016/17: PDF pages 21-25, (pages 474-482)


Fig. 1

The Chantry Chapel viewed from the North Aisle. From Robert Wilson, The Life and Times of Queen Victoria Vol. 2 (1897)

Nichols Chantry Chapel

Fig. 2

The Screen. From John Nichols, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester Vol. 3, Part 2 (1804)

Richard Gough Paintings gri 33125010871099 0136

Fig. 3

A Sketch of the Wall Paintings. From Richard Gough, Sepulchral Monuments in Great Britain Vol. 2, Part 3 (1796)