THE KNIGHT WITH THE COW-HAIR WIG
Sir Hugh Hastings was a fourteenth-century roughneck with a very unusual appearance
In the late 1970s St Mary’s church in Elsing, Norfolk, had the builders in. The church was (and is) famous for a grand tomb there, which is decorated with a fine memorial brass - perhaps the finest of its kind in England. The brass had been removed for restoration, and was to be relaid in a new setting on a stone plinth.
So along came the builders to do the work. But once they got digging they managed to disturb the grave-site itself. The coffin of elm-wood containing the dead man’s remains had rotted completely away, but the remains themselves were in good shape. The canon of the church gave a small team of Norfolk archaeologists permission to inspect whatever was down there, provided they did not remove any bones from the sacred building.
That seemed fair enough. So the archaeologists got work. And it is through their report, written up in the journal Norfolk Archaeology, that we know quite a lot about the dead man depicted on the memorial brass: the Norfolk knight and Hundred Years War big-shot Sir Hugh Hastings.
Sir Hugh Hastings was an extraordinary character. I’m interested in him for a couple of reasons. The first is general: the fourteenth century was a fascinating time in the history of knighthood,
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