Sunday, 9 July 2017

Elizabeth Stonor`s letter of 6th March 1477

On 6th March 1477, Elizabeth Stonor wrote a letter to her husband William, informing him of what had happened since he had parted from her company and informing him of some personal troubles.

While the letter, like many if not all of the Stonor letters, is interesting for a number of reasons,this one in particular sheds some light on the life of Francis Lovell and his wife, and their connection to the Stonors. The full text of the letter is the following:

"Ryght reverent and worschypffull and interely best belovyde husbonde, I recomaunde me unto you in the most harteyste wyse hever more desyryng to here off your goode wellfare, the wyche I pray God longe to contune unto your hartys desyr. Syr, I resayved a tokyn ffrom you by Tawbose, my lorde Lovellys sarvant. And Syr, I have sent my lorde Lovell a tokyn and my ladys, as ye comaunde me to do, schuche as schalle plese them. Syr, ye schalle understonde that þe beschope off Bathe ys browthe in to the Towre syne you departyd. Allso Syr, ye schalle understonde that þe wolle hooys departe, as to morw is, ffor as I understonde: I pray Jhesu by thayr goode spede: and Goodard departys allso: and I pray you that ye wylle sende me som off your sarvantys and myne to wayte upone me, ffor now I ame ryght bare off sarvantys, and þat ye know well. Syr, I sent you halffe a honder welkys by Gardenar, and I wollde have sent you som hoder desys, but truly I cowde not get none: but and I cane get hony to morow, syr Wylliam salle bryng hyt with hym. Syr, I pray you that I may be recomaundehyde unto my masterys your moder, and unto all goode ffrendys. No more unto you at thys tym, but þe blesyde Trenyte have you in hys kepyng now and hever. Amen. At London þe vj day off Marche.
Cossen, I was crasyd þat the makyng off thys letter, but I thanke God I am ryght well amendyd, blesyd by Jhesu.
By your owen wyff Elysabeth Stonore.
To my ryght reverent and worschypffull Cosyn, syr Wyllm. Stonor, knyght."

Put in modern English - with a few question marks - it says:

"Right reverent and worshipful and entirely best beloved husband, I recommend me unto you in the most heartiest wise ever more desiring to hear of your good welfare, the which I pray God long to continue unto your heart`s desire. Sir, I received a token from you by Tawbose, my lord Lovelly`s servant. And Sir, I have sent my lord Lovell a token and my lady`s, as you command me to do, such as shall please them. Sir, you shall understand that the bishop of Bath is brought into the Tower since you departed. Also Sir, you shall understand the the wool [?] has departed, as tomorrow is, for as I understand: I pray Jesus by their good speed: and Goodard departs also: and I pray you that you will send me some of your servants and mine to wait upon me, for now I am right bare off servants, and that you know well. Sir, I sent you half a [honder welkys?] by Gardenar, and I would have sent you some other [desys?], but truly I could not get none: but and I can get any tomorrow, Sir William shall bring it with him. Sir, I pray you that I may be recommended unto my mistress your mother, and unto all good friends. No more unto you at this time, but the blessed trinity have you in his keeping now and ever. Amen. At London the 6th day of March.
Cousin, I was crazed at the making of this letter, but I thank God I am right well amended, blessed be Jesus.
By your own wife Elizabeth Stonor.
To my right reverent and worshipful cousin, Sir William Stonor, knight.

The few sentences at the beginning about Francis tell us that by early 1477, he and his wife Anne seem to have lived in Minster Lovell Hall, and started forming friendly relations with the neighbouring gentry, such as the Stonors. That one of Francis`s servants had been running an errant for William Stonor, bringing something from him to his wife, suggests that a degree of friendliness had already been established. 

At the same time, Elizabeth mentioning that William had instructed her to send the Lovells a token may indicate that theirs was not yet a long-existing good relationship. Obviously, the Stonors took some interest in maintaining and furthering the connection, and it seems Francis did as well. It can be assumed that the connection was not very personal, as while William Stonor wanted some token sent to the Lovells, he was neither secure enough in a personal friendship to wait until he had returned or be able to tell his wife what exactly "would please [them]", but ordered Elizabeth to do it, which may it was suggest a necessity rather than a friendly present. Similarly, that Elizabeth had to be ordered to do it and did not decide herself indicates the relationship between the two families, while cordial, was a very formal one, at least at this time. 

It could well be that this because they were only at this time establishing a connection, perhaps because Francis and Anne had only in the last year begun living in Minster Lovell Hall. Francis would have been nearly or just twenty at the time and Anne sixteen, quite a common age for couples to begin their lives as man and wife. This might explain why Stonor was eager at that time to be on friendly terms with them despite the fact Francis would not yet attain his majority for several months, and the relationship was still more formal than it would have been had it already lasted several years. This is supported by the fact that the two surviving letters from Francis to William Stonor, written in 1482 and 1483, while still not suggesting a close friendship, do indicate less formality than Elizabeth Stonor`s letter of 1477 does.

Another interesting point is that this present was explicitly made not just to Francis but to him and "my lady`s", which shows that whatever their relationship in private was, Francis and Anne presented a united front as a married couple. Clearly, the Stonors knew them somewhat, if not closely, so the choice to send a token to both of them to ensure good relations strongly suggests that they at least assumed Anne held some sway over her husband or meant something to him, and that her friendship as well as his was worth cultivating. So whatever their relationship may have been like it private, it seems to the world they at least fulfilled convention by appearing as a functional and contented couple.

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