Saturday, 22 July 2017

Primary sources and Francis: The Crowland Chronicle

One problem with researching Francis, his whereabouts and his part in notable events during his lifetime is that primary sources often do not mention him, and when they do, they often do not mention him by name. This of course makes it hard to find out it is he who is refered to, and raises questions about his public reputation, or rather lack thereof.

Therefore, any source which does mention him is very valuable for research about him, even if he is mentioned only shortly and not assigned much significance. The Crowland Chronicle is one such source, for while it mentions Francis by name only once, there are a few more veiled referenced to him. Moreover, given its tone in certain places, it is also notable where the chronicler left him out.

As so many primary sources, the Chronicle does not seem to have an opinion, either positive or negative, about Francis. He is mentioned only in connection with Henry Tudor`s invasion, in a strictly informative sentence about the defensive measures Richard III took:

"Rumours at length increasing daily that those who were  in arms against the king were hastening to make a descent upon England, and the king being in doubt at what port they intended to effect a landing, (as certain information thereon could be gained by none of his spies), he betook himself to the north, shortly before the feast of Pentecost ; leaving lord Lovel, his chamberlain, near Southampton, there to refit his fleet with all possible speed, that he might keep a strict watch upon all the harbours in those parts ; that so, if the enemy should attempt to effect a landing there, he might unite all the forces in the neighbourhood, and not lose the opportunity of attacking them."  (Translation from the original Latin by Henry Thomas Riley.)

The Chronicle goes on to speak about the supposedly unnecessary costs of this defence, but puts the blame squarely on Richard`s shoulders, not suggesting that this was in any way due to Francis spending frivolously for the task or doing anything but what he had been instructed to do. In fact, there is no other mention of him at all, not among the names of those who were with Richard at Leicester before Bosworth, which naturally might be because Francis did not reach Richard in time, nor in any other list of Richard`s supporters. Even less is he mentioned in connection with any plotting or any supposed nefarious deeds, such as for example the executions of Anthony Woodville and Richard Grey.

Most notably, however, is that he is not even mentioned by name when the chronicler mentions the rebellion that would become known to history as the "Stafford and Lovell Rebellion", which would have been just over at the time of writing. It may well be that the chronicler had only heard about it in rumours, though most of what he says seems to be correct and is corroborated by other accounts, showing differences only in details, such as the fact that Henry VII`s men were not said to be unarmed in any other source:

"On passing from Lincoln on his way to York, by his castle of Nottingham, he there heard various rumours of a certain rising of the people in the north ; upon which, for the more securely establishing his position, he caused a great multitude of men, but all of them unarmed, to be summoned and collected from the county of Lincoln ; it being his wish to appear rather to pacify than exasperate the people who were opposed to him. When he had come to York, and was intent upon his devotions, on the feast of Saint George, he was nearly slain by means of a stratagem on part of the enemy. The earl of Northumberland, however, prudently quelled this insurrection at its first beginning, and caused certain of those who had prompted the movement to be hanged on the gallows: after which, the king returned in peace towards the southern parts." (Translation as above.)

Given the correct information here displayed, it is interesting that the chronicler does not mention who Henry`s enemies were. It is of course possible that, given when it was written, that the instigators of the rebellion were not known to the chronicler. Even so, however, it is interesting he would not have heard any rumours about it. Even if rebellions were of uncertain origin, they were often connected with notable enemies of the king or those known to be dissatisfied. An example of this are the repeated rebellions in the north in the years before Warwick openly declared against Edward IV.

In the case of the Stafford and Lovell Rebellion, while the brothers Stafford may not have been of high enough standing or power to be connected with the uprising, Francis undoubtedly was, and the little primary sources report of him shows he was well known to be close to Richard and opposed to Henry. Moreover, it seems that proclamations against Francis were issued well before he reached York to try and assassinate Henry. This suggests that the chronicler would have heard of this, again possibly only by way of rumours, and either disbelieved it, did not believe he was personally involved and only pulling strings, or did not think his name was of much importance for the story he was trying to tell, possibly because the name would not add anything to the understanding, having only once been mentioned before, in a way which gives nothing away about his character.

All in all, it seems that the chronicler did not seem to have much of an opinion of Francis. He does not call him out for supporting Richard or rebelling against Henry nor even care that he did. Once again, like most what is known about Francis, it supports the theory that for all the lands he held, he did not have enough power through them, like for example John Howard, who is namedropped repeatedly by the chronicler, to make him interesting. Nor do there seem to have been any sinister rumours about his personal character to include him, like William Catesby and Richard Ratcliffe.

It seems contemporaries saw him as a good but completely unremarkable man, and the Crowland Chronicle supports this.

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