Sadly little is known about Anne FitzHugh Lovell, Viscountess Lovell, wife of Francis. Though a first cousin to Richard III`s queen Anne Neville and wife of his closest friend, she has been often overlooked. This is understandable for her contemporaries - Francis himself did not cause a lot of comment and was apparently seen as a good but unremarkable man, and since Anne does not seem to have done much out of the ordinary while in the public eye, there was not much to comment on for them. However, even historians looking at Francis`s life have traditionally not assigned her much importance, neither in Francis`s life nor as an independent subject of study. While, again, this is understandable in the light of the lack of evidence about her and her life, it is nonetheless an oversight. Though there are only few facts, they indicate she was far from an uninteresting person, nor someone her husband did not care about.
Anne was born to Henry FitzHugh, 5th Baron FitzHugh and his wife Alice Neville, probably in 1460, according to the Testamenta Eboracenses. This squares with what evidence we have for the ages of her siblings and is therefore likely correct, meaning Anne was four years younger than her husband Francis. At the time of her birth, she had two older sisters, Alice and Elizabeth, and one older brother, Richard. While Alice was significantly older than her, having been born around 1448, Elizabeth and Richard were closer to her in age, Elizabeth being around Francis`s age and Richard`s birthday most likely being in late 1458 or very early 1459. This is supported by the fact that on 25th February 1479, he was given license to enter the lands he had inherited from his father, and clearly means he was, at most, two years older than Anne.
The little girl was born at a very tense time in history. After several years of conflicts, Richard, Duke of York - the baby`s great-uncle by marriage - had either recently claimed the throne for himself and his descendants or was just about to do so, naturally causing protests by the supporters of the sitting king, Henry VI. The rift that caused among the nobility went right through little Anne`s family; her father Henry was a supporter of Henry VI, while her uncle, the famous Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, supported Richard of York and was instrumental in putting Richard`s son, Edward, on the throne after Richard`s death.
When this had happened, Henry came to terms with the new king, but at the time of his third daughter`s birth, he was still fighting to support Henry VI. Naturally, this would have limited the contact with the Earl of Warwick`s family, and despite the fact that Anne`s mother Alice, Warwick`s brother, is said to have resembled him and been close to him, she seems to have fully supported her husband in 1460. This also means it is unlikely that little Anne was called after her aunt by marriage, Warwick`s wife Anne Beauchamp. However, "Anne" was a Neville family name, and it is quite possible the baby was called after her great-aunt Anne Neville, dowager duchess of Buckingham, or her first cousin once removed, Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter, both of whom were also on Henry VI`s side in the conflict - though Anne of York may very well have felt unhappy about this. Maybe one of these two women was even little Anne`s godmother, but sadly we do not know.
Almost nothing is known about Anne`s childhood. As she grew up, she became an older sister several times, to brothers named George, Edward, Thomas and John. In later, non-contemporary sources, it is sometimes stated that she also had two more sisters, Margery and Joan, the former the first wife of Sir Marmaduke Constable, the latter a nun, but no contemporary source mentions them as the children of Henry FitzHugh and Alice Neville. It is possible they were Henry`s illegitimate daughters, or from another branch of the family, but their connection to Anne is shaky at best.
The exact birth dates of Anne`s siblings are not known, any more than hers, nor is it known how much of an upbringing they shared. If the FitzHugh family, as was usually done in noble families, gave their sons a different (though not necessarily a better) education than their daughters, she would have most likely only shared her lessons with Elizabeth, as Alice was around 12 years older than her and might not have had too much to do with her.
Despite this age difference, however, it was Anne who was married first, not Alice. In fact, it seems that Anne was married first of all her siblings, at the age of four or just five in February 1465. In a match almost certainly arranged by Anne`s uncle, the above-mentioned Earl of Warwick, she was married to the then eight-year-old Francis Lovell, who had become Baron Lovell only around five weeks earlier after his father`s sudden death. How much Anne, or even Francis, understood of what was happening at that age is of course guesswork, but it was not uncommon for children, even that young, to be married at the time.
However, it was rather out of the ordinary for a younger sister to be married before a match for her older sister had been arranged. We have no knowledge why the FitzHughs choose to do it that way, and why Alice, then around eighteen, was only married to in November 1466, and then "only" to Sir John Fiennes, the heir to a barony, and therefore for the time being of lesser status than Anne`s youthful husband. Perhaps Henry and Alice decided that, while age gaps in arranged marriages were hardly out of the ordinary, it would be better to marry Alice to Sir John, who was her age, and Anne to a boy only four years older than her, rather than marry Alice to a boy eight years her junior and Anne to a man twelve years her senior. Perhaps, despite the fact that Francis was already a baron and stood to inherit lots of lands in due time, Henry and Alice also saw that he had probably inherited massive debts from his father and considered him a less good prospect than Sir John. Perhaps it was a mixture of these reasons, or something else entirely. It is all speculation, as is any explanation why Elizabeth, the second sister, was apparently not considered for either match.
Equally, it is speculation how much Anne and Francis saw of each other in the first years of their marriage. It is recorded that in the summer of 1466, her father Henry spent some months as the Earl of Warwick`s guest at Middleham, where Francis was also staying at that time. It is possible that Anne and her mother and
siblings joined him there - after all, it was her mother who was
Warwick`s sister, and since Anne was already married to a boy in her uncle`s care, there
may have been an effort made to get the children to know each other, as
sometimes happened with such matches. We cannot know for certain, though.
It is known, however, that it was in the summer of 1466 that Anne`s mother-in-law, Joan Stanley, died, leaving Francis and his sisters Joan and Frideswide full orphans. Joan was around Elizabeth`s age, being almost certainly Francis`s twin, while Frideswide was likely around two years old and therefore likely of an age with Anne`s youngest brothers. After their mother`s death, it seems they were raised together with Anne and her siblings in her parents` household. If Alice and her children joined her husband Henry at Middleham, it was likely there that Joan and Frideswide joined their household, and Anne first met them.
Since almost nothing is known of their relationship, it is impossible to make any speculations what Anne may have thought or felt at the addition to her parents` household, if she was pleased to have more girls to be raised alongside with or not. She may not even have thought too much of it, for it was rather common for nobles to have several wards in their households.
It is quite likely that during this time, Anne knew her sisters-in-law far better than her husband, who even if it is possible she sometimes saw him during visits, did not live in the same household she did. It was only some years later that he seems to have started living in her parents` household. We do not know when exactly he left the Earl of Warwick`s care - possibly during his first rebellion of 1469 - but it is known that by 10th September 1470, he was definitely there, for he is included, together with Anne, her siblings and his sisters, in a pardon granted to Henry FitzHugh for his rebellion that year. While Francis was just a week shy of his fourteenth birthday when this pardon was granted, and therefore too young to have been involved, and the inclusion of ten-year-old Anne and approximately six-year-old Frideswide clearly shows this was nominal in the cases of the children, it clearly argues he was staying with the FitzHughs during the time of rebellion.
If his presence made any difference to Anne, we can`t know. Both were naturally still too young by far to even think of being anything but married in name only, but perhaps there would have been some effort made to acquaint the two with one another, so that when the time came for them to live as man and wife, they would not be complete strangers to each other. It is also possible they did not see much of one another, or that they just saw as much of each other as Anne also saw of her brothers, however much this was.
The next mention of Anne found in contemporary sources is from 1473, by which time quite a lot in her life had changed. Now thirteen, she had lost her father the year before and seen her brother Richard become Baron FitzHugh. Though her father`s death meant that she and her siblings, like her husband, were the king`s wards until they became of age, or in the girls` cases, were old enough to live with their husbands, it seems that their mother Alice, despite her apparent involvement in her husband`s rebellion against Edward IV, had been allowed to keep custody of them. Francis`s wardship had been granted to Edward`s sister and Anne`s first cousin once removed, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk and her husband, on 11st July 1471, an appointment that was confirmed again in February 1472. Francis and his sisters moved into the Suffolks` household. Anne, it seems stayed with her mother and siblings, though she may have visited her husband occasionally.
Whereever she was for most of the time, at least by summer 1473, Anne saw her husband again, for it is recorded that in this year, they joined the prestigious Corpus Christi Guild together with Anne`s mother and some of her siblings. The Register of the Guild of Corpus Christi in the City of York reports this, listing "Dom. Alicia Feithew, Franciscus Lovell, comes, et Anna uxor ejus, Ric., Rog.,Ed.,Tho. et Eliz., filii dictæ Aliciæ Feithew". ("Lady Alice FitzHugh, Francis Lovell, count, and Anne his wife, Richard, Roger, Edward, Thomas and Elizabeth, children to Alice FitzHugh.") The fact that this includes Francis and Anne in the same way the pardon of 1470 does, including them in the midst of the family though as a married couple, suggests it was seen as a family decision of some sort, and it is possible Francis explicitly travelled to York for this, though it is also possible he was visited Anne and her family for a longer while that summer.
The list of family members who joined the guild with Anne is also illuminating in that it shows that with the apparent exception of John, who may have died or simply been too young to join the guild at that time, all of Anne`s siblings survived infancy, or at least all those whose birth was known about. The inclusion of a Roger in the list is somewhat baffling, since it is the only mention of a brother of that name that is known, but while it is possible that he died soon afterwards and/or other mentions of him were lost, it is far more likely this was a scribe`s mistake, and refered to George FitzHugh. His absence is rather inexplicable otherwise, and the register is known to have sometimes made mistakes of such a sort, even calling Richard of Gloucester`s consort "Elizabeth" instead of Anne.
It is possible that Francis stayed with the FitzHughs regularly until Anne was old enough to be his wife in more than name, but there is no way to be certain. Nor do we know when Anne was considered old enough. Marriages were often made when the girl was around 14, as in the case of Cecily Neville for example, but there is some evidence that consummation was often delayed until she was at least 16.
There evidence that this was also the age that Anne began living together with Francis, such as a letter written by Elizabeth Stonor in early March 1477 refers to her and Francis, clearly as their Oxfordshire neighbours. The context makes it clear that their relationship, while friendly, was still comparatively new and uncertain, which would fit perfectly with the Lovells, aged 20 and 16, first moving into Francis`s ancestral home of Minster Lovell Hall together around a year before the letter was written.
The letter also contains an interesting minor mention of Anne, as the recipient of a present, like her husband, to win their good will. This indicates that the Stonors knew, or at least assumed, that Anne held some sway over her husband
or meant something to him, and that her friendship as well as his was
worth cultivating. Naturally, it does not say too much about what their relationship may have been like it
private, but clearly they at least fulfilled convention by
appearing as a functional and contented couple.
Sadly, we do not know how much time they spent together and if this was an impression they struggled to uphold at that point or if it was one that was truthful, though there are indications in later years they were close. It is known that Francis spent some time in his mother-in-law`s household, visiting her, in 1482, but while it is quite likely that Anne was with him then, we cannot know for certain, just as we do not know whether she was present when her husband was created viscount and she became a viscountess on 4th January 1483. However, since no one ever commented on any open rift between them and the evidence does not suggest anything of the sort, it is almost certain she was with him then.
What is definitely known, and again points towards at least an impression of conventional happiness being created, in February 1483, Francis included her in a request for prayers to be said, every year on 17th September, in perpetuity.
It is also known that when her first cousin once removed, Richard of Gloucester, her husband`s closest friend, became king, Anne was present for his coronation. She was in the new queen`s train, like her mother Alice and older sister Elizabeth, and like them and several other ladies of high standing, such as for example the famous Margaret Beaufort, Lady Stanley, she was given "a long gown of blue velvet with crimson satin" and "one gown of crimson velvet and white damask" for the festivities.
It seems, and is supported by Anne Sutton and Peter Hammond`s research presented in "The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents", that unlike her mother and Elizabeth, she was not made a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne, who was her first cousin, and unlike them, she does not seem to have been favoured in any other way by the new queen. In fact, it seems that after the coronation, she was not even present in her household, suggesting her appointment as one of the queen`s ladies had been nominal.
As to why Anne did not join her mother and sister in becoming a favour lady of the queen, we can once more only speculate. It is possible, of course, that the two women simply did not like each other. However, had Anne wished to be a lady-in-waiting, it is almost impossible Queen Anne could have denied her this, as she was the wife of one of the most important men in the government and lady-in-waiting were often appointed not simply because of the queen`s affections, but also because of political causes. It is therefore most likely Anne herself decided that she was not interested in the position, which may indeed have been because of dislike, as postulated above. It is, however, equally possible that this was due to the fact that Anne`s position in life was different at that point to her mother`s and sister`s. Her mother had been a widow for slightly over a decade when Richard III became king, while Elizabeth`s husband William Parr was ill and could not attend court. It is sometimes postulated that he also opposed Richard`s accession, but there is no evidence for that. Conversely, it is sometimes postulated that he wished for his wife to stay at court to show their suppurt which he, due to illness, could not. Whether Elizabeth went against her husband to make a statement for her support for Richard`s kingship, or whether she stayed at court with his approval and to show both their support, neither of the couple seem to have shown much of a wish to see each other.
Anne, however, was neither required to make a political stand for or to set her apart from her husband nor was she a widow, and part of her reasons not to join her mother and sister in becoming the queen`s ladies may have been because of that. The king`s and the queen`s households were often apart - such as when the king visited her and her husband`s home of Minster Lovell Hall in July 1483, soon after Edward of Middleham`s investment as Prince of Wales, and presumably after Prince Edward`s death, to name a few occasions - and Anne`s husband Francis was, in his capacity as the king`s lord chamberlain, and closest friend, always at court unless dire necessity forced him to leave, like the so-called Buckingham rebellion in autumn 1483 did shortly. It is therefore possible that Anne, when having to choose, chose to stay with her husband, rather than in the queen`s household as her lady-in-waiting.
We cannot know, of course, without a doubt that their relationship was so good at that point that she could have feasibly made such a decision. However, there is a hint in a surviving legal document from 1485 which definitely speaks to affection in the marriage. In an indenture made on 10th June, Francis arranged for Anne to receive several manors in the event of his death, not just to keep for the rest of her life, but to own and be able to pass on to her descendants after her death. This was an unusual arrangement, and not at all one he would have needed to make, indicating he had trust in her and cared for her welfare.
The fact that this arrangement would have enabled her to pass these manors on to her descandants also shows up an oddity. It is certain that Anne never had a child by Francis, yet even after what were likely nine years of living as man and wife, he does not seem to have at all blamed her for it, or, as can be seen from the indenture, even doubted she could have children. Since this arrangement could have disadvantaged any children Anne had by him, giving their half-siblings she potentially could have had by another man after Francis`s death a claim to these manors, it seems he thought or knew that their childlessness was his fault.
There is no telling why. While it would have been typical for the time to blame the woman if a couple was childless, there are several reasons why Francis could have suspected or known he could not have children. The most obvious would be, of course, that they were not having sex, but since they seemed to get at least along and having an heir would have been expected of them, there would have to have been a good reason for this. All we know is that if that was the reason for Francis`s apparent certainty, the problem lay with him.
What Anne thought of this is, as always, up for speculation, but it does seem that she did not hold it against her husband. Nor does she seem to have held it against her husband that when Richard III was killed in battle, he chose not to accept Henry VII`s pardon. It is of course possible that she would have wished for him to do the same her brother Richard FitzHugh did, accept Henry VII and work against him in secret, or even just accept him and not risk it, but there are indications that she supported his decision.
There is no telling if she ever saw him again after the Battle of Bosworth, but it is clear that she was at least suspected to be in contact with him and to support him, for in a letter to John Paston written on 16th May 1487, Sir Edmund Bedingfeld warned him that there were rumours he had met with "Lady Lovell", and cautions him that "yt ys well doon we dele wysly thereafter". This suggests Anne was possibly involved in some sort of plotting to support her husband and the then-imminent so-called Simnel uprising, but naturally, there is no indication what exactly she did, or if she was perhaps entirely innocent and it was simply her association to Francis that made her suspect in the eyes of the new government.
Though Henry VII was famously paranoid, it is well possible that in the case of Anne, his suspicions were well-founded. Only three months earlier, Paston had been chided by the Earl of Oxford, one of Henry`s closest men, for accidentally passing on wrong information regarding Francis`s whereabouts, and in May 1486, Oxford`s own wife had written a letter with false information about this. Notably, Margaret of Oxford was Anne`s aunt, and while it could, naturally, have been a coincidence, it is remarkable that two people connected with Anne were provided with wrong information about Francis`s whereabouts at moments crucial for his escape.
Certainly, if she was connected with this, or in some other way involved in her husband`s rebellions, it was likely never discovered or else could never be proved, for Henry VII`s government enacted no punitive measures against her. While her husband`s attainder of course meant she lost the wealth she must have been accustomed to, she had a rich mother and family who could support her, and it was a sad consquence for the wife of attainted traitors, not limited only to Anne. Similarly, while the lands that made up her jointure were taken, this was standard despite being against the law, and clearly not thought to be a punishment, for in Francis`s second attainder, passed in 1495, her rights were protected. In the face of what had happened to lands she was still entitled to, this was somewhat ironic, but clearly shows she herself was not meant to be punished.
Interestingly, Anne does not seem to have been afraid of being punished, or else her concern for Francis overrode her fear, for in 1488, she was looking for her husband. We know this from another letter to John Paston, this one from Anne`s mother, in which Alice FitzHugh mentions "my doghtyr Lovell makith great sute and labour for
my sone hir husbande." She then goes on to explain that "Sir Edwarde Franke hath bene in the North to
inquire for hym; he is comyn agayne, and cane nogth understonde wher he
is. Wherfore her benevolers willith hir to continue hir sute and labour;
and so I can not departe nor leve hir as ye know well..."
This has sometimes been taken as meaning that Anne was trying to secure a pardon for her husband, but the complete text of the letter and its context, plus the fact that Francis had in 1485 already rejected a pardon, make it clear that this is not so, and that she was instead trying to find out where Francis was, and perhaps why he was no longer communicating.
What is especially intriguing about this is that, as J.M.Williams points out that Edward Franke, whom Anne sent to look for Francis, was himself a traitor at that point, and knowing of his whereabouts without reporting them would have been treason in itself. It speaks volumes about Anne`s feelings for her husband that she did not care for the danger to herself when trying to find out what had happened to him. It is also an indication that she was courageous, and determined to find the truth. Though so little is known about her, this action does give a telling insight into what kind of person she seems to have been.
The concern Alice expresses in the letter also shows that Anne was close to her mother, and the mention of the "benevolers", whom she seem to have trusted and who seem to have supported her in this risky undertaking, could well show that she was a well-liked woman who had several close, trusted friends. Once more, it is speculation, but in this case it is speculation based on solid evidence.
We do not know if Anne ever found out what happened to her husband. It seems that sometime between February 1488, when her mother wrote the letter to John Paston, and December 1489, she gave up looking. Whether this was because she had learnt what had happened or stopped hoping she ever could, we do, once more, not know, but we do know that by then, she had taken a religious vow, for when Henry VII`s government granted her an annuity of 20 pounds, she was called "our sister in God". This was quite common for noble widows, but it suggests she
knew her mind well and had by the age of twenty-eight or twenty-nine
already decided she did not want to marry another time and with that,
gave up the chance to have children as well. Though of course her marriage prospects were diminished significantly due to her being a traitor`s widow, she was still of high birth and a relative of Henry VII`s queen, so that had she wished, it is likely she could have found someone willing to overlook who her first husband had been. Another option would have been for her to contemplate marrying for her own pleasure, but clearly she had no interest in either of these options. Again, it can be taken as an indicator of feelings of affection for Francis.
We do not know what sort of vow she took, whether she joined a convent or was simply a lay sister. The last mention of her in the sources is in Francis`s second attainder of 1495. As mentioned above, in it, her rights were protected, showing that she was still alive at the time, then 35 years of age. Her brother Richard had died in 1489 at the age of around 31, but her mother was still alive, dying after 1505. Whether Anne outlived her and when she died, we do, like so much of her life, not know, only that it must have been before 1513.