Thursday, 28 December 2017

Francis at arms

Francis Lovell was almost certainly born on 17th September 1456. The series of conflicts now known as Wars of the Roses had already begun when he was born, and would last until 1487, the year Francis probably died. Its consequences would be felt even longer. When Paul Murray Kendall, in his famous book about Richard III, summarised the first three decades of Richard`s life and stated that "in his thirty years he had endured a lifetime of violence", he could just as well have been describing Francis`s short life.

Despite the conflicts that happened again and again in his lifetime, though, for most of his life Francis was extremely seldom personally involved. He was not a fighter, nor was he a plotter, by nature, a fact that seemed to be widely known and reflects in what was said about him. Until 22nd August 1485, when Richard was killed in the Battle of Bosworth, Francis barely seems to have been involved in any armed conflict, showed no interest in it, and even when finding himself right in the middle of a situation filled with intrigue and plots, appears to have managed to steer clear of it.

Naturally, some of his inaction in important conflicts was due to circumstance. In the first phase of the Wars of the Roses, traditionally said to have begun in May 1455 with the First Battle of St.Alban`s, culminated in Richard, Duke of York`s death at the Battle of Wakefield and his son Edward`s accession after the Battle of Towton on 29th March 1461 and ended when John Neville, Montague, defeated some of Edward`s enemies at Hexham in 1464, Francis was naturally far too young to take any part in it, or even have an opinion on the conflicts.

Similarly, while his absence at the Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury has sometimes been commented on as evidence that he was not much of a fighter, for example by Joe Ann Ricca in her short book "Francis, Viscount Lovel: Time Reveals All Things", he was too young even then to join those battles. The fact that his absence has sometimes been seen as notable rests on a misconception about his year of birth, which, despite both the CPR and William Lovell`s will proving this wrong, was often, and sometimes still is, claimed to have been 1454 even in scholarly works. If this had been so, at the age of 16, Francis might have been expected to fight, but since he was only 14, this was not so.

Once those battles were fought, Edward IV had been reinstalled on the throne and the immediate fall-out of the events had been dealt with, a comparatively peaceful time began in England, and there were no battles Francis could have joined or neglected to join. While it is notable that even when he was old enough and could have been expected to establish himself as a political power, which usually, in the 15th century, came with an amount of military power as well, he either kept himself - which is suggested by his actions when Richard was king - or was kept almost entirely out of it, it does not really give any hints as to his qualities or lack thereof as a fighter.

The one occasion during which Francis was old enough to be expected to (be ready to) fight in the 1470s was in 1475 when Edward IV raised men to fight in France with him, where a battle, however, never happened. It is not known whether Francis was present there. Aged eighteen, he was still technically the king`s ward and considering that and the fact he was only a baron at that point, he was perhaps thought too insignificant to be mentioned. If he was present, he did not receive any of the presents and annuities given out so lavishly by the French king, though of course, this again would probably be due to his insignificance at the time. It is, however, equally possible that he was not even present in France, for a multitude of possible reasons, such as the fact that he was still not of age and therefore didn`t have the funds for many men of his own to bring, that he had, as mentioned above, not established much of a powerful position to be of any help, or even that he had made his excuses somehow. Since no evidence exists, the French campaign of 1475 does not prove or disprove anything about Francis`s will and/or ability to fight. It was, however, the first military expedition in his lifetime, even if it was aborted, for which he was old enough to take a part in and for which there is no indication he made any sort impression during it, be it by not taking part while being expected to or, conversely, being eager to fight.

The next military campaigns Francis was old enough to take a part in were the Scottish campaigns of the early 1480s, and he did indeed do so. Though a letter written to William Stonor in early summer 1482 indicates he was less than happy about it and regarded it as an irksome duty, there is every indication that once he actually did fight, he did well all that was expected of him. He was knighted, alongside some others such as his brother-in-law Richard FitzHugh, by Richard of Gloucester on 22nd August 1481. Richard even granted him the right to knight two other men himself on that day, though this was most likely a personal favour and not because of particularly distingushed fighting on Francis`s part. If such ever happened, no mention of it survives, and since the Scottish campaigns are well documented, it is extremely likely it did not happen.

In fact, while Francis did seem to fight well once he did so at the Scottish borders, he was not present during all of the campaigns. When he wrote the above-mentioned letter to William Stonor, he had already missed the first part of the campaign that year. We do not know why this is so, but the letter suggests he had been for some reason unable to do what he had intended to do in that time, indicating he may have been ill or otherwise indisposed. The fact that no one ever blamed him for not being there, despite him expressing a fear that people might say he "withdrew [himself] from the war" if travelled south in June 1482, supports this theory. 

Francis was, it seems, present during the siege of Berwick, but his whereabouts afterwards are uncertain. As I have pointed out before, there is evidence he was back south, perhaps in his ancestral manor of Minster Lovell Hall in Oxfordshire, on 10th August of that year. Again, we do not know why, though given that he was honoured by Edward IV half a year later, it can be assumed he had a good reason to leave, again perhaps frail health making him unable to bear the physical strain of prolonged campaigning (though, if so, it was something that did apparently not afflict him the year before that and may have been connected with whatever prevented him from joining the fighting in spring 1482), or an injury sustained during the siege.

After leaving the Scottish campaign early in 1482, the next time Francis took up arms was in October 1483, to help Richard defeat the so-called Buckingham rebellion. Though this rebellion was eventually ended without fighting, Francis does not seem to have been very successful in helping to squash it, though not for lack of trying. On 11th October 1483, Francis wrote to William Stonor that he had commanded "his men" to meet him at Banbury a week after writing and asked him to arrive to help suppress the rebellion wearing Francis`s cognisance. Stonor, however, joined the rebels. How many men Francis raised without him is not known, but no matter what they number was, in the end, they did not have to fight. 

Francis`s reaction to Stonor`s deflection to the rebels is not known, but whatever it was, it did not inspire him to try and establish a power base in his native Oxfordshire, despite Richard granting him several of the lands forfeited by the rebels in that area, or to try and strengthen what military power he had. 

The next time Francis was active in a conflict was almost two years later, in the running-up to the Battle of Bosworth, when he was charged by Richard with guarding the coast against the invading army in Southampton. This charge included outfitting the ships  of the royal fleet and doing all that needed to be done for them to be able to engage in battle, as well as actually taking command of the fleet. It was a task that required a great amount of organisatorial skill, but there was of course the possibility that the ships would engage in battle. Despite his less than perfect track record with fighting, Richard clearly trusted Francis to be able to do it, nor is there any indication anyone else did not. This, possibly, reflects what has been said above about him doing well once actually engaged in battle, but not being inclined, nor potentially physically suited, to be a warrior, or showing much of a talent for anything military.

As it happened, the invading army did not land in Southampton, and Francis was unsuccessful trying to guard against it, though this cannot be attributed to any fault of his. Nor did anyone ever do so, and while the Crowland Chronicle complains about the supposedly unnecessary costs for the defence he undertook, it explicitly blames Richard, not suggesting that the costs were in any way due to Francis spending frivolously for the task or doing anything but what he had been instructed to do. In this instance, what can be gleaned from the sources suggest that Francis did the tasks he had been charged with well, and their failure was due to Richard being either misinformed or mixed up about where the invading army intended to land, not any of Francis`s actions.

It is not known if, once the invading army had landed, Francis was summoned to Richard`s side to fight alongside him, and if so, if he arrived in time for the battle. Most circumstantial evidence suggests this was so, but that Francis did not take a significant part in the battle. As I have shown before, it seems that Richard asked Francis to stay back and not join his last, fatal, charge. There are several theories as to why, but it is ultimately unknowable. All that is known is that if Francis was actually present at the Battle of Bosworth, which seems more likely than that he was not, he once more did not seem to join in the worst of the battle and was, in fact, apparently kept away from the worst.

It was only after Richard`s defeat and death in that battle that Francis changed and took to plotting and fighting. After a stay of several months in St.John`s Abbey in Colchester, during which time he, as well as the brothers Thomas and Humphrey Stafford and potentially others as well, started to plot the first of his attempts to unseat and kill the newly made Henry VII, he left for the north of England in spring 1486 to gather men to do so.

The rebellion, despite reportedly causing understandable concern to the new king and his government and being around the same in size and support as the so-called Buckingham rebellion against Richard III three years earlier, has not often been talked about in scholarly works, or indeed elsewhere. This, naturally, means there is little left to go on to tell us about Francis`s exact movements and details such as how many men he gathered. Polydore Vergil, writing around 20 years later, claimed that after Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and uncle to the new king, offered them all a pardon, they left. This may be true, and could once more reflect Francis`s lacking talent in all things military, but Vergil is mistaken, or perhaps rather confused, about what happened afterwards. His statement that Francis was "feeble of spirit" and therefore "ran into Lancashire" to hide after his makeshift army had left him is incorrect. Francis did, it seems, leave for Lancashire, but only after attempting to catch Henry himself just outside York when the new king arrived there, and getting several Yorkers to attempt to assassinate him during the celebrations of St.George Day. Both these attempts failed, and the Crowland Chronicler points out that several people were hanged for the latter attempt, though Francis managed to escape.

At some point afterwards, he seems to have met up with Thomas Broughton, in Lancashire, who was in sympathy with Francis`s aims and played a significant part in the so-called Simnel rebellion the next year. Their exact movements during the rest of the year 1486 are unknown. Margaret Neville, Countess of Oxford, wrote a letter to John Paston on 19th May 1486 claiming Francis was on the Isle of Ely, attempting either to flee the country or take sanctuary again. There is no supporting evidence for this claim, and no way to say if it was true or not. Margaret`s husband John, Earl of Oxford, wrote a letter to the same John Paston several months later, on 24th January, chiding him for having passed on (apparently unintentionally) wrong information about Francis and some men then already known to be conspiring with him once more, and claiming he was "yet in England". Again, it is not known if this was correct.

At some point between his failed rebellion and assassination attempt in spring 1486 and spring 1487, Francis, together with Thomas Broughton, managed to shake off all those who were looking for him and leave for Burgundy, where they were welcomed by the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret of York. 

The preparations there done for the rebellion that would culminate in the Battle of Stoke on 16th June 1487 have been detailed elsewhere, though it is notable that no one seems to quite agree on the details. Interestingly, Polydore Vergil, who is not sympathetic at all to the rebels and had previously described Francis as "feeble of spirit" and not liking to fight, characterises him in his his descriptions about those preparations as very eager to fight Henry and arguing strongly for it. However, while this may very well be true, given what we know of Francis after Richard`s death, it is worth noting Vergil could not have known this but from second- or, more likely, third-hand accounts, and his statement has therefore to be taken with a grain of salt. 

Curiously, despite his undoubtedly very significant part in organising the rebellion, not many accounts of it mention him. He is not named once, for example, by Jean Molinet, or Bernard André - two men who had very different opinions of Henry and the rebels. There`s no certainty why this is so, but it may be that he was not at all an ostentatious man and other men, who were more so, tended to draw attention away from him. This, of course, is only speculation.

Naturally, this lack of mention of him in accounts makes it hard to understand what exactly he did during the rebellion, and there is doubt about it even to this day. It seems, however, clear, that shortly after landing in England with the rebel army, Francis and some of the soldiers marched around 100 miles from Piel Island near Furness to Branham Moor, where, on 10th June 1487, they surprised Lord Clifford and some 400 of his soldiers in a night attack on Tadcaster, where Clifford was staying. This attack was a success for Francis and his men, who had both the element of surprise and the advantage of numbers over Clifford. Since Clifford had to flee and leave his equipment and luggage behind, this was of a strategic advantage to the rebel army. It was also the only military success Francis ever had a leading hand in. 

However, the Yorkists could, eventually, not make use of this advantage at the Battle of Stoke. The battle is said to have hung in balance for long and to have lasted much longer than the Battle of Bosworth two years earlier, but eventually the king`s forces were successful.

There is a lot of doubt about what exactly happened during the battle and who of the notable participants was where. Polydore Vergil, notably, stated that all the leading rebels - the Earls of Kildare and Lincoln, the apparently famous German mercenary Martin Schwartz, and Francis himself - were all killed while bravely defending their positions to the last. Hall and Holinshed, in later years, echoed most of Vergil`s claims about the battle, yet both state (correctly) that Francis survived. Neither of them, however, doubt the bravery (suddenly) assigned to him by Vergil. This does not have to be significant though - given the fact that, as said above, few accounts mention him and few accounts of the battle even exist, Vergil was probably all they had to go on regarding Francis`s behaviour during the battle.

It is, of course, hard to find out the truth, though it is as certain as anything can be about such a widely-discussed and badly recorded event, that Francis survived. The York Civic Records stated he was "discomfited and fled", and the actions of those who were in the best position to know support this. How he managed to survive when most rebels died is however a question that cannot be answered. Though it has been suggested in modern times that he ran away as soon as he saw the battle lost, abandoning any responsibilites he might still have had there, there is no evidence for such a claim, and no indication that him "fleeing" after battle was anything different but what was commonly done by the loser of such battles who did not want to be executed as traitors. 

It is also notable that had one of the rebels, let alone such a leading figure as Francis, done such a thing, the accounts hostile to the rebels would have most likely stressed this to illustrate their point about them. The fact that, on the contrary, even hostile accounts who mention Francis mention also his bravery suggests that there was nothing at all wrong about his behaviour during the battle. His survival may have been due to sheerest luck, the fact that despite having shown time and again he was not a military man nor suited for it, he seemed to be able to fight well once he had to, or, conversely, that he was not given a significant part in the thick of the battle, because his skills at leading an army were, at best, questionable.

The battle is commonly regarded as the last of the Wars of the Roses. Francis survived it, but seems to have died shortly afterwards. Perhaps this was because he was injured in battle, as has been suggested - though, again, not by any primary source - or due to an illness contracted soon afterwards. It is even possible that Francis, always apparently not the most healthy of men, was made ill by the strain of the battle and it run-up. There is no way of knowing.

If he did, indeed, die of an injury got in battle, it would have been an ironic way to go for a man who had never shown much of an aptitude, nor much of an interest, in all things military. He did fight when he had to, and once actually engaged in battle he seemed to do well enough at the actual fighting, but he was clearly neither happy about having to do it, nor, it appears, physically suited to it, nor talented at any of the surrounding military work.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Francis, Anne Neville, Edward of Middleham and illnesses in the late 15th century

A while ago, I spoke about the possibility that Francis was prone to sickness or had some sort of illness or physical condition which affected his life and movements. While he did participate in battles in his life, and in the last two years of his life engaged in doubtlessly physically strenuous rebellions, it is quite notable that those were exceptions, and that for most of his life, he seemed to avoid taxing activities. He did not seem to travel more than he had to, not even going to see the lands he had been granted by Richard after the 1483 rebellion, nor attempting to strengthen his power base there. It is also recorded that in several instances, he was not where he would have been expected to be. An obvious example of this is his unexplained failure to "attend the king" in early summer 1482, which he wrote to William Stonor he had intended, as well as his absence in the beginning of the fights against the Scottish that year. Notably, in that same year, he also does not seem to have stayed until the end of those Scottish campaigns, despite having expressed an intention to do so. There are other examples, detailed in the earlier article about his health.

Naturally, as stated there, there can be other explanations for all of the above-mentioned oddities, although taken together, they do point towards him having a rather fragile health. As has recently been pointed out to me by the wonderful Kathryn Warner, his actions and lack of travelling is quite similar behaviour to that of Edward II`s cousin Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who equally appears to have had some sort of physical condition that often prevented him from travelling. Though more is known about Thomas`s actions and movements than Francis`s, and therefore a conclusion about his health can be reached with more certainty, the similarities to Francis are there.

In Francis`s case, whatever his physical condition was might have had other impacts on him and his life than just difficulties travelling and potentially attacks of illnesses. It is very notable that on 10th June 1485, probably in the face of the upcoming battle, he arranged for his wife Anne to receive some manors in the event of his death. As I have pointed out before, he arranged it so she was not just allowed keep them for the rest of her life, but would own them and be able to pass on to her descendants after her death, suggesting very clearly that despite their childlessness, it was not her fault and that 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. This might have been directly due to an illness he had, of course, potentially making him unable to have sex. Horribly, it might also be connected to something that happened in his childhood, perhaps explaining his apparent hatred for his father. However, it could also be that abstinence from sex was advised by physicians as a way of treatment for a condition he had.While there were different views on sexual activity and health during the 15th century, an widespread opinion seems to have been that too much sex could be detrimental to physical health. For example, when Prince Juan of Asturias, son of Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, died, stories circulated that this was his cause of death, and supposedly there had been concern about it even in his own household before his death. If such concerns and fears were also known in England at the time, it might therefore be that Francis did not want to risk already frail health, or was advised not to.

This is, of course, only speculation. While there is quite some circumstantial evidence in regards to Francis`s (ill?-)health, just what exactly he had, what effects this had and how exactly it affected him is something that it is unlikely will ever be known for certain, just as it will never be known for certain just why he seemed convinced he could not have children. 

Nowadays, with our advantaged knowledge of medicine, we know of course that illnesses can affect fertility, but while it is hardly impossible that it was an observation also made by medieval physicians, it is not something anyone could have had certainty of without a modern fertility test. However, in hindsight, a lack of children in a historical figure is sometimes assumed to have been due to reduced fertility because of illness, such as in the case of Anne Neville.

Richard`s wife and queen, she is often assumed to have been sickly and the fact she and Richard had only one child together attributed to this. However, while naturally it is completely impossible to diagnose anyone`s fertility or lack thereof and its reasons over a time of 500 years, for Anne there is no evidence she was possessed of a frail health or ill at any time before she contracted the illness that killed her, often assumed to have been tuberculosis, probably around three or four months before her death in March 1485.

Naturally, this does not mean that she did not have some sort of condition affecting her fertility; all it does mean is that if so, she was probably herself unaware of it and that, from all we know, it never affected any of her actions and movements. In contrast to Francis, whenever we actually do know of her movements, which sadly is not very often, they suggest nothing unusual and there are no known instances of her not being somewhere she was expected to be or even had expressed an intention to be. She was not noted to be frail or have a history of ill-health by anyone who met her, such as the Spanish ambassador who travelled with her from Windsor to Warwick in summer 1483, and seems to have fulfilled her duties as duchess and queen without any troubles.

In fact, there is even some evidence that Anne was not worried about her health even when she was pregnant with her son Edward, which she most likely would have been had she known to be prone to illnesses. In such a case, it is most likely she would have chosen to remain where she was and, if possible, avoid travelling during that time, for fear of something happening that might harm both her and the baby, or even trigger a miscarriage. However, Anne did not do so, suggesting she had no such fears. As Annette Carson and Marie Barnfield point out, in around mid-February 1476, Anne was in Durham, where she was "granted consorority by the Priory and Chapter of Durham Cathedral on the 14th of that month in thanks for her devotion and benefactions to the monastry". (Carson, Barnfield "Edward of Middleham`s BIRTH") She would have been around four or five months pregnant then, so her making a journey then suggests she had no worries, despite her condition, very clearly indicating there were no problems with her health and she also did not have a history of health problems. It also suggests that despite what is often assumed, Anne most likely did not have miscarriages before she had Edward, since travelling while pregnant was thought to put a woman more at risk of having one and Anne would have been unlikely to put herself and her baby at risk if she had already suffered miscarriages.

In the light of this, there is the question of why she and Richard only had one child. It is, naturally, a question to which no more answer can be found, though there are plenty of possibilities ranging for her not being particularly fertile and not spending enough time with her husband to become pregnant often despite this to there being a gynological issue that caused her no pain or noticable trouble and could not be discovered with the medicine of the time. However, as Annette Carson points out, "doctors would have been called in immediately upon little Edward [of Middleham]`s death to examine the worrying matter of whether [Anne] would ever bear another child. The stars would have been consulted and horoscopes cast." (Carson, Richard III: The Maligned King, 292). It seems that at least at that time, there was no concern that Anne could not have another child. Even the most hostile sources only mention Richard`s supposed impatience with her to have taken place around Christmas 1484, several months after his son`s death. The suggestion is that at least immediately after his death, she was not thought to be unhealthy, frail or unable to have more children. 

However, at some point between Edward`s death, which was very likely in mid-to late April 1484, and Christmas of the same year, Anne fell sick with the illness that would kill her on 16th March 1485. It is not definitely known what it was, only that it appears to have been a wasting sickness of some sort, though usually it is assumed that it was tuberculosis - which Henry VII also supposedly died of and which, while, as most illnesses, even more of a risk for men and women not of the nobility and royalty, clearly could hit everyone.

Little is known how Anne was treated for her illness, be it tuberculosis or something else, but it seems to have been accepted as early as two months before her death that she would not recover, and there is evidence her husband was sounding out his possibilities of remarriage upon learning this, before she died - which sounds extraordinarily callous for modern ears but would likely have been seen as a necessity for a childless king. 

There is little evidence, in fact, as to what his personal feelings may have been about Anne`s illness, which is not from very biased sources. However, one tidbit from the Crowland Chronicle, which suggests that Richard was hoping to speed her demise along, might give an intriguing glimpse of how Anne`s illness was seen. In a rather confused narrative which pronounced Richard at first as waiting for Anne`s death and then as her only being made sick by his supposed plans to marry his niece Elizabeth of York - which has been spoken about at length by people cleverer than me - it is then said that Anne`s "illness was supposed to have increased still more and more, because the king entirely shunned her bed, declaring that it was by the advice of his physicians that he did so." (Translation from the original Latin by Henry Thomas Riley.) Of course, whether this statement was ever actually made by Richard is unknown and it should be treated with extreme caution, given the unreliability of the source regarding the details of Anne`s illness and death, but if so, it suggests that it was known that whatever illness she had was contagious and could be passed on by airborne infection. 

Sadly, we do not know much more about the course of her illness, only that after around three or four months during which her state seems to have rapidly become worse, she died on 16th March 1485. She was just three months shy of her 29th birthday, but despite her early death, it does not seem that she suffered from ill-health during all her life or at any other point but her last few months.

Nor, in fact, is there any such evidence for her and Richard`s son, Edward of Middleham. Even less evidence survives for him than for his mother, but a lot of what has traditionally been taken as a sign that he may have been of ill-health does not necessarily have to mean it and often hinges on a mistaken belief about his birth year, which was long assumed, for example by Paul Murray Kendall, to have been in late 1473, but which was almost definitely only in summer 1476. This difference of two and a quarter years explains some of the behaviour Kendall, for example, found strange, such as the fact that on his way from Middleham to York to be invested as Prince of Wales, the child travelled in a litter and not on a horse. However, for a child of only just seven years old, it might have well been a too long distance to ride, while perhaps a nearly ten-year-old might have been able to ride that long. 

Equally, the fact he was only about to turn seven when his uncle Edward died and his cousin Edward was thought to be crowned soon presumably explains why he did not join his mother when she came to London in early June 1483 for her nephew`s coronation. By the time it became clear that his parents would be crowned instead of his cousin, it may well have been too short notice to rush a just seven-year-old from Middleham to London and he may have been regarded as too young to attend the ceremony in any case.

Naturally, like with his mother, it is possible that he had problems we have no longer evidence of, but the surviving evidence does indicate nothing of the sort. At no point when he was in the public eye, such as when he was invested as Prince of Wales, was there ever a suggestion made by anyone that he was not well. In fact, his death was reported by the Crowland Chronicle as coming after "an illness of but short duration", with no indication that he had been often ill or this was in any way a result of a longer-lasting condition which culminated in a fever.

There is no indication what this short illness was, but without modern medicine, even illnesses today regarded as little more than a nuisance could be lethal, and child mortality, even in the circles that could afford the best doctors and medicines there were, was horrifyingly high. Edward`s own cousins Mary of York and George of York died of the plague, at the age of 14 and 2 respectively. It is possible that so did he, though of course there is a sadly long list of other illnesses that could have killed him, even if he was a healthy child until he contracted it.

Being ill in the Middle Ages was, arguably, even more dangerous than today, and a lot depended on fate, or luck. It was possible to survive childhood and lead a normal life even while being possessed of a fragile health, as Francis seems to have done, but equally it was possible that an illness killed a previously healthy person unexpectedly.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Recent discoveries

Due to typical Christmas-time stress, I haven`t been able to write much on this blog. To make up for that, here are a couple of discoveries I made in the last few weeks about Francis`s family.

(1) The birthday of Francis`s father, John Lovell, 8th Baron Lovell, was on 15th April. This is established in an inquisition into his father William`s lands, "[set] forth" on 13th August 1455, exactly 2 months after William`s death. In this inquisition, John is said to be William`s "son and heir, and twenty-two years on the morrow of Easter last past." Since in 1455, Easter Sunday was on the 15th of April, it means John Lovell was born on 15th April 1433.

(2) Francis`s mother-in-law, Alice FitzHugh, was still alive in 1505. Although it is usually claimed that there is no more mention of her after 22nd November 1503 and not known what happened to her afterwards, she is mentioned in her son George FitzHugh`s will, which was made in the year before his death on 20th November 1505. George, who was then the Dean of Lincoln, named her as one of the executioners of his will, suggesting that, then at the age of around 75, Alice was not only still alive when he wrote the will, but also still of reasonable health.

(3) Francis`s wife, Anne, died between December 1495 and 28th January 1513. In Henry VII`s Parliament in December 1495, Francis`s second attainder was passed. It contained a clause protecting Anne`s interests, clearly showing she was still alive then. It is not known what happened to her afterwards, but when her nephew George FitzHugh, her brother Richard`s son, died without issue on 28th January 1513, the FitzHugh barony fell into abbeyance between his closest still living FitzHugh relatives - his aunt Alice, Anne`s oldest sister, and his Parr cousins, descendants of Anne`s sister Elizabeth. Had she still been alive, Anne would have been mentioned too. Since she wasn`t, she must have died in the 17 years between these two dates. This means she was at least 35 years old and at most just 53 years old when she died.

(4) The wedding of Francis`s parents was between 7th September and 6th November 1446. On 7th September 1446, Joan`s namesake grandmother, Joan Phelip, Lady Bardolph, added a codicil to her will, in which she left Joan some money (see below.) She refers to her as John Beaumont`s daughter, making no mention of a husband, suggesting Joan was still unmarried then. On 6th November of the same year, William Lovell granted some lands to his oldest son John and his wife Joan, meaning their wedding most likely took place between these two dates. Bride and groom were both 13 at the time.

(5) Joan, Lady Bardolph, Francis`s great-grandmother, left her granddaughter Joan, Francis`s mother, "a buckle set with pearls" and her "best gold girdle" in the will she made on 11th March 1446. In the codicil she added on 7th September of the same year (see above), she also left her 100 £, which John Beaumont had been owing to Lady Bardolph.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Inaccurate and annoying claims often found about Francis

Having spoken about Francis`s horrible portrayal in The White Princess, I decided to write the second part of this rant about misrepresentation of Francis. While in the two articles I have done this before have focused on fiction - here is the second one - this one is about nonfiction, and various, sadly very widespread, nonsense about him found on the internet and even in published non-fiction books.

The first, and perhaps most often repeated of these is that, as it is put even in a thoroughly scholarly and otherwise well-researched biography of Henry VII, Francis was "not personally important". This is said in context with his rebellions, and left to stand like this, with no more background information given about Francis. Just what he would have needed to qualify as personally important is not stated. Clearly it can`t have been riches, as Francis had been the wealthiest peer in the land below the rank of an earl, and in fact richer than some earls before he was attainted by Henry VII`s Parliament; his annual income estimated at around 2000 £. Nor can it have been rank, for Francis held five baronies and one viscouncy and would have inherited another had his maternal uncle William predeceased him. It also can`t have been influence, as Francis, while never much of a political player, was so by choice and in Richard III`s reign he held enough posts to enable him to become one had he so chosen, and he was moreover known to have influence by having the king`s ear. Not even lack of action can have been used to determine that Francis was "not important", for after all, he was instrumental in two rebellions in the first two years of Henry VII`s reign, not to mention an assassination attempt and a kidnap attempt on the king. 

Despite this, the description of Francis as such is repeated time and again, in other works about the time, and on the internet, where often it is put less politely. On several pages, Francis is variously stated to have been "a failure who needs no attention", "just Richard`s lackey and goon", and similarly lovely, yet wrong, descriptions. At one point, when attempting to argue against such a depiction, I was even accused of having nothing but "conjuncture" to support my claim that Francis ever held any importance whatsoever. 

Somewhat relatedly, as it is another claim minimising Francis`s rebellions, a claim often found is that the very fact he chose to rebel was "foolish" and "he should have submitted". While there were doubtlessly problems with his rebellions, especially the first one as it was critically underplanned and did not even have a figurehead, those are usually not addressed when such claims are made. It is just stated that it was stupid of him to ever rebel against Henry VII, without going into the reasons of why he did so. This would be more understandable if those claiming so explained why they are opposed to his actions, or condemned any other uprising - Warwick`s, York`s, Buckingham`s, Henry Tudor`s etc. - as well, but very often it`s only Francis, and the crux of the argument always seems to be that he didn`t know what he was doing and didn`t know what he was missing by not submitting after Bosworth, and was therefore "stupid". 

If not that, then especially the 1486 uprising gets squarely presented as being "for gain", or sometimes, "partly for loyalty and partly for gain", made by someone who had nothing to lose anymore. The fact that Francis had deliberately chosen to lose everything by not submitting, that he was offered a pardon after Bosworth and could have simply accepted it and tried working his way up in Henry VII`s government had he wanted gain, is nearly always ignored in every retelling of this rebellion - which aren`t that many to begin with. 

A completely different set of claims about Francis, which are found on social media and various websites, are concerned not so much with his actions as with his relationships. I`ve mentioned before how his marriage often gets portrayed as horrible, in spite of all evidence against this, but thankfully, this is not something that has bled into non-fiction, as Anne Lovell is usually, if in my opinion wrongly, not considered important enough to include there. His relationship with Richard, however, often does get mentioned. 

Ignoring the claims of "lackey" and "goon" mentioned above, Francis is very often made out to be a sort of second choice, the far less loved, less noticed, less interesting, connection of Richard in comparison to his wife, Anne Neville. While logic would dictate that these relationships were completely different ones and one would not reflect on the other, much less diminish it, such claims like to diminish Francis`s friendship to present Anne as the only one always there for Richard, the only one understanding him. One book went out of its way to point out that Anne was "possibly a good deal" Richard`s "confidante and comforter" since "Frances [sic] Lovel, his closest friend since his youthful days in the Earl of Warwick`s household, cannot have been so constantly at his side; and both Richard and Anne would have retained childhood memories, and surely been bound by some of the similar vicissitudes they had experienced as playthings in the power game".

This statement is frankly baffling, since its assumptions are based on pretty much nothing and moreover, some of it is easily debunkable. As lord chamberlain, it was literally Francis`s job to constantly be by Richard`s side, and in fact, the one time we know for a fact where both Anne and Francis were, during Richard`s 1483 progress, it was Francis who was always by his side and Anne who was not. Curiously, this also goes on to state that Francis was Richard`s closest friend since childhood, which is somewhat likely but unproven, only to then point out that Anne supposedly would have understood Richard better than anyone else as they would have shared childhood memories - which somehow, apparently, Francis and Richard, friends since childhood, didn`t. Nor is the argument that they were "bound" by their experiences as "playthings in the power game" particularly convincing, since those experiences were very different and, moreover, something that Francis also went through. 

What makes this particularly annoying is that to make a point about Richard and Anne`s supposed happiness, there would have been absolutely no need to mention Francis. In this, and in similar claims, it comes off as if he is just being mentioned to illustrate that Anne`s relationship to Richard was in all ways better, more profound and more understanding. Such a comparison is unnecessary, and often, as in this case, based on faulty assumptions about Richard, Anne and Francis.

Even worse is the claim sometimes made that Francis did not survive at Bosworth because he either was not present during the battle or, more likely, was ordered by Richard to stand back so he could survive, but because he "would have tried to stop him [Richard] on his suicide run" which he intended to commit because Anne Neville was dead and she was, according to claims like these, together with their son, the only person Richard cared about. In some places, Francis is even assumed to have been "a nuisance" for Richard because he would have wanted to stop him from committing suicide.

Of course, this is massively insulting towards Richard and all those we know he actually was still close to, which apart from Francis, included his illegitimate children John of Gloucester and Katherine Plantagenet, his mother Cecily Neville, his sisters Elizabeth and Margaret, his brother George`s children, Elizabeth`s children, as well as supporters like John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his comptroller Sir Robert Percy, Richard FitzHugh Baron FitzHugh,  Robert Brackenbury, Sir Richard Ratcliffe, etc, and assumes he would have been fine with them dying alongside him in what he knew was a suicide attack or leaving them to an uncertain fate. It also takes the fact that Richard very likely asked Francis to stay back so he could survive even if he himself died - be it for practical or sentimental reasons or both - and manages to make it not about Francis but about Anne Neville, and in fact make Francis the scorned party in this, as if Richard could not possibly have wanted him to survive for his own merits, practical or otherwise.

There are other weird claims about Francis, but these are the ones most widespread, especially on the internet. Francis the insignificant nobody, Francis the idiotic rebel unaware how wonderful his life could be if only he submitted and Francis the man who is always inferior, not as important, to Anne Neville and her surpreme place in Richard`s affections.

Francis was far from perfect. There`s enough he can be called out for, even for and perhaps especially regarding his rebellions. But he deserves none of the above claims to be taken as truth about him.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Francis`s political power

Almost exactly 534 years ago, on 9th December 1483, Francis Lovell was among the people appointed to proclaim Parliament. Given Francis`s closeness to Richard and importance in his government, this appointment can`t have been surprising to anyone, but it is still notable, in that it was only the second Parliament Francis, then twenty-seven, even was invited to, and he had only attended his first Parliament in the beginning of 1483.

Why he did not attend and was apparently not invited to Edward IV`s only Parliament before 1483 that happened when Francis was of age - at the beginning of 1478 - is up for debatte, but it seems that at the time, despite the fact he was incredibly rich and had vast possessions all over England, he was of very little, if any, political importance. In January 1478, four months after coming of age, he was, for the first time, appointed to a commission of peace, in Oxfordshire. He received two more appointments for the same, in May 1479 and May 1480, but was not otherwise involved in Edward IV`s government until the age of nearly 24. As J.M.Williams points out, on 20th June 1480, "he received an appointment that was somewhat more than routine, when he became a commissioner of array in North Riding, Yorkshire". It seems, however, that apart from this one, no more challenging or less "routine" appointments were forthcoming for Francis for the next years.

Francis fought under his friend Richard of Gloucester in the campaigns against Scotland in 1481 and 1482, and, perhaps as a reward for bravery there, and/or because he had impressed Edward IV in some way, he was made a viscount by Edward IV on 4th January 1483. This was quite a big honour, and Francis was one of only two men elevated to viscouncy by Edward IV.

It seems that it was only then, when Francis was 26, that he was given some attention by the government and started gaining some political influence. A little more than two weeks after becoming a viscount, he was made a trier of petitions for England.

It could well be that had Edward lived longer, he would have started giving Francis more responsibility and influence, but naturally, this is guesswork. A it was, with his death and Richard of Gloucester`s first becoming lord protector and then king, Francis rose rapidly in importance during the year 1483. From the first moment of Richard`s protectorship, Francis was granted jobs, honours and lands. Curiously, though, despite this, he was never accused of plotting with Richard, not even in the most hostile of sources. There is no indication he had any part in the conflicts of summer 1483, and no indication he was ever thought to be in any way involved.

This might be so because despite of his sudden rise and importance in the government, Francis continued showing no sign of being a political heavyweight or even being particularly interested in the government. Despite being made a Speaker of Parliament, a Knight of the Garter and a Privy Councillor by Richard and of course being his Lord Chamberlain, he made no impression on any chroniclers, was never accused of abusing what power he held, nor of using it for good. As has been pointed out before, by historians such as Rosemary Horrox, what power Francis held was due to his close relationship with the king, not any political know-how or even any political ambition.

We do know that he used his new power to get some lands he had an at best extremely shaky claim to, but again, there is no indication he used the lands he got that way, or the lands he was given by Richard after the so-called Buckingham rebellion, to enlargen his power base. In fact, there is some evidence that he never even travelled to them. Curiously, despite his rise in power and influence, he seems to have kept a fairly low profile as far as the greater public noticing him was concerned.

Probably in consequence of this, there is also remarkably little evidence of Francis having enemies for a man of his standing. The only instance of hostility towards him found during Richard`s reign is in William Collyngbourne`s famous rhyme, in which he accuses William Catesby, Richard Ratcliffe and Francis Lovell ("the cat, the rat, and Lovell our dog") of "rul[ing] all England under a hogge [Richard III]". While this may have been an attack against these three men, Francis included. personally and show dislike against them, the Croyland Chronicle - not flattering to Richard III - mentions directly that the rhyme was simply meant to lambast the king and men he heavily/primarily relied on. It was a staple of criticism at the time, and long afterwards, to include the monarch`s councillors in any criticism of him/her, if not downright shift the blame on them, which is very much what Collyngbourne`s rhyme also implies.



 
This, of course, indicates that for all his apparent political disinterest, Francis was known to have a good bit of influence over the king. However, nobody but Collyngbourne is recorded to have complained about this. In fact, most chronicles which mention him are completely neutral about him, including the Croyland Chronicle, which does not even mention him by name in connection with his first rebellion of 1486 and does not at all condemn him for it.

In fact, even during his time as a rebel, no contempoary sources accused him of rebelling because he wanted to regain power and influence. It was not until Polydore Vergil that chronicles started speaking in unflattering terms of him, and even then, it refered to his supposed cowardice for fleeing after his failed rebellion of 1486 - Vergil neglects to mention his assassination attempt - and not to any motives he had for it or a supposed thirst for power.

All in all, it seems that Francis was not particularly interested in political power. What influence he held, which seems to have been substantial in Richard`s reign, he seemed to practise mostly in informal ways and due to his personal relationship to the king. Nobody ever seemed to think he wanted more than that and none of his actions suggest so. 

Monday, 20 November 2017

Where, oh where, is my Francis Lovell? Not in The White Princess, definitely.

Usually, I am writing articles on this blog about aspects of Francis`s life, about the people in his life, and about who Francis was.

This article here, however, will be about who he was not, namely the character bearing his name featuring in the Starz show "The White Princess".

Naturally, the show is not meant to be a documentary, and it does admit to making changes to people and events for drama. There is nothing wrong with that in itself; a TV show is meant to entertain, not to teach.

However, if the characters in the show are not just meant to have the names of historical figures by accident, there has got to be some kernel of truth to their representation of these people. And there is nothing at all that even vaguely resembles Francis in the character called Francis Lovell in "The White Princess".

I have already complained once that this happens in many fictional depictions of the time, but in "The White Princess" it is particularly jarring. The character does not seem to have any opinions of his own. Most of his actions are because someone else tells him to act, and there is no indication given what he even thinks about them. Moreover, he is shown to be a complete failure at doing whatever he does, and gets mocked for it.

The first mention of him in the show is in the beginning of the second episode, when Elizabeth of York and her mother discuss potential ways to stir up a rebellion. His name is mentioned, and Elizabeth of York says Richard told her he was the "purest, whitest York in England" and therefore suited to the job, despite the fact he accepted Henry VII as king and apparently did not show the slightest bit of discontent with this decision.

Not that this character has any reason to, because apart from the one reference by Elizabeth of York, neither he nor anyone else mention he had any sort of relationship with Richard, and he does not show at any time why he was praised so much as the "purest, whitest York", since he shows no interest in the actual Yorkists. The only person he seems to have a vague interest in is Elizabeth Woodville.

It is not explained why he is prepared to risk his life to rebel because she told him to, or how they even became so close that she is ready to ask him to do so. This is particularly weird since it was her daughter who even assured her he was the man to contact, which does not suggest a particularly close relationship between these two characters.

However, this character obligingly does what Elizabeth Woodville tells him, and tries to stab Henry VII when he arrives in York, in a scene presumably inspired by his real-life assassination attempt as Henry was approaching York and attempted kidnap when Henry was in York. He fails, however, only stabbing his arm, and flees, never to be seen again in the episode. Nor does either Henry or anyone else even think he has any importance; everyone immediately knows that it was either Elizabeth of York or Elizabeth Woodville who made him do this. The show very clearly presents Francis as no danger once the person pulling his strings is exposed. Everyone knows for certain that he can`t think for himself.

His next appearance is in the third episode, at the court of Margaret of York (which is, rather weirdly, said to be in "Burgundy, France", which I am sure Margaret would not agree with). He is standing by, awkwardly, while Margaret, Cecily Neville and Mary of Burgundy discuss if they are going to accept the peace envoy from Henry VII or not. Naturally, Cecily Neville was in England in real life at that point, and Mary of Burgundy had been dead for nearly four years, but since the peace envoy they are talking about also never happened, that is perhaps fitting.

Francis is not asked for his opinion nor does anyone even care to hear it when he shares it. He argues to fight so they can "stand with Elizabeth" - presumably Woodville, not her daughter, though this is never explicitly said - and is mocked by Margaret that maybe he should have managed stabbing Henry VII to death if he was so keen on rebellion. Francis looks awkward, everyone gets to laugh at him for being stupid and a failure, and then he leaves again, without trying to argue his case or trying to defend his honour, presumably because he realised his screentime for the episode was up.

The forth episode is the last one in which he has a part, and even though it is meant to chronicle the Simnel Uprising, which in real life Francis had a large part organising, he is not in it for more than maybe three minutes. Elizabeth Woodville writes letters to rally the Irish lords - her (supposed) unpopularity because of rumours as to how the Earl of Desmond died is not referenced - freeing Francis up to make inane comments showing how much he does not understand how to organise a rebellion and what the rebellion is even about, and being chided by Cecily Neville for being an idiot. Francis looks awkward, everyone gets a laugh in at him being stupid, and he disappears again until it is time for battle

He appears for some seconds then, in the front line next to a beggar boy called Lambert Simnel he somehow brought to Burgundy in ways completely unexplained, where he was trained to fail dismally at Stoke, and John de la Pool [sic], who manages the feat of being even more devoid of personality than Francis. Francis then dies, having his throat slit in battle, bleeding all over Simnel, then falling over without saying a word. His death is never spoken about after that, no one seems to care or even think about him and his demise, his character forgotten as befitting one that had no real impact on anything, had no thought of his own, and whose main purpose seems to have been showcasting how laughable and wrong the rebels were.

This, then, is what the show made of Francis Lovell.

In real life a man who was so well-liked that not the most hostile of sources written in Tudor times ever connected him with any of his best friend Richard III`s alleged crimes, so calm and uncontroversial he was never said to be involved in any plotting, who was so loyal and loving he literally gave up everything for Richard III after his death, who despite having never shown any interest in conflict his entire life masterminded one assassination attempt and one kidnap attempt on Henry VII as well as two rebellions.

In real life, also a man who likely faced abuse from his father in the first years of his life, lost his mother before his tenth birthday, had to see his guardian and his father-in-law rebel against the king and fight against others such as Richard of Gloucester, whom he had grown up with, quite likely had to suffer ill-health during his life, the knowledge he could not have children, who lost his (twin?) sister before she was 26, lost the man he clearly loved most to a horrid death, who fought and fought again to avenge Richard, who survived the Battle of Stoke only to most likely die within the year, only thirty years old.

This show makes him a clueless, witless puppet of others who did not care for what he was doing, had no motivation for doing what he did, no connection to the Yorkist cause except an unexplained need to listen to whatever Elizabeth Woodville told him, who is unintelligent, not capable of understanding other people`s hardships like Margaret of York`s wrongly-timed loss of Mary of Burgundy, whose death is a logical consequence of his silly actions and completely avoidable had he settled for a problem-less life under Henry VII.

It is not just changing a bit about his character for drama. It is an insult to the real man and everything he was, and, moreover, a completely inexplicable insult, for it would have in no way made for worse drama and entertainment to show even a bit of what he was in the show, rather than the bland, uninteresting character they showed.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A letter from Sir Edmund Bedingfield to John Paston (1487)

On 16 May 1487, John Paston received a letter from Sir Edmund Bedingfield, a man who had been in favour with Richard III but after Richard`s death, had then managed to work his way into Henry VII`s favour as well. The letter was written just a month before the battle of Stoke, and it is very much concerned with the actions taken against the rebellion:

Un to my ryght wurshypfull cosyn, John Paston, Esquyer, for the Body.

Ryght wurshypfull cosyn, I recomawnd me un to you as hertly as I can, letyng you wytte I was with my Lorde Stuarde as on Munday laste paste, by the desyir of them that I myght not sey ney to. I herde all that was seyd there, but they gaate non avawntage, wurde, nor promyse off me; but they thought in asmoche as they ware the beste in the shere, that every man owghte to wayte and go with them. Wherto yt was answerd that oure master, nexte the Kynge, havynge hys commysshon, muste nedys have the jentylmen and the contre to a wayte up on hym by the vertu of the same; but yt was thought I owght not to obeye no copy of the commisshon, withoute I had the same under wexe, where in hathe ben gret argument, whyche I understoode by reporte a fortnyte paste, and that causyd me to sende unto my lorde to have the very commysshon, whyche he sente me, and a letter, where off I sende you the copy here in closyd.
As for you, ye be sore takyn in sum place, seying that ye intende swyche thynges as ys lyke to folow gret myscheffe. I seyd I undyrstood non swyche, nor thynges lyke it; and yt ys thoughte ye intende nat to go forthe thys jorneye, nor no jentylman in that quarter but Robert Brandon that hath promysyd to go with them, as they seye.
I understonde Sir Wylliam Bolen and Sir Harry Heydon ware at Thetforde in to Kente ward, but they returnyd in to Norffolk a geyne; I thynke they wull not goo thys jorney, yff the Kynge nede. Ser Harry was at Attylborow on Saterday. I wene he had a vyce there to turne a zen; wher for, cosyn, yt ys good to understonde the sertente what jentylmen intende to goo, and be assuryd to go together, that I may have wurde; my cosyn Hoptun hathe promysyd that he wull be oon. As fore Wysman, he seythe he wull be off the same, but I can have no holde.
Furthermore, cosyn, yt ys seyd that after my lordys departyng to the Kynge ye ware mette at Barkwey, whyche ys construid that ye had ben with the Lady Lovell, but wrathe seyd never well; and in asmoche as we understonde my lordys plesur, yt ys well doon we dele wysly therafter. And, nexte to the Kynge, I answerd pleynly I was bownde to do him service, and to fullfylle hys comaundment to the uttermest off my powere, by the grace off God, Who ever preserve you to Hys plesur.
Wretyn at Oxburgh, the xvj. day of Maye. Your cosyn, E. Bedyngfeld.

Put into modern English, it says:

"Unto my right worshipful cousin, John Paston, Esquire for the Body.
Right worshipful cousin, I recommend me unto you as heartily as I can, letting you (know?) I was with my Lord Stuart as on Monday last past, by the desire of them that I may not say no to. I heard all that was said there, but they gained no advantage, word, or promise of me; but they thought inasmuch as they were the best in the share, that every man ought to wait and go with them.
Whereto it was answered that our master, next the king, having his commission, must needs have gentlemen and the country to await upon him by virtue of the same, but it was thought I ought not to obey no copy of the commission, without I had the same [without having] under wax, wherein has been great argument, which I understood by report a fortnight past,and that cause me to send unto my lord to have the very commission, which he sent me, and a letter, whereof I send you the copy here enclosed.
As for you, you be sore taken in some place, saying that you intend such things as is like to follow great mischief. I said I understood no such, nor things like it, and it is thought you intend not to go for this journey, nor no gentleman in this quarter but Robert Brandon that has promised to go with them, as they say.
I understood Sir William Boleyn and Sir Harry Heydon were at Thetford in Kent, but they returned into Norfolk again, I think they will not go on this journey, if the king need. Sir Harry was at Attleborrow on Saturday, I ween he had a vice (?) there to return again, wherefore, cousin, it is good to understand the certain what gentlemen intend to go, and be assured to go together, that I may have word; my cousin Hopton has promised that he will be one. As for Wysman, he says he will be of the same, but I can have no hold [certainty].
Furthermore, cousin, it is said that after my lord`s departing to the king you were met at Barkwey, which is construed that you had been with the Lady Lovell; but wrath says never well; and inasmuch as we understand my lord`s pleasure, it is well done that we deal wisely thereafter. And, next to the king, I answered plainly I was bound to do him service, and to fulfill his commandment to the utmost of my power, by the grace of God, who ever preserve you to his pleasure.
Written at Oxburgh, the 16th day of May. Your cousin, E.Bedyngfeld.

Naturally, the letter gives a good insight into the confusion and the difficulties of organisation while dealing with a rebellion such as that which would become known to history as the Simnel rebellion. It references the journeys which have to be made, the uncertainty who is reliable, and, most notably, the rumours that inevitably spring up during tense situations.

Edmund Bedingfield is clearly sympathetic to John Paston and on friendly terms with him, but it becomes obvious from his letter that Paston was himself the target of rumours which cast him in a bad light and presumably threw doubt on his loyalty to Henry VII. Bedingfield does not spell out what it is that is being said, presumably secure that Paston would be able to know or guess what he meant by "such things as is like to follow great mischief". He mentions having himself spoken against such allegations, and seems to have been quite certain Paston was not intending to go against the king, which turned out to be true.

Bedingfield then goes on to detail other men`s movements and what they mean to him and will likely mean to the king, before stating, in the last paragraph, that there has been gossip Paston`s recent stay at Barkwey meant he was staying with Francis`s wife, Anne Lovell. He does not connect this to what he says above about deeds that are "like to follow great mischief" nor does he even say that this is where those rumours come from, but he makes it clear they are to Paston`s disadvantage.

On the face of it, this is perhaps not too surprising. Anne Lovell was an attainted traitor`s wife, who was at the head of the rebellion that king and country were preparing for at the moment of the letter being written. It could be argued that because of this, association with her at that moment in time was seen to be suspicious. However, this was not something that held true for all wives of attainted or even currently rebelling traitors, who were often regarded as innocent victims. In Anne`s case, it is also notable that her husband had planned his rebellion from Burgundy and she would not have seen him for at least several months, possibly almost two years, and could not have been involved in the plotting. Furthermore, as James Gardiner points out in his annotated version of the Paston letters, and as is evidenced by a letter written by Anne`s mother Alice FitzHugh to him a year later, Paston was close to Anne`s family, so that there could have been any number of perfectly innocent reasons for him to visit her.

That a possible visit was therefore apparently used against him and that Bedingfield outright dismisses the possibility as invention by those trying to harm Paston, stating that "wrath says never well", is intriguing in itself. That he then also reports that "my lord" - whom James Gardiner identifies, presumably correctly, as John de Vere, Earl of Oxford - advised to "deal wisely thereafter", suggesting that such a visit could have been truly damaging, suggests that despite all said above, Anne Lovell was seen at least as a potential threat and helper of her husband.

Perhaps viewing her as such was simply caution by those in charge. After all, Henry VII knew from experience that even under watch, women could organise rebellions, contact rebels and be involved in invasions. His own mother, the formidable Margaret Beaufort, had done so for him, and he might simply have wanted to prevent Anne Lovell from doing the same for her husband. On the other hand, it is possible that it was not just a prevention measure, but that she was actually suspected of doing so. The fact that three quarters of a year later, Anne committed treason to try and find her then vanished husband suggests that this is a real possibility, or at the very least was a justified fear by Henry VII and his government.

It is even possible that Anne actually was in contact with Francis, but if so, it seems it was never proven, for there was no punishment enacted against her after the Simnel rebellion. While, as a woman, she would not have been executed even had she been found to have committed treason, nor would she have escaped unpunished. Anything she may have done to help her husband is therefore unknown.

Nor is it known if John Paston actually did visit her shortly before the Battle of Stoke took place. If so, it is unlikely that, as was probably the reason the idea of him doing so was feared, he passed on any information about the king`s plans on to her, which she could in turn write to Francis about. Paston fought on the king`s side at Stoke, and while he might have wished to have a foot in the Yorkist camp just in case they won, passing on information of that sort would have been extremely dangerous to him.

The letter does not give any answers to the question of John Paston`s whereabouts or Anne Lovell`s actions. It just reports the rumours and gives a short glimpse into the situation in England just a month before the Battle of Stoke and the confusion, fear and uncertainty of the time.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Francis`s Beaumont relatives

Unlike Francis himself, most of his relatives on both sides of his family were supporters of the Lancastrian side during the Wars of the Roses. While his paternal grandfather, William Lovell, died too early to be truly involved, and his father and paternal uncles accepted the victory of Edward IV in 1461, his mother`s relatives were less ready to do so. They remained part of the fight on the Lancastrian side until the end of the conflicts. Since the family had been of note for well over a century, they attracted quite some attention for it.

Francis`s maternal grandfather, John Beaumont, was born around 1409 to Henry Beaumont and his wife Elizabeth. He became Henry V`s ward at only four years old, after his father`s death. Not much is known about his early life, but it is a fact that in or around 1428, John was married to Elizabeth Phelip, only child of William, Lord Bardolf. The couple had at least three children together: Francis`s mother Joan, born probably around 1433, Henry, born around 1434, and William, born on 23rd April 1438. If there were any others is unknown, though if so, they did not live until August 1441, by which time Henry, William and Joan are stated to be John`s only issue.

During the 1430s, John did not only start a family, he also established himself in Henry VI`s government, starting with him joining Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester`s, expedition for the protection of Calais in 1436. His actions there earned him quite some respect and rewards, and over the years he was given many tasks and honours by the crown. Most notably, on 12th February 1440, he was elevated from being a simple baron to a viscouncy, making him the first man in England to become a viscount.

As his biography in the ODNB points out, it is likely that personal connections to the king and those close to him played a part in him receiving preferment and, in the view of his actual actions, inordinate honours in comparison to others. Of what nature these connections were is no longer possible to say, but they stood him in good stead, and quite naturally gave him a good reason to support Henry VI and his government instead of the Yorkists when the conflicts started.

Among the perks and honours John secured for himself and his family was, after his father-in-law William`s death in June 1441, the control over all lands his wife Elizabeth inherited from him, as well as the title of Lord Bardolph for his oldest son. The royal grant confirming this was made on 10th August of that year, also stating that in the event of his wife`s death, John would have custody of the inheritance until her heirs were of age. Elizabeth`s heirs at that point were said to be her and John`s son Henry, then "in his eight year", and any heirs he might have, then their son William and his heirs, and in case they both died without issue, their daughter Joan and her heirs.

Though Elizabeth still seems to have been alive when the grant was made, she died shortly afterwards, for by 30th October of the same year, she is said to have been dead. Only a year later, in December 1442, her and John`s son Henry also died. He was buried in Dennington, Suffolk.

John remarried in 1443, but despite the recent loss of his oldest son, leaving him with only one son and one daughter, his choice of wife argues that he did not hope to beget more children but rather made the marriage for fiscal and political reasons. By 25th August 1443, he had married Katherine Neville, sister of Cecily Neville, who had been twice widowed before and was some nine years older than he was. At approximately 43 years of age, she would have been thought unlikely to give him any more children, and in fact she didn`t. She did, however, bring him an interest in extensive lands she had a life interest in from her previous marriages. Nothing is known about their personal relationship, but the marriage lasted until John`s death without ever causing any gossip.

In 1446, John married his daughter Joan, then around 13 years old, to William Lovell, Baron Lovell,`s oldest son and heir John, then around 14 to 16 years old. Whether the marriage was only arranged that year or if it had been planned longer and the two been betrothed for some years is not known. It seems, however, that Joan left her father`s household after the marriage and lived with her new husband. In 1452, John also arranged a marriage for his son William, then fourteen, to Joan, daughter of Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham and niece of his second wife Katherine.

John managed to get through most of the upheaval at the end of the 1440s without suffering any loss of privileges, despite, as his ODNB article points out, having been close to William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, and having been involved in the fall of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. It seems that during the late 1440 and early 1450, he tried to avoid being openly in conflict with someone. He accepted Suffolk`s fall and even played a part in his arrest, and while he was opposed to Richard, Duke of York, in 1452, he also accepted his protectorate in 1453.

At first, it must have seemed as if he was trying to sit out the conflicts between the Yorkist side and the Lancastrian side, for he did not take part in the first battle of St. Alban`s in 1455. However, soon afterwards, he began taking the side of Margaret of Anjou. He was steward of several of her and her son`s lands, and an advocate of her rights, becoming increasingly opposed to the Duke of York. In fact, he rose to such prominence as Margaret`s man that he, along with the Earl of Wiltshire and the Earl of Shrewsbury, was named a "mortal and extreme" enemy of York in articles issued to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1460. The three men were said to be the cause of all of York`s complaints with the government, rather than Henry VI himself, who was explicitly said to be "as noble, as virteous, as righteous, and blessed of disposition, as any earthly prince."

Clearly, by this point, John`s very survival was dependant on the Lancastrian`s victory, and he fought for it. On 10th July 1460, he died fighting in the Battle of Northampton. His second wife Katherine survived him, as did his son William, his daughter Joan and two grandchildren by her, Francis and Joan.

Joan survived her father by almost exactly six years. Around a year after she gave birth to her and John Lovell`s third child, a daughter called Frideswide, her first husband died suddenly on 9th January 1465. Joan remarried within the year, taking as her second husband William Stanley. On 5th August 1466 she died, probably from complications while/after giving birth to William`s son.

Her brother William Beaumont, aged twenty-two at his father`s death, inherited his viscouncy as well as all his extensive lands after he was determined to be of age in September 1460. He also inherited his father`s Lancastrian sympathies, or possibly thought that he would not have a future under a Yorkist king. For whatever reason, he fought with Henry VI`s forces against Edward of March at the Battle of Towton. Following the Lancastrians` defeat and Edward`s accession, William was imprisoned and during Edward`s first parliament in November 1461, he was attainted.

Around the same time, William managed to escape from his prison. He seems to have gone into exile then, perhaps in the entourage of Margaret of Anjou and her son, the disinherited Lancastrian Prince of Wales. His wife apparently stayed in England, and in 1468, the marriage was annulled.

William returned to England during the Lancastrian readaption of 1470, though it is not known how much, if any, of a part he played in the then-established government. It is possible he saw his nephew Francis during that time, but we do not know if this ever came to pass or if uncle and/or nephew would even have had any interest in such a meeting.

In 1471, William fought at Barnet, and when the Lancastrian side lost, fled together with John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. The two seem to have gone to exile in France, and were mentioned in 1473 together as being involved in acts of piracy. Since they were also mentioned together as having fled the then following confinement together in 1484/5, it seems likely they were together that whole time.

Perhaps their shared experiences and imprisonment made them become friends, but even if not, they would remain closely connected. They may have fought together at Bosworth against Richard III, though only Oxford`s presence is definitely certain. What we do know, however, is that upon Henry VII becoming king, William returned to England, and in Henry`s first Parliament, his attainder was lifted, and he was restored to all his titles and possessions.

A day after his 48th birthday, on 24th April 1486, William married Elizabeth Scrope, granddaughter of Henry Scrope, Baron Bolton. Perhaps he hoped to have heirs with her, but it was not to be. We do not know why, but it is quite likely that his mental state had something to do with it, for by 1487, he was clearly thought to be mentally unstable. In the parliament of that year, William was declared unable to properly administer his lands and possessions. It was declared that while they had been returned to him by Henry VII in 1485, "since the which restitution our Sovereign Lord has certain knowledge that the same Viscount is not of sadness nor discretion neither to rule and keep himself nor his said livelihood, but since that time has alienated, wasted, spoiled and put away great part thereof full undiscretely to the disinheritance of him and his heir and by all likelihood, if he should have his liberty thereof, would hereafter demean the residue in like wise".

Exactly what form this alienation, spoiling and waste took is not said, nor is there any indication found in other records. A guardian was appointed for his lands, namely his old companion, John de Vere, earl of Oxford. However, whatever it was that afflicted William, it appeared to become worse and in the parliament of the year 1495, William was announced unfit to take care not only of his possessions, but also of his own person. The reasoning given for this was that "if [William was] left at large thereby might follow such demeanour which would not be to the king`s honour nor to the worship of his lands, considering that he is a person descended of the noble blood of this land". Already having custody of his lands, the Earl of Oxford was also appointed guardian of William`s person. In consequence of this, William started living in the earl`s household at Wivenhoe, in Essex, as his ward. It may well be that his wife accompanied him; in any case, she became well enough acquainted with Oxford to marry him soon after William and Oxford`s wife Margaret died.

While it is not known what exactly it was William suffered from, it seems clear it did not completely incapacitate him. He is known to have occasionally been considered well enough to perform legal actions after 1487, such as witnessing a bond. He was also still sent invitations to attend parliament as late as 1497, though it does not seem he attended. Possibly because his condition became worse with time, he was not sent such an invitation for parliament in 1504. In any case, it seems that after being sent to live in Wivenhoe in December 1495, William did not leave there again. 

On 19th December 1507, he died aged 69. Except for his wife, he may have left an illegitimate son begot before Edward IV became king. He had no more close family left apart from them, his parents and siblings having predeceased him by several decades, and his sister`s children having already died as well, Joan in late 1484 or very early 1485, Francis most likely shortly after the Battle of Stoke. Frideswide`s date of death or even year of death is unknown, but she was said to be deceased in William`s Inquisition Post Mortem.

John de Vere seems to have given William a grand grave in St Mary`s Church in Wivenhoe. Elizabeth Scrope, wife to both of them, was also laid to rest there when she died 30 years later.