Monday, 27 February 2017

Francis`s wedding: February ???

On "the Monday next after Saint Valentine", either in 1465 or 1466, John Paston jr received a letter from John Wykys, in which he was informed, among other things, about the recent marriages of the queen`s sister Margaret Woodville to Thomas FitzAlan and of Anne FitzHugh to Francis Lovell. It cannot have been later than 1466, for the letter refers to Paston`s father, who died in May 1466, in the present tense, and it cannot have been before 1465, for John Lovell died only on 9th January 1465, leaving his son the king`s ward.

Traditionally, it has been assumed that the year was 1466, as in February 1465, Francis`s father was dead for just a month and the inquisition into his death had not even been made. This happened only in autumn 1465, but these things were often delayed by some months, and more so when the heir was a minor, like Francis was.

However, on 11 February 1466, King Edward IV`s first child, Princess Elizabeth - later the consort of Henry VII - was born, and her birth celebrated with much pomp. While it is conceivable that the baby`s aunt Margaret was married during the celebrations, it is not likely the children Francis and Anne were. Francis`s guardian, the Earl of Warwick, was in attendance in London when the princess was born. He stood as her godfather and “presided over the queen`s churching” a few weeks later. (“The Nevills of Middleham” K.L.Clark). Francis and Anne, as well as Anne`s parents, were not noted to be in attendance, though.

It follows, therefore, that the Earl of Warwick was, in February 1466, busy in London and not having his ward and his niece married elsewhere. Since the marriage was arranged by him and Francis almost certainly already in his care, Francis would not have been married without Warwick`s presence, and it is unlikely in any case that he would have scheduled such an event for just the time the birth of the heir to the throne, which Princess Elizabeth would have been had she been a boy - and in fact was until she had a brother - was expected. This is particularly so since the wedding could have very easily have been scheduled a month before or afterwards.

That leaves, then, the year 1465 for Francis and Anne`s wedding. Despite it having been so soon after John Lovell`s death, there would have been no logistical problems, as the children were not related so that no dispensation needed to be send for, and all that would have been needed would have been their presence and the king`s agreement. 

If the year 1465 is indeed correct, the groom had lost his father a month before the wedding and was eight years old, while the bride was either four or had just turned five. The marriage lasted over twenty years before Francis vanished, but produced no children.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Francis Lovell and Minster Lovell Hall

The manor house in which Francis Lovell almost certainly lived the first eight years of his life, which he renovated, hosted a king in and possibly spent other important milestones of his life in no longer stands in its entirety. However, its ruins can still be seen today.

Located in Minster Lovell, a village which got its name for its association with the local lords in the 13th century, and directly next to the river Windrush, the ruins seen today are those of a manor mainly built by Francis`s grandfather William on the remains of an earlier one. It was said to be a large and impressive, if for the time fairly conventional manor, built in the 1430s. According to Anthony Emery in his book “Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300–1500: Volume 3, Southern England", the one notable feature of it was that it had an unusual number of windows.

It was there that Francis Lovell was almost certainly born and spent his earliest years; certainly, his father John Lovell died there on 9th January 1465. This event caused Francis`s removal from Oxfordshire as it saw him put into the care of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and move to the earl`s principal holdings in the north of the country.

Like so much of his life sadly is, Francis`s whereabouts in the next decade or so are sadly speculative, but by March 1477, he, together with his wife Anne, seems to have returned to live in Minster Lovell Hall, for a letter from Elizabeth Stonor, wife to William, living close by, references her sending presents to them on his orders, presumably to establish good neighbourly relations.

At around this time, Francis also had a tower added to the manor, which Emery describes as a "four-storeyed tower overlapping the south-west corner of the west wing and almost touching the edge of the river. It was a combined garderobe and lodging tower with prospect room, standing to roof level on the west side and partially so to the north and south. It was built in better-quality stone than the adjoining west wing and was richly decorated with traceried windows and gargoyles at roof level and supporting the newel turret. The ground floor was divided into two garderobe closets served by a pit against the end wall, flushed by the river. An external stair rose to the first floor, retaining a single light and splay evidence of a south facing window. The two principal rooms above were reached from the first floor landing by the newel that terminates in an octagonal head above roof level. The second floor room was fairly low, with a drain and south-facing window, while the uppermost room retains part of a larger south-facing oriel with stopped hood." (Emery, 119, 120). He may have employed William Orchard, architect of, among others, the Great Tower at Magdalen College - which Francis himself had connections to as well - as an architect for this. There has also been speculation that Francis was either inspired or even employed the same men for the task of building the tower as his friend Richard of Gloucester employed for the renovation of the nearby Sudeley Castle at around the same time.

Despite this, we do not have evidence of Francis or his wife spending much time in the manor, or in Oxfordshire at all. Like his friend Richard, he is more connected with the north of England. It is from there that most of his known associates come, and most of his whereabouts we can ascertain during his life are there as well.

A notable exception is the time span from 29th July to 2nd August 1483, which we know Francis spent at his ancestral home, hosting Richard III on his first royal progress. 

After Richard`s defeat at Bosworth Field, Francis chose not to accept Henry VII and all his properties were declared forfeit in Henry`s first Parliament in November 1485. In March 1486, Minster Lovell Hall was granted to Jasper Tudor, and there is no telling if Francis ever saw it again. Certainly, those rebels he was associated with later did not come from the area.

A later legend stated that remains supposedly found in the ruins of Minster Lovell Hall in the eighteenth century were those of Francis, but there is no evidence to support this, and given that the manor at the time was in the possession of Jasper Tudor, it seems unlikely.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

17th September 1456 - Francis Lovell`s birthday?

The question when Francis Lovell`s birthday was is one that can, perhaps, no longer be answered with complete certainty, but an educated guess can be made.

There is no primary source in which his birthday is mentioned, and speculations vary by as much as three years. In the Inquisition Post Mortem for his father, John Lovell, Francis was described once as seven years old and once as nine years old at his father`s death on 9th January 1465.

However, this was both incorrect; the CPR contain a reference to him on 19th February 1477 as "a minor", meaning under the age of 21, and for 6th November of the same year, the license to enter his lands usually granted when majority was attained. Francis`s birthday was therefore almost certainly between 19th February and 6th November 1456.

The possibility that it was the 17th September is supported by several pieces of evidence, first and foremost by the fact that the day must have meant something to Francis. We know this because in February 1483, Francis and William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, settled a dispute that had been going on between them for several years about the possession of several manors. Among the terms of this settlement was that masses for Francis and his wife Anne  were to be read annually on 17th September.

There is no mention in any of the primary sources which give a reason for this choice. It was not his father`s deathday, which was on 9th January, nor his mother`s, which was the 5th August, nor his wedding anniversary, which was in February, nor the day on which the terms between Francis and Wayneflete were settled. Therefore the reasons for his choice must have been elsewhere, and a clue as to what they were is found in the calendar of saints, which marks 17th September as one of the minor feast days for St.Francis of Assisi.

Since "Francis" was not a Lovell or Beaumont family name at all, and in fact there was a rigid naming system for the sons of barons Lovell in which the first boy was named John, the second William, and the third Robert, which the Lovells had kept to for three hundred years and which had also been followed in the case of Francis`s fathers and uncles, it can be assumed that his parents must have had a reason not to follow it. Since in the Middle Ages children were usually named after their parents, as indeed Francis`s sister Joan was, after their godparents, or after a saint, that argues he was named after a saint - the saint on whose feast day he was born.

Giving more credence to this theory is the fact that while it was a feast day for St. Francis, it was not the main one, which was, and remains, 4th October, so that Francis choosing that day for his namesake saint is unlikely. That leaves, logically, the theory that the reason for his interest in the day was his birthday. And that his birthday was the reason for his name, which broke 300 years of family tradition, although if this was because of special piousness of his parents` or because the baby was thought to be in special need of heavenly protection, perhaps due to being born early or sickly, is a question that can no longer be answered.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Hello everyone


As the title suggests, this blog is going to be about Francis Lovell, 9th Baron and 1st Viscount Lovell, and the events and people in his life.

Francis is sadly often ignored in media about the Wars of the Roses, and a lot of misinformation circulates about him. I will do what little I can to remedy that with this blog. While naturally those personages looming large in that time period and in Francis`s life will be mentioned and to an extent discussed, I will be mainly concerned how they and the events during his life, both those influential and of historical importance as well as those less significant, affected Francis.

Some of what I post here will be about subjects I have already addressed on other social media, though in many instances corrected to include new tidbits I found out.

For the next few days, I`ll probably still be be very busy finding out exactly how to run this blog, before I can start posting with something approaching regularity. I look forward to that and hope to find a few people who will be interested in Francis.

Cheers, everyone.