Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Richard III`s visit to Oxford 1483

On the evening of the 24th July 1483, Richard III arrived in Oxford during his royal progress to visit the university. He stayed for two days. The university recorded the visit, naturally in Latin. Francis is mentioned once, as one of the courtiers who accompanied Richard.

The following translation of what was recorded by the university is mine.


On the twenty-second day of July, Lord William Waynflete; Bishop of Winchester, revered in Christ the holy father and lord, founder of the college, came to Oxford, and supervised the state of his college and the buildings of the same, and also to respectfully receive the illustrious lord King Richard the Third in its often-named college, making [his way] towards Woodstock.

On the twenty-fourth day of the month, the illustrious lord King Richard the Third was respectfully received at first out[side] the university by the chancellor of the university and by counsilors and non-counsilors. After the respectful reception and the procession into the college of the blessed Mary Magdalen by the said lord founder and by the president and scholars, they spent the night there and the day after, which was the day of St Jacob [James] the Apostel, and the day of St. Anne, mother of Mary, until after breakfast, with many spiritual and temporal lords and other nobles, as befitted them.

At the same time as the king, there came to the college the lord bishop of Durham, the lord bishop of Worcester, the lord bishop of St. Asaph and master Thomas Langton, bishop-elect of St. David`s, his lordship the earl of Lincoln, the lord steward the earl of Surrey, the lord chamberlain, lord of Lovell, lord Stanley, lord Audeley, lord Becham, lord Richard Radclyff knight, and several other nobles, who stayed the night in the college, and our lord founder received them with honour.

On the twenty-fifth of the month, commanded and desired by the lord king, there were made in the great hall of the college two disputations; the first being in moral philosophy by master Thomas Kerver, opposing one of the students of the same college. Then, there was another solemn disputation, theological, in the presence of the king, by master John Taylour, professor of sacred theology, and the master William Grocyn answering. All of whom were honourably and greatly rewarded by the lord king, namely, the doctor of theology, with a buck and a hundred shillings, his responder [opponent] with a buck and five marks, the master who disputed in philosophy with one buck and five marks, and the student responding with one buck and forty shillings. Moreover, the noble king gave the president and scholars two bucks with five marks for wine, etc.

May the king live eternally.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Primary sources and Francis: The Crowland Chronicle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Elizabeth Stonor`s letter of 6th March 1477

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Misrepresentation in fiction

Having spoken last month about some misconceptions about Francis, which are often, if not solely, presented in fiction and sometimes have bled into actual historical debatte, I decided to write now about some of the presentations of Francis in fiction which are particularly notable and, given they contradict what evidence there is about him, somewhat galling.

A fair warning, this can get a bit ranty.

(1) Francis, the notoriously unfaithful husband

It`s the most widespread portrayal of him in fiction. Most if not all popular depictions of him show him as cheating on his wife, Anne. As I have addressed before, while there is no evidence for it, it is perfectly possible he was, in fact, unfaithful. There is nothing to contradict this in itself, and it is a valid choice in fiction. However, there are some pieces of evidence which strongly suggest that he did not flaunt possible unfaithfulness, which is very often what he does in fiction. Often, Francis is shown to be deeply in love with his mistress and treat her as his wife in all but name, while Anne is hardly mentioned.

(2) Francis scorning his wife

Somewhat connected with the above, very many novels have Francis hate or scorn his wife. This does not mean presenting a distance between them - which, again, evidence does not necessarily support, but which is possible. This means Francis and/or the narrative literally calling Anne ugly, miserable, a horrible person, frigid, etc. Given that we know he was close with her family, this is quite unlikely, and often this seems to be included in fiction solely to showcast a difference between the main protagonists of such novels, which are usually Richard and his wife, Anne Neville, who are portrayed as blissfully happy.

(3) Francis, the malcontented fool

This portrayal has Francis presented as a complete idiot whose solid reasons for choosing to rebel against the victorious Henry VII are brushed aside as foolish, ill-thought out or simply not understandable. This sometimes laps over into non-fiction, and Francis simply dismissed as a "querulous" or "malcontent" post August 1485 without any dwelling as to why he was not content, although it is far less frequent, as in such Francis is often not mentioned at all or only in passing. In novels which go on after Richard`s death, however, it is found too often. One famous novel has a character point out to him that Richard`s life was worthless anyway with his wife being dead, which is not only rather insulting in itself but manages to make it sound as if Francis`s own feelings about what happened to his best friend do not matter at all. Some others present him as simply stirring up trouble for the sake of trouble. Strangely, such novels almost never address the actual problems of his rebellions - such as that the first was extremely underplanned, that without a rival claimant it was unlikely to succeed, that he would almost certainly not survive - and when they do address things such as what being declared a traitor means for him, it is often made to look like as if Francis was not aware of these repercussions. This does not mean novels which present the rebellions themselves as being wrong, it means those who dismiss all reasons why Francis chose to do so as idiocy and make him choosing to stay loyal to his dead friend look reprehensible, stupid and not understandable.

(4) Francis, the man who wasn`t there

As in non-fiction, it happens far too often that Francis is just simply not included in novels. This makes sense when it is written from a point of view of someone who would not meet him often or have anything to say to him, but if it details Richard`s life or even just kingship, it is rather strange when he is rarely or not at all mentioned. In such cases, he sometimes appears in the background but never says anything, and is often replaces by an invented character who is Richard`s closest confidant.

(5) Francis who is far too old

This is somewhat less jarring, as Francis`s birthdate is contented, though the CPR makes his birth year pretty clear. However, the aging up of him often affects not just simply his age, but is done so Francis can be presented as being somewhere he was in reality too young to be. Often, he is included as fighting in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, though there is absolutely no indication he was even near, and he was only fourteen years old in any case. Sometimes, this also affects the portrayal of his marriage, as mentioned above, and Francis is said to be unhappy with his wife and the marriage as not working at a time when he was only a teenager and his wife Anne a child, and they would not have lived together for years in real life.

This is, of course, pretty broad. There are reasons to change parts of known history for a narrative, and several ways to read evidence. However, in some cases the evidence is pretty clear, and these problems also pop up in novels which are claimed to be sticking as close to known history as possible, or in novels which detail changes to known facts in the afterword but fail to address those to Francis.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Francis`s attitude towards scholarship

Not much paperwork has survived to throw a light on Francis`s movements before his friend Richard of Gloucester became king, nor much about any relationships. While there is still a bit to give an idea about what estates he owned, fought for, lost, gained and put work into, there is even less about any personal actions he took, or preferences he had. A lot of what can be infered about him from the very little we still have is therefore based on speculation.

So it also is with Francis`s attitude towards learning and scholarship. While a little bit survives that makes it possible to make an educated guess, but until and unless new evidence is found, it must by necessity remain just that: a guess.While it is illuminating to think about what we have, it is important to keep this in mind.

It is, in fact, often stated on the internet, and even in non-fiction books such as Joe Ann Ricca`s "Francis: Viscount Lovel: Time Reveals All Things", that Francis was more of a bookish type, not a fighter. There is some truth in this as Francis was not a very active man, who seemed to avoid strenuous physical activities when possible; however, he could and did fight when called upon, and though, as pointed out in an earlier article, apparently talented at organisation, the evidence for an interest in scholarship is far less obvious and clear-cut.

Some of it, however, is to be found in accounts about his interactions with others, such as his apparent interest in Magdalen College. The first contact Francis had with it and its patron William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, was inauspicious, for it involved a quarrel about the ownership of some manors, which Waynflete claimed for the college through Francis grandmother. The specifics of this case are detailed in an earlier article, but as Joanna M. Williams points out, it "seems an amicable compromise was reached". In fact, once Francis received assurances of ownership of one of the disputed manors, Doddington, in 1483, he not only "[confirmed] the title of Magdalen College to the manor of East Bridgford", but "also conveyed the chapel of St Katherine and the estate of Warnage of his Wiltshire manor of Wanborough to Waynflete for the endowment of the college" (Williams).

This may have been part of the compromise, but was not at the time mentioned anywhere as such, as giving East Bridgford to the bishop was. It is also notable that the two manors in question were worth almost the same, so that Francis also conveying them the abovementioned chapel and estate would have put him at a distinct disadvantage in the deal. It seems unlikely he would have agreed to this when negotiations went on for nearly two years to make it a fair compromise for both parties.

Far more likely is that Francis, having become acquainted with the college, took a liking to it, which is supported by other evidence. In 1484, he "sold the hospitals of Saints John and James, Brackley, Northamptonshire, to Waynflete for 200 marks, again to be annexed to the college". (Williams) This shows that the previous quarrel did not, apparently, sour the relations between Francis and Waynflete and/or the college, and also that Francis remained interested in a good deal and was not freely giving away anything to them when he expected to be paid, again making it likely that him giving the chapel and estate were gifts he made of his own volition.

The clearest piece of evidence for this is, though, that, as Williams states, Francis "[maintained] a scholar called Rede at the new institution". She takes this to mean that Francis "also took a personal interest", tying in with the apparent gifts he made in 1483. Clearly, this did not directly benefit the college, so must have been made for other reasons.

It seems likely that Francis sponsored the man because of ties he himself had to him and/or his family, but that he was at Magdalen College, with which he had previous connections such as detailed is surely significant and indicates that he was taken with it, perhaps having grown to appreciate it during his dealings with it and its patron.

There is another indication that Francis liked to be associated with universities. When making arrangements for the event of his death, he instructed his wife Anne to "find two discreet priests of good repute" to read masses for his soul "in either the university of Oxford or Cambridge for thirty years". (Williams.) While there is nothing particularly notable about masses being read for benefactorers at universities and about this being requested, it is interesting that apparently Francis showed no preference for one of them, suggesting it was not his connection with either the university of Oxford or Cambridge which made him request so, but an appreciation of universities as a whole.

None of this, of course, gives much of an indication about Francis`s own attitude towards books or if he liked to read as his friend Richard seems to have done. It does suggest only a personal interest in universities, such as not all of his standing showed. Why he had this interest, we again can`t know. It can be speculated that it was because of an interest in them and in scholarship, which he perhaps always had or which he possibly developed during his acquaintance with Bishop Waynflete, but a speculation is all that it is.

The truth about this, sadly, must remain unknown. All we do know is that he seems to have had an interest in universities.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Francis`s part in Richard`s coronation

The celebrations for Richard III`s coronation started on 4th July 1483 and lasted two days, culminating in the ceremony in Westminster Abbey on 6th July. What is still known about what sort of celebrations there were, what they would have been like and when and how they took place is detailed in Anne F. Sutton and P.W.Hammond`s brilliant book "The Coronation of Richard III: The extant Documents", as are any remaining details on who was responsible for what bit of planning and who played what part in them.

Francis, having been newly made Richard`s lord chamberlain on 28th June 1483 and being newly promoted to political importance, naturally featured in the celebrations. Chronologically, the first mention of him in connection with the coronation is found in the Little Device, in a note next to the description of the queen`s coronation, quoted by Sutton and Hammond:

“The Cardinall after that shall blesse a rich rynge saynge this orison, Creator, castinge holy water apon itt and putte the same rynge on the iiijth fynger of the Quenys right hand, saynge in this wise Accipe anulum, that endyd he shall say Dominus vobiscum with this collecte, Deus cuius.”

Next to this, in the margin, are written the following words: "Remembre A Ryng that Lovell shall ordeyne for.". As Sutton and Hammond point out, "[t]his note must have been written for Richard III`s coronation, the reference to plain “Lovell” is suggestive of a note by the King himself."

It is interesting to note that Richard apparently found it necessary to write this reminder, though why he chose to explicitly mention that it would be purchased by Francis, there is no indication. It may be because this was due to Francis`s recent appointment as lord chamberlain, though, or because unlike most other details of the coronation, it was not organised by Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, in his position as Great Chamberlain.

We do not know, but we do know that Francis rose to the occasion and purchased a fitting ring for Queen Anne, with a sapphire and pearls. As Sutton and Hammond point out, while there is no certainty how much the queen herself, Richard or Francis got to choose about how the ring was made, and the Little Device itself does not give any specifics, it appears that at least a sapphire was traditional from the time of Queen Matilda, consort to William the Conqueror.

This seems to have been Francis`s only task before the coronation itself; if he had any others, they were not recorded and therefore likely informal. The next mention of Francis is during the coronation itself, where he was recorded to have carried the third sword of state.

This is notable for two reasons, first because Francis seems to have been the only person included in Richard`s train at his coronation for solely personal reasons. Sutton and Hammond point out the political causes for all others, such as John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his son the Earl of Surrey, Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby, and many others, but note that "[i]t seems probable that Lovel was given the third sword to carry as a friend of the King, rather than for his political weight". Many others having places in his train, such as Norfolk and Lincoln, were also friendly with Richard, but Francis was the only one for whom no other reason but this was obvious for his appointment.

The second reason why it is notable is that this position, between plenty of men of higher birth and standing, would not have been the one he was originally meant to have. As Joanna M. Williams notes, he should have born "the gold sceptre with a dove before the Queen" while the Earl of Huntingdon was to bear the third sword of state, but their roles were reversed, a high honour for Francis.

The last mention of Francis also comes from the Little Device, saying that "my lorde Lovell stode before the King all the diner tyme" during the banquet following the coronation ceremony. It is usually assumed, and also stated by Sutton and Hammond, that he, along with Sir Robert Percy, Richard`s lord comptroller and equally a close friend, served the king, as would have been traditional, but the Little Device makes no mention of that. In fact, it actually seems to contradict it, not including his name in the descriptions of who served the royal couple and how and explicitly saying that "all the diner tyme" he stood before Richard, not adding that he did so only when not serving him. There is no mention made as to why he stood there, or how. It seems to be implied that as this put him in very close proximity to the king, it was a high honour, but at the same time it does not seem to have been an official, traditional task.

All in all, it seems that while Francis was given honours in the celebration, they were due to personal reasons and, apart from his part in Richard`s train during the coronation ceremony, personal tasks.

This, of course, reflects well his later part in Richard´s government, where his influence, as noted by Rosemary Horrox among others, seems to have been largely due to personal relationships and informal means as well.