Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Two letters to William Stonor

Of all the letters Francis may have written in his life, only two still exist. Both of them are addressed to William Stonor, a member of the gentry who owned land close to Francis`s ancestral manor and corresponding lands in Oxfordshire, and both, though fairly short, indicate a friendly if not close relationship between the two men.

The first, written on 24th June 1482, is about the threat of war with England`s Scottish neighbours and the effect this had on Francis`s movements, and offers a rare glance at Francis`s personality. It read as following:

"Cousine Stoner, I commaunde me to yow as hertely as I can, latynge yow have knowledge that I intendide to have bene with the King at the feste of Seynt John Baptist now late passid, to have attende upon his good grace; bot, Cousine, it is said in this contre the King purposes to send Northwardes my lorde of Gloucestre, and my broder Parr and such other folke of worship as hath eny reule in the said northe parties, trustyng we shall have warr of the Scottes: for cause wherof, and yef I shuld as now departe Southwardes it wold be said I withdrew me for the said warre. Bot, Cousine, as hastely as I can have a convenient seasson I purpose to be in the contre. And, Cousine, I pray yow þat ye wull see þat my game be wele kept at Roderfeld. And our lorde ever more have yow in his kepinge. From Tanfeld the xxiiijth day of Juyn.

ffraunceys Louell.

To my Cousine William Stonor, knight."

In modern English, it translates as:

"Cousin Stoner, I command me to you as heartily as I can, letting you have knowledge that I intended to have been with the King [Edward IV] at the feast of Saint John Bapist now late passed, to have attended upon his good grace; but, cousin, it is said in this country the King purposes to send northwards my lord of Gloucester and my brother Parr and such other folk of worship as has any rule in the north parties, trusting we shall have war of the Scots, for cause whereof, and if I should now depart southwards it would be said I withdrew me for the said war. But, cousin, as hastely as I can make a convenient season I purpose to be in the country. And, cousin, I pray you that you will see that my game be well kept at Rotherfield. And our lord ever more have you in his keeping. From Tanfield, the 24th day of June.
Francis Lovell
To my cousin William Stonor, knight."

As dry as this all is, it nonetheless reveals quite a lot about Francis, especially since it is the only declaration of what he wished and intended to do in his own hand we have, The first sentence indicates that Francis and William Stonor were not in regular contact and Francis had not been keeping him informed about his actions and/or intentions while being at his mother-in-law`s manor at Tanfield, or at least not so that he though to inform him when he intended to return south. This might have been expected if they had been close friends, but the letter clearly suggests that theirs was a friendly but nonetheless slightly distant relationship. Francis does not hesitate to inform Stonor of what he intends to do, but nonetheless the letter is rather impersonal. Citing affairs of state and going into some detail about them, he explains his decision to stay in the north, but does not mention why he wants to return south as soon as possible after having failed to do so to "attend to" the king. The only personal touch he adds is his request to Stonor to look after his game.

This is particularly fascinating as it is the best indication pointing to an interest Francis had we have. Clearly, his game was important to him, and coupled with the fact that we know he had hunting lodges built - one of which survives to this day as Ufton Court - it can be said with reasonable certainty that he enjoyed hunting.

Even aside from these indications as to the personal relationship between Francis and William Stonor and the insight into one of Francis`s interests, the letter offers interesting tidbits. For one, Francis`s lack of delight when mentioning the campaign is notable. While he clearly knows it is his duty and has no intention of shirking it, he does not seem to look forward to it, instead mentioning his wish to return south as soon as possible, which seems to indicate that while Francis could and did fight when he had to, he did not really enjoy it, and that his focus lay on other things.

It is also curious that this letter was written twelve days after Richard of Gloucester was made Lieutenant-General of the North at Fotheringhay Castle and charged with leading the campaign against the Scottish, as well as a good month after Richard first led an attack against the Scots. This indicates that news were travelling slowly and Francis as yet had heard only rumours of the appointment, and confirms that for some reason, despite his involvement in the previous year`s campaign and full intention to join the one that was about to start, Francis had not taken place in this earlier attack. Why this was, we can only speculate, as well as about the fact that he did not mention this attack in the letter to Stonor. Perhaps this was because he was annoyed or embarrassed about not having taken part in it and didn`t want to mention it, or because he thought Stonor would have heard about it already, but this is speculation heaped on speculation and there is simply no way of confirming any of it.

This letter, though not too revealing about Francis and his personality, was clearly a personal one. The second one to survive to this day is more formal. Written on 11th October 1483, during the so-called Buckingham rebellion, it goes like this:

"Cosyn Stoner, y commawnde me to youe as hartely as y cane: for as myche as hit plesyth þe Kynges [Richard III`s] grace to have warnyd youe and all other to attende upon his grace, and your compeny þat ye wolde come in my conysans and my compeny to come with you: and I ame sewre þat schall plese his grace beste, and cawse me to thynke þat ye lofe my honor, and y trust schalbe to your sewrte. Y pray youe remembyr this, as y schall remembyr youe in tyme to come, by þe grace of Jhesu, who ever preserve youe. Wreten at Lyncolne þe xj day of Octobyr.
Your hertely lovyng Cosyn ffraunceys Lovell.
Also Cosyn, þe kyng hath commawndyd me to sende youe worde to make youe redy, and all your compeny, in all hast to be with his grace at Leyceter þe Monday þe xx day of Octobyr: for I have sent for all my men to mete me at Bannebery, þe Soterday þe xviij day of Octobyr.
To my Cosyn [Syr] William Stoner."

In modern English, it reads:

"Cousin Stoner, I command me to you as heartily as I can: for as much as it pleases the King`s grace to have warned you and all other to attend upon his grace, and your company that you would come in my cognisance and my company to come with you: and I am sure that shall please his grace best, and cause me to think that you love my honour, and I trust shall be to your surety. I pray you remember this, as I shall remember you in time to come, by the grace of Jesu, who ever preserve you. Written at Lincoln the 11th day of October.
Your heartily loving cousin Francis Lovell.
Also cousin, the king hath commanded me to send you word to make you ready, and all your company, in all haste to be with his grace at Leicester the Monday the 20th day of October, for I have sent for all my men to meet me at Banbury, the Saturday the 18th day of October.
To my cousin [Sir] William Stoner."

The tone of this letter is remarkably different to the previous one. The formality is unsurprising, as Francis clearly states this is not a personal letter but one which he has been commanded to write by the king to assure he and his men are ready to fight for him against the rebels. Clearly this also reflects in what is being said, as it is strictly about this one subject. However, even so, there is a change in language that is notable. While Francis couches the letter in conventional assurances of affection, there is an undertone of suspicion. While of course it is easy to read this letter with hindsight and project the knowledge of what happened later and the fact Stonor did not obey the king`s orders but instead joined the rebels onto Francis`s words, there is no mistaking Francis`s repetition of the these orders, nor the assurance that this would be for his best and please not only the king but also earn him Francis`s thanks. Interestingly, Francis also seems to appeal to Stonor to not only do this for the king but also for him, and offers assurances that if he does as asked, he will not find him ungrateful.
In fact, while Francis naturally mentions the king`s wishes prominently from the first, it are these motivations he first mentions, before, in the bit after his signature, going into details about the king`s orders and even directly mentioning that it is because of them that he is writing the letter. The impression that gives is that Francis, somewhat awkwardly, tries to appeal to Stonor to follow the king`s orders by reminding him of their previously friendly relationship. However, again, it seems that this relationship was not too close, not only because Stonor failed to do as Francis asked, but also because Francis apparently saw the need to add that doing this for him would carry rewards for Stonor in the future and did not rely on the strength of their relationship itself to try and stop him from joining the rebels.

Unlike the first letter, it doesn`t really reveal anything about Francis`s personality. However, it suggests again, as does the 1482 letter to Stonor and Elizabeth Stonor`s 1477 letter to her husband, that the relationship between the two men was friendly but never an actual friendship. It also suggests that unlike what is often said, Francis was not completely unaware of Stonor`s loyalties. However, it confirms that while he was not, as sometimes claimed, hated in the Midlands, and it seemed to him at least worth trying to get Stonor to follow the king`s orders because of loyalty to him, his word didn`t carry too much weight there.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

William Catesby and Francis

On 25th August 1485, three days after the Battle of Bosworth, William Catesby, lawyer and close advisor to Richard III, was executed. Before he met his death - supposedly by hanging, though the Croyland Chronicle reports he was beheaded - he was allowed to draw up a will, which has since caused considerable speculation. The main cause of this is the fact that Catesby stated in it that the newly made king Henry VII is "callid a full gracious prince" and goes on to claim that he "never offended hym by my good and Free will; for god I take to be my juge I have ever lovid hym."

This, of course, may indicate that he was plotting against Richard, though this would make his execution almost immediately after Bosworth rather inexplicable. It could also mean that Catesby was simply afraid for the future of his family; a speculation very much supported by the fact that the above-quoted statements were made in direct connection to his expression of hope Henry would treat them well. William Catesby would not have been the first, nor the last, to suppress his real feelings and say what he expected the person in power wanted to hear before his death to protect his family, and a claim to have worked for Richard under duress, while not born out by what evidence we have of his actions, could not be contradicted by anyone still alive and in a position to be heard and could well have been designed to please Henry.

Whatever Catesby`s motivations were, his will shows he was thinking of those he was leaving behind in the hours before his death, as well as some worry about his immortal soul. In this context, William, Thomas and George Stanley are mentioned, in another controversial sentence which seems to accuse them of not trying to prevent his execution, as well as Francis, too. Near the end of the document, Catesby expressed his wish that "my lord Lovell come to grace than that ye shew hym that he pray for me".

Despite the fact the sentence sounds rather rushed, it is informative. For one, as stated before, it shows that Catesby was certain Francis was still alive at the moment of writing, which certainty suggests that if he was present at the battle, he survived physically unscathed. It also indicates that the relationship between the two men was at least cordial, for Catesby to wish to have his prayers. This is supported somewhat by the fact that his mention of Francis is not accompanied by a complaint like the reproach against the Stanleys they had not tried to "[pray] for my body as I trusted in you" and the somewhat passive-aggressive plea for his uncle John to "remembrer my soule as ye have done my body; and better."

It is of course possible that Catesby had no such complaints against Francis because he was not close enough to him to have ever expected any help from him, or for him to take amiss not having received it. However, the evidence from Richard`s reign, when they were both in positions of power, suggests that they often worked together and that their relationship, whether it was only a business relationship or developed into a friendship as well, was a fruitful one.

In fact, it is quite possible that they knew each other and were connected in some way before Richard became king, while he was still Duke of Gloucester, Francis not yet a viscount and Catesby primarily connected to William Hastings. Certainly, their families had a connection; Francis`s grandfather William Lovell mentioned William`s father as one of his feofees, alongside men as Thomas Bourchier, in his will. However, we do not know if William Catesby the younger and Francis continued the connection at any point before 1483.

As soon as Richard was king, though, the two are often found in accounts together. Notably, Francis included Catesby in a list of feofees of some of his estates, among men he is known to have been close to such as the brothers Franke and his brother-in-law George FitzHugh. He was also one of the men  Francis entrusted, in arrangements he made for the event of his death, with transfering some of his manors and lands to his wife, Anne. The two were also granted the constableship of Rockingham together, and Francis, with conventional expressions of love, passed a manor granted to him on to Catesby. Why this was done, we have no indication.

An intriguing note is, of course, that they were thrown together in William Collyngbourne`s famous rhyme, but it is most likely that this had nothing to do with any relationship between the two men and all with their relationship to the king. While William Catesby and the equally mentioned Richard Ratcliffe were rumoured as plotting together in other sources such as the Croyland Chronicle, Collyngbourne was the only to mention Francis in a sinister connection with them. Again, as so often with Francis, contemporarily his actions seem to have been mostly considered unremarkable and above reproach.

William Catesby`s request for prayers suggests that whatever their relationship was, he found it satisfactory too and had no cause for complaint.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Francis`s decision

Henry Tudor`s victory at the Battle of Bosworth was arguably a turning point in English, and indirectly European, history. It is doubtful that any of the involved could guess at the whole consequences of the defeat of one king and the making of the new one, consequences which, in one way or another, would be felt over centuries.

However, even at the time, it would have been clear that the outcome of the battle would change a lot, not only in the government of the kingdom and the lives of the bereaved, but also in the lives of those who had survived the battle, on both the winning and the losing side. Francis, of course, fell into the latter category.

Having either escaped from the battlefield after the day was lost or not been present, his situation was better than that of others who had fought for Richard, like Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey`s, or Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland`s. While these two were taken prisoner, Francis had the advantage over them. He could have thrown himself at the victor`s mercy with the expectation of leniency; Surrey`s and Northumberland`s imprisonment already caused some unhappiness, and treating someone who came to terms with Henry of his own volition badly would have been both bad for his image and completely unnecessary. In fact, having Francis, who was known to have been high in Richard`s favour and moreover fairly well-liked, at his court would have much profitted Henry and helped his claim of wanting to unite the warring Yorkist and Lancastrian factions.

Clearly, Henry was aware of this, too. As Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs show, though he, in a rather controversial move, predated his reign by a day to be able to convict those who had fought for Richard of treason, he chose to offer Francis a pardon for having done so. Perhaps this was done to show some goodwill, or perhaps he and his men expected Francis, who seems to have been a calm and comparatively peaceful man, to accept it to save his wealth and thereby provide, in modern terms, some good press for Henry and his stated claim of wanting peace.

Francis, however, did not accept the pardon. At some point after the battle, he took sanctuary in St.John`s Abbey in Colchester, which is presumably where Henry`s men found him to convey Henry`s offer to him. It is sometimes assumed that Francis did not outright reject it, but instead began negotiating with Henry, as he was allowed to stay in sanctuary for longer than 40 days. However, there is no indication of this; the reason why he could stay longer in sanctuary than the usual span was because St John`s Abbey had extended rights of sanctuary. These were also used by John Howard during the Lancastrian readaption of 1470/1. Perhaps knowledge of this was the reason why Francis chose to go there after the Battle of Bosworth, perhaps there were other reasons.

There is no certainty of this, any more than there is an account of what exactly happened when Francis was offered a pardon by Henry VII. Only the result is known, which was that Francis was attainted, alongside others who had fought, and in most cases died, for Richard when Henry`s first Parliament opened on 7th November 1485.

This meant, for Francis, that not only all his possessions were forfeit to the crown, it also meant that he himself was outlawed. At any time he ventured outside St.John`s Abbey, he could be caught by the new king`s men and if that happened, he would be executed for treason. By rejecting Henry`s pardon he, in short, gave up literally everything. It was not a political decision, or a cunning one.

It was tantamount to a declaration of loyalty and love to his fallen friend and king.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Where was Francis? (2)

On 26th June 1485, Francis received a royal order to guard the coast against Henry Tudor, who was at that point preparing to invade. This order meant that he had to go to Southampton, away from court and king, to await the invasion there. His tasks included outfitting the ships 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, in the hopes of stopping the invasion and taking Henry Tudor prisoner.

As history records, he failed at these tasks, not least due to the fact Richard was wrongly informed (or mixed up) about where Henry intended to land. Francis and the fleet at his command could not prevent him from landing, which he did on 7th August 1485 at Milford Haven. By 11th August at the latest, Richard was aware of this, for a letter exists from him written on this day to Henry Vernon, informing him of this and ordering him to come to him.

There is no certainty, however, if he also at that time sent orders to Francis to join him as well and, if so, if he managed to arrive at Richard`s side in time to fight at Bosworth. There is no account of him either being asked to stay at Southampton or in the south of England, nor one of him taking an explicit part in the Battle of Bosworth. All that can be said with reasonable certainty is that Francis did not ride with Richard in his last charge, for even had he unlike the others involved in it survived it, he would have been surrounded by enemy fighters by the end of it and would have never managed to escape. What exactly this means as to his exact whereabouts is debatted.

The only directly contemporary source about his whereabouts during the battle is an announcement made by the new king Henry VII afterwards, which listed him among the dead. While this was of course incorrect, it could well indicate that he was in fact at the battle and simply at first assumed to be dead along many if not most others of Richard`s closest supporters. It is not impossible, however, that such a mistake could have also been made if he had not been at the battle, because of Francis`s known closeness to Richard. Another theory is that Francis was declared dead, as it is commonly assumed John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, who was definitely not at Bosworth, was, to discourage rebels. However, while declaring Lincoln, who was Richard`s heir, dead had the advantage of sowing confusion and stopping potential rebels from rising in his name, there would have been no such reason for declaring Francis dead.

Other sources do not help clear up the question of Francis`s movements. The Crowland Chronicle does not mention him at all after a short note that he was meant to guard the coast; the Great Chronicle of London, perhaps influenced by Henry`s announcement, reports wrongly he was slain during the battle. Polydore Vergil states he was at the battle but fled to sanctuary after it was lost. This might be true, but given Vergil`s many provable mistakes and deliberate changes made to known facts in his report of the battle, it is not a reliable source.

This ultimately means that it`s unlikely to ever be quite certain where Francis was and if he fought at Bosworth, though what we know of his actions and those of others before and afterwards might provide some hints. It is known, for example, as pointed out in Joe Ann Ricca`s "Time Reveals All Things", that Lord Audley, who was with Francis at Southampton, was still there on 21st August 1485. It is quite possible that Francis was still with him then. However, it is equally possible that Audley was ordered to remain in Southampton because most of his land holdings and power base was in the south, to try and use his influence to stop people from joining Henry, while Francis, whose power base lay in the north, was ordered to come to Richard`s aid in battle.

Another interesting fact which might hint at Francis`s movements is found in William Catesby`s will, made just before he was executed on 25th August 1485. It includes a wish by Catesby that "lett my lord Lovel come to grace; then that ye show him that he pray for me". It clearly shows that at that time, Catesby knew Francis was alive; but it sadly it does not indicate if this was because he was aware Francis had not been involved in the battle or because he knew he had escaped afterwards. It does indicate, however, that it was not an injury got during battle which prevented Francis from joining Richard`s last charge, as in such a case Catesby could not have been certain he still lived after escaping once the battle was lost. Equally, it indicates that Francis`s survival was not anything controversial that was supposed to stay hidden, as naturally, clearly to protect his family, Catesby wrote a will that was very positive towards the conqueror Henry VII, and would have been unlikely to include something likely to displease him. Therefore it can be surmised that Francis`s initial inclusion in the list of casualties of the battle was an honest mistake, though as above, there is no knowing how it came to happen.

Perhaps the most telling hint as to where Francis was is found in the fact that he, together with Humphrey and Thomas Stafford, was in sanctuary in Colchester for several months after Bosworth. Though it is not known when any one of them arrived in Colchester, it would maybe be too much of a conicidence dor them to have arrived there seperately and independent of each other to then stay there for several months and start a rebellion together. If they arrived together, though, it would mean Francis was at Bosworth, for the Staffords are known to have fought there for Richard.

If Francis was at Bosworth, then that poses the question of why he did not join in Richard`s last charge. If it was not an injury, then it seems that most likely, Richard ordered him to stay back during that last charge. Potentially he could have done this because he wanted him to fulfill some duties in case he himself did not survive - often, the mysterious fate of his disinherited and vanished nephews Edward and Richard, and the strange cases of Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck, are brought up in this context, which however opens questions about the parts of the Staffords` - or else because he wished for Francis to live even if he did not survive.

In the end, where Francis was when the Battle of Bosworth happened, and if he fought, cannot conclusively be answered. There are more indications he was there than there are for the opposite assumption, but it rests on speculation. All we know is that one way or another, either by not asking him to join him in battle or else by asking him to stay back during his last charge, Richard made sure Francis would survive.