Tuesday, 26 September 2017

A letter from John Lovell to John Beaumont (ca. 1455?)

By all surviving evidence we have, Francis`s father, John Lovell, was not an easy man. Disliked if not downright hated by his immediate family, deeply in debt by the time he was around 30, what little we know of him does not speak in his favour. There is not much to go on to make guesses as to why he ended up as he did, what caused the dislike towards him; how he ended up in debt; not even what caused his early and apparently sudden death.

Nor do we know if his actions for Henry VI in the early stages of the series of conflicts now known as the Wars of the Roses gained him respect, or if he was simply endured but never liked. There is little indication about any of his relationships but the apparently dysfunctional ones with his immediate family.

The only piece of evidence that still survives to shed some light on his connections to people other than his immediate family is a letter to his father-in-law John, Viscount Beaumont, written between 1455, when he became Lord Lovell upon his father`s death, and 1460, when Viscount Beaumont died. It is mostly a very formal missive:

"Right worshipful, and my most best-beloved lord father, I recommend me unto your good lordship; please it you to weet, I have conceived your writing right well, and forasmuch as ye desire the stewardship of Baggeworth for your well-beloved Thomas Everingham, which I trow verily be right a good and a faithful gentleman. Howbeit, my lord, your desire shall be had in all that is in me; and at the instance of your lordship; I, by the advice of my council, shall give it him in writing, under such form as shall please you; wherein I would be glad to do that that might please your good lordship, praying you right heartily ye would be mine especial good lord and father in all such as ye can think should grow to my worship or profit in any wise, as my singular trust is most in you, and I always ready to do you service with God`s grace, who have you, my right worshipful and my most best-beloved lord father, ever in his blessed keeping. Written at Rotherfield Gray, the 24th day of July.
Furthermore, my lord, and it like you, my lady my mother recommended her unto your good lordship, in whom her most faith and trust is in, praying you ye will be good brother unto her, for she hath taken you for her chief counsel. John Lord Lovell."

Obviously, John writes in response to a letter he received from John Beaumont, asking him to give the stewardship of the manor of Bagworth to one Thomas Everingham - Viscount Beaumont`s second cousin. John agrees to this, couching his letter in conventionally deferential language. There is nothing surprising or unexpected about this, but it is notable that he almost presents himself as the supplicant. The plea to his father-in-law to remember him and do all he can for his "worship or profit" supports this impression.

Notably, so does the last part of the letter, perhaps the most unusual and personal part. Whereas John humbling himself to his father-in-law in the letter is slightly overdone but in itself hardly unheard of, the inclusion of a plea for a good relationship between John Beaumont and Alice Deincourt is more unexpected in a letter like this. Given the tone of the entire missive, it seems that John is very eager to either establish or maintain a friendly relationship with his father-in-law, yet not entirely certain how this overture will be received. Unlike all other relationships we know John had, that to John Beaumont does not appear to have been hostile, but nor does it seem to have been anything approaching a friendship or anything but a formal connection.

Since this is the only letter from John we have, there is no saying if their relationship changed at some point to something less formal and more friendly or, conversely, a more hostile one. Nor do we even know for how long they had been working together at the time the letter was written, for the year it was penned is not known, though the fact that Alice Deincourt does not appear to have been at court at the time of writing, despite being Edward of Lancaster`s nurse, indicates it was in 1455, a month after her husband`s death. This could be supported by John`s statement that his mother had taken Viscount Beaumont "for her chief counsel" - just after her husband`s death - but naturally, it is guesswork.

All in all, the letter indicates that John Lovell was eager for a cordial relationship with his father-in-law, perhaps for profit, perhaps for other reasons. There is no indication John Beaumont regarded him with the same dislike his father did or his son and oldest daughter later would, but also none of any affection or trust. All that can be said is that they apparently could work together without obvious trouble, and that John and his mother wished for a good relationship with him.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Francis`s time in St. John`s Abbey in Colchester

With Richard III`s defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485, Francis`s life changed drastically for the worse. Though it is not completely certain where Francis was during the battle, if he was perhaps not present during the battle, and if so, when and how he learnt of its outcome, he would have realised its significance as soon as he became aware of it, whether he was there or not. It was doubtlessly a devastating personal blow to him, but he would also have been aware that politically, it placed him in a difficult position. He would have had no way of knowing how the newly made king Henry VII would react to those who had been closest to the king he had usurped.

There is nothing known about Francis`s immediate reaction, or even if his politically suddenly precarious situation mattered to him at that time. His movements in the days and even weeks after the battle are unknown. All that is known is that at some point, he arrived in Colchester and took sanctuary in St.John`s Abbey there, but there`s no way of saying when exactly. It seems likely that it was soon afterwards; the fact that Francis was not made to swear allegiance to Henry VII, imprisoned for refusing to do so - or, like Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey, simply for his support of Richard - or seemed to have come into contact at all with the new king`s men, argues he was somewhere he could not be affected by the strong arm of Henry`s government. It is, however, also possible that before taking sanctuary, he was in hiding somewhere else, though of course that would open the questions as to where and why, as well as why he then took sanctuary.

Whenever he arrived in the abbey in Colchester, we know that he spent some time there, together with Humphrey and Thomas Stafford, who definitely did fight for Richard at Bosworth. It is possible they arrived together with him, or perhaps arranged to meet him in the abbey. It`s also possible that it was only a coincidence they were there, though their joint rebellion in the following spring makes somewhat unlikely. It is not impossible, but that Francis would have just happened to have met two supporters of Richard who were ready to risk everything in a rather underplanned rebellion with him when he took sanctuary is perhaps somewhat unlikely.

It is also not known why Francis chose to go to Colchester. It is sometimes suggested that this was because of a secret mission Richard gave him to fulfil in the event of his death. This is possible, but it`s not the obvious reason, which is that St. John`s Abbey, like Westminster Abbey - where Elizabeth Woodville twice took sanctuary - and Beaulieu Abbey - where Anne Beauchamp stayed in sanctuary after her husband`s death - had extended rights of sanctuary. While usually, the right to sanctuary only lasted for forty days, abbeys who held these extended rights could shelter those who fled there for however long they wished. As John Ashdown-Hill points out in "The Dublin King", St. John`s Abbey had been granted these special rights as early as 1109 and had them confirmed by Henry VI on 13th May 1453. It seems likely that this special protection was something Francis wanted or thought he needed when he arrived there, possibly because he did not yet know what to do next or, if he was already planning to rebel, when and how to realise his plans. Perhaps he even hoped to find help there; the abbot, Walter Stansted, was, as Ashdown-Hill states, known to support the Yorkist cause and had had ties with John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, who had fallen at the Battle of Bosworth fighting for Richard and who had himself stayed in sanctuary in the abbey during the Lancastrian re-adaption of 1470/1.

Though Francis`s motives are naturally speculative, it does seem he was there before Henry VII`s first parliament passed several attainders on 9th December 1485, for it seems that Henry tried to reach out to Francis and offer him a pardon and a place in his government. Just what this would have been is unknown - it`s unlikely it would have been anywhere near as influential as the role he had in Richard`s government - but whatever it was, Francis rejected it. Though scholars such as Livia Visser-Fuchs and Anne Sutton have stressed Henry`s attempt to "bring into the fold men [...] who were still dissident", we do not know how he tried to convince Francis. The claim that Francis was offered a place in Henry`s coronation is not supported by evidence, for the list concerning attendance and honours given to attending nobles for his coronation was clearly a barely modified one from Richard`s coronation, also included the above-mentioned John Howard and moreover lists as Francis`s task carrying a sceptre in the queen`s train - which originally was meant to be Francis`s part in Richard and Anne`s joint coronation - despite Henry not even being married yet when he was crowned.

Since Francis rejected Henry´s offer, whatever exactly it was, he was attainted in Henry`s first Parliament, along with Richard and a number of Richard`s other supporters, most of whom had died with him at Bosworth. This was reportedly an unpopular move, but we do not have any idea how Francis reacted to it. The act made him officially a traitor and dispossessed him, which does not support the sometimes proposed theory that Henry and Francis were still negotiating about the terms for the latter`s emergence from sanctuary. However, it could be that Henry still hoped he would; attainders had been overturned before and could have been in Francis`s case as well. If Henry still had such a hope, though, there is no evidence he did anything to make Francis reconsider his decision. It`s possible he did not care much, thinking that stripped off his wealth and with no easy way of contacting co-conspirators even if he wished, Francis couldn`t do much harm.

If so, this was clearly a miscalculation. We do not know when, but at some point during his stay in the abbey, Francis started to make plans for a rebellion. As he might have hoped, he seems to have found support and help for this in the abbey and the town of Colchester; for example, one Sir Thomas Pilkington`s pardon for being involved in the rebellion described him as "alias late of Colchestre", while two named rebels later connected with Humphrey Stafford are also known to have come from there. St.John´s Abbey was fined by Henry VII some time after the rebellion, though while the timing is suggestive, it is not known if this was indeed a punishment for giving Francis and the Staffords help or some other transgression now lost to history.

Whichever it was, it is clear that Francis and the Stafford found a way to plot more effectively than Henry seems to have foreseen. They also appear to have to found a way of contacting those whose support they wanted/hoped for without Henry learning of it, until someone entrusted with Francis`s plans told them to Henry. Called Sir Hugh Conway, he was, according to his own words, given information about Francis`s plans and even when exactly he intended to leave sanctuary by a friend, with instructions not to tell anyone about it, a promise Conway broke. He describes giving the news first to Sir Reginald Bray, then to the king himself, who at first refused to believe him and "said that it could not be so, and reasoned with me always to the contrary of my sayings."

This reported reaction has also sometimes been taken as evidence that he must still have been in negotiations with Francis and didn`t want to believe they were failing and Francis would go behind his back. Again, while it is not impossible, it is unlikely, as it would not have made sense for Henry to attaint Francis while still doing so. Nor does Henry`s reaction appear to have been unusual, for, according to Professor Stanley Chrimes, he often reacted with initial denial to bad news. The fact that Francis was the opposite of a plotter and even contemporary sources seemed to struggle seeing him the role of the instigator of a rebellion may have contributed to this as well.

We have no record whether Francis learnt that his plans had been betrayed to the king, and if he changed them because of it. Since he managed to leave sanctuary and start the rebellion, it is probable he either knew or suspected of the betrayal and at least left at a different time than originally planned, but since it is neither known when exactly he left nor what date and time Conway gave to the king, it is once more guesswork.

In fact, we know extremely little about Francis`s time in St.John`s Abbey, not when exactly he arrived or left, nor definitely why he chose to go there. All we do know for a fact is that while there, Francis started to plan the first of his attempts to unseat Henry VII.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

"The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth" by Matthew Lewis

And now for something completely different, a book review. It only mentions Francis in some places, but it is still very much worth reading.

As the title suggests, this book is concerned with the fate of Richard III`s most famous nephews, Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury. Like so many before him, author and historian Matthew Lewis tackles the subject of what happened to them after their last verified sighting in the Tower of London, shortly after Richard`s accession. It examines several possibilities, all based on thorough research, without trying to push one on the readers or trying to get them to dismiss another on nothing but personal preference, which several other books on this subject are guilty of.

The book follows a loosely chronological timeline, shortly summing up how the Princes in the Tower became the Princes in the Tower and who those boys were when stripped of this moniker, then offering several theories as to what could have happened to them during their uncle`s reign. After that, it goes into what happened after Richard`s death. Naturally, special focus is put on the two major Yorkist challenges to Henry VII`s throne - the so-called "Lambert Simnel rebellion" and the threat from "Perkin Warbeck" - since they were based on the uncertainty of what had happened to the Yorkist heirs, not just Edward V and his brother Richard, but also Edward of Warwick. These rebellions, the people involved and their actions form the centrepiece of the book, though in the end, some more unorthodox theories of what might have happened to the titular princes are given some space.

The book`s great advantage is that it is based on logic, and avoids the trap of basing theories on sweeping assumptions about the characters of those involved. While, as the title already shows, this book`s premise is to show up the possibility of the princes surviving their uncle`s reign and not, as traditionally assumed, dying in the Tower in 1483, the basis of this is not Richard`s character or any alleged nobility of nature on his or someone else`s part, but simply that the few facts available do not fit the traditional assumption. Matt shows exactly why he believes this is so, backing himself up with verifiable facts, not vague beliefs about the personalities and motives of men and women dead for over 500 years, and illustrates the holes in the story of Edward and Richard being killed in 1483.

Naturally, to do so and built convincing arguments, this book heavily relies on primary sources. The book, presumably for easier readability, does not have footnotes, but any sources which are used and any quotes which are used are scrupulously named and easy to find and check. (I`ll admit I didn`t follow up every last one. I picked a few at random and checked, and all of those were flawless.) In some cases, it is not just what the sources say, but also where they are lacking which is discussed, but the fine line between fact - "this is where the sources are missing/lacking" - and speculation - "this is what it could mean" - is always clearly marked. Most crucially, at no point is speculation passed off as fact to base a theory on it. Speculation there naturally is, as it is impossible to write about something the solution to which is at this moment in time, and perhaps will always remain, unknowable, but where there is speculation, it is clearly stated. Said speculation is easy to follow; there are no leaps of logic which leave the reader baffled as to how this conclusion was reached from what was stated before. 

Matt does not ignore the possibility that Edward and Richard were, in fact, killed in the Tower of London in 1483. He shows what of the scant evidence as to their fate could point to this conclusion, and which contemporaries believed, or affected to believe, it. While he does state some questions this theory does not answer, he does not spent much time dissecting and trying to debunk it. It is simply another theory, and stands as such next to the other theories. Arguably, this is more effective than spending much time on discussing the flaws; by simply contrasting the evidence to support it with the evidence to support other theories, just how thin the theory is on what little we currently have is becomes obvious.

As mentioned above, the main part of the book is concerned with what happened during the "Simnel rebellion" and the "Perkin Warbeck" threat. Matt postulates that it is perfectly possible that not only was "Warbeck" who he claimed to be, but that it is equally possible that the "Simnel" uprising was in fact in Edward V`s name. While the former goes over a lot of facts and claims that anyone who has done some reading about the "Warbeck" situation will be familiar with, the latter explains a theory less well known. Of course, readers are going to have to decide for themselves whether they think the conclusions reached are plausible, but it is explained with as much aplomb as the rest of the theories of the book. However, there are some minor errors regarding Francis`s involvement and some niggles I have with the theories regarding him.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the statement that his actions after Richard`s death were unusual; it is one I have made myself and which I am likely to repeat in the future. There is, though, one claim which does not quite hold up to scrutiny, concerning Francis`s decision to take sanctuary in St.John`s Abbey in Colchester. Like David Baldwin did in his own book on the subject, "The Lost Prince", which in my opinion is vastly inferior to this one, Matt assumes that Francis`s stay in the abbey was extraordinary because it lasted much longer than the typical 40 days of sanctuary. However, as John Ashdown-Hill pointed out in "The Dublin King", St. John`s Abbey had extended rights of sanctuary, like Westminster Abbey, for example, also did, which explains why Francis could stay there for so long. While of course this may not have been the (only) reason Francis chose to go there, it is something that should be considered, especially since another staunch Yorkist, John Howard, had equally done so during the Lancastrian re-adaption one and a half decades earlier.

Equally, while Francis does seem to have been offered a pardon by Henry VII, this could have been a publicity action as much as an attempt by Henry to negotiate with him. Certainly, Francis was attainted in Henry`s first Parliament, which strongly suggests that even if he did attempt so, he had given up by November 1485. Henry`s own bafflement and refusal to believe that Francis had broken sanctuary some months later could be simply because, as Professor Chrimes pointed out in his biography of him, Henry often acted with initial denial to bad news. None of this debunks the theory suggested in the book, but it does offer a different theory, which is not mentioned.

Another minor niggle I have concerning Francis is in connection with his 1486 rebellion. While his movements are not entirely known, I do not quite agree with the book that the assassination attempt on Henry may have been a smoke screen for an attempt to fetch one of the princes still in the north of the country. Again, it is possible, but it`s not entirely true that this kidnap and assassination attempt "did not get off the ground". Several people were hanged for it in York in April 1486. Naturally, they could have been hanged for something else, but it is a far easier explanation that they tried to help Francis kidnap and kill Henry than that they were involved in an attempt at freeing one of the princes.

These, however, are the only small problems I have with this book. Of course, I do not agree with every theory in it; the ones towards the end involving Thomas More and Robert Dudley, while perfectly well explained and the speculations supported by some facts, rest too much on everyone`s silence and speculation heaped on speculation for me to think entirely plausible, but that`s a personal preference.

All in all, it`s a great book. It rests on logic not personal opinions, it explains its theories well while admitting their flaws, it does not claim to have found the definite answer to a mystery more than 500 years old and, perhaps most importantly, it is thought provoking and challenges the readers to make up their own minds. I can only advise everyone to go read it, now.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

William Stanley jr, Francis`s half-brother?

In John Seacome`s "The History of the House of Stanley", William Stanley, who was for a short time Francis`s stepfather, is said to have "[b]y Joyce, his wife, daughter of Edward, Lord Powis, [...] had issue one son, named William". However, William Stanley is only known to have been married twice; the first time to Francis`s mother, Joan Beaumont, from shortly after 12th November 1465 until her death on 5th August 1466, and the second time to Elizabeth Hopton, from around 1471 to his own death on 16th February 1495. Unless he had another marriage in his youth of which no mention has survived, any legitimate child would therefore have been the son of one of those two ladies. In the case of William having a son by his first wife, this child would also have been a half-brother to Francis.

However, there is no certainty if William Stanley even had a son, much less by whom. The Complete Peerage only lists one child by him, Jane or Joan Stanley, born after 1471 by his second wife Elizabeth. Several other sources, including Seacome`s History mentioned above, claim he had three children, one son named William and two daughters, Jane/Joan and Catherine. Modern historians have by no means accepted the existence of all these children, and even when they are assumed to have existed, there are differing assumptions as to their maternity.

Barbara Coulton, in her article "The Wives of Sir William Stanley: Joan Beaumont and Elizabeth Hopton", claims they were all born to Joan Beaumont. However, the problem with her claim is that it does not fit the time frame of William and Joan`s marriage. Coulton states that Joan died on 24th August 1469, but does not give any source for this claim, and all actual contemporary sources place her death three years earlier. Her marriage to William did not even last a year, and while they were married just long enough for her to have given birth to a slightly premature child conceived in wedlock before her death, she could not have possibly given birth to three unless she gave birth to triplets, an extreme rarity that would have been commented upon. Jean M.Gidman, on the other hand, in her article "The wives and children of Sir William Stanley of Holt", claims that all three children were Elizabeth Hopton`s. Though Elizabeth might have been nearing the end of her childbearing years by the time she married William, having given birth for the first time in 1448, this is completely possible, though Gidman also offers no evidence how she came to the conclusion that they were all Elizabeth`s. J.M.Williams, in her article "The Political Career of Francis, Viscount Lovell (1456 -1487?)" seems to assume that William`s son was Francis`s mother Joan`s, but apart from mentioning him as Francis`s half-brother in the family tree, she does not elaborate on this theory.

Though most casual retellings of William`s life include only his daughter Jane/Joan, most which go into more depth seem to agree on the existence of his son William. Born, at the earliest, in August 1466 and quite possibly after 1471, this son was either too young to fight at the Battles of Bosworth and Stoke, or else fought at his father`s side and as a minor of not too much importance besides his well-known father simply not mentioned. He was, it seems, mentioned in a grant made to his father on 19th February 1489, of the constableships of Flint and Ruddlan Castles, with, as Gidman put it, "the promise that his son would obtain the later". He is also sometimes said to have succeeded his father as sheriff of Chester at around the same time, though Seacome points out that there is some confusion on this point, as another Sir William Stanley, of Hooton, was sheriff of Cheshire. The similarity between "Holt" and "Hooton" and "Chester" and "Cheshire" did, according to Seacome, cause enough confusion to throw doubt on whose son the third William Stanley - not a knight - was. This is also the conclusion found here, perhaps based on Seacome`s statement.

This William Stanley married Joan Massey, only child of Sir Geoffrey, of Tatton, and had a daughter with her, also called Joan. He disappears into complete obscurity towards the end of his life, and seems to have died comparatively young in December 1498.

If it is accepted that this man was indeed Sir William Stanley of Holt`s child, that then poses the question of who his mother was and if he was indeed Francis`s half-brother and second grandson to John, Viscount Beaumont.

While Seacome assigns William Stanley the younger`s maternity to a woman named "Joyce, daughter of Edward, Lord Powis", as noted above, who was never married to William Stanley of Holt, the link between the Lords Powis and the Tiptofts, of whom John Tiptoft was the second husband of William`s second wife, points to Elizabeth as the mother. However, given that name and paternity of her are stated wrongly, it would perhaps be a mistake to attach too much weight to it. It is of course entirely possible; but it is equally possible that the fact that even if William the younger was Joan Beaumont`s child, he would have grown up with Elizabeth Hopton`s children from the age of five and probably have politely refered to her as mother, could have caused more confusion. This could be especially so since Sir William`s first marriage was only of short duration and at a time when he was not yet that widely-known and involved in the government and might therefore not be widely known/remembered, especially long after their deaths, when Seacome`s History was written.

To try and find out who the mother of Sir William`s child was, it is therefore not all too revealing to look at people`s assumptions, particularly since these assumptions were made at least two centuries after the event, but instead try to look what indications primary sources offer.

Sadly, there is nothing in the little paperwork we have of Francis which indicates that he might have had a half-brother or definitely did not. In fact, there is even extremely little about his relationship with his full sisters, whom he definitely had. We do know that he had business transactions with Sir William in the 1470s, but these do not shine any light on their personal relationship nor do they mean that these were conducted for the sake of anyone but themselves. What survives are only the dry facts of the transactions. Nor are there any indications in the few actions known of Elizabeth`s Corbett sons that they had a younger brother, but there is also none that indicates any sort of care for Edward, Earl of Worcester, who was definitely their brother and who died aged sixteen in August 1485. This does not mean there was no care taken of William the younger by either Francis or the Corbetts, it just means that if so, no evidence for it survives.

The matter is made even more difficult by the fact that whoever young William`s brother(s) was/were, it is quite possible he didn`t have much to do with them. In the case of Francis, he would have been almost exactly ten years older than his younger half-brother and never lived in the same place as him, while in the case of the Corbetts, they would be over twenty and around twenty years older than him and in the case of the oldest one, already married with a child by the time of William jr`s birth. Looking for any close brotherly relationship between young William and any of these men might therefore not prove very fruitful.

Perhaps more telling is the fact that when Elizabeth Hopton died in November 1498, no mention of a son named William is made in her Inquisition Post Mortem. This, however, might be because he died only a month after her and by the time the IPM was made, was already dead. It might also be because as her youngest son, with his older brother already having his own heir, he was not expected to inherit anything of her possessions.

Equally, there are reasons why the Beaumont lands which were not under attainder went to Francis, unchallenged by anyone else. By the time Francis was attainted in November 1485, William the younger would have still been a minor and not been able to challenge Francis; and even after attaining his majority, he might not have had much of a chance; apart from the fact that Francis, as the older brother, would very likely have been entitled to hold/inherit all of it unless otherwise stated, after 1483 his position as the king`s chamberlain and closest friend would have made challenging him an endeavour unlikely to succeed. However, in this case, young William might have been seen as Francis`s heir to the Beaumont lands he held. Unfortunately, we do not have any paperwork to dismiss or confirm this. When Francis`s uncle William Beaumont died without heirs in 1507, his viscouncy would have fallen to his oldest nephew by his sister Joan, but not only was Francis attainted and most likely dead by this point, young William too was dead and had left only a daughter, so that there can be no conclusion reached by the title falling into abeisance about whether or not William the younger had Beaumont blood.

With Francis`s attainder, the fact that William the younger, if he indeed was his half-brother, would have been heir to some of his lands became insignificant, as all his possessions were forfeit to the throne. However, it is notable that Sir William did receive a large amount of Francis`s lands. This, of course, was presumably because of the significant role he had played helping Henry VII win the throne, but it may have also served the purpose of pre-empting any suit by William`s son, once he reached majority, to get back some of the Beaumont lands by claiming that not all of them had been Francis`s by right and therefore should not have been subject to the attainder. In a similar way, claming his mother had lost them to coercion, the Earl of Oxford got back some lands which had belonged to his family and which the crown held in the 1490s. Granting some of the lands his son might have an interest in to Sir William, so that William the younger stood to inherit them at his father`s death, would have pre-empted such a claim while at the same time not stripping the son of one of Henry`s most important supporters of something he might consider himself entitled to and thereby running the risk of angering him.

Of course, this is purest speculation. Perhaps the most telling as to whose son William the younger was is what deductions can be made about his age. Clearly, whether he was born in summer 1466 or after 1471, he was still a minor when the Battles of Bosworth and Stoke were fought, though if he was Joan Beaumont`s son, just barely when Stoke happened. This might not have stopped him from fighting - Edward Hastings, son of William, born in 1466, did so in both battles - but it could well mean he did not have too much significance yet and there was no reason to mention him in the case of him fighting alongside his far more important and high-profile father. It does not mean he wasn`t there - though if he was born after 1471, he likely would not have been as he would have been too young - but if he was, it shows he was not considered of particular interest.

It is notable, though, that by 1489, he was apparently old enough to be included in grants, and to be acting alone as sheriff. This may well have been possible had he been born in 1472 and around seventeen, but it is curious and somewhat unlikely that if so, the fact he was still a minor would not have been mentioned. If, however, he was born to Sir William and Joan Beaumont in August 1466, he would have come of age between the Battle of Stoke and this arrangement, which fits what we know about both these instances.

Finally, Sir William already having a son by his first wife could well explain why after her death, he waited so long to remarry, though of course there could be any number of other reasons for this, such as grief for a wife he may have genuinely loved, no marriage prospect he liked presenting itself in the meantime or a failed courtship are just some. However, in the face of hardly any evidence being there for when and to whom William the younger was born, all that could throw a light on it should be considered, and Sir William`s comparatively long widowhood would be notable if he didn`t have a son already.

If William the younger was indeed Joan Beaumont`s son, it seems she died in childbed, or just after his birth of childbed fever. Her older son Francis was already in the care of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, by then, and it seems when she died, her daughters by John Lovell were given into the care of their brother`s mother-in-law, Alice FitzHugh. William the younger would have presumably stayed with his father; at least, he definitely did not grow up with his half-siblings in either the Warwick or the FitzHugh household. How well he and his Lovell half-siblings would have known each other is hard to say, but most likely not very well, having little to nothing to do with each other at least until Francis and Joan Lovell were grown up. What feelings they had towards each other, if any, is of course impossible to say.

All that can be said is that evidence suggests Sir William Stanley had a legitimate son, and that circumstantial evidence shows it to be somewhat more likely he had this son by his first wife, meaning that Francis, and his sisters Joan and Frideswide, had a Stanley half-brother.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Francis`s early childhood

The very early life of Francis has barely ever been discussed in any work concerned with his life. Presumably because so little is known, non-fiction and fiction alike tends to ignore the time Francis spent in his father`s household, and begin with his arrival at Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick`s household, at an age that is variously given - wrongly - as eleven or nine. What his early childhood may have been like and how it may have influenced him is a subject that is not usually given any space. Of course, as with so many periods in Francis`s life, not a lot of what was happening can be said for certain and a lot is speculative. However, the few facts we have do already reveal something about the circumstances of his early childhood and how he spent it, making it worth examining.

Francis was, probably, born on 17th September 1456. Though his parents, John Lovell and Joan Beaumont, had been married for ten years at that point, it seems that he was their first child; at least, there is no indication in any of of the scant surviving paperwork for his grandfathers William Lovell and John Beaumont, and for his father John of an earlier-born child. While there can be no complete certainty about this, William`s will, written in 1455, makes it clear that at this time, John did not have an heir.

It is likely, therefore, that Francis`s birth a year after William Lovell`s death was a relief to his parents, but this is an assumption. There is no evidence how his family reacted to his birth. The only thing we know for certain is that his parents chose to go against the tradition the Lovell family had established for three centuries and named their newborn heir not after his father John, nor William after his grandfather, both names also traditional in his maternal family, nor any other familial name. Instead, little Francis was almost certainly called after the saint on whose feast day he was born. There is no indication why John and Joan chose to do so; possibilities range from the infant being small and/or sickly and thought to need special heavenly help, to a gesture of gratitude, or one of reverence to one or both of his parents` favoured saint. It is very probable that whatever their reasons were, they saw to it that he was christened a few days after his birth at the latest. If he seemed sickly or small, it is even possible he was christened immediately after his birth.

If the Lovells followed conventions for people of their standing, then the baby was handed into the care of a nurse soon after birth, and his mother Joan did not breastfeed him. Again, this is only speculation, based on the conventions of the day. Even without evidence about Francis`s very early days, however, it is virtually certain that the day to day care for the baby was not done by his parents. Nicholas Orme, in his book "Medieval Children", describes the way children of his standing were typically cared for: in a nursery under the supervision of a nurse and two rockers, whose task was to rock the baby`s cradle and do other menial work like changing the baby.

Since Francis`s paternal grandmother, Alice Deincourt, was nursemaid to the Prince of Wales, some three years older than Francis, it is possible that she had connections and saw to the appointment of a respected nurse for her grandchild, but once more, this is conjecture. We do not know who was employed to take care of Francis.

What is known is that when he was around a year old, his younger sister was born, named Joan after their mother. J.M.Williams points out that her birthyear was assumed to have been 1457 which, if true, means she was fifteen months younger than Francis at the most. Her conventional name suggests that it was not a whim of his parents` or a simple wish to honour favoured saints why they chose to go against family traditions naming him, but as stated above, this still leaves several different explanations of why they decided to do so, and no indication which is correct.

Though in households of high-ranking nobles, sons and daughters were sometimes raised apart from each other, Orme points out that this was not the norm while all children were still in their parents` household and happened less the lesser the family`s standing was. As a baron`s children, Francis and Joan most likely would have spent their early years together, being looked after by the same people.

The children were born into a tumultuous era, and the fickle changes of fate would not long leave them untouched. Their father, John, was a staunch Lancastrian - as was their maternal grandfather John Beaumont - and by 1459, was known to support their struggle against the Yorkists. Since, as Monika Simon shows in her work "The Lovells of Titchmarsh: An English Baronial Family, 1297 -148?", he was at that point involved in the government - he was on a trier of petitions in Parliament that year, as well as on some commissions of array and oyer and terminer, and even given a reward for his "good services against the Yorkists (Simon, 67) - it is probable that his three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter did not see much of him at that time, less than they might have seen him in the years before. This was not at all unusual at the time and is unlikely to have much upset the toddlers, but by 1460, the tide of events began to turn against the family and may have already affected the children.

Francis was not quite four years old when his maternal grandfather John Beaumont died at the Battle of Northampton. It is not known whether he had ever seen the man, and it is perhaps not likely he already understood what his death meant, but it seems that with it, and perhaps his support as a highranking noble of the Lancastrian government, the fortunes of the Lovell family began to plummet. It is known that John Lovell tried to seize some of his estates in the aftermath of his death, but was eventually unsuccessful. If this was simply greed or an attempt to gain rightful possession of what had been settled on him and his wife, we do not know, but later events suggest John tried to hold onto some money as he was rapidly losing it. If so, it may well be that Francis and Joan jr would have had to abstain from some familiar comforts of luxury at this point. Nor is it unlikely that while they were too young to understand what was young on and what was at stake, they would have noticed some stress when they saw their parents, or realised something important and frightening was happening.

Despite a claim to the contrary found in Nigel Jones`s "Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London", this does not mean the two children were present during any physically frightening events, such as when their father was involved in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to hold London, and especially the Tower, against the Yorkist powers in 1460. There is no evidence to support the claim that all the lords involved in this, John Lovell included, brought "their ladies and households into the Tower" and that they remained there during the siege the Earl of Salisbury laid on the defenders. However, their father`s support for the Lancastrian side was to affect and cost them less than a year later, when the Yorkists proved victorious for the time being and Edward of March became Edward IV, the first Yorkist king. Unsurpringly, John Lovell was punished for having supported Henry VI to the end, and his lands were forfeited to the crown. Doubtlessly, this would have caused a huge change in the lives of the entire family. For four-year-old Francis and his three-year-old sister, this may have been particularly jarring, but it is also possible that they took it well, their young age protecting them from fears for the future.

Though John Lovell made his peace with Edward IV fairly soon and was given back his lands before 27th December 1461, the family had to get used to living in straitened circumstances. We can only guess how this affected the children and if they noticed much of it, but by 1462, John Lovell was deeply in debt. In 1462, he is recorded to have owed 1000 marks to two men named Richard Quartermayns and Richard Foweler, and another 1000 marks to John and William Crofton. We do not know if he paid these debts soon afterwards or at all, but by the next year, he was clearly struggling to maintain a certain life style while making ends meet, and saw himself forced to sell two manors to a merchant named William Luster, and another one to a merchant named Thomas Stoke. Whether this was to get some money or to settle debts he had to them we do not know, but it does suggest a degree of desperation.

It could well be that little Francis and Joan suffered under their father`s financial difficulties, but it is by no means certain. Perhaps their way of living had been more lavish during their very first years, or perhaps their circumstances remained the same while their parents had to make changes. There`s no way of saying. However, even with their father in financial difficulties, they would have had a certain standard of living and would have been unlikely to want for necessities.

Whatever their lives were like after Edward IV`s accession, it stands to reason they would have seen more of their father then than they did before his accession. While involved in Henry VI`s government, John Lovell is only recorded to have been given a single task in Edward`s, being in a commission of oyer and terminer in April 1464. Presumably in the same year, Francis and Joan`s younger sister Frideswide was born. Named after the patron saint of Oxford, she was John and Joan`s last child. We do not know if there were other short-lived children between Joan`s and Frideswide`s birth; if so, by the time of John`s death a year later, only Francis, Joan and Frideswide seem to have survived.

By the time Frideswide was born, Francis was already seven years old and may have left the nursery and been taught by a male tutor. This was often done at seven, but not always; so it remains guesswork. The fact that Francis`s handwriting is extremely similar to Richard`s would argue that they were taught to write by the same person, but that does not necessarily have to mean he was not taught anything in his father`s household. Perhaps his father chose to have him focus more on marital than academical achievements, or perhaps Francis only knew the basics of reading and writing when he came to Middleham and was taught everything else there.

Francis was eight years and four months old when his father died, apparently unexpectedly and suddenly, and it seems within weeks, he was taken from his sisters and mother to join the Earl of Warwick`s household at Middleham. This was quite normal for heirs who were still minors after their father`s death, and would most probably not have been surprising to Francis, though it may still have been a stressful and sad change for a little boy.

Again, it is not possible to say. We know almost nothing about what Francis thought and felt about his family, though we have some alarming evidence that he at the very least didn`t like his father, and that his sister Joan may have shared that dislike. We do not know why, but it is likely that this made the later years in his father`s household, when he was likely around much more, quite difficult to them.