Thursday, 28 December 2017

Francis at arms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 18 December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Recent discoveries

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Inaccurate and annoying claims often found about Francis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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