Saturday, 17 February 2018

John Lovell and his strange relationship to his family

Francis`s father John Lovell was born on 15th April 1433 to William Lovell, 7th Baron Lovell, and his wife Alice Deincourt. Despite the fact that he was born eleven years after his parents married in 1422, he appears to have been their first son, if perhaps not their first child. William and Alice had at least one daughter, but her name and birth year are not known.

William was probably 36 years of age when John was born, while Alice was 29. After John, they had three more sons, William, Robert and Henry. All of them survived childhood, though it is not known if they had any more brothers and/or sisters who did not.

As the oldest son, John was naturally both his father`s as well as his mother`s heir. Since both the Lovell family as well as the Deincort family were very rich, his prospects for the future were good, and presumably, because of this, he was seen as the most desirable match for a potential bride of all his brothers. Despite this, however, it was his younger brother William who was married first, either in or just before the year 1445. to Elizabeth St.Clare, daughter and co-heiress of Thomas St. Clare. Elizabeth appears to have been several years older than William, who was eleven at the most in 1445, and since she was quite rich, a very good match for the second son of a baron.

It is likely, if not certain, that by the time William Lovell married his namesake son to Elizabeth St.Clare, he had already arranged an even better match for John, to John Beaumont`s daughter Joan. Though John Beaumont was very active at court in the 1440s - and later - while William Beaumont appeared to lead a less active life, the CPR among other sources suggests that they often had to fulfil duties together and theirs was a fruitful relationship, even if we know nothing about any personal opinions they may have held about one another.

Their children, John and Joan, were married in 1446, the marriage bringing the Lovell family a close association with a very influential and favoured man at court, and a connection with an old and respected noble family. Since Joan only had one brother at the time of her marriage, who was eight years old then, the marriage also carried the possibility for John of inheriting Beaumont`s wealth and Joan`s brother`s title of Lord Bardolph, in case the boy did not survive childhood.

If William Lovell and John Beaumont arranged the marriage before 1445, by which time at the latest he arranged the match for his younger son, it is possible that John did not want his daughter to actually marry before the age of 5. There could be other reasons for William jr marrying before his older brother, though, such as his father planning to marry John to a different woman at first, which did not come off for some reason, or not thinking Elizabeth St Clare a suitably good match for his and his wife`s heir. It is all speculation, though it is obvious that William took care to marry both his sons well, though, as was completely to be expected for the time, his first-born and heir even better than his second-born.

After his son John had married, William granted several manors to him and "Joan his wife", "to hold to them and to the the heirs of the said John". This grant was dated 4th November 1446, and presumably came very shortly after their marriage, which must have taken place after 7th September of that year, on which date Joan`s grandmother Joan Phelip added a codicil to her will, in which she refered to her granddaughter as an unmarried girl.

There appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary in either the Lovell or Beaumont family at that time, and William seemed to favour neither of his sons, having arranged good matches, suitable for their position, for both of them. As seen above, he also did not hesitate in giving his son John, then 13, the responsibility over several manors. There is no suggestion that at that time, there was anything strange in the relationship between father and oldest son.

However, at some point over the following decade, this must have changed. We don`t know anything of their personal interactions during that time, but William Lovell`s will, made in 1455, clearly suggests a rift between his oldest son and himself. Most notably, he did not once mention John by name in the whole document, nor did he once refer to him as his son. This stands in stark contrast to his other sons, all of whom William repeatedly named and called "sonne".

This indication of some sort of trouble in William`s relationship with his oldest son is supported by the fact that the only personal item William mentions in the entire will, "a Bedd of Bawdekyn with qwischens and thapparrell thereto" - "a bed of bawdkin with cushions and the apparell thereto" - is left to his second son, William, rather than, as would have been traditional and expected, to his first-born, John.

There is no indication whatsoever what could have been the cause of the rift between father and son that appears to have happened between 1446, when John was 13, and 1455, when he was 22, and how it affected their relationship and personal interactions.

Whatever was the cause, however, it appears that it did not prevent John from sharing his father`s political opinions. Though William died just after the first battle of St. Alban`s and did not join in it, he had shown himself to be opposed to Richard of York in the first years of the 1450s, and John clearly shared this attitude, becoming a staunch Lancastrian and very involved in fighting the Yorkist faction over the next years.

Since he became a trusted fighter for Henry VI, and was given grants for resisting the Yorkists, and no one made any comments as to his character or any flaws, it seems that whatever had caused a rift in his relationship with his father either was a personal issue that none of his peers would have had an interest in or saw a reason for commenting on, or it was something that none of them knew about. Certainly, whatever it was, it initially did not appear to affect his relationship with his father-in-law John Beaumont, with whom he appeared to be have an if not friendly, at least a polite relationship immediately following his father`s death. However, within a year this was to change. When John Beaumont wrote his will in 1456, he described his daughter as "my daughter Lovell, my life, to thr wrath of God, married to John my son".

There would be nothing particularly notable in John and his father appearing to have issues with one another after John reached a certain age, but John Beaumont`s condemnation certainly sheds a non-flattering light on him, and in fact those most closely related to him, such as his only son Francis, his older daughter Joan and potentially even his mother, came to equally distance themselves from him.

After the defeat of Henry VI and the accession of Edward IV, John Lovell is very rarely found in any sources. What is known that after initially being stripped of his possessions for his support of the Lancastrian cause, he soon was pardoned and his wealth returned to him. He then appeared to live a quite life. In April 1464, he was appointed to a Commission of Oyer and Terminer, the only time he received any task at all from the Yorkist government. Nine months later, on 9th January 1465, he died suddenly and apparently unexpectedly, at the age of 31.

It is not known what he died of. On 14th January 1465, a Writ of Diem Clausit Extremum was issued for him, which stated, incorrectly, that he left behind a seven-year-old boy as heir - his son Francis was actually eight. He also left behind his wife of 18 years, Joan Beaumont, two daughters - seven- or eight-year-old Joan and the infant Frideswide - as well as his mother, Alice Deincourt. Probably soon after his death, John was buried, like his father William, in St.Kenelm`s Church, very close by his ancestral manor of Minster Lovell Hall, in which he had died.

While we know nothing of his funeral, it is a definite oddity that John was not given a sarcophagus or even a tombstone, or any marker at all, for his grave. While he himself had had financial difficulties in the years before his death and his widow, whose father was dead by this point and her brother attainted, could potentially not afford to mark his tomb, it is definitely strange that neither his mother Alice, who was still wealthy, nor his surviving brothers Henry and William, arranged for at least a tombstone. It is even stranger, and quite telling, that neither did his son Francis, who grew up to be very rich, ever see to it John´s tomb was at all marked.

This in itself suggests that John was not popular with his small son, or the rest of his family, and there are more indications for this. One of these is the fact that his older daughter, Joan, chose not to name a son after him, despite the fact that she followed tradition in giving her her first son her husband`s name and her daughter her mother`s and her own name, and calling her second son after her father would have been as traditional and expected.

This, of course, does not have to mean anything. Perhaps Joan jr simply disliked the name “John” for aesthetic reasons, or named the son who was meant to be called after her father after a saint in thanksgiving instead. However, in the light of how his family otherwise treated John and his memory, it is certainly interesting.

The most telling, and most damning, sign of John being disliked if not downright hated by someone who should have been close to him and cherished his memory is to be found in his son`s actions. While not giving him a marker for his tomb could well be seen as a clear indication of what Francis thought of his father, he went further than that. In 1484, he made two different arrangements for prayers to be read. One was part of the foundation for a fraternity, for which he received permission together with John, Duke of Suffolk and John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln on 20th February of that year. This new fraternity was, among other tasks, read services for the "good estate" of the founders - Francis, John, Duke of Suffolk, John Russell - as well as for the king, queen, the Prince of Wales, the king`s father, the Duke of Suffolk`s father and Francis`s grandfather, William Lovell. Clearly, despite the king and the Duke of Suffolk chosing to have prayers said for their fathers, Francis had no wish for them to be said for John. This is made even more notable by the fact that Francis, having only been born in 1456, never met his grandfather, who died in 1455. It clearly appears that he did wish to remember a family member, and help his grandfather`s soul, indicating he was not wary of remembering his whole family, perhaps because of their Lancastrian pedigree, but simply did not want prayers said for his father.

This is an impression soldified by the second arrangement for prayers he made that year, when he sold the Hospital of St John and James, which had belonged to his family for over a century, to William Waynflete, Bishop of Worcester, to be annexed to Magdalen College, Oxford. Part of the deal included prayers to be said for Francis and his wife.

While there is nothing unusual in such a request, it is curious that, despite the fact that the hospital was the resting place of some of his distant Lovell ancestors, Francis did not, as would once more have been the traditional and expected course of action, request prayers to be said for his father and those ancestors. Most definitely, when selling a hospital that had been in his family for so long it would have been expected of him to at least include his closest ancestors, such as his parents, in the prayers.

While this, on the face of it, is less of an attack on his father than the other request of prayers, it would have been very nearly impossible for Francis to have prayers said in the hospital for all his ancestors but the one he had inherited it from. Since he his request for prayers for his grandfather William earlier that year shows Francis was not opposed to remembering members of his paternal family, it seems like once again, his motivation was to deny his father prayers.

As with the rift with his father, we do not know what soured John`s relationship to his mother, brothers, oldest daughter and especially his son so much. Especially in the case of Francis it is notable, since he was only eight years old when his father died and denying him prayers, which according to medieval beliefs could have meant more years of suffering in purgatory for him, would have required at the very least a deep dislike. What caused it, we do not know.

All we know is that while John Lovell apparently appeared as a normal nobleman to those who didn`t know him well, something happened between the time he was thirteen and twenty-two to spoil his relationship to his father William, and that the rest of his family, even his young children, came to share William`s dislike for John.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Francis`s wedding to Anne FitzHugh

On "the Monday next after Saint Valentine", almost certainly of the year 1465 - which means on 20th February 1465 - John Wykys wrote a letter to John Paston, in which he informed him of some news.Among these news was the information of two marriages which had been made since the yhad last been in contact:

"Item, the Erle of Arundell ys son hath weddyd the Quyne ys suster."
"Item, the Lord Lovell ys son hath weddyd my Lady FytzHugh ys doghter."

In modern English, it naturally means:

"Item, the Earl of Arundel`s son has wedded the Queen`s sister."
"Item, the Lord Lovell`s son has wedded my Lady FitzHugh`s daughter."

The Queen`s sister Wykys mentioned was Margaret Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville`s next oldest sister, and her new husband was Thomas FitzAlan, the oldest son and heir of William FitzAlan, earl of Arundel. He was also, through his mother Joan, a nephew of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick`s. Interestingly, this means he was also a cousin of the other bride mentioned in Wykys`s letter, Lady FitzHugh`s daughter, Anne. Her bridegroom was, of course, Francis.

It is curious that Wykys identifies him as "Lord Lovell`s son", despite the fact that his father was dead at that point and Francis himself, despite his youth, was therefore Lord Lovell. Since John Lovell had only died five weeks before this letter was written, this may have been for distinction and to avoid confusion though.

Another interesting point is that Wykys does not specify which of Lady Alice FitzHugh`s daughters had married Francis. Since all three of her daughters were still unmarried at that point, it was far from self-evident. It is, however, possible that Wykys was not certain himself which of the FitzHugh daughters had been Francis`s bride, or was uncertain about their names.

In fact, it is rather curious that Francis was married to Anne, the youngest, rather than to one of her older sisters, Alice or Elizabeth, as it was rather out of the ordinary for a younger sister to be married before a match for her older sister had been arranged. We have no knowledge why the FitzHughs choose to do it that way, and why Alice, then around eighteen, was only married to in November 1466, and then "only" to Sir John Fiennes, the heir to a barony, and therefore for the time being of lesser status than Anne`s youthful husband. Perhaps Henry and Alice decided that, while age gaps in arranged marriages were hardly out of the ordinary, it would be better to marry Alice to Sir John, who was her age, and Anne to a boy only four years older than her, rather than marry Alice to a boy eight years her junior and Anne to a man twelve years her senior. Perhaps, despite the fact that Francis was already a baron and stood to inherit lots of lands in due time, Henry and Alice also saw that he had probably inherited massive debts from his father and considered him a less good prospect than Sir John. Perhaps it was a mixture of these reasons, or something else entirely. It is all speculation, as is any explanation why Elizabeth, the second sister, was apparently not considered for either match, and was only married years later, to William Parr.

Nor do we know where Anne and Francis`s marriage took part. It seems likely it happened at Middleham, where the little boy was staying with the Earl of Warwick`s household, since the earl had also arranged the marriage, but we do not know for certain, and Wykys`s letter gives no hint. Nor does he give any indication on what day exactly the wedding took place.

All we know is that at some point, probably in mid-February 1465 and definitely before 20th February 1465, Francis was married to Anne FitzHugh.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

"Anna" Lovell, horrible person and unwanted wife?

As I have pointed out before, a lot about Anne FitzHugh Lovell`s life is not known. She did not excite much comment in her own lifetime, mentions of her only being found in private letters or in accounts, and has been all but ignored by historians since. As a consequence, information about her is not plentiful and hard to come by.

Perhaps for that reason, historical fiction is not kind to Anne. To a certain extent, it is naturally understandable that in a novel not focusing on her or her husband, not too much attention is on her and in such a case, a few mistakes and misrepresentations are to be expected and do not detract from the actual narrative too much. However, as I have stated before, if a character is not to be simply an invented character with the name of a historical person, but in some way a representation of that person, there needs to be a kernel of truth in their portrayal. Anne Lovell, sadly, often does not even get that.

In fact, in many works of fiction, not even her name is correct, and instead of Anne, her actual name, she is called Anna. There is no historical basis for this at all, and the only source which calls her this is written in Latin and therefore naturally used the Latin version of her name. It does not in any way suggest that she was called this by anyone, any more than it suggests that her husband was called Franciscus because of being named thus in the source. All other sources in which she is named, even official ones such as an indenture her husband made for her, the grant of an annuity made to her by Henry VII`s government, call her Anne - which was, of course, her real name.

Naturally, the reason for her being named this in novels is the plethora of Annes to be found in her closer proximity. Her aunt, her first cousin, her great-aunt and her first cousin once removed are just four women of the same name with whom Anne FitzHugh Lovell may have had closer contact. However, this does not explain why she is the one called this even in the rare novels focusing on Francis, in which she should be the most important woman named Anne. It also does not explain why she does not ever get another nickname, or why "Anna" is not even in passing said to be a nickname in novels which call her that. The use of "Anna" has become so persistent that it has even bled over into non-fiction.

Another very often made and yet easily avoidable mistake made about Anne in fiction is to do with her age. It is even easily found by an internet search that she was born in 1460 and was therefore four years younger than her husband, who was born in 1456. This also made her four years younger than Anne Neville, something that novels almost never portray. In one very famous and otherwise well-researched novel focusing on Richard III, Anne Lovell is explicitly said to be Anne Neville`s age, for no particular reason. Since the same novel also has Francis be ten years old in January 1463, when his father died - despite the fact that John Lovell died in January 1465 and Francis had only just turned six in early 1463 - at least their age gap is portrayed correctly.

Anne`s wrong age often leads to other problems with her in the narrative, which usually have to do with her and Francis`s supposedly unsuccessful marriage. One novel had Francis complain with the frequency of the human birth rate that Anne is so much younger than him, yet portrayed Richard and Anne Neville, whose age gap was the same, as perfectly fine with one another.

Their marriage being used as a foil to Richard and Anne Neville`s supposedly unusually happy and blissful union is another source of Anne Lovell being misrepresented, often in connection with the mistake about the age. The above-mentioned famous novel has a character muse in December 1472 that clearly the Lovells` marriage is unsuccessful:

But his wife Anna was not [at Richard and Anne`s Christmas celebration]. Francis had told Alison that Anna felt she should spent this Christmas with her mother, it being less than six months since Anna`s father had died. Alison had diplomatically agreed with him. Now she shook her head. A pity. But that was too often the way of it. Child marriages either worked out very well or they worked out not at all.“

This is a particularly jarring instance because it also includes Francis`s sisters, the younger of whom was only around eight years old at that point, as being present at the celebration, explicitly to make a point about how Francis and Anne do not want to be in each other`s presence. Since Anne was only twelve at that point in real life and would not live with Francis for several years, it is pretty clear that this presentation is only made possible by the mistake about her age. Seeing as this scene that directly before a scene in which there is a long discussion about Anne Neville`s bliss in her marriage and Richard´s treatment of her as if she was "made of Venetian crystal fine enough to shatter at the merest touch" (rather baffling in itself since glass from Murano doesn`t typically do that, and would be utterly pointless if it did), it is quite obvious that these marriages are meant to be juxtaposed, and Anne Lovell portrayed as an unhappy and unwanted wife mostly for this point to be made.

This novel, however, does not blame her for the supposed failure of their marriage, the way many others do. One novel claims that she was "one of those miserable creatures who are happiest when pulling a soul to pieces", and then has the characters downright gloat that she is not happy, serving her right for her horrible personality. This does not serve any narrative reason at all, except give Francis leave to be a womaniser, unlike Richard, and still be sympathetic. Again, like so many of Anne`s depictions, it is also wrong. Anne appeared to be well-liked and courageous, and there is no evidence anyone disliked her, let alone that it was the commonly held attitude towards her. 

This book also has "Anna" being frigid and always "resisting Francis`s attentions", another strange trend in fiction. Rather alarmingly, this never gets any sympathy whatsoever. Despite Anne Lovell often being portrayed as disliking Francis, against all evidence, the narrative never affords these feelings any validity and portrays her as horrible for not wanting sex with a man she hates. 

In fact, in connection with the misconceptions and mistakes made about her mentioned above, this sometimes turns from an uncomfortable implication into something downright sickening. One book, which calls Anne "unlovely" and having "skin the colour and consistency of porridge" as if it was a judgement on her character - and, to to it off, has her ladies literally described as "axe-faced crones" - has her be present at Richard and Anne Neville`s wedding, described to be taking place in summer 1472. Then this happens, as narrated by Richard:

"She dropped a curtsey and mumbled a curt greeting that was barely polite. I got the feeling she was one of those women who, although committed to her duty, hated men - all men. Then she placed her hands on her hips, raised her weak chin and said boldly: "I have brought my own ladies to attend on Cousin Anne and prepare her for what is to come tonight."

"For what is to come?" I could not help but utter an indignant response. "Lady Lovell, you make it sound as if I am going to torture her! I assure you, it is not pain that will make her cry out tonight!"

Anna Lovell flushed fiery red, which worsened her complexion. Frank [Francis] reddened too. "Anna!", he hissed at her. "You have insulted the duke. Apologize at once."

What is already pretty heavy-handed character development rather unfair to the actual woman, establishing her as someone with no redeeming features, becomes sickening when it becomes clear that in real life Anne Lovell was twelve in summer 1472. The narrative clearly suggests she is older, but no age of her is given except that she was six when she married Francis - which, if the traditional (if most likely wrong) year of 1466 for their marriage is assumed, would indeed make her twelve, meaning the above scene features two men mocking a twelve-year-old, who has clearly been made to have sex already by her husband, for disliking sex. It also depicts Francis as having forced his prepubescent wife to have sex and scorning her for having disliked it. Even at the time, a consummation at the age of twelve years old was considered way too early, as was remarked upon in the case of Margaret Beaufort, and naturally incredibly dangerous and damaging to her physical and mental health.

The implications of this scene and similar ones featuring Anne in the book, though most likely unintentional, are horrifying, but the picture of Anne being frigid, disliking sex and forcing Francis to satisfy his needs elsewhere is quite widespread, and seems to be based on nothing else but their childlessness.

Of course, from a distance of over 500 years, it is impossible to say for certain why they were childless. However, an indenture Francis made in  June 1485, arranging for her to receive several of his manors to own in her own right after his death, showed he had no doubt she could have children and instead seemed to think himself unable to do so. This hardly suggests she did not allow him in her bed or was so horrible he had to look elsewhere. If anything, it suggests that he was not willing or able to have sex, rather than her, though naturally there are other explanations of why he could have believed such a thing. There is, however, no basis in the strangely wide-spread portrayal of Anne as horrible and frigid.

Finally, one last baffling portrayal of Anne is of her and Francis having problems because she comes from a Lancastrian family. One novel even states that her mother, Alice FitzHugh, "an unregenerate Lancastrian, detested the House of York and therefore loathed Richard –and Francis by association." - completely ignoring Francis lived with her and her family during the Lancastrian readaption, that she raised his sisters and that they in his later life showed signs of being close. Another one has Anne fear - thankfully, in a scene rather more sympathetic to her than usual - that she is despised by Richard and Anne Neville`s circle of friends because of her Lancastrian family.

Naturally, this ignores that Anne herself had no choice in which side her parents chose, since she was so young, and that Anne Neville was far more involved, also because of her parents, in the Lancastrian cause than she was. It also ignores that Francis`s family was also Lancastrian, his uncle William in fact still involved, together with the equally Lancastrian Earl of Oxford, in acts of piracy as late as 1473. 

However, this last, while a somewhat unlikely worry for her to have, at least provides a sensible narrative reason for awkwardness and distance between her and her husband, while still having both as sympathetic characters. Though there is no evidence of Anne and her husband having been distant in an unusual way, it makes for a sensible choice in fiction if a distance is to be portrayed - and an emotional distance is possible, if perhaps not likely, to have been present between the historical couple. 

Naturally, as stated above, there is not much known about Anne Lovell, which gives fiction a lot of freedom with her character. It is strange and somewhat disheartening that despite this, she is often portrayed in a way that contradicts what little we have about her, is incredibly hostile to her and includes sexist assumptions and descriptions (such as a couple`s childlessness being because the woman is frigid and ugly) and pits her against others.