Tuesday, 24 April 2018

A letter from Alice FitzHugh to John Paston

After the Yorkist forces lost the Battle of Stoke on 16th June 1487, and many of them died, Francis`s whereabouts are unknown. Sources written some decades, and in one case even nearly a century, after the event sometimes claimed that he was last seen swimming on horseback over the river Trent, but even that cannot be ascertained. All that was said contemporarily is that he was "discomfited and fled". His fate afterwards is up for debate.

Even at the time, those closest to him did not know where he had gone, as can be seen from a letter his mother-in-law Alice FitzHugh wrote to John Paston some eight months after the battle, in which she mentions that her daughter Anne, Francis`s wife, has so far been unsuccessful in finding out her husband`s whereabouts. The full text of the letter is this:

"To my right trusty and welbeloved son, Sir John Paston, be this delyvered.

Jon Paston, I recommaunde me to you in my moste hertely maner. And wher I understande be my doghter Lovell, ye desyre to know whedir I woll have the bargane ye made for me in Norwich or nay, and if I wol, I moste content therefor now in merks. Son, in good faith it is so, I shal receyve no mony of the revenowse of my lyvelod before Mydsommer, and also I have payd accordyng to my promise to Sir William Cabell a great payment, the which ye knoww wel was due to be payde, so that I can not be of power to content therfore, for the which I am right sory, for I know well I shall never have such a bargane.

Also my doghtyr Lovell makith great sute and labour for my sone hir husband. Sie Edwarde Franke hath bene in the North to inquire for hym; he is comyn againe and cane nought understonde wher he is. Wherfore her benevolers willith her to continue his suit and labour, and so I can not departe nor leve hir as ye know well; and if I might be there, I wold be full glad, as knowith our Lorde God, Whoo have you in his blissid kepynge. 

From London, the xxiiiith day of February. 
Your loving moder, Alise, Lady FitzHugh."

This letter, though on the face of it fairly straightforward, has been interpreted variously over the years. Since the year it was written is not given, even that has been disputed. James Gairdner, notably, argued that the year had to be 1486, since there was no knowledge of Francis after 1487. However, this is almost definitely incorrect. For one, Alice addressed John Paston as Sir John, which given that he was only knighted after the Battle of Stoke, means it cannot have been written before 1487. Curiously, Gairdner mentions this but dismisses the address as a mistake, without explaining further why he thinks so.

It is not, however, just the address that shows the year it was written has to be 1488. In 1486, the year Gairdner dates the letter to, Francis`s whereabouts in sanctuary in Colchester were no secret. Moreover, Edward Franke was one of Francis`s co-conspirators in 1486, and would not have to have been sent by Anne Lovell to find him. It is quite clear, therefore, that the letter was written in 1488.

This is quite interesting in itself, as Edward Franke was himself a traitor at that point, and associating with him could have been dangerous to her. However, it seems that neither she nor her mother were afraid of any possible consequences of this.

It is also interesting to note that Anne Lovell apparently had several "benevolers" who supported her in this and were in fact urging her to further try and "continue her suit and labour", arguing she was a popular woman who even in less than good circumstances, as a vanished traitor`s wife, was not abandoned or even simply suffered by her social circle.

The exact nature of her "suit and labour" has equally been disputed over the years. The word "suit" and the fact that at the time of her mother writing this letter, she appears to have been in London, has led some people to argue that she was trying to secure a pardon for her husband. However, this seems a bit unlikely, as Francis had already rejected a pardon in 1485, and none of his actions since then give any indication he had changed his mind at some point. Given that Anne did not know where he was, he could also not have told her he had done so, so that it seems unlikely Anne was trying to secure him a pardon which would avail to nothing.

Moreover, given that Francis had at that point been responsible for two rebellions, one kidnap attempt and one assassination attempt on Henry VII, the likelihood of him being granted a pardon would have been negligible, even without him having already rejected one.

Moreover, her trying to have her husband pardoned does not make sense of Alice`s statements in the text, as she explicitly says because Edward Franke had not found Francis, Anne`s supporters were encouraging her to continue. If she had tried to get him pardoned, she would maybe have tried to continue doing so despite Francis not having been found, but not because of it. The only way this could make sense would be if she tried to get a pardon for herself and hoped to dissociate herself from Francis, but this directly contradicts both her actions and Alice`s words. If she had wanted to dissociate herself from him, Alice would never have said she was doing it for her husband, and Anne would not have associated with traitors, putting herself in some danger, to find him.

Instead, Anne`s suit and labour almost certainly seems to be refering to her trying to find Francis. Why and what she hoped would happen if she found out his whereabouts, there is no hint given in the letter. What is notable, however, is that Alice clearly supported her and does not display any grudges towards Francis and the fact his actions had put her daughter in a bad position. On the other hand, she explicitly refered to him as her son, even when "my daughter`s husband" would have sufficed. She also refered to Anne not as "my daughter Anne" but as the conventional "my daughter Lovell", suggesting neither of them wished to stop her being associated with him.

Finally, it is interesting to note that Alice and Anne clearly had a good relationship, in which Alice supported Anne and her choices and wished to be there for her.

If they ever found out what happened to Francis, we do not know. Anne took a religious vow sometime between the time the letter was written and December 1489, which could indicate she had found out he was dead, but could equally mean she had given up hope to ever find him again. It is, however, notable, that she was still only 29 in December 1489, yet had still chosen to take this vow, which would prevent her from ever marrying again and having children.

Sadly, there is no indication what Alice thought of it and if their relationship stayed as good as it appears to be in February 1488.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Grant to John Beaumont, concerning the lordship of Bardolph

Francis`s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Beaumont, was the only child of William Phelip, Lord Bardolph, and his wife Joan, Lady Bardolph, and the sole heiress of the lordship of Bardolph. She married John Beaumont around 1428, and died shortly after her father `s death. Her exact date of death is not known, but it was between 6th June and 10th August 1441, and appears to have been sudden.

With William`s and Elizabeth`s death, Elizabeth`s oldest son Henry, then aged 7, became heir of the lordship of Bardolph. Since he was still a minor, Henry VI granted all the possessions and privileges that came with the title to his father, John Beaumont. The full text of the grant, put into English, reads like this:


For John Viscount Beaumont. The King, to whom all etc. [1]

Know that although our dear and faithful cousin John Viscount Beaumont was in no small way bereaved, and lost through death Elizabeth, lately his wife, daughter of William Phelip, lately Lord Bardolph deceased, he has come and been received. [2]

We did not fail to see the merits and the good and free service the same viscount spent, gave and dedicated to us. From our gratitude, special grants to the same viscount: custody of all castles, manors, lordships, towns, lands, tenements, rents and services, together with military fees and ecclesiastical advowson, abbeys, priories, hospitals, vicaries, chapels, at Canterbury and whichever other beneficiaries, as far as free and entitled by birth, [3] which Henry, son of the same viscount, as well as son and heir of the same Elizabeth, or another heir, of the same Henry`s body, or for lack of such, after Henry`s death, William, younger son of the same viscount and Elizabeth and brother of the same Henry, or another heir, of the same William`s body, or for lack of such, after Henry`s and William`s death, Joan, daughter of the same viscount [4] and Elizabeth and sister of the same Henry and William, sons, by and after the deaths of the aforesaid William Phelip and Elizabeth as well as Joan, lately wife of the same William Phelip still alive [5] or Anne, wife of Reginald Cobham, knight, similarly still alive, inherit.

Even some of them which [6] by and after the deaths of the others, in fee simple or fee howsoever in feetails it can descend, revert or remain, together with the wardships, marriages, reliefs [7], escheatures, fixtures and all other profits, comforts and remunerations which to some of the aforementioned premises [8] belong or are seen to [9] and that to us or our heirs by reason of the minority some of the aforementioned Henry, William, sons, and Joan, daughter, or other heirs, some of the same Henry, William, sons, and Joan, daughter [10], who can in any possible, always save for us and our heirs and all that concerns us, inherit the said Viscount Beaumont after the death of the said viscount during the minority of some of the aforementioned Henry, William, sons, and Joan, daughter, and other of their heirs [11]

Should we have and hold their custody and the aforementioned castles, manors, lordships etc. [12], or some of it, in our hands or in our heirs` hands for a time for some of the above-said reasons which may happen and occur [13] long before the heirs of the abovesaid Elizabeth have reached the full age [14] at which we or our heirs render it to them, and which explicitly mentions the said castles, manors, lordships, towns, lands, tenements, rents, services, military fees, advowsons and other premises as well as their true value. Nothingstanding other gifts and grants by us to the same viscount, which for the present facts [15] do not exist.

Testimony etc. According to the king at Westminster, 10th day of August [16]. By the king himself and on the aforesaid date, made by Parliament.   

(Original text to be found here.)


[1] This is the exact form of the grant.

[2] Despite his wife`s recent death and his father-in-law`s death only shortly before that, John followed his summons to the king and was received by him personally.

[3] This affirms that this was Henry Beaumont`s birthright through his mother, which was not mentioned before in the grant.

[4] Joan Beaumont, Francis`s mother. She may have just been an infant at the time the grant was made.

[5] Literally, "still surviving". While her husband William had been Lord Bardolph, he had held that title and the corresponding possessions in her name. It was only with her death in 1447 that the title fell to her grandson William. The older grandson, Henry Beaumont, died only a little over a year after the grant was made.

[6] The phrasing here is unclear, but it seems to say that in case some lands or possessions fall back to Henry, William or Joan Beaumont during their minority, John is entitled to hold them for his children without them falling first to the king.

[7] Money owed after certain actions.

[8] Lands, manors, lordships, etc.

[9] Are considered to belong to the possessions.

[10] The descendants of Henry, William and Joan, in case they have children but predecease their father.

[11] As above.

[12] Again, this is the exact form of the grant.

[13] That is to say, the deaths of the above-named individuals.

[14] Their majority, which in the case of either Henry or William would have been 21, in the case of Joan, would have been 14 if married by that time and 15 if not.

[15] They are irrelevant for that grant and treated as non-existent.

[16] Though it is not explicitly said in the grant, it was made in the 19th year of Henry VI`s reign, that is to say 1441. The grant was made only 4 days before John Beaumont`s 32rd birthday.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

William Beaumont`s Proof of Age

Shortly after his father`s death at the Battle of Northampton on 10th July 1460, his son William, Francis`s uncle, made a suit to King Henry VI to be allowed to enter his lands. To be allowed so, he arranged for a proof of age to show he had already attained his majority. This was done on 14th September 1460 and delivered to the king on 20th September 1460. Shortly afterwards, William was allowed to enter his inherited lands and possessions.

The full text of this proof of age, translated into English, reads like this:


Proof of age of William Beaumont, knight, Lord Bardolph, son of John, lately Viscount Beaumont and Elizabeth his wife, deceased, cousin and heir of Joan, Lady Bardolph, namely, son of Elizabeth, daughter of the aforementioned Joan, and cousin and heir of Anne, who was the wife of Reginald Cobham, knight, namely, son of Elizabeth, daughter of the said Joan, sister of the same Anne, in this inquiry, shortly put together [1], made and taken at Folkingham, 14th day of September, in the sixth regnal year of King Henry [2].

In the presence of Richard Fishburn, eschaetor [3] of the said Lord King in the county of Lincoln, by virtue of the aforementioned escaetor immediately, by oath twelve good and lawful men of the aforementioned county below. Namely:

Thomas Claymond, armed man, aged 46 years and more, sworn and examined on the majority [4] of the aforementioned William Beaumont, knight, he says that the aforementioned William Beaumont, knight, was born at Edenham in the earlier mentioned county and was baptised in the church of the same town, on the feast of St. George the Martyr, in the 15th regnal year of the current King, and whose godfathers were the abbot of Crowland [5], and Bartholomew Brokesby and godmother of William was Anne, wife of William Poter, knight. He was 22 years on the feast of St. George the Martyr last past, before the taking of evidence [6]

And asked how he knows, says on the same feast of St George the Martyr the aforementioned William was born, the same Thomas was sent by John, Lord Beaumont, for which the aforesaid Thomas was delayed, to see to preparations in the said church, and his lord afterwards attested that the second said lord [7] went to the said church and there discovered colourful silken and exquisit vestiments everywhere at the font of the said church, which was also adorned with some cloth of gold of red and pleasing colours, and Robert Wilbraham, armed man, John Trenthall, and a number of other servants of the said Lord Beaumont, father of the aforementioned William, discovered the same, which the aforesaid Robert Wilbraham and John Trenthall themselves said to be true; that the aforementioned William was born on the said feast of St George. Which also means they well remember that the same William was 22 years on the feast of St George last past. 

Thomas Walcote of Pykworth, aged 60 years and more, sworn and examined on the majority of the aforementioned William Beaumont, [8] that he is over age, the day, year and location of the birth of the aforesaid William tally with the earlier mentioned Thomas Claymond. And asked how he knows, says he saw the abbot of Crowland, godfather of the aforesaid William, perform in his office [9] the baptism of the same William, at the time the same William was baptised, which also means he well remembers that the same William was 22 years on the feast of St George last past.

Thomas Bowett, aged 50 years and more, sworn etc. [10], says that he himself was present and saw Anne, godmother of the aforesaid William, lift the said William from the sacred font at the time. Which also means, etc. [11]

John Robinson of Kirkeby, aged 60 years and more, sworn etc., says that he himself saw Margaret, lately the wife of William Armine, carry the aforesaid William to the church at the aforementioned baptism, on the same feast of St George on which the said William was baptised. Which also means, etc.

Henry Everard of Lavington, aged 48 years and more, sworn etc.says that he himself carried a flaming torch [12] before the body of the aforesaid William from the aforementioned church of Edenham to the manor of Grimsthorpe, on the same feast of St George on which the said William was baptised. Which also means, etc.

Simon Messingham of Sandringham, aged 69 years and more, sworn etc. says that he himself carried one pair of gilded, covered, basins from the manor of Grimsthorpe to the aforementioned church of Edenham, for the washing of the hands of the godfather [13] and godmother of the aforesaid William after the baptism of the said William, on the same feast of St George on which the said William was baptised. Which also means, etc.

Walter Bassett, aged 46 years and more, sworn etc. says that Robert his firstborn son was born on the same feast of St George, which etc. [14]

John Trussel, aged 53 years and more, sworn etc. says that he himself on the feast of St George carried carried two robes, called Carpette [15],  spread out before the font of the said church of Edenham on the feast the same William was baptised. Which also means, etc.

Henry Curwyn, aged 51 years and more, sworn etc. says that he himself sold John Lord Beaumont a palfrey of white colour for 10 pounds at Grimsthorpe on the same feast, which etc.

John Newyk, aged 68 and more, sworn etc. says that he himself bought from John Lord Beaumont, father of the aforesaid William, ten acres of wood for 10 pounds, 3 shillings, four pennies, on the same feast, which etc.

Thomas, body servant [16] of the abbot of Crowland, aged 48 years and more, sworn etc. says that at the time he was the abbot`s body servant and rode with the aforementioned abbot to Grimsthorpe on the same feast. which etc.

John Newton, aged 59 years and more, sworn etc. says that on the same feast of St George Simon Selle, father of the aforementioned John, was buried in the church of Edenham, which etc. 

Dated at Folkingham, the aforesaid 14th day of September, the abovementioned year of the Lord King. 

(One source for the text in the original Latin, but typed, to be found here.)


[1] This presumably means that it was put together at short notice, only two months after the death of William`s father, rather than the inquiry itself was short, as it has the normal form and length.

[2] 1460 was actually the 38th year of Henry VI`s reign, and calling it his sixth was probably a mistake that happened during a transcription.

[3] The Latin text says "Escaetore".

[4] Literally, "over age".

[5] When William was born, the abbot of Crowland was John Litlington.

[6] That is, 23rd April 1460.

[7] This second lord is not actually named.

[8] Strangely, a verb is missing here, but it should probably be "says", as in all other statements.

[9] His office of priest, not godfather.

[10] From that point on, the text no longer repeats all the formalities.

[11] As above.

[12] There is a spelling mistake in the original text, but it clearly means "torch".

[13] It says "godfather" in the singular, despite William having had two godfathers, as mentioned above. Presumably, it means there was one basin for his godmother and one for his godfathers.

[14] The formalities are shortened even more. 

[15] The name for those cloths probably comes from the French "carpette".

[16] Literally, servant for his hands.