Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Frideswide Lovell Norris

As I have mentioned before, Francis had two sisters. One of them, Joan, was probably his twin sister. Very little is known about her, except the most basic facts of her life, such her approximate birth and death year, the year she married, whom she married, and when she had her children

A little bit more is known about her and Francis`s younger sister, Frideswide. Apparently significantly younger than her siblings, she was not born before 1463, and most likely in 1464. Therefore, she was still only a baby when her father died on 9th January 1465, and a toddler when her mother died a bit over a year later, on 5th August 1466. She appears to have spent her childhood and adolescence in the household of her brother`s parents-in-law. In 1470, when she was around 6 years old, the first contemporary mention of her is found in the pardon Edward IV`s government issued for Henry FitzHugh and all those in his household after Henry`s rebellion. Though only a child, Frideswide was mentioned as she was, together with her sister, her brother Francis`s co-heir. If Francis himself was even involved in the rebellion is doubtful, as he was just shy of his 14th birthday, but the pardon cleared him of any legal difficulties that could have arisen later from being in Henry`s household at the time he rebelled.

What Frideswide`s education looked like, we naturally do not know. Nor do we know where she stayed until she married in around 1480, whether she lived with Francis`s guardians until then, lived with her brother Francis and his wife Anne after they had started living together as man and wife in around 1476, or lived with her sister Joan after she married in around 1473. Perhaps she stayed with all of them at different times, but it is sheerest speculation.

When Frideswide was around 16, she married the 15-year-old Edward Norris, the oldest son of William Norris of Yattendon and his first wife Joan/Jane de Vere. Edward was the nephew of the Lancastrian Earl of Oxford, who was a close friend of the Lancastrian Viscount Beaumont, Frideswide`s uncle. This, however, was most likely not the cause of the connection, as neither Edward nor Frideswide can ever have seen much of their respective uncles before 1485. Why the marriage was arranged, and if it was done by Francis, by William Norris, by the king or even by one of Francis`s FitzHugh relations, we no longer know.

How the two felt about being married, we also don`t know, but they did their duty and in 1481, the teenage couple became parents for the first time, when Frideswide gave birth to a son they called John. If they named their son after Frideswide`s father, whom she cannot have remembered and perhaps therefore did not think of with as much repulsion as the rest of her family did, or after Edward`s grandfather or paternal uncle, who were both named John as well, or after John of Suffolk, or even an unknown godfather is sheerest guesswork.

Only a year after the birth of their first son, Frideswide gave birth again, to a second son. He was named Henry, most likely after Henry FitzHugh, as there were no other men named Henry in either her nor her husband`s close family. This could suggest that though she was only around eight years old when Henry FitzHugh died, Frideswide remembered him fondly. Henry Norris grew up to become (in)famous for being one of Anne Boleyn`s supposed lovers and was one of the five men executed for this.

Perhaps because they already had two sons and considered their duty done, perhaps for other reasons, the couple did not have another child for several years. In 1483, Frideswide received a "reward" of 50 marks from Richard III after he was crowned king. Perhaps it was this, her support and closeness to her brother`s close friend, that caused a rift between her and her husband, and the couple was divided over political opinions which they needed some time to overcome. Edward`s father William, who had originally supported the Lancastrian cause, had accepted Edward IV as king, but rebelled against Richard in autumn 1483. Edward Norris may have supported this, though he never acted against Richard, while Frideswide seemed to support Richard.

However, there is evidence from 1484 which throws a rather different light on Frideswide`s marriage and her relationship to Richard. While her "reward" from 1483 could well have been simply a gesture of friendship by the new king towards his closest friend`s sister, their interactions clearly did not stop there. In August 1484, Richard granted her an annuity of 100 marks, a rather large sum. While this has traditionally been assumed to have been because of her father-in-law`s rebellion, leaving her husband disinherited, this does not seem to have been the cause. None of William`s other children, nor his wife, was granted anything by Richard.

Naturally, it could be that Richard chose to favour Francis`s sister over the rest of her marital family, but this is contradicted by two facts: one, that the grant was for unspecified "services" to the king, not, as that to other traitor`s relatives, as a compensation, a generous gift by the king. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is that a second grant of an annuity of 100 marks was made from the same venue, dating from 10th January 1485. This grant was not a confirmation of the first, but was added to it, meaning that Frideswide received 200 marks yearly from Richard, a sizable sum, more than the Countess of Oxford, or even his own mother-in-law, received.

The key to this may lie in the fact that the second grant was dated back nine months, and appears to have been made just after Frideswide gave birth to her third child, a daughter called Anne. Very notably, the grants to her, for unspecified services to the king, have the same wording as one to Katherine Haute, a woman often assumed to have been the mother of Richard`s illegitimate daughter Katherine, Richard made years earlier.

Equally notable is that Richard made grants to Francis on the same days as he made those to Frideswide, as a compensation for equally unspecified services, and that Frideswide appeared to have lived with her brother while pregnant.

That Henry Norris, in later years, appeared to not treat Anne as his sister, and that William Norris, Edward`s father, later favoured Frideswide`s sons, even apparently helping them become established at court, but not Anne, might also point towards the idea that there was at least a question mark over Anne`s paternity, and that she may have been Richard`s.

If so, Frideswide was in a bad position after Richard`s defeat and death at Bosworth only eight and a half months after her daughter`s birth. It seems, though, that she and her husband Edward made the best of it, and even reconcilliated. In around 1486, Frideswide gave birth to her last child, a girl called Margaret, presumably after Edward`s sister. From surviving documents, Margaret seemed much closer to her brother Henry and her grandfather William, again showing up a difference to Anne.

In 1487, Frideswide`s husband, as well as her father-in-law, joined Henry VII`s forces against her brother Francis and the Yorkist rebels, and defeated them at the Battle of Stoke. Edward was knighted for his services. It can only be speculated about what Frideswide thought about this, and what her feelings were about her husband fighting against her brother.

Edward, sadly, did not get to enjoy his knighthood for long, dying later in 1487, of causes unknown. He was only 22 years old, and left Frideswide a 23-year-old widow.

Very little is known about the rest of her life. She appeared to have helped taking care of her sister Joan`s children, and her younger son George eventually even named a child after her. Frideswide did not remarry, and died before 1507, when she is said to be deceased in her uncle William Beaumont`s IPM. When exactly she died, and what of, is sadly unknown.

Of her children, only Henry and Anne had issue, but through them, she has descendants alive even today.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

The birthdate of Joan Beaumont

In or around 1428, Francis`s maternal grandparents John Beaumont and Elizabeth Phelip married. He was 19 years old, she was approximately the same age. We do not know of their living arrangements, or how they felt about the match, but it was five years until they had their first child, a son called Henry after John`s father. This was traditional in the Beaumont family, and the lords Beaumont had been alternatively called John and Henry for over a century.

Whether or not Elizabeth fell pregnant and perhaps had miscarriages in the years following this, we do not know. Since John spent a lot of time at court and from all we know, Elizabeth did not often accompany him, it is perhaps not too likely. We do know, however, that soon after John returned from France, where he had been on a campaign with the royal court, in July 1437, Elizabeth became pregnant again. On 23rd April 1438, she gave birth to her second son, a boy they named William after her father William Phelip. John was present at the time and saw to it his son`s birth was properly celebrated.

In the following year, John again spent a lot of time at court, while Elizabeth seems to have stayed away, running his estates. While it is naturally possible that she visited him during that time and became pregnant,  there are no indications this was so. At no point did he ever leave court to be present at another birth, or to see a new baby, and no comment was made anywhere about another child being born to him. This might, of course, be because this third baby was a daughter and therefore of less interest than her brothers, but circumstantial evidence speaks against it, most notably that in February 1440, when he was made a viscount, John was not noted to be the father to a daughter, only to two sons.

In 1440, after being made England`s first viscount, John appears to have spent less time at court than in the years before. Why this was so, we do not know, but it is most likely that at the end of this year, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant again. By this time, they had been married for twelve years, and she had only given birth two times, not a lot for the time. Why this was so, we have of course no way of saying. Perhaps they had tried whenever they were together but had had difficulties conceiving, or she had had miscarriages. Perhaps they also did not try so often and were happy having two sons, but his new title had made them decide to try for more children.

Whyever it was then, and not earlier, Elizabeth appears to have become pregnant again in late 1440. She must have been around eight or so months along when her father William died on 6th June 1441. In his will, he left her "a bed of silk and one pair of sheets", but nothing to his grandchildren. He mentioned his daughters children, however, as his "heirs male" for the barony he held in the name of his wife, suggesting that at this time, she only had her two sons.

Between her father`s death, and 10th August 1441, Elizabeth died, perhaps from complications while giving birth to her third child, a girl who was named Joan after Elizabeth`s mother Joan. This may have been in the beginning or middle of July, for in a grant made to John Beaumont on 10th August 1441, he is said to have just been bereaved. Said grant gave him the rights to his late father-in-law`s lands and possessions during his children`s minority. It is the first time Joan Beaumont is mentioned. In both this grant, and in her grandfather`s Inquisition Post Mortem made in October 1441, she is said to be his heir, after her brothers, making it clear that no male entail had been created for his lands. This also suggests that when William Phelip spoke of his daughter`s children as his "heirs male" in his will, he wasn`t deliberately excluding Joan because she was a girl, but she simply had not been born yet.

She was therefore seven years younger than her oldest brother, three years younger than William. She was married at the age of 5, and first gave birth, to Francis and his sister Joan, when she had just turned fifteen.

Most likely, like her mother, she died in childbirth in 1466, just after her 25th birthday.