Francis_Lovell,_1st_Viscount_Lovell

Francis Lovell, 1st Viscount Lovell

Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovel (1454 – 1487(?)), a supporter of Richard III and son of John, 8th Baron Lovell, probably knew Richard from a young age and was to be a life-long friend and supporter of the future king.

He was the son of John Lovel, 8th Baron Lovel and Joane Beaumont, daughter of John Beaumont, 1st Viscount Beaumont. From his father he also inherited the titles of Baron Lovel and Baron Holland.

Lovell succeeded to his father's titles and estates at the age of nine years old. He became a ward of Edward IV of England, who gave him into the charge of the Earl of Warwick, in whose household Richard also spent some time. It was there that the two young men first formed their close association.

In 1466 he married Anne Fitzhugh, daughter of Henry, Lord Fitzhugh and niece of his guardian the Earl of Warwick. She was thus a first cousin of Anne Neville, the future Queen consort of Richard III.

Upon the death of his paternal grandmother in 1473 he inherited a large estate, including the lands of the baronies of Deincourt, Grey of Rotherfield, and the feudal barony of Bedale. He was now one of the wealthiest barons in England not holding an earldom or dukedom.

He served as a young man under Richard in the expedition to Scotland in 1480, and was knighted by Richard for it, the same year. After the death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483 he became one of his patron’s strongest supporters. He had been created a viscount on 4 January 1483, and while still Lord Protector Richard made him Chief Butler.

As soon as Richard became king (26 June 1483), Lovell was promoted to the office of Lord Chamberlain, and was made a Knight of the Garter, and given Wallingford Castle in 1485. Lovell helped in the suppression of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion (1483), and as one of Richard’s most trusted ministers was gibbeted in Collingbourne’s couplet with William Catesby and Richard Ratcliffe:

The catte, the ratte and Lovell our dogge
Rulyth all England under a hogge.

(The 'dogge' here refers to a Lovell family heraldic symbol. Richard's symbol was a boar.)

Lovell had command of the fleet which was to have stopped Henry Tudor’s landing in 1485 but failed and then fought for Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field (22 August 1485) and after the battle fled to sanctuary at Colchester. From there, he escaped the following year to organise a dangerous revolt in Yorkshire. When that failed he fled to Margaret of York in Flanders.

As a chief leader of the Yorkist party, Lovell took a prominent part in Lambert Simnel’s enterprise. With John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, he accompanied the pretender to Ireland and fought for him at the Battle of Stoke Field on 16 June 1487. He was seen escaping from the battle, but was never afterwards heard of; Francis Bacon relates that according to one report he lived long after in a cave or vault (History of Henry VII, p. 37, ed. Joseph Rawson Lumby). More than 200 years later, in 1708, the skeleton of a man was found in a secret chamber in the family mansion at Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire. It is supposed that Lovell had hidden himself there and died of starvation.

Collingbourne’s couplet is preserved by Robert Fabyan, Chronicle, p. 672. For the discovery at Minster Lovell see Notes and Queries, 2nd series i. and 5th series x.

Notes

It is not recorded that Lovel fought for Richard III at Bosworth, the timetable does not permit him to be there, as he was in Southampton guarding the port and the waters. There was insufficient time for him to get to Bosworth to fight in the battle. A plaque to Francis Lovell exists at Mottram in Longendale

References

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