Francis LOVELL

(1st V. Lovell)

Born: Sep 1464, Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire, England

Aceeded: 4 Jan 1483

Died: AFT 16 Jan 1485/6

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: John LOVELL (8 B. Lovell of Titchmarsh)

Mother: Joan BEAUMONT

Married: Agnes FITZHUGH ABT Apr 1464


Francis Viscount Lovell, Lord Holland, Deincourt, Burnell and Grey of Rotherfield, born about 1455/6 (we only know that he was nine years old when his father died early in 1465), the only son of Sir John, 8th Baron Lovell of Titchmarsh, a warrior of great bravery and fame, through his parents and grandparents, he was heir to a vast inheritance. This included manors and fee farms as far apart as Upton Lovell in Wiltshire, Acton Burnell in Shropshire and Rotherfield and Bainton in Yorkshire. In addition, he was related to some of the great nobles, Lancastrian and Yorkist, of the age. He married Agnes, dau. of Henry FitzHugh, Baron FitzHugh.

Following his father's death he became a ward of Edward IV; who  gave him into the charge of one of his chief supporters, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Also in Warwick's household was the King's nine year old brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

At the Earl's great castle of Middleham in Wensleydale, the boys received instruction in Latin, law, mathematics, music, religion, and the code of chivalric behaviour and etiquette. Each day they practised riding, hunting, and the use of arms. In the evening they were taught to sing, dance, and play musical instruments.

Francis became a close friend and loyal supporter of Richard, who knighted Francis in 1480 while he was on an expedition against the Scots. Two years later, he was created Viscount Lovell by Edward IV, due possibly to Richard's influence. When Gloucester became King Richard III in 1483, Francis bore the third sword at his coronation. Later that year Richard appointed Lovell to several offices, including that of Chief Butler of all England, Privy Councillor, and Lord Chancellor of the Kings Household. The latter appointment implied constant personal contact with the King. His creation of Knight of the Garter also occurred during this year. Lovell had now been elevated from a Lord of relatively minor importance to one of the most powerful men in England. Lovell helped in the suppression of Buckinghams rebellion.

He  was commonly known as 'the King's Spaniel'. He was the Lovell of the ancient couplet:

"The cat, the rat and Lovell the dog,

rule all England under a hog".

The cat was Catesby, the rat Ratcliffe of Ordsall Hall, and the hog represented the King.

Francis Lowell was indeed looked upon by his tenants in Mottram as being of almost equal importance to the king. His word was law, his favour was courted and his anger feared.

He had command of the fleet which was to have stopped Henry Tudors landing in 1485, but failed. Sir Francis fought under Richard during the king's darkest hour, the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 Aug, where Richard was killed on the battlefield and the Crown taken by Henry VII. Francis had survived, but fled for his life and sought sanctuary at St. John's Abbey, Colchester, but deeming that no place of permanent security, he removed privately, to Sir John Broughton's house.

Lovell went on to instigate a potentially dangerous but ill-organised revolt in Yorkshire against Henry VII where he nearly succeeded in capturing the king in 1486. When the rising was put down he fled to Lancashire and spent some time in hiding before eventually escaping to Flanders, to ask for Margaret of Burgundy support.

In May 1487 he travelled to Ireland and then to England with John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and a force of German mercenaries in support of the Pretender Lambert Simnel. Lovell was a prominent figure at the 'court' held for a brief period by the would be king at the Peel of Fouldrey on Fouldrey Island, off the Lancashire coast.

On behalf of Simnel, Lovell fought in the Battle of Stoke, and the last seen of him was after the defeat of the rebel army, when he was observed to join in the fight, and to swim the Trent on horseback, scrambling to safety up the riverbank. Some say he was slain in this battle, but the popular version of his death ascribes to him a different ending.

With his enemies in pursuit, and afraid to even trust his friends, he made his way alone to his house at Minster Lovell, near Oxford, and entered it under cover of darkness. Then, not daring to trust even his most loyal servants, he quietly made his way to a secret underground chamber, and there incarcerated himself, hoping to remain hidden until he could find some means of escape from the country.

No one knows what actually happened but it is possible to surmise. It would appear that Francis was then unable to open the door by which he entered his hiding place, and, having told no one of his intention to make use of the chamber, he was left to die of starvation. In all probability, when he found out his predicament, he attempted to set some record of it down on paper, but, if so, his story was destined never to be read.

In 1708, several hundred years after his death, a party of workmen broke into an underground chamber at Minster Lovell and, to their great surprise, came across a skeleton. The skeleton, thought to be the frame of Francis Lovell, was found sitting at a table, the hand resting on a bundle of papers. Unfortunately, with the admission of air it soon crumbled into dust along with the sacred papers.

Officially, a court held just after his disappearance decided that he had escaped to the continent and had died at Flanders, but due to the lack of evidence we will probably never know what really happened.

After the Battle of Stoke, Lovell's lands were confiscated by the crown, and were later granted to Sir William Stanley, who had turned the fortunes of the day at Bosworth Field. With this change of ownership, Longdendale was passed out of the hands of the Lovells forever.

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