The Lovells of Titchmarsh The Lovells of Titchmarsh

Titchmarsh Castle

Old Warour Castle

Minster Lovell Hall

Other Lovell Castles

Francis, Viscount Lovell and Sir Thomas Lovell

The Great Lord Lovell?

From 1995 to 1999 I studied at the University of York, writing a DPhil thesis about the Lovells of Titchmarsh, a late medieval baronial family. The family is not widely known and the one man who has achieved a sort of celebrity, Francis, Viscount Lovell, close ally and friend of Richard III, is at the same time the last Lord Lovell of Titchmarsh as he vanished after the battle of Stoke in 1487. Despite their relavie obscurity, the Lovells were a fascinating subject to study. For four hundred years they were involved in English history. From the third crusade to the battle of Stoke, there are few major historical events were not one Lovell was involved.

This is a very brief summary of the family's history. I hope to add more and discuss a few specific events or details of their history in due time.
[Note: Like most medieval families the Lovells had a penchant for specific names. In their case it was William and John. To keep the various heads of the family apart, they are numbered.]

Did Francis Lovell have Children?

Like most aristocratic families in post-1066 England, the Lovells came originally from Normandy. Their earliest traceable ancestors were somehow linked to the border castle of Ivry, nowadays called Ivry-la-Battaille. The first member of the family who made an impact on history was Ascelin GoŽl (d. 1115-1119), who was embroiled in a long and violent quarrel with William de Breteuil about the possession of the castle of Ivry. His sons, Robert GoŽl and William Lovell I, were participating in some of the rebellions that disturbed the duchy in the reign of Henry I. It was William Lovell I received some lands in England, notably in Southmere and Docking (Norfolk).

William Lovell I probably divided his estates between his eldest son, Waleran d'Ivry, who received the family's Norman possessions, and William Lovell II, who inherited the lands in England. William Lovell II probably joined Richard I's crusade, but it is unknown how long he was abroad. In 1201, he was among the aristocrats who refused to serve in France.

After his death, probably in 1212, his son John Lovell I became a ward of Alan Basset, an important follower of King John. Alan Basset married his daughter Katherine to John Lovell I. Little further is known about John Lovell I. He seems to have joined the baronial opposition to King John in 1216, as his estates were declared forfeit. He must have received them back soon afterwards as they were again declared forfeit in 1223, when John Lovell I refused to join the campaign against Llewelyn ap Iorwerth. Three years later, he participated in the siege of Bedford Castle.

John Lovell I's younger brother, Philip Lovell, first entered the service of Roger de Quency, Earl of Winchester, and later that of Henry III. He was justice of the jews and later treasurer of England. He was, however, dismissed in disgrace in 1258. Nonetheless, his service was no doubt one of the reasons why his nephew John Lovell II became closer involved with the royal court. Another link was provided by the Basset family. Fulk Basset, Katherine Basset's brother, was bishop of London, another brother, Philip Basset, was justiciar. John Lovell II, like his Basset relatives, was a royalist during the Barons War. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Lewis and was forced to let some of his properties to pay his ransom.  

How important the connection to the Bassets was can be seen from the fact that the Lovell coat-of-arms, barry nebuly or and gules, is a variation of the Basset coat-of-arms, barry undy or and gules. In fact, the Lovells also used the latter variation of the arms.

Coat-of-arms of the Lovells of Titchmarsh

The coat of arms of the Lovells of Titchmarsh

John Lovell II married Maud de Sydenham, who brought the manor of Titchmarsh into the family. He helped raise money for the crusade of Edward, soon to be Edward I, and made preparations to join the crusade. If he actually went overseas and, if so, for how long is unknown.

John Lovell III, eldest son of John Lovell II and Maud Sydenham, participated regularly in the various campaigns during the reign of Edward I in Wales, Scotland and on the continent. From 1296, he received individual summonses to parliament. At the time, the group of noblemen who received individual summonses to parliament had not become a separate class and there was considerable variation in the men who were summoned. - One should also remember that at this time parliament, knights of the shire and lords, sat together. - Though John Lovell III is the first Lord Lovell, this did not really change his status. John Lovell III married twice. His first wife was Isabel du Bois. Their only child, Maud, inherited the du Bois estates in 1313. Joan de Ros, John Lovell III's second wife, was the mother of his sons John Lovell IV and William Lovell.

John Lovell IV married Maud Burnell, who was the great-niece of Robert Burnell, bishop of Bath and Wells, and chancellor under Edward I. John Lovell IV and his brother William were both in the service of Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke. Together with their lord they participated in the disastrous campaign against Robert the Bruce in 1314. John Lovell IV was killed in the battle of Bannockburn and his younger brother was captured.

Aymer de Valence became the guardian of John Lovell IV's posthumous son, John Lovell V. After his death his widow, Mary de St Pol, had to return the wardship of John Lovell IV to Edward II. It is unknown who eventually arranged John Lovell V's marriage and the identity of his wife is also uncertain. She may have been Isabel de la Zouche. If that was the case, she was the granddaughter of Maud Lovell, daughter of John Lovell III and Isabel du Bois.

John Lovell V never received an individual summons to parliament. He was therefore, strictly speaking, no longer a member of the parliamentary peerage. John Lovell V, fought in Scotland and also in the battle of Crťcy and took part in the siege of Calais. He died in 1347. It is possible that he was murdered, as a few years later, several 'evildoers' were held in Norwich jail indicted in the murder of John Lovell.

John Lovell V had two sons who were both called John. John Lovell VI died in 1363 still underage. His younger brother, John Lovell VII, restored the family's fortunes. This was possible for two reasons. First, he married Maud Holland, granddaughter and heiress of Robert Holland, whose younger brother was the first husband of Joan of Kent, who later married Edward 'the Black Prince'. The Holland estates were considerable and approximately doubled the lands the family held. To commemorate this union, John Lovell VII not only used as his coat of arms the Lovell arms quartered with the Holland arms but also by styling himself 'Lord Lovell and Lord Holland'.

Coat-of-arms of the Holland family

The coat of arms of the Holland family

John Lovell VII was also heavily involved in with the royal court. He began his 'career' as a courtier in the last years of Edward III's reign, was first summoned to parliament in 1375, and continued to be involved at the centre of government until shortly before his death in 1408. That his presence at court not only made him friends can be seen from the fact that John Lovell VII was among the men and women expelled from court in 1388. After the usurpation of Henry IV, John Lovell VII was considered as tutor for the future Henry V, but failed to get the appointment. In 1405 he became a Knight of the garter.

John Lovell VII built a new castle at Wardour. While it was severely damaged during the English Civil War, the ruins are still impressive. It is of an unusual, hexagonal style. Thanks to the survival of a part of a book he commissioned, the Lovell Lectionary, we also have a portrait of John Lovell VII. It is one of the earliest pictures that have portrait-character in England. (Other portraits exist of Geoffrey Chaucer and Richard II).

John Lovell VIII, the eldest son of John Lovell VII, died only six years after his father in 1414. His wife was probably Eleanor de la Zouche, though she cannot be identified with certainty.

His younger brother, Robert Lovell, was married to Elizabeth Bryan, whose grandfather Guy Bryan had been a an important figure during the reign of Edward III. Robert Lovell was well acquainted with Prince Henry, the future Henry V, with whom he went on campaign in Wales and who at least on one occasion used Robert Lovell's house in London to meet with the royal council.  Possibly, Robert Lovell was one of the young men whose rowdy ways infuriated the old king. Robert Lovell lent Henry V considerable amounts of money which he failed to regain, despite petitioning repeatedly. He died bankrupt and his goods were ceased. Nonetheless, his daughter Maud Lovell, married well. Her first husband was Humphrey Stafford with whom she had a daughter, Avice. Her second husband was John Arundel with whom she had a son, named like her first husband Humphrey, who died in infancy.

William Lovell III was underage at the time of his father death and his marriage was granted to Henry FitzHugh of Ravensworth. Henry FitzHugh arranged the marriage of his ward to Alice Deincourt, one of the coheiresses of the Deincourt and Grey of Rotherfield baronies. Her sister Margaret married Ralph Cromwell, but as they had no children, Alice Deincourt eventually inherited her sister's share of the baronies as well.

William Lovell III spent some of his younger years in France, where the Hundred Years' War was still dragging on. He was, however, unlike his grandfather or Ralph Cromwell, not very active in politics. He seems to have preferred a quiet life. He died in 1455.

Deincourt coat-of-arms        Grey of Rotherfield coat-of-arms
The coats of arms of the Deincourt family (left) and the Grey of Rotherfield family (right)

John Lovell IX was William Lovell III's eldest son and, unlike his father, he became heavily involved in national politics. At this time, the opening years of the Wars of the Roses, it became increasingly difficult to stay aloof of partisan politics. He was married to Joan Beaumont and like her father, John, viscount Beaumont, John Lovell IX supported Henry VI, choosing the Lancastrian side of the Yorkist one. Together with his father-in-law he tried, unsuccessfully, to defend London against the Yorkists and also fought on the Lancastrian side at the Battle of Towton. He made his peace with the new king, Edward IV. He died in 1465, leaving a minor son and two daughters.

In a startling break from family tradition, John Lovell IX's son and heir was named not John. It seems that John Lovell IX and his wife Joan Beaumont had a penchant for unusual names. While one of their daughters was named Joan, either after her mother or to satisfy family tradition, not only was their son called neither John nor William, nor even Robert or Thomas, the names often given to younger son but Francis their other daughter was named Frideswide.

As Francis Lovell was a minor when his father died, his wardship was granted to Richard Neville, earl of Warwick. Francis Lovell was married to Richard Neville's niece, Anne FitzHugh. He did move to his guardian's castle of Middleham, but it is not known whether he became acquainted with Richard, duke of York at this stage, as it is possible that Richard had already left the earl of Warwick's care at this time. 

Though it is unknown when exactly Francis Lovell first met Richard, duke of York, by the later 1480 Francis had become one of Richard's close companions and participated in some of the duke of Gloucester's campaigns, for example to Scotland in 1480. On 4 January 1483 Francis Lovell was created viscount by Edward IV. While he certainly was wealthy to support the status, it was no doubt his friendship to Richard, duke of Gloucester, that was behind this elevation.

Edward IV's unexpected death on 9 April 1483, Francis Lovell was one of the men Richard, duke of Gloucester employed in the brief time he was Lord Protector for the young Edward V.

When Richard decided to claim the throne shortly afterwards, Francis Lovell, naturally, remained one of the most important man at court. He became Chief Butler and Lord Chamberlain. The position Lord Chamberlain was one of great importance, as he regulated the access to the king and therefore not only had to be in constant attendance at court but also was always a man whom the king could trust implicitly. Several holders of this office, notably William Latimer in the last years of Edward III, had raised strong opposition with the way they used their influence. Despite this high position in Richard III's government there is very little we know about Francis Lovell personally. He remains, as one of his biographers wrote, 'a shadowy presence'. While it is dangerous to argue from negative evidence, the sparsity of traces Francis Lovell left indicates that he did not abuse his position. The notable exception is the famous doggerel by William Collingbourne which is a very vague, general derogatory remark about Richard III's reign, naming three of his most important supporters, namely  Francis Lovell, William Catesby and Richard Ratcliffe but does not provided specific accusation against either of them.

The reign of Richard III ended just after a little over two years. Francis Lovell almost certainly participated in the climactic battle at Bosworth and was pronounced dead afterwards. He spent a considerable time in hiding and tried, unsuccessfully, to kidnap Henry VII at York in the spring of 1486. In the following year he was among those who supported the rising in favour of Edward, earl of Warwick, though the young man crowned in Dublin was an imposter, nowadays known as Lambert Simnel. Francis Lovell fought at the battle of Stoke but went missing afterwards. Several theories exist about his fate, but it seems most likely that he died soon, possibly from wounds received during the battle. It seems unlikely that he would have not joined in any of the subsequent revolts against Henry VII if he had been still alive.

With his disappearance, the Lovells of Titchmarsh became extinct. Only two years later, when his cousin, Henry Lovell, Lord Morley was killed in the battle of Dixmunde, the family became extinct in the male line. Francis Lovell had been attainted and the attainder was repeated in parliament in 1495. Though it specifically stated that the rights of his wife Anne FitzHugh were not to be affected, several of the estates that had been part of her endowment had already been granted to supporters of Henry VII and it seems unlikely she was able to regain them.

Monika E. Simon, 'The Lovells of Titchmarsh. A Late Medieval Baronial Family (1297-148?)', (unpubl. DPhil Thesis, University of York, 1999).

© Monika E. Simon
© Heraldry Gill Smith, Glossary of Heraldic Terms.

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