22 Fantastic Facts why John Lovell VII was Called the Great Lord Lovell The Lovells of Titchmarsh

The Lovells of Titchmarsh

Titchmarsh Castle

Minster Lovell Hall

Old Warour Castle

Other Lovell Castles

Francis, Viscount Lovell and Sir Thomas Lovell

Did Francis Lovell have Children?
Francis Lovell is without a doubt the most famous Lord Lovell. He undoubtedly deserves this fame. His great-great-grandfather, John Lovell VII (c. 1342-1408), was a fascinating person as well. Not only did he live in interesting times, he was deeply involved in the royal court and experienced some ups and downs caused by the political upheavals of the last quarter of the fourteenth century. During the first parliament he attended, Peter de la Mare became the first speaker of the Commons. John Lovell was there at the Merciless Parliament. He went on campaign in France, Scotland and Ireland, survived the usurpation of Henry IV, retaining his seat on the royal council, and died at the grand age of (about) 66.

Here are some fascinating facts why I think that John Lovell VII deserves to be better known.

  1. He was the first baron to use a double-barrelled title, Lord Lovell and Holland.

  2. Speaking of which, he married Maud Holland, heiress to the Holland barony. Even better, her father was the cousin of Thomas and John Holland, Richard II's half-brothers.

  3. John Lovell also combined the Lovell and Holland coats of arms. He, his wife and children used this on their seals. This coat of arms can also be found as decoration, for example in the cloister and chapter house of Canterbury Cathedral. 

  4. Though he came of age in 1363 he received his first summons to parliament only after his wife inherited her grandfather's lands in 1373. Coincidence? I think not.

  5. Neither his father, another John Lovell, nor his elder brother - who was also called John - was summoned to parliament. He therefore should be referred to as the third Lord Lovell rather than the fifth, which is usually the case, but this is getting really technical. What it means is that he was something of a newcomer even though his family goes back to the eleventh century. 

  6. John Lovell had the knack for getting along with just about everybody, Edmund Mortimer and William Latimer, Richard II and Thomas Arundel. A skill that certainly helped him come through the turbulent episodes of Richard II's reign unscathed.

  7. In 1385, John Lovell and Thomas Morley were fighting about the right to a coat of arms before the Court of Chivalry. Two facts makes this interesting: It was not the Lovell arms but those claimed by the Burnells. (John Lovell's grandmother Maud Burnell had inherited the Burnell barony but the bulk of the estates and the name had gone to her son from her second marriage.) And, which is why I say claimed, about forty years earlier, during the siege of Calais, Nicholas Burnell and Robert Morley were quarrelling about the same thing. Nicholas Burnell had apparently lost the argument.

  8. John Lovell was the victim of an administrative error when in 1388 some of his lands were impounded by the crown, though the John Lovell who had not paid his inheritance tax was another John Lovell altogether.

  9. John Lovell was among the fifteen men and women the Lords Appellant demanded to be expelled from court in 1388. John Lovell bounced back from this setback with his usual aplomb and was back at court within a few months and helped sell the lands of those who had not survived the Merciless Parliament or had been dispossessed by it.

  10. In 1391, several 'evildoers' tried to assassinate John Lovell. - It is worthwhile to mention that his father may have been murdered in 1347. Two years later, in 1349, ‘many evildoers indicted … of the death of John Lovel’ were in the goal in Norwich. However, there were too many Lovells around to be certain, this John Lovell was John Lovells father. But it is possible.

  11. John Lovell himself was also not averse to use force to persuade his opponents to give him what he wanted, though, of course, he always strenuously denied it.

  12. He built Wardour Castle.

  13. During the tumultuous days of August 1399, the Vita Ricardi Secundi tells us, Edward, duke of Aumale, Thomas Holland, duke of Surrey, Thomas Percy, earl of Worcester, John Lovell, and John Stanley arrived in Chester and put themselves in Henry Bolingbroke's mercy. What motivated them to leave Richard II at this point and why they thought it was necessary to appeal to Henry Bolingbroke is something I dearly would like to know. Though they were, as Chris Given-Wilson puts it, 'good royalist company',[1] they quickly arranged themselves with the new regime. Except Thomas Holland, but it is highly unlikely that he actually left Richard already at this stage.

  14. He was called up as a character witness by Edward, Duke of Aumale (and Richard II's cousin) in the first parliament of Henry IV in October 1399 to assure the new king that he had always opposed Richard II's treatment of Henry. Unfortunately what John Lovell said about this is not recorded.

  15. In 1402, John Lovell was one of the four men considered to become tutor of the future Henry V. In the end, the job went to Thomas Percy.

  16. He is the only other Lovell next to Francis Lovell who was a Knight of the Garter. He is one of only three Lovells who has an entry in the Oxford National Dictionary of Biography. Next to him, Francis Lovell has one, naturally, and Philip Lovell (d. 1258), administrator and royal councillor. 

  17. His second son Robert was one of the future Henry V's buddies. A friendship that ruined him, as he never recovered the money he had lent the prince and died bankrupt. Thank goodness his wife was rich.

  18. One of John Lovell's servants broke into the treasury of receipt in 1403 to steal documents relating to a land transaction back in the 1330s.

  19. He was buried in the Hospital of St. James and St. John Brackley (Northants.). The hospital had no prior connections with the Lovell family, but Maud Holland's father and grandfather were buried there.

  20. He is one of the few people of this time of whom a portrait exists.

  21. On the portrait he looks remarkably like Chaucer. (It's the beard.)

  22. Already in the fifteenth century John Lovell is referred to as Lord John Lovell who was called 'the grete lord Lovell'. At least in a genealogy of his family compiled for the use of Sir John Fastolf. ('vocat.' is past tense, right?) 

John Lovell VII began his career as a courtier and administrator in the last years of the reign of Edward III, lived through the partly turbulent reign of Richard II, survived the usurpation of Henry IV without any loss of status, and retired only when old age demanded it. As a member of the ruling elite his career was influenced by these events and, to a smaller extent, he influenced these events himself. Whether that is enough for him to warrant the sobriquet 'the Great' I doubt, but then I generally dislike the term. In the case of John Lovell VII it can be said that he was 'great' compared to both his predecessors and his successors as Lord Lovell. It was only his great-great-grandson Francis Lovell who engaged in royal politics as closely as John Lovell VII did. Francis Lovell rose even higher in status at the royal court, but unlike his forefather he did not have the flexibility or perhaps the inclination to adapt to the new regime after 1485. Just as John Lovell survival through the upheavals of his time can be seen as showing him either to be a ruthless opportunist or a man "with the wit and judgement to adjust to the dramatic shifts in political fortunes that marked the period"[2], so Francis Lovell's insistent refusal to accept the new regime can be seen as either a commendable act of loyalty or as bullheaded foolishness that cost him his life and his family its fortunes.

I like to thank Kate Wilkinson for giving me the idea to write a listicle about John Lovell VII and why I think he is such an interesting person to research.

[1] Chris Given-Wilson, 'Richard II and the Higher Nobility', in: Goodman, A. and Gillespie, J. L. (eds.), Richard II: The Art of Kingship (Oxford 1999), p. 115, n. 32.
[2] W. Mark Ormrod, Edward III (Totton, 2013), p. 24. (Talking about a different period altogether, but this holds true for John Lovell's time as well.)

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.

e-mail: info@monikasimon.eu
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