The Lovells of Titchmarsh

From Ivry-la-Bataille to the Battle of Stoke
The Lovells of Titchmarsh

Titchmarsh Castle

Old Warour Castle

Minster Lovell Hall

Other Lovell Castles

Francis, Viscount Lovell and Sir Thomas Lovell
From 1995 to 1999 I was  the Lovells of Titchmarsh, a late medieval baronial family at the University of York for my DPhil thesis. The Lovells of TItchmarsh are not widely known and the one man who has achieved some fame, Francis, Viscount Lovell, close ally and friend of Richard III, is at the same time the last Lord Lovell of Titchmarsh. With his disappearance after the battle of Stoke in 1487 the main line of the family died out. Despite their relative obscurity, the Lovells were a fascinating subject to study. For four hundred years they were deeply involved of 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?

Francis Lovell as
Protagonist in Historic


William de Breteuil

The Great Lord Lovell?

Like most aristocratic families in post-1066 England, the Lovell family was 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). He 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 who first received lands in England, notably in Southmere and Docking (Norfolk).

William Lovell I probably divided his estates between his eldest son, Waleran d'Ivry, who inherited the family's Norman possessions, and William Lovell II, whose share encompassed 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. Only a few details are known about the life of 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. He later served King Henry III as Justice of the Jews and later became 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 closely 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 to the family. John Lovell II helped raise money for the crusade of the Lord Edward, soon to be Edward I, and made preparations to join the crusade. Though there is no record that confirms he participated in the campaign, his complete absence from government record for several years makes it more than likely.

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
yet and there was considerable variation in the men who were summoned from one parliament to the next. Though John Lovell III is the first Lord Lovell, this did not fundamentally 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.

Titchmarsh Castle

The grounds where Titchmarsh Castle once stood

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 on 24 June 1314 and his younger brother was captured.

Maud Burnell soon married the widowed Sir John Haudlo. Her brother Edward had died and Maud had inherited the considerable Burnell estates. She and her second husband arranged for most of the inheritance to pass to their son, Nicolas Burnell. Only after the death of Nicolas Burnell's son Hugh Burnell without male hairs, the bulk of the Burnell estates passed to William Lovell III.

Acton Burnell Castle

Acton Burnell Castle - part of Maud Burnell's large inheritance

Aymer de Valence became the guardian of John Lovell IV's posthumous son, John Lovell V. After Aymer de Valence's 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. His success had 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'. His marriage therefore created a relationship, albeit an indirect one, with the royal family. The Holland estates were very large 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 styled himself 'Lord Lovell and Lord Holland'.

Coat-of-arms of the Holland family

The coat of arms of the Holland family

The second reason for his success was John Lovell VII's heavy involvement in 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. Until shortly before his death in 1408 John Lovell continued to work at the centre of government. 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).

Old Wardour Castle

Wardour Castle

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 an important courtier in 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 seized. Nonetheless, as the sole heiress of the Bryan estates 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.

Minster Lovell Hall

Minster Lovell Hall - favourite residence of William Lovell III

William Lovell III was underage at the time of his father death and his marriage was granted to Henry FitzHugh of Ravensworth. Henry FitzHugh probably 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 his brother-in-law 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 over 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. However, he made his peace with the new king, Edward IV. He died in 1465, leaving a minor son and two daughters.

Tomb of John Lovell IX

Tomb of John Lovell IX in St Kenelm's Church

In a startling break from family tradition, John Lovell IX's son and heir was not another 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, their second daughter and only son were given very different names. Their son was called neither John nor William, nor even Robert or Thomas, the names often given to younger son, but Francis. Their second daughter was named Frideswide. St Frideswide was one of the notable saints of Oxford, where an Augustinian priory stood (now Christchurch Cathedral).

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 1480s Francis had become one of Richard's close companions and participated in several 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 enough to support the status, his friendship with Richard, duke of Gloucester was the main reason for his elevation into the titled ranks of the nobility.

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.

Francis Lovell's coat of arms
Coat of arms of viscount Francis Lovell, Knight of the Garter

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 was also 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 by 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. Richard III also made Francis Lovell a Knight of the Garter.

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 wrongly counted among the dead in the immediate aftermath. 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. The identity of this young man is unknown but he is generally believed to have been an imposter, known to us as Lambert Simnel. Francis Lovell fought at the battle of Stoke but went missing afterwards. Several theories exist about his fate. The last official record is a safe conduct James IV granted to him in 1488. What happened to him after this date is unknown.

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, the estates that had been part of her endowment had already been granted to supporters of Henry VII and there is no evidence that she was able to regain any of them. The date of Anne FitzHugh's death is not known.

For a more detailed discussion of the fascinating history of the Lovells of Titchmarsh and beyond see also my book: From Robber Barons to Courtiers. The Changing World of the Lovells of Titchmarsh (Pen & Sword Books, 2021).

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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