Francis Lovell, 1st Viscount Lovell

Arms of Sir Francis Lovell, 1st Viscount Lovell, KG

Francis Lovell, 9th Baron Lovell, 6th Baron Holand, later 1st Viscount Lovell KG (1456 – after 1488) was an English nobleman who was an ally of King Richard III of England. Sir William Catesby, Sir Richard Ratcliffe and he were Richard's closest supporters, famously called "the Cat, the Rat and Lovell our dog" in an anti-Ricardian squib. In addition to being an ally, Lovell was Richard`s best friend.[1]

A Yorkist loyalist, Lovell continued the Yorkist resistance into the early years of Henry VII's reign, but his fate is unknown after he disappeared following the final defeat of the Yorkists at the Battle of Stoke (1487).

Early life

Francis was the son of John Lovell, 8th Baron Lovell and Joan Beaumont, daughter of John Beaumont, 1st Viscount Beaumont. When his father died, the either seven- or nine-year-old [2] Francis inherited the titles of Baron Lovell and Baron Holand. He became a ward of Edward IV of England, who gave him into the charge of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick,[3] where Edward's youngest brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester also spent some time. It was there that the two young men first formed their close association.[4]

By 1466, he was married to Anne FitzHugh,[2] daughter of Henry FitzHugh, 5th Baron FitzHugh. FitzHugh had married the Earl of Warwick's sister Alice Neville and supported Warwick's rebellion against Edward IV in 1470. As the pardon issued to Henry, Lord FitzHugh includes Francis Lovell it can be assumed that Francis lived with his father-in-law at this time.[5] When Edward IV had re-established his rule in 1471, he granted the wardship of Francis Lovell, who was still underage, to his sister Elizabeth and her husband John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk.[6]

Upon the death of his paternal grandmother Alice Deincourt in 1474 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.[4]

Follower of Richard III

Lovell became a follower of his friend, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to whom he was also linked through their respective marriages: his wife, Anne (aka Agnes) FitzHugh was the first cousin of Richard's wife Anne Neville. Lovell served 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 and constable of Wallingford Castle.[7]

Richard acceded to the throne on 26 June 1483; at his coronation on 6 July 1483, Francis Lovell bore the third sword of state.[8] Lovell was promoted to the office of Lord Chamberlain, replacing the late William Hastings,[9] and was made a Knight of the Garter in 1483.[10] Lovell helped in the suppression of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion (1483).

In July 1484, William Collingbourne, a Tudor agent, tacked up a lampooning poem to St. Paul's Cathedral, which mentions Lovell, whose family's heraldic symbol was a silver wolf,[11][12] among the three aides to King Richard, whose emblem was a white boar:

The Catte, the Ratte and Lovell our dogge rulyth all Englande under a hogge.

The poem was interpolated into Laurence Olivier's film Richard III, a screen adaptation of William Shakespeare's play.

Bosworth and aftermath

In June 1485, Lovell was appointed to guard the south coast to prevent the landing of Henry Tudor.[13] However, Henry Tudor landed in Wales near Milford Haven avoiding the stronger defences of the English south coast. While no chronicle account of the battle mentions Lovell, it seems certain that he fought for Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field (22 August 1485). Two reports written in the immediate aftermath of the battle list him as among the fallen.[14] In fact, he escaped. After the battle, Lovell fled to sanctuary at Colchester and from there escaped the following year to organise a revolt in Yorkshire that attempted to seize Henry VII. After the failure of this plot, Lovell tried seizing Henry VII in York by himself,[15] and after an anewed failure, then first joined fellow rebels at Furness Falls and later fled to Margaret of York in Flanders.[16]

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 and seems to have eventually fled to Scotland, where on 19 June 1488 James IV issued a safe conduct to him.[13] There is no indication he ever arrived or lived in Scotland, and no further information about Lovell's fate.[17]

Francis Lovell's wife, Anne Fitzhugh, was granted an annuity of £20 in 1489.[18] She was still alive in 1495; the date of her death is not known.[19]

Later reports about his death

Plaque to Francis Lovell at Mottram in Longendale .

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 and it was supposed that Lovell had hidden himself there and died of starvation.[20] While this story is very picturesque, it seems unlikely to be true. Francis Lovell had hardly spent any time at Minster Lovell and would not have a faithful servant there who would hide him for years. Additionally, the manor had been granted to Jasper Tudor, Henry Tudor's uncle,[21] and was therefore hardly an appropriate hiding place for Francis Lovell.

In the Nottinghamshire History a reference is made to the Transactions of the Thoroton Society and the Society's visit on 30 June 1903 to All Hallows Church, Gedling, Nottinghamshire. It notes that there were only three pre-Reformation sepulchral slabs

The third slab, an alabaster one, lies at the south end of the altar-table. A few lines in black wax constitute the remains of an inscription and effigy of a knight of the 15th century. The late Mr. Lawson Lowe, of Chepstow, said in December, 1882, that when he visited the church in 1865, the date could be made out, and he thought the effigy might be that of a knight who fought at the battle of Stoke, near Newark, in 1487.

Gedling Church and Stoke Bardolph Castle, the ancestral home of Jane Bardolph who was Francis's mother, lie just a few miles away from the battlefield of Stoke. It is feasible that Francis attempted to escape across the river at the Fiskerton shallows but was either killed or died later of his wounds, his body being buried under the flagstones in the Gedling Church in order to prevent the certain fate of them being 'hung, drawn and quartered'.[22]



  1. Ross, p.159
  2. 1 2 Rosemary Horrox, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1467-1477, p. 51.
  4. 1 2 Ross, p. 49.
  5. A.J. Pollard, "Lord FitzHugh’s Rising in 1470", BIHR 53 (1979), p. 170-71.
  6. Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1467-1477, pp. 261, 312.
  7. R. Horrox and P. Hammond (eds.), British Library Manuscript. 433 (Gloucester, 1983), vol. iii, p. 3-4.
  8. Anne F. Sutton and P.W. Hammond (eds.), The Coronation of Richard III. The Extant Documents (Gloucester, 1983), p. 37.
  9. Rosemary Horrox, Richard III, p. 249.
  10. Complete Peerage, vol. ii, Appendix B.
  11. Robert Fabyan, The New Chronicles of England and France in to Parts (London, 1811), p. 672.
  12. Fields, Bertram. Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes. 2000
  13. 1 2 Horrox, Rosemary. "Lovell, Francis". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/17058. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  14. M. Bennett, The Battle of Bosworth (Stroud, 1993), p. 155.
  15. Roger Lockyer, Andrew Trush, "Henry VII"
  16. J. Williams, 'The Political Career of Francis Viscount Lovell. 1456-?', The Ricardian 8 (1990), pp. 393-94.
  17. Joanna M. Williams, "The Political Career of Francis Viscount Lovell (1456-?)"
  18. J.G. Gairdner (ed.), Letters and Papers of the Reign of Richard III and Henry VII, RS 24 (London, 1861), vol. ii, p. 71.
  19. J. Williams, p. 397.
  20. For the discovery at Minster Lovell see Notes and Queries, 2nd series i. and 5th series x; F. Peck, Memoirs of Oliver Cromwell, p. 87, cited after A.J. Taylor, Minster Lovell Hall. Oxfordshire (English Heritage)(1958), p. 19.
  21. Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1485-1494, p. 64.
Political offices
Preceded by
William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings
Lord Chamberlain
Succeeded by
William Stanley
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