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Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovell

Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovell (1454 - 1487(?)), a supporter of Richard III and son of John, 8th Baron Lovell, probably knew Richard from a young age and was to be a life-long friend and supporter of the future king. Lovell was a ward of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, in whose household Richard spent some time. He served as a young man under Richard in the expedition to Scotland in 1480. 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 Protector Richard made him Chief Butler.

As soon as Richard became king (June 1483), Lovell was promoted to the office of Lord Chamberlain. Lovell helped in the suppression of Buckingham’s rebellion (1483), and as one of Richard’s most trusted ministers was gibbeted in Collingbourne’s couplet with Catesby and Ratcliffe:

The catte, the ratte and Lovell our dogge
Rulyth all England under a hogge.

(The 'dogge' here refers to a Lovell family heraldic symbol.)

Lovell had command of the fleet which was to have stopped Henry Tudor’s landing in 1485, but fought for Richard at Bosworth (22 August 1485) and after the battle fled to sanctuary at Colchester. From there he escaped the following year to organise a dangerous revolt in Yorkshire. When that failed he fled to Margaret of Burgundy in Flanders.

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 Stoke on 16 June 1487. He was seen escaping from the battle, but was never afterwards heard of; Bacon relates that according to one report he lived long after in a cave or vault (Henry VII, p. 37, ed. 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. It is supposed that Francis Lovell had hidden himself there and died of starvation.

Lovell married Anne Fitzhugh, who was a niece of Warwick, and thus a first cousin of Richard's queen, Anne Neville.

Collingbourne’s couplet is preserved by Robert Fabyan, Chronicle, p. 672. For the discovery at Minster Lovell see Notes and Queries, 2nd series i. and 5th series x.

Original text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica