The Lovells of Titchmarsh are an interesting example of an English Medieval family that emerged from the Norman conquest and survived for almost five centuries in England, slowly rising in wealth and influence, finally rising to national prominence during the War of the Roses, and in particular under Richard III, before dying out in the male line early in the Tudor period.
In the early chapters the author does a good example of explaining why it can be so difficult to trace this sort of relatively obscure family. Mentions of them are fairly scarce, and even when someone with the right name does turn up it isn’t always possible to tell which John Lovell the document refers to. Many of the early wives in the Lovell family are only known by their first name, making their true identities something of a mystery. Later on the wives and daughters of the family can be indentified with more certainty, and an excellent chapter is devoted to them. After the end of the male line of the Lovells their story is continued through their daughters, bringing us to Jane Parker, who was caught up in the fall of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, and was executed for her part in the second of those tragedies.
We start with a look at the Lovells’s immediate ancestors in Normandy, who emerge as a rather bloodthirsty bunch, prone to using military force to try and get their way in the politics of the Duchy. The family gained estates in England about sixty years after the Conquest, but after the death of William Lovell I in c.1166-1170 the family estates were split, with the English lands going to his younger son William II. This created the English branch that most of the rest of the book follows. At first they were a fairly minor family, but their survival meant that they slowly gained in wealth as they began to accumulate new estates from their wives, eventually claiming a series of baronies. The most famous member of the family (and also one of the last in the male line) was Francis Lovell, 9th Baron Lovell and 6th Baron Holand, who was made 1st Viscount Lovell by Richard III and who also held the baronies of Deincourt, Grey of Rotherfield and Bedale. Francis was also one of Richard III’s most loyal supporters, never attempting to make peace with Henry VII, and disappearing after the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487. After the male line died out some of the estates passed to Henry Parker, and his daughter Jane became a prominent member of the court of Henry VIII. However this was a dangerous environment, and Jane ended up being involved in the fall of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, and was executed for her part in the second affair.
For most of the time the Lovells managed to avoid these dangers, and were a mid ranking gentry family, serving in local government, playing their expected role in Royal warfare and generally marrying well. Their main achievement (by the standards of the time) was to survive in the male line for so long, giving their estates a high level of continuity and allowing their slow but largely steady rise to the edge of the peerage. That isn’t to say that the family history was an unbroken series of increasing power – some members of the family were more promenant than their heirs, and the examination of why is a key part of the story. These less dramatic lives are at the heart of the book, allowing us to trace the history of a mid-ranking medieval family though several hundred years of Norman and English history.
1 – The Lords of Breval, the Castle of Ivry and the Profits of Rebellion
2 – The First Lovells in England
3 – Law and Connections
4 – The Profits and Perils of Service
5 – Luck, Service and Opportunism
6 – Family Tradition and Individual Choices
7 – Wives, Widows and Daughters
8 – The Wars of the Roses
9 – Beyond the Lovells of Titchmarsh
Author: Monika E Simon
Publisher: Pen & Sword History