This was an accidental discovery on a recent visit to the Oxford area. A very picturesque manor house ruin. Built in the 1430s by William, Baron Lovell, following his return from the French Wars. At the time, one of the richest men in England.
His son John was a prominent Lancastrian supporter of Henry VI and appointed Master Forester of Wychwood royal forest. However his son, Francis, was a Yorkist, created Viscount Lovell by Richard III in 1483. Francis had been a ward of Edward IV after the death of his father. Living in the household of the Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville, the Kingmaker. This is probably where he first encountered the King’s younger brother, Richard. During the second reign of Edward, his wardship was transferred to John de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk.
Francis became Chief Butler and Constable of Wallingford Castle under the patronage of his mentor Richard of Gloucester. At the coronation of Richard III, Francis carried the third sword of state. He was then promoted to the post of Lord Chamberlain and made a Knight of the Garter.
As one of Richard’s closest allies, he was targeted in a poem posted by a Tudor agent in St Paul’s Cathedral in July 1484:
‘The Catte. the Ratte and Lovell, our dogge, Ruleth all Englande under a hogge’
The Cat being Sir William Catesby and the Rat, Sir Richard Ratcliffe.
Following Bosworth, Lovell fled to hiding in Colchester and then went to Yorkshire to lead a revolt against Henry VII. When this was put down he escaped to the Netherlands and then to Ireland with John de la Pole to support the Lambert Simnel claim to the throne. Defeated at the Battle of East Stoke in June 1487, he escaped again….. but where did he go?
Minster Lovell had been granted to Jasper Tudor, and Francis had spent very little of his childhood here. However there is one story, that in 1708 a secret vault was discovered in the house. It contained the skeleton of a man seated at a table……..