LOVELACE, Sir William (1561-1629), of Lovelace Place, Bethersden and Greyfriars, Canterbury, Kent
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Family and Education
bap. 30 Sept. 1561,1 1st s. of William Lovelace† of Bethersden, sjt.-at-law, and 1st w. Anne, da. of Robert Lewes, alderman of Canterbury. educ. ?G. Inn 1580. m. by c.1581, Elizabeth (bur. 3 Dec. 1627), da. of Edward Aucher of Bishopsbourne, Kent, 2s. d.v.p. 1da. d.v.p.2 suc. fa. 1577; kntd. 30 July 1599;3 bur. 12 Oct. 1629.4 sig. Willia[m] Lovelace.
J.p. Kent by 1590-5, 1598-at least 1625;5 commr. Kent sewers, E. Kent by 1605-at least 1628;6 freeman, Canterbury 1612;7 dep. lt. and capt. of militia ft., Canterbury by 1617-at least 1623;8 surveyor of the highways (jt.), Bethersden 1623-5,9 vestryman by 1627;10 commr. subsidy, Canterbury 1624.11
Soldier, army in Ire. by 1599, officer in Anglo-Dutch service by 1602-at least 1606.12
Although the Lovelace family traced its origins to the mid-fifteenth century,13 by 1247 it had settled at Bethersden, in the Weald of Kent, and in 1367 purchased the property which was to become Lovelace Place.14 Two members of the family, possibly brothers, joined Cade’s Rebellion in 1450; another allegedly played a crucial role during the Second Battle of St. Albans (1461) by withdrawing his Yorkist contingent from the fight.15 It was probably this man’s son, Sir Richard Lovelace, who served as marshal of Calais under Henry VII and was knighted after the Battle of Blackheath (1497).16 In 1511 Sir Richard’s estates passed to a collateral branch of the family. Seated near Sittingbourne, in north Kent, its most notable member was Serjeant William Lovelace, who married the daughter of a Canterbury alderman, served as the city’s counsel from 1559 and represented the constituency in Parliament three times under Elizabeth. Although Serjeant Lovelace raised the social standing of his family, obtaining a grant of arms in 1573 on the basis of his descent from Sir Richard,17 his purchase of Canterbury’s St. Lawrence Hospital saddled his eldest son and heir, this Member, with acute financial problems. Claimed by the Crown as concealed land, the hospital apparently cost young Lovelace £800 in fines, and involved him in litigation.18 Lovelace’s financial difficulties were exacerbated as he inherited his estates while under-age. His wardship was sold to the earl of Leicester for £173 6s.8d.19
Ownership of the hospital was not Lovelace’s only legal difficulty. In 1586 Canterbury’s corporation disputed his title to his town house, the Greyfriars. However, the corporation’s case was weak, since it had promised this property and the surrounding land to serjeant Lovelace some years earlier in return for a favour.20 In 1589 it capitulated, and also granted him a messuage in All Saints’ parish, the rent from a second property and the right to build a bridge over the Stour, an important concession as the Greyfriars and its ornamental garden was entirely surrounded by water. In return Lovelace granted the corporation a shop and garden in the city’s High Street. 21 Lovelace also succeeded in his dealings with the dean and chapter of Canterbury who, in 1587, agreed to write off the arrears on his late father’s account as steward of the archbishop’s liberties in return for £50. However, it is not known whether he triumphed in his dispute with the chapter over the right to collect the tithes of St. Paul’s parish, which appears to have been submitted to arbitration.22
Lovelace served in Ireland during the 1590s, receiving his knighthood from the 2nd earl of Essex after the fight at Offaly in 1599. His association with Essex has been offered to explain his temporary removal from Kent’s commission of the peace in July 1595.23 He attended the county’s parliamentary election in September 1601, but apparently remained neutral.24 By 1602 he was serving in an unknown capacity with the English forces in the United Provinces. In the following November he and his son, Capt. William Lovelace, were captured in a supply boat off the Dutch coast. Lovelace was held prisoner while his son was released to raise a ransom of 2,000 gulden (about £180), and an additional sum for the 14 soldiers captured with him.25 Helped by friends, Capt. Lovelace put together a ship’s cargo of beer and other goods to sell in Dunkirk, but though despite procuring a royal passport, the vessel was seized by a Dutch warship and its contents sold as prize. Lovelace’s release in early 1604 was only secured following the intervention of the king, the Privy Council and the lord admiral, who persuaded the States-General to order the receipts of the sale to be paid to Capt. Lovelace.26 On his return to England, Lovelace was granted permission to take extended leave ‘at His Majesty’s instance’.27
Lovelace was licensed to undertake further military service abroad in November 1604.28 He returned to Holland, but again ran into difficulty. Writing to Sir Thomas Edmondes* in August 1605, the English ambassador at The Hague, Sir Ralph Winwood*, noted that ‘I have been pressed again and again to trouble your Lordship with these papers of Sir W. Lovelace’. The matter was apparently not serious, however, as Winwood concluded that Lovelace ‘is much more afraid than I think there is cause’.29 A more pressing problem arose in 1606, when Lovelace’s son stabbed to death an English prostitute in Flushing and was nearly lynched by an angry mob.30 Through strenuous lobbying of the States-General and the governor of the English forces in the cautionary towns, Lord L’Isle (Robert Sidney†), Lovelace obtained a pardon for his son.31
A Sir William Lovelace captained a company of foot in the English army that invaded Jülich-Cleves in 1610. However, this was probably Lovelace’s son, who was knighted in 1609, as a residence certificate indicates that Lovelace himself was present in Canterbury in the summer of 1610.32 Lovelace, now nearly 50 years old, appears to have withdrawn from active military life, although he subsequently served as a deputy-lieutenant and captain of Canterbury’s Trained Band. His retirement was plagued with financial difficulties. In 1611 he negotiated a marriage alliance between his son and the daughter of Sir William Barnes† of Woolwich. In return for a dowry of £1,500, Lovelace pledged to convey most of his land in Bethersden to his son, and to raise money for the purchase of additional property by selling all his woodland. However, he was so indebted that he pocketed the £1,700 raised from the sale of his woods, and though he conveyed several properties to his son these were heavily encumbered. In view of such inadequate provision for his daughter and son-in-law, and realizing that they would inherit massive debts, Barnes took Lovelace to court. In order to try to settle matters, in 1616 Lovelace relinquished possession of the Greyfriars to his principal creditor, his son-in-law, the London Mercer Sir John Collymore, but this did not satisfy Barnes, who learned that Collymore still intended to extend Lovelace’s lands when Lovelace died.33 The affair probably drove a wedge between father and son because in his will of 1622 the younger Lovelace failed to mention his father.34
The prospect of obtaining protection from his creditors may explain why Lovelace sought election to Parliament in 1614. It was clearly he who was returned and not his son, for in 1620 the diarist Thomas Scott* recorded that the Lovelace who had sat in the Commons in 1614 had been ‘a free dweller [of Canterbury] ... and our captain [of militia]’.35 Lovelace played no recorded part in the Parliament, except to be appointed to the committee for the bill to settle the debts of the late Sir Robert Wroth II* (25 May), in which he is not known to have had an interest.36 Lovelace again sought election to Parliament for Canterbury in 1620, when he apparently spent some time in the Fleet,37 and also in 1624, but on neither occasion did he prove successful. During the 1624 election campaign, a Canterbury yeoman named Simon Penny told other voters that Lovelace was unsuitable because he ‘did cross himself before the French or Spanish ambassador’, and that ‘many of the city had popes in their bellies and he did not know, but the captain [Lovelace] might have one in his belly’. Lovelace was so incensed that he reported this slander to the mayor, whose investigations revealed that Lovelace’s reputation as ‘a dangerous man’ in religion had been encouraged by Sir Edwin Sandys*, who supported the zealous Protestant Thomas Scott, on whose behalf Penny had been canvassing.38
Lovelace has been described as a ‘local landowner’ at the time of the 1624 elections, but by then his estate had perhaps been reduced to his house and 30 acres in Bethersden.39 He may have recovered possession of the Greyfriars after the death of Sir John Collymore in 1620, as a certificate of 1628 records that the house was then his residence, while his will of 6 Oct. 1629 refers to ‘my chamber in the Greyfriars’.40 However, Collymore’s widow Mabel may simply have permitted Lovelace, her father, to live with her in the house. In July 1627 Lovelace was listed as a Forced Loan defaulter.41 By 1628 he was in such penury that he was unable to pay Sir Nicholas Tufton* rent arrears of just over 50s. for lands in Bethersden Park.42 He was also forced to borrow £10 from the dean of Canterbury Cathedral, a further £10 from the earl of Cork (in order to repay the dean), and £6 from one mistress Hawkins on the security of some of his household goods, including ‘my crimson bed’.43
Six days after drawing up his will, Lovelace was buried, according to his wishes, in the south chapel in St. Margaret’s, Bethersden. His executor was his daughter-in-law, his son Sir William having been killed at the siege of Groll two years earlier. Among the goods she inherited were portraits of Lovelace and her husband, both of which now hang in the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Lovelace’s bequests were few, his grandson, James Collymore, being offered merely ‘my best beaver hat, all my books, my purple cloth cloak, my hose and doublet belonging thereunto, if he will accept thereof’, and two portraits of his parents.44 None of Lovelace’s immediate descendants sat in Parliament, though a member of the family’s junior branch represented Canterbury after the Restoration.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Andrew Thrush
- 1. Reg. St. Alphaege, Canterbury ed. J.M. Cowper, 2.
- 2. A.J. Pearman, ‘Kentish Fam. of Lovelace’, Arch. Cant. x. 207-8; J. Hall Pleasants, ‘Lovelace Fam. and its connections’, Virg. Mag. of Hist. and Biog. xxviii. 87, 90; GI Admiss.
- 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 97.
- 4. Pearman, 206.
- 5. Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Eliz. ed. J.S. Cockburn, 293; P. Clark, Eng. Prov. Soc. 261; C231/1, f. 54; Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 158.
- 6. Cent. Kent. Stud. S/EK/SO2, p. 80; S/EK/SO3, p. 98.
- 7. Roll of Freemen of City of Canterbury comp. J.M. Cowper, 56.
- 8. HMC 9th Rep. i. 162; Canterbury Cathedral Archives, CC/FA/23, f. 152.
- 9. Bethersden par. recs. CW/2, f. 121v.
- 10. Pearman, 204.
- 11. C212/22/23.
- 12. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, ii. 593, 332.
- 13. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 125-6.
- 14. G.F. Rombach, Ped. of Col. Richard Lovelace, 1; Pearman, 185.
- 15. Pearman, 187, 190.
- 16. Ibid. 192-3, conflates the two. See Rombach, 1.
- 17. Grantees of Arms ed. W.H. Rylands (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 158.
- 18. Pearman, 201, 203; HP Commons, 1558-1603, ‘William Lovelace’; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 286.
- 19. WARD 9/316, f. 10v.
- 20. C2/Eliz/C11/52.
- 21. Canterbury Cathedral Archives, CC/PA/2, pp. 23-4, 124. For the location and layout of Greyfriars, see Canterbury Cathedral Archives, MAP 123. The medieval building which straddles the Stour, commonly but mistakenly referred to as Greyfriars, was probably an outbuilding.
- 22. Canterbury Cathedral Archives, DCc/CA3, ff. 66, 73.
- 23. Clark, 261.
- 24. Add. 34828, f. 15.
- 25. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, iii. 74.
- 26. Resolutiën der Staten-Generaal 1604-6 ed. H.H.P. Rijperman, 88. We are grateful to George Jones for making a translation.
- 27. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, iii. 85; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 78.
- 28. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 171.
- 29. Stowe 168, f. 117v.
- 30. HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, iii. 329-30.
- 31. Ibid. 332, 334-5.
- 32. E351/275, unfol.; Shaw, ii. 148; E115/255/22.
- 33. C78/216/12; 78/277/9.
- 34. Cent. Kent. Stud. PRC32/49, f. 184r-v.
- 35. Cent. Kent. Stud. U951/Z17/2.
- 36. CJ, i. 496a.
- 37. Cent. Kent. Stud. U951/Z17/2; C2/Jas.I/B5/43.
- 38. SP14/158/67.
- 39. P. Clark, ‘Thomas Scott and the growth of urban opposition to the early Stuart regime’, HJ, xxi. 12; Pleasants, 179.
- 40. E115/247/118; Cent. Kent. Stud. PRC32/49, f. 184. Collymore’s will sheds no light on the matter, PRC32/47, f. 97.
- 41. SP16/73/30.
- 42. Cent. Kent. Stud. U445/M15, unfol.
- 43. Lismore Pprs. (ser. 1) ed. A.B. Grosart, ii. 292; Cent. Kent. Stud. PRC32/49, f. 184.
- 44. Cent. Kent. Stud. PRC32/49, f. 184; Pleasants, 181.