It was a beautiful afternoon on which to visit an ancient medieval ruin in the middle of England.
Minster Lovell was once home to Viscount Lovell, one of England’s richest barons.
But what I saw, when I started to take a few photographs, had the hairs rising on the back of my neck.
Lovell was Richard lll’s Lord Chamberlain , who, because of the white dog emblem on his shield was often called “The King’s Dogge.” After fighting for Richard at Bosworth, he fled to the sanctuary of Colchester Abbey but didn’t give up hope of unseating Henry Tudor and restoring a Yorkist king. Together with the Earl of Lincoln, the pretender Lambert Simnel and sundry European and Irish mercenaries he faced Henry Vll at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487. The rebels lost and Lovell was last seen alive, fleeing the pursuing royal army, by swimming his horse across the River Trent. The story moves on 221 years to Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire. Workmen repairing a chimney in 1708 broke down a wall and discovered a hidden room – clearly a kind of priest hole. In it was a table and chair. And sitting at the table was a skeleton. Now nobody knows whether it was indeed Lord Lovell, trapped there because his helper had died, or met with an accident or been arrested. But what stunned me when I visited the ruins this summer and started taking photographs, I was this gruesome gargoyle. Whether it was created before his death or not, it seems to vividly sum up Lovell’s awful destiny. A man trapped forever in a cold, stone, windowless cell, knowing his lonely fate would be a long, lingering starvation.
Rest in peace, Lord Lovell.
Tony Boullemier is the author of the Second Empire novel Leonie and the last Napoleon and The Little Book of Monarchs – “Welcomed in schools across the kingdom” www.boullemierbooks.co.uk