LOVELACE, William (d.1577), of Bethersden, nr. Ashford and Canterbury, Kent.
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Family and Education
1st s. of William Lovelace by Alice Stevens, wid. of one Shawe. educ. G. Inn 1548, called 1551. m. (1) Anne, da. of Robert Lewis†, alderman of Canterbury, 2s. 1da.; (2) Mary, da. of Sir Thomas White of South Warnborough, Hants, wid. of Thomas Caryll, 1da. suc. fa. 1540.2
Counsel to Cinque Ports 1557, to Canterbury 1559, to Faversham by 1564; j.p. Kent from 1561, q. from 1564, many other counties from c.1573; reader, G. Inn 1562, 1567; serjeant-at-law by 1567; justice of assize by Dec. 1571.3
Lovelaces were living at Bethersden as early as the fourteenth century, and Lovelace used the proceeds of his legal career to buy more land in his county. At his death he held the manor of Lydden Court near Sandwich as well as property in Bethersden, Chartham, Smarden and Newnham. In Canterbury he possessed the house and site of the Grey Friars and a large house in the parish of St. Alphage. He also bought the hospital of St. Lawrence outside the city, part of which was claimed by the Crown as concealed land.
His parents died when he was very young, and his father’s will did not allow him to inherit the family property until he was 26. By that time he was probably already a barrister and practicing lawyer. He may have been the ‘Mr. Lovelles’ who in November 1554 attended Lord Cobham at Rochester when Cardinal Pole returned to England, but apart from his appointment as legal counsel to the Cinque Ports in 1557, no references have been found to him before Elizabeth’s reign.
In 1559 he was appointed to the ecclesiastical commission which visited the south-western dioceses, covering, according to Bishop Jewel, about 700 miles. During the next few years he was active mainly in Kent. He wrote the detailed reports for the commissioners who in the autumn of 1561 decided that £2,000 was needed to repair Rochester bridge, and was one of the first to pay his assessment of £5 towards the project. At Canterbury and Faversham he seems to have been a popular adviser: in 1564 or 1565 the Faversham corporation gave him a dinner ‘for his aid given by his counsel unto the town’, and in addition to his annual fee of £2 he received presents of sugar and wine. Canterbury, although here the borough authorities had more great men to ‘gratify’, sent him porpoises and other gifts of food at various times. The corporation’s subscription to the Act of Uniformity in 1569 stated that they were acting ‘by the advice of their counsel, Serjeant Lovelace’.4
The Cinque Ports during Elizabeth’s reign provided their lawyers with plenty of work. Letters from Lovelace survive about a number of their disputes and claims to ancient privileges. In February 1571, he, Roger Manwood and John Jeffrey gave their opinion that the Cinque Ports’ charters exempted the inhabitants from the payment of loans by privy seal; four years later he exerted himself to get favourable terms for the Ports in a quarrel with the city of London; and, probably about the same time, he joined the lieutenant of Dover castle and other commissioners in examining new ordinances drawn up by the borough of Rye. In all these matters he acted in conjunction with the lord warden, Lord Cobham, but when in 1573 differences developed between Cobham and the Ports, Lovelace wrote a tactful letter advising the town authorities to submit—describing himself ‘as one that for your yearly fee [originally 20s. but recently increased to 40s.] ought to respect your doings’; he suggested that a guestling or assembly should be called to discuss the matter. Seeing that it would be impossible to further their suits in the courts unless Cobham gave his support, Lovelace hoped that his clients would take his writing in good part.
After serving for some time as justice of assize, mainly in the south and west of England, it is clear that in 1572 Lovelace expected early promotion to the bench. For some reason this was not forthcoming. In fact his career was prejudiced by his unsuccessful rivalry with Manwood, who took a leading part in the attacks on his title to St. Lawrence’s hospital, and after Lovelace’s death continued the case against his son, making a personal profit of £600 from the final award. Still, as the two leading Kent lawyers of the day they co-operated on a number of important commissions and at Archbishop Parker’s funeral in June 1575 they walked together as mourners.5
Lovelace was an active Member of Parliament. In 1566 he was appointed to two committees to consider a proviso to the bill concerning bishops (7 Nov.) and the Lords’ amendments to the bill concerning informers (19 Dec.). While speaking in the subsidy debate on 7 Apr. 1571, arguing ‘that every loyal subject ought to yield to the relief of the prince and that without any condition or limitation’, Lovelace took the opportunity to propose three reforms:
First, the abuse of purveyors, wherein he had to desire the Council and the masters of the Household to consider of it ... and in his opinion it should not be amiss to take away the purveyors, and to limit every county to a proportionable rate, so should her Majesty be better served, and the commons eased.
His other two proposals referred to the reform of the Exchequer. He was appointed to the subsidy committee on 7 Apr. A week later, when the House was debating Carleton’s bill about religion, Lovelace intervened to point out that judges were unable to deal successfully with cases involving clerical dispensations and licences for non-residence, since
by the ancient laws of the realm and by order the certificate of the bishop is to be expected, who whether he will certify against himself or his own doings, it is not to be doubted that he will not. And so the whole travail in making of the law is nothing.
On 19 Apr. 1571 the bill against usury was before the House. Lovelace condemned usury and covetousness as ‘these great evils to the which man of his nature is born and made prone and too apt’, but disliked the general nature of the bill and the severity of the proposed penalties.
Withal, he added, that to prohibit the ill of covetousness in generality were vain, void and frivolous, since that the speech and the act itself is indefinite, comprehending all kind of our actions and doings ... When we may not reach to the best, farthest and uttermost, we must do as we may say, by degrees, as to say there shall be no sleight or deceit in making of this kind or that kind of wares, that the husbandman shall till his arable land, he shall not keep above such a number of sheep, that there shall be no forestalling, regrating, etc. and this in particularity ... whereupon he concluded that there should be degrees in the punishment of usury, as he that should take so much to lose or be punished thus, he that should take more more deeply.
His committee work in 1571 included topics such as returns (6 Apr.), fraudulent conveyances (11 Apr.), the order of business (21, 26 Apr.), vagabonds (23 Apr.) and respite of homage (27 Apr., 2, 17 May).
On 20 May 1572 Lovelace spoke on the bill against vagabonds and was appointed to the committee on 22 May:
Of all people vagabonds the worst. Impiety to give them any thing. They have such devices to deceive men, and their clamours be so great, as it moveth many to pity them, and yet most of them none other but thieves.
He extolled the example of Worcestershire, where no vagabond had been brought before the j.p.s at the last assizes although the county was well populated:
This there brought about especially by the appointing one special person to search for them. He goeth to all fairs and markets, where if he find any he carrieth them to the justices at his own costs and charges; he seeth that they receive ... punishment; and at his like costs and charges seeth them placed according to the statute, and findeth means that they be from time to time set on work sometimes by one and sometimes by another. And for the same hath a competent living allowed him in the shire. And so concludeth that he wisheth the like provision to be made in this statute.
On 3 June 1572 Lovelace spoke in support of the bill against fraudulent conveyances, moved to speak, he said, by ‘the number of clients which come to him, being greatly endangered and almost undone hereby’. He was appointed to the committee the same day. On 28 May he was named to committees concerning recoveries, and Mary Queen of Scots. In a discussion about a certain clause in the bill against the Queen of Scots (7 June), he reminded the House that the words of the clause were ‘only to be considered according to the lawyers’ phrase and not to any logical sense’.
During the 1576 session Lovelace focused all his attention on committee work, and no speeches have been found in his name. His committees included the following topics, mostly of a legal nature: the subsidy (10 Feb.), fines and recoveries (13 Feb., 7 Mar.), bastardy (15 Feb.), jeofails (15 Feb.), privilege cases (16, 28 Feb.), sheriffs (18 Feb.), the butlerage and prizage of wines (21 Feb.), the county palatine of Chester (25 Feb.), the confirmation of letters patent (25 Feb.), William Isley’s debts (27 Feb.), trials by juries (28 Feb.), cloth and clothiers (1, 9 Mar.), the inning of salt marshes (6 Mar.), benefit of clergy (7 Mar.), collateral warranties (7 Mar.), fraudulent conveyances (8 Mar.) and the justices of the Queen’s forests (8 Mar.).6
He was on circuit in the summer of 1576, and in good health in the July of that year. He died in London 23 Mar. 1577, evidently not from natural causes, as in May Henry Binneman bought a licence to print The Brief Course of the Accidents of the Death of Mr. Serjeant Lovelace, no copy of which has been found. The will, which left £200 to each of his two daughters and a £60 annuity to the widow, divided Lovelace’s non-entailed lands between his two sons William and Thomas, both of whom were under age. In addition to generous legacies to servants, £6 13s. 4d. was to be distributed to the poor of Canterbury at his burial. Two local ‘hospitals’ or almshouses also benefited. A codicil set up a special trust to settle heavy debts, probably arising from the purchase of the St. Lawrence property. Lovelace was buried, as he asked, in the nave of Canterbury cathedral: his effigy there, showing him in lawyer’s robes, remained until the beginning of this century.7
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
- 2. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 125-6; (lxxiv), 65; (lxxv)l 64; Arch. Cant. x. 189, 197; DNB (Lovelace, Richard); Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 82.
- 3. Indexes of Great White Bk. and of Black Bk. of the Cinque Ports, 253; Cantenbury burmote bk. 1542—78, f. 127; Arch. Cant. x. 198 n; Dugdale, Origines Juridiciales, 294; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, p. 156.
- 4. DNB (Lovelace, Richard); Lansd. 44, f. 40 seq.; C142/181/121; Arch. Cant. x. 197, 198, 200-2; xvii. 217-27; CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 348; 1581-90, p. 286; APC, v. 83; Strype, Annals, i(1), p. 248; Zurich Letters, ser. 1 (Parker Soc.), 39; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 1, 156.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1547-80, p. 407; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 25, 38-45 passim; Cinque Ports black bk. ff. 3, 5; Strype, Parker, ii. 168, 433; Lansd. 44. f. 40 seq.; Arch. Cant. x. 201-2.
- 6. CJ, i. 76, 80, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 90, 97, 98, 99, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 111, 112, 113; D’Ewes, 133, 156, 158, 159, 160, 167, 173, 178, 179, 181, 184, 213, 219, 220, 221, 247, 248, 250, 251, 253, 254, 255, APC, viii. 70, 371, 375; Flenley, Cal. Reg. Council, Marches of Wales, 143; Trinity, Dublin, anon. jnl. ff. 7, 23, 32; Trinity, Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. ff. 29, 48, 55, Cott. Titus. F.I. ff. 129 seq.
- 7. Reg. St. Alphage, Canterbury, ed. Cowper, 202; PCC 15 Daughtry; Arch. Cant. x. 200.