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One of the most beautiful and charming villages in the Cotswolds, the beautiful touristy chocolate-boxy part of Oxfordshire. It is a little west of the city of Oxford. Minster Lovell has pretty houses, it has ruins, it has history and an awful secret, and a river setting to die for.

The Lovell or Lovel family who ruled it from Norman times derive their name from Latin lupellus, a little wolf. The most famous Lovell was Francis, childhood friend and boon companion of King Richard III, who created him Viscount Lovell and a Knight of the Garter among other honours. Lord Lovell, along with Sir William Catesby and Sir Richard Ratcliff, were among those who kept faith with Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field. King Richard's heraldic emblem was the boar. Later generations scurrilously remembered them in the rhyme by one William Collingham:

The Cat, the Rat, and Lovell the Dog
Rule all England under the Hog.

The ruins of the Lovell manor house are the historical highlight of the village now, and they are spread out across flat green fields of great beauty, on the edge of the River Windrush, curling around silverly in mists and reeds, a little before it comes down to meet the River Thames at Newbridge. (Pub: the Rose Revived, strongly recommended, by the way.) They are now in the care of English Heritage, as is a dovecote: a particularly large and prominent dovecote, of great age. The church is dedicated to St Kenelm.

It's not known for sure what happened to Good King Richard's faithful retainer. Lovell survived Bosworth Field in 1485, and continued resistance to the usurper Henry VII. He rallied to the cause of the pretender Lambert Simnel, who landed in Lancashire in 1487, but who was defeated at the Battle of Stoke. The last anyone saw of him for sure, Lord Lovell was crossing a river to safety, perhaps.

Legend says he made his way back south to Minster Lovell, in secret, daring not to trust any friends, or even any of his servants when he got back home. He ensconced himself in a secret compartment, and wanted to make notes on his dire situation. This last part is reconstructed. In 1708 a group of workmen found and opened an underground chamber at Minster Lovell. There sitting at a desk was a skeleton, with a paper on the desk. It all crumpled to dust with the opening of the unforeseen tomb.

Many pictures of the ruins: www.r3.org/archives/ricardian_britain/minster_lovell
History of Lord Lovell: www.tameside.gov.uk/tmbc2/lovell.htm

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