The Will of Sir Thomas Lovell, K.G.
Sir Thomas Lovell came from a minor aristocratic family in Norfolk, and trained as a lawyer at Lincoln's Inn from 1454 to (probably) 1457.
He returned to the Inn and was initially elected to its governing council in 1468, and in subsequent years held various senior offices, including treasurer, until he reached the Inn's most senior position of governer in 1475.
Lovell was a staunch Lancastrian and like many of his peers had been disinherited under the reign of Richard III. When Henry VII came to the throne, one of his first moves was to restore the lands and titles of his followers, at the same time looking to reward his most reliable supporters with positions in his new government.
Lovell's loyalty and his experience at Lincoln's Inn evidently appealed to the king, and in the years following 1485 he was given a number of high status positions, the most significant of which being a lifetime appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Lovell quickly became one of the most influential figures in Henry's court. In 1487 he was knighted at the Battle of Stoke and was awarded the Order of The Garter some time around 1500. His new position required a headquarters close to the king, and crucially a place to project his new influence. The site of Elsyng, just to the north of Enfield, fit the bill well, being an easy day's ride north of London and its location next to the hunting forest of the Royal Chase made it the perfect place to entertain the court.
Lovell gained control of Elsyng in 1487, the details of which have been the subject of much discussion. At the time the estate belonged to Edmund, Lord Roos who had himself been disinherited under the Yorkist regime and restored by Henry VII. In 1487 Lovell, at the time Speaker of the House of Commons, presented a bill that declared Edmund "not of sufficient disscrecion to guyde hymseif and his lyvehode, nor able to serve his highness after his duetie".
Whether Edmund's problems were physical or financial is not clear - the text of the bill appears deliberately vague - but the result was that his properties were passed on to his sister Isabell, who Lovell just happened to have recently married.
Lovell is consquently credited with turning Elsyng into a full fledged courtier's palace, which became his principal residence until his death in 1524, upon which it reverted to his (by then deceased) wife's heirs.
The following is a transcription of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury copy of Lovell's will (with modernised spelling), dated 1522, from the National Archives (ref PROB/11/2/3).
Preamble and bequests to Halywell Priory
Bequests to various religious houses, colleges and relatives
Bequest of Elsyng Palace and other manors to Thomas Manners, Lord Roos with details of the succession should he die
Bequest of various manors to his nephew, Francis Lovell, with details of succession
Various bequests including the house at Halywell Priory to Francis Lovell
First Codicil: Sums of money, valuables and furnishing to relatives, friends, the King and Cardinal Wolsey
Second Codicil: Legacies - sums of money mostly to servants
Third Codicil (and Probate): Further bequests to servants