Baron Lionel de Welles was born in 1406. The family was a Lincolnshire one but Lionel’s mother was the daughter of Lord Greystoke (pause for Tarzan jokes if you wish). As you might expect he was part of the network of families that ruled England. Mowbray blood ran in his veins as well as a splattering of Clifford DNA reflecting a heritage stretching from the Midlands via Yorkshire into Cumbria. John inherited his lands when he was still a minor. It took a further five years for him to win his estate in his own right.
The family was firmly Lancastrian in its sympathies. He married in 1417 to Joan Waterton of Methley near Leeds. Her father was one of John of Gaunt’s retainers. They had one child called Richard. Lionel’s service began with Henry VI who knighted him and in whose household he served. Lionel was a soldier as well. He went to France with Humphrey of Gloucester in 1435 and later to Ireland where he made a bit of a hash of things being unable to control the locals.
All this knightly pursuit would have been well and good if he’d been a single man but in addition to his wife he had a mother, several sisters, four daughters and an aunt to support as well as his grandfather’s debts to pay off. In short Lord Welles was actually Baron Hardup personified.
Things changed in 1447 when he married Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe, the dowager duchess of Somerset who was considerably wealthier than him and with better connections for that matter. Having secured a trophy wife, though none of the texts I’ve read have given any indication about how he managed to do this (so in the short term I will merely assume he had an absolutely charming personality and then kick myself when I remember something important about land holdings), Lionel landed the role of knight of the Garter and also Lieutenant of Calais. He managed to find time to be at home long enough for Margaret to have a son called John who was Margaret Beaufort’s half brother.
He fought at the Second Battle of St Albans in February 1461 Towton and a month later at Towton where he was killed. Edward IV promptly attained him as had been on the Lancastrian side of the battlefield. Richard de Welles didn’t inherit the family title or estates until the attainder was reversed in 1467 and generally speaking he didn’t take to the Yorkists although he managed to inch his way into Yorkist favour for a time. Richard and Lionel’s grandson were ultimately executed by Edward IV in 1471 meaning that it was Margaret Beauchamp’s son who became the first Viscount Welles. Its a typical fifteenth century tale when alls said and done.
Lionel was buried in St Oswald’s Church Methley where he’d married his first wife Joan. It might have been because of the great love he bore his first wife but equally I am compelled to point out that Methley is rather closer to Towton than his Lincolnshire estates. His monument, with some rather fine corbels and medieval glass can still be viewed today along side other West Riding notables including members of the Savile family.
Michael Hicks, ‘Welles, Leo , sixth Baron Welles (c.1406–1461)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/28998, accessed 26 April 2017]