Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection

King Richard the Third's Secretary of State: A son of Jean de Foix, Earl of Kendal?

King Richard the Third’s Secretary of State: A son of Jean de Foix, Earl of Kendal?

In conducting research for my book I have traced many people and their activities and connections. One of the most interesting and seemingly unresolved mysteries related to the familial background to John Kendall, King Richard the Third’s Secretary of State.

He was interesting because, unlike most of Richard’s other Councillors, he seems to have lacked a ‘landed’ background or familial patronage which would normally have accompanied such an appointment. He held not just an important position in Richard’s administration, but it is clear that he was also very close to him personally, and died fighting alongside him at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

There existed a number of Kendall families, all of which could have claimed him as kin. They have not. There are a number of historians who have sought to point to his origins. They have not done this conclusively.

My research led me to the conclusion that John Kendall was a younger son of Jean de Foix, Earl of Kendal. The family of Grailly or Grelley had a long history of involvement with the administration of English affairs in Gascony and also had an early presence in England. In the 1380’s they changed their name from Grailly to de Foix. England was the principal trading partner with Gascony and the main family enjoying special privileges were the de Grailly/de Foix. Most Gascons had considered themselves English for some 300 years before Gascony was lost to France in 1453. In 1461 Louis XI granted a continuance of the special trading privileges enjoyed by the city of Bordeaux, which once again facilitated trade with England. I propose that one of the reasons that a younger son of Jean de Foix was left in England was to establish a direct familial connection with England following the loss of Gascony. This would have been in line with the family’s earlier history of developing areas of influence.



  1. Since King Richard’s will is of such importance these days in the debate about where he intended to be interred, do you have a source for your statement that he changed his will to appoint his nephew John de la Pole as his successor? Some people argue that we cannot know Richard’s intention in that regard since he left no will, while others are of the opinion that Richard, like other medieval men going to battle, certainly left a will, but that it was probably destroyed by Tudor’s men after Bosworth.

    1. Thank you for this. I do not have a primary source but secondary sources are many eg:
      William Toone’s The Chronological Historian (1828) Vol 1 p.110
      James Anderson’s A genealogical History of the House of Yvery (1742) Vol.1 p294
      The Works of Francis Bacon (edition 1854) Vol 1 p.739
      King Richard’s appointment of John de la Pole as his successor is what gave rise to the claims of the ‘White Rose’ please see Desmond Seward’s book of that title.

Add comment

+ 5 = 7

Please note that your comment will be reviewed and may be edited before being published.