Several legends are attached to the picturesque medieval ruins of the manor house at Minster Lovell. Francis, Lord Lovell was a close friend of Richard III, who awarded him the post of Constable of the Royal Castle of Wallingford and Chamberlain of the Royal Household when he was in his twenties. Others became jealous, leading to the rhyme: The catte, the ratte and Lovel our dogge Rule all England under the hogge.' Lovell's nickname came from his badge, a Talbot hound; the rat was Sir Richard Ratcliffe, the cat Sir William Catesby, and Richard III was named after his badge, the boar. Lovell fled to Flanders after Richard's death at the battle of Bosworth, returning to England to support Lambert Simnel's revolt, and was last seen in 1487 swimming his horse across the River Trent after the battle of Stoke.

An inquisition held into his fate and decided that he had escaped and died abroad, although there was little evidence to support this. However, local tradition asserts that he rode back to Minster Lovell, where a faithful servant hid him, perhaps for several years, in a secret chamber, but that the servant died suddenly, and as no-one else knew he was there, Lovell was left to starve.

William Cowper, Clerk to Parliament, wrote in 1737 that in 1708 workmen discovered a secret vault behind an old chimney and inside was the skeleton of a man seated at a table with a book, pen and paper with his dog at his feet, and a cap laying on the floor. However, the bones crumbled to dust before their eyes. The same story is also attached to Upton Lovell in Wiltshire.

Minster Lovell ruins are said to be haunted by a knight in shining armour on a white charger, perhaps the hapless Francis Lord Lovell, whose ghost perhaps makes the groans and sounds of rustling papers said to come from underground.

Another sad story attached to the Lovell family is related in a balled entitled The Mistletoe Bough: The mistletoe hung in the castle hall, The holly bush shone on the old oak wall; The baron's retainers were blithe and gay Keeping their Christmas holiday.

The baron beheld with a father's pride, His beautiful child, Lord Lovell's bride; While she with her bright eyes seemed to be The star of that goodly company.

O, the mistletoe bough.

"I'm weary of dancing now", she cried, Here tarry a moment, I'll hide, I'll hide; And Lovell, be sure thou'rt first to trace The clue to my secret hiding place", Away she went, and her friends began Each tower to search and each nook to scan, And Lord Lovell cried, "O, where doest thou hide?

I'm lonesome without thee my own dear bride."

O, the mistletoe bough.

They sought her that night, and they sought her next day; They sought her in vain till a week passed away, In the highest, the lowest, the loneliest spot, Young Lovell sought wildly, but found her not.

And years flew by, and their grief at last Was told as a sorrowful tale long past.

And when Lovell appeared the children cried, "See the old man weeps for his fairy bride."

O, the mistletoe bough.

At length an old chest that had long been hid, Was found in the castle they raised the lid; And a skeletal form lay mouldering there In the bridal wreath of a lady fair.

O, sad was her fate, in sportive jest, She hid from her lord in the old oak chest.

It closed with a spring, and her bridal bloom Lay withering there in a living tomb.

O, the mistletoe bough.' A number of chests, each claiming to be the authentic mistletoe bough chests, have been sold at auction over the years, and one is displayed at Grey's Court, near Henley-on-Thames.

The same story has also been attached to houses at Bramshill in Hampshire, Dalby Hall near Melton and Exton Hall. It seems to have originated in 15th century Italy and it is unlikely that any unfortunate bride lost her life in this way at Minster Lovell.

Another story relates that a certain Lovell came to Minster Lovell where he fell for his brother's wife and, in his jealousy, shot him.

The widow refused to have anything to do with her brother-in-law, and drowned herself in what is now known as the Lady's Pool. The enraged brother burnt down the house. When workmen tried to demolish the ruins it is said that their axes broke.