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Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick fighting in the lists

Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (1382-1439)

RICHARD DE BEAUCHAMP, Earl of Warwick (1382-1439),1 a brave and chivalrous warrior Baptism of Richard de Beauchamp, 
from the Beauchamp Pageants in an age of chivalry, of an ancient family, whose ancestry was traced to the legendary Guy of Warwick, was the son of Thomas, Earl of Warwick, by Margaret his wife, daughter of William, Lord Ferrers of Groby. He was born at Salwarp, in Worcestershire, on 28 Jan. 1382. His godfathers at baptism were King Richard II and Richard Scrope, afterwards Archbishop of York, who was esteemed a saint by the people after he was beheaded for rebellion against Henry IV. Earl Richard's first biographer, Rous—who speaks of Scrope as 'then bishop of Lichfield'—has been followed by later writers hitherto, though a reference to Le Neve shows that he was not a bishop till 1386.

We have no record of Beauchamp's boyhood, but in his eighteenth year he was made a Knight of the Bath at the coronation of Henry IV [1399]. He succeeded his father as Earl of Warwick in 1401, from whom he received as a bequest, in addition to his inheritance, 'a bed of silk, embroidered with bears, and his arms.'2 On 26 Jan. 1403, when within two days of attaining his majority, he jousted at the coronation of Henry IV's queen, Joan of Navarre.

On 13 Feb. following he had livery of his lands after performing homage. That same year he was retained to serve the king with 100 men-at-arms and 300 archers, John Lord Audley being then of his retinue, and was put in commission for arraying the men of Warwickshire. He put Owen Glendower to flight and captured his banner. He fought against the Percys at the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403), and is said to have been made Knight of the Garter not long after. Some, however, have questioned this date upon internal evidence, thinking his admission to the order must have been about 1420; but if the accounts of the Wardrobe have been correctly enrolled, it was at least not later than 1416.3

In 1408 he obtained leave of the king to visit the Holy Sepulchre. He crossed the Channel and first visited his kinsman, the Duke of Bar, with whom he spent eight days; then went on to Paris, where at Whitsuntide he was the guest of Charles VI, who, wearing his crown at the feast, caused him to sit at his own table, and afterwards gave him a herald to conduct him through his realm to Lombardy. Here he was presently met by another herald, despatched by Sir Pandolph Malatete or Malet, to challenge him to certain feats of arms at Verona before Sir Galeot of Mantua. He accepted, and after performing the pilgrimage to Rome, the combat took place, in which he gained the victory. Indeed, he was on the point of killing his opponent outright, when Sir Galeot cried 'Peace,' and put an end to the combat.

He went on to Venice, where the doge received him in state, and in course of time reached Jerusalem. He performed his vows, and set up his arms on the north side of the temple. While in the Holy City, he is said to have received a visit from the sultan's lieutenant, who said that he was familiar with the story of his ancestor, Guy of Warwick, which 'they had in books of their own language.' As remarked by Warton4, the thing is by no means incredible; but it may be observed that it is an error to talk of Rous, on whose authority it rests, as a contemporary writer. It is added that the sultan's lieutenant declared to the earl privately his belief in Christianity, and repeated the Creed to him, but said he dared not profess himself a christian openly.

From Jerusalem he returned to Venice, and after travelling in Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Prussia, Westphalia, and other parts of Germany, he returned to England in 1410. The king immediately retained him by indenture to serve with his son Henry, Prince of Wales, he receiving a pension of 250 marks a year out of the prince's exchequer at Carmarthen. That same year he was also joined with the Bishop of Durham and others to treat with the Scots. In 1413 he was Lord High Steward at the coronation of Henry V, and was soon afterwards appointed a commissioner, both for an alliance with Burgundy and for a truce with France.5

In the beginning of the year 1414 he was very instrumental in suppressing the Lollard rising; and about this time we find him first mentioned as Deputy of Calais.6 On 20 Oct. in the same year he was commissioned to go with certain bishops to represent England at the council of Constance, and on 16 Nov. Sir William Lisle, junior, was appointed his lieutenant to supply his place at Calais during his absence. The splendour of the English embassy at the council is said to have excited general admiration and astonishment. The earl appears, however, to have returned to England pretty early next year, as we find him at the Blackfriars in London on 21 May.7 In August he accompanied the king in the invasion of France; but after the siege of Harfleur the king sent him home again, along with his brother Clarence, in charge of a number of prisoners and a quantity of the spoils of war.8

Richard Beauchamp received as Captain of Calais. MS Cotton Julius E IV. It is said that when he was appointed Deputy of Calais the French were expected to besiege the place; but that when he found their forces were bent in a different direction, he caused some new feats of chivalry to be instituted, of which a curious description may be seen in Dugdale. In 1416 he received the Emperor Sigismund at Calais on his way to England, and also conducted the Duke of Burgundy to Calais to a conference with Henry V. Next year he was appointed to receive the surrender of Caen Castle. So great was Henry's confidence in his military skill that he divided the chief commands in Normandy between himself, his brother Clarence, and the Earl of Warwick.

In 1418 he won Domfront from the French, and joined the king at the siege of Rouen. Dugdale's statement, that he was sent to besiege Nully Levesque, is clearly an error, owing to a misreading of Walsingham's words, who really says that the Earl of Kyme was despatched on that mission. While the English army lay before Rouen the Dauphin made overtures for peace, and Warwick, along with other commissioners, was appointed to discuss matters with his deputies.9 But these negotiations took no effect. In January 1419 Warwick was the principal commissioner to receive the capitulation of Rouen; after which he was again employed in frequent negotiations, not now with the dauphin's party, but with the Burgundian faction, who had charge of the imbecile king.10

He arranged the truce preparatory to the treaty of Troyes and the marriage of Henry V to Katharine of France. It was presumably on the capture of Aumarle, or Aumale, in Normandy, this year, that the king granted him the additional title of Earl of Aumarle, which he bore in his later years. In 1420 he besieged and took Melun. He returned to England with the king in 1421, and acted as deputy to the Duke of Clarence, steward of England at Queen Katharine's coronation. In 1422 he was one of the commissioners appointed to receive the surrender of Meaux, and assisted in the rescue of the Duke of Burgundy's city of Cosne when it was besieged by the dauphin.

That same year Henry V died. So great had been the confidence he reposed in Warwick that he bequeathed to him the care of the education of his infant son, Henry VI, and his wishes were complied with by the council a few years later. On 10 July 1428 his commission as captain of Calais was renewed for two years dating from 4 Feb. preceding. Yet he appears to have resided chiefly in England for several years as member of the council during the king's minority. On 1 June 1428 the council gave him a formal commission under the Great Seal to take charge of Henry's education—a task in which four years later he demanded special authority to chastise his pupil when necessary, and to remove from his presence any associate whose influence might not tend to improve him.

In 1429, at Henry's coronation at Westminster, he bore the king to church. In 1430 he went to Edinburgh, and arranged a truce with Scotland. Next year he was again in Normandy, and took a notable prisoner named Poton de Xaintrailles beside Beauvais. But we find him at Westminster again in August 1433.11 He made his will at Caversham, in Oxfordshire, 8 Aug. 1435. Next year he crossed the Channel to protect Calais from a threatened siege by the Duke of Burgundy; and in 1437 (having meanwhile returned to England) he was again sent over sea, being appointed on 16 July Lieutenant of France and Normandy, and discharged by the council of the care of the king's person.

Death of Richard Beauchamp It was the most serious responsibility he had yet undertaken; for the English dominion in France was even then manifestly giving way, and though his predecessor, the Duke of York—who was now to be withdrawn—had achieved some marked success, he had been very ill supported. Warwick accordingly took care to make special conditions touching his appointment, and particularly stipulated that if those conditions were not fulfilled he might return without blame.12 He set sail from Portsmouth on 29 Aug., and remained in France till his death, which occurred at Rouen on 30 April 1439, hastened, in all probability, by the grave anxieties of his position. His body was brought home and buried at Warwick, where his magnificent tomb and effigy are still to be seen in a chapel attached to the collegiate church of Our Lady, which was built by his executors under his will.

We have not related all the deeds of this hero of chivalry. The most characteristic were collected a generation later by John Rous, chaplain of the chantry founded by this earl at Guy's Cliff in Warwickshire, and illustrated by pencil drawings of high artistic merit. The manuscript containing them is still preserved in the Cottonian Library;13 the drawings have been engraved by Strutt,14 and the narrative they illustrate has been embodied in Dugdale'a notice of this earl. It is to be regretted that the drawings and the narrative have never been published together. They are certainly a most interesting product of the art and literature of the Middle Ages, exhibiting our earl as the mirror of courtesy and refinement in many things of which we have not taken notice; among others, his declining to be the bearer of the Emperor Sigismund's precious gift to Henry V—the heart of St. George—when he knew that the emperor intended to come to England himself, suggesting that it would be more acceptable to his master if presented by the emperor in person.

Besides the manuscript just referred to and the chapel built by his executors, there is one other memorial of this earl still abiding in the curious stone image of Guy of Warwick exhibited to visitors to Guy's Cliff. It was executed and placed there by his orders. It certainly does not suggest that he was a very discriminating patron of art: of which, indeed, there is little appearance otherwise; for it was his father that built Guy's Tower in Warwick Castle, and his executors that built the chapel at Warwick in which his bones repose.

The earl was twice married. His first wife was Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Thomas, Lord Berkley, by whom he had three daughters. His second, whom he married by papal dispensation, was Isabella, widow of his cousin, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Worcester, who was slain at Meaux in 1422. It was by this second marriage that he had his son and heir, Henry.

1. He is accounted 5th or 13th Earl of Warwick, depending on the source and how the earls are counted.
2. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 238.
3. Rymer, Foedera, ix. 335.
4. Warton, History of English Poetry, section iii.
5. Rymer, ix. 34-38.
6. ib. 111.
7. Rymer, ix. 819.
8. Monstrelet, Chronique.
9. Rymer, ix. 626.
10. Rymer, ix. 717, 750-1, 774-6, 782, 813.
11. Rymer, x. 555.
12. Stevenson, Wars of the English in France, ii. lxvi-lxx.
13. British Library MS Cotton Julius E IV.
14. Strutt, Manners and Customs, vol. ii. pl. vii-lix.

      Excerpted from:

      Gairdner, James. "Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. II. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, Eds.
      New York: The Macmillan Company, 1908. 29-31.

Other Local Resources:

Books for further study:

Brindley, D. Richard Beauchamp: Medieval England's Greatest Knight.
            Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

Gravett, Christopher. English Medieval Knight 1400-1500.
            Osprey Publishing, 2001.

Seward, Desmond. The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453.
           Penguin, 1999.

Mercer, Malcolm. Henry V: The Rebirth of Chivalry.
           National Archives, 2006.

Shakespeare, William. Henry V.
           Folger Shakespeare Library, 2004.

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This page was created on April 16, 2007. Last updated March 23, 2023.

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