BEAUCHAMP, Sir Walter (d.1430), of Bromham and Steeple Lavington, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Mar. 1416

Family and Education

yr. bro. of Sir William*.1 m. bef. Aug. 1400, Elizabeth (c.1385-Feb. 1447), da. and coh. of Sir John Roches* of Bromham by Willelma, da. and h. of Sir Robert de la Mare† of Steeple Lavington, 2s. inc. Sir William†, 1da. Kntd. 1415.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Wilts. 5 Nov. 1403-22 Nov. 1404, 30 Nov. 1407-15 Nov. 1408.

Keeper of Braydon forest, Wilts. 16 July 1405-bef. Sept. 1420.

Commr. of inquiry, Wilts. Feb. 1410 (wastes at Monkton Farleigh priory), June 1416 (wastes at Clatford priory), July 1421 (sale of vert and venision, Devizes park); to assess a subsidy Jan. 1412; of oyer and terminer, Glos. June 1413; to raise royal loans, Wilts. July 1426, May 1428.

J.p. Wilts. 13 Feb. 1410-Jan. 1414, 8 Nov. 1415-Jan. 1417, 7 July 1423-d.

Speaker 1416 (Mar.)

‘Bailli’ of Rouen 19 Jan. 1419-14 Jan. 1421.

Treasurer of the King’s household by 21 Jan.-1 Oct. 1421.

Steward of the household of Queen Katherine by 11 Mar. 1422-c.1423; chief steward of her lands in the duchy of Lancaster by Mar. 1422-c.1423.

Member of Council of Regency Dec. 1422-c. Nov. 1423.

Master of the King’s horse 29 Apr. 1429-d.

Biography

Walter was a member of the family of Beauchamp of Powick, a cadet branch of the family of Beauchamp, earls of Warwick, but, being a younger son, he never enjoyed possession of its chief estates, situated in Worcestershire and Warwickshire. However, he did make use of his family’s prominent connexions at court, and in May 1392 was retained by Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, for service in Ireland, where the duke was King’s lieutenant. He was to receive £26 13s.4d. a year as his fee, but in the event Gloucester and his followers stayed in England, and the contract may have lapsed accordingly.2 Even so, this background of association with Thomas of Woodstock (who, in the same year had appointed his elder brother as constable of Gloucester castle), doubtless made Walter acceptable to Henry of Bolingbroke. Furthermore, it is quite likely that he rendered Henry some service at the time of his seizure of the throne. At any rate, on 23 Oct. 1399 (just ten days after Henry’s coronation), Walter received a royal grant of as much as £40 a year, for life or until he was provided with lands to that value. This last was accomplished in August 1400, when he and his bride were granted for term of their lives the duchy of Lancaster manors of Easterton and Berwick St. James in Wiltshire.3 Beauchamp was by then serving as an esquire in the royal household, and it was in this capacity that, in June 1402, he sailed for Germany as an escort for the King’s elder daughter Blanche, who, at Heidelburg on 6 July, married Louis, son of Rupert of Bavaria, King of the Romans. It is likely that Beauchamp fought alongside members of the royal household at the battle of Shrewsbury, for on 17 Aug. 1403, less than a month after the battle, he was granted a debt of £20 due to Sir Henry Percy (Hotspur) the dead rebel leader. During June and July 1405 he was probably again with the Household, helping to suppress the risings of Archbishop Scrope and the earl of Northumberland and, on 16 July, when the work of the royal army was over and the King was at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on his way south, he was granted for life the custody of Braydon forest. He was still receiving robes as an esquire of the Household in 1405-6, and being described as ‘King’s esquire’ as late as April 1412.

Beauchamp’s influence in Wiltshire (a county with which his own family had little previous connexion) is directly attributable to his marriage to a local heiress, Elizabeth Roches. The marriage took place in 1400 and six years later Elizabeth’s mother made the couple a gift of the manor of Cherington, near Stroud, Gloucestershire. Apart from acquiring for Beauchamp some of the local influence of his wife’s family, his marriage was also to provide the greater part of his landed wealth. His wife’s father, Sir John Roches, had died in 1400, but her mother survived until 1410 when the Roches and de la Mare estates were divided equally between Elizabeth Beauchamp and John Baynton, infant son of Elizabeth’s sister Joan. The Beauchamps thereby came into possession of the important manor of Steeple Lavington (now Market Lavington), subsequently their chief residence, three other manors and a moiety, besides other substantial properties elsewhere in Wiltshire, three manors in Oxfordshire, and the manors of Offley and Putteridgebury in Hertfordshire.4 At the same time Beauchamp also obtained a royal grant of the custody of the other half of his wife’s inheritance during young Baynton’s minority. For this he was to pay a farm of 80 marks a year at the Exchequer, but after Easter 1412 he was allowed to cease payments, though he was to retain custody of the lands (which were mostly in Wiltshire) until Baynton came of age in 1428. In all, the value of the estates held by Beauchamp jure uxoris in 1412 amounted to over £100 a year. Though these always provided most of his income, he also acquired land at Long Critchell, Dorset, at Wanstrow and Brewham, Somerset, at South Weston and Wheatfield, Oxfordshire, and at Westwoodhay, Berkshire.

Meanwhile, in 1411, Beauchamp had acted as supervisor of the will of his mother-in-law and as an executor of that of his mother, Elizabeth Beauchamp of Powick. He had been appointed as a j.p. in Wiltshire in 1410, and at Henry V’s accession he was confirmed as such, only to be left out of the commission in 1414. Thereafter no mention of him occurs until the summer of 1415, by which time he was involved in preparations for the King’s first expedition to France. On 3 June 1415 Beauchamp took out royal letters of protection as going abroad and, near Romsey on 21 July, he mustered his small contingent of three archers as members of the retinue of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. By the time the royal army left England on 11 Aug., however, Beauchamp’s company had grown to three men-at-arms and 12 archers, as required by his indenture.5 Gloucester’s retinue roll refers to him as ‘Monsire’, so that it would appear that Walter was already a knight. Certainly, he was one before the army returned to England, for it was as ‘King’s knight’ that, on 25 Nov., he was granted, rent free, custody of the manor of Somerford Keynes, Wiltshire, worth £20 a year, to hold during the minority of Richard, nephew and heir of Edward duke of York (killed at Agincourt).

Early in the following year, Beauchamp was elected as knight of the shire for Wiltshire. Parliament met on 16 Mar., and three days afterwards, despite his apparent lack of experience of the workings of the Commons, Sir Walter was chosen as Speaker. One of the more important subjects discussed was the payment of military wages, a matter that was soon satisfactorily dealt with from the Speaker’s personal point of view: on 6 June the Exchequer paid him £286, the greater part of the sum owing him for services during the recent campaign. By this time Sir Walter was possibly preparing to join the duke of Bedford’s fleet which, in seeking to relieve Harfleur, was to fight a great battle in the estuary of the Seine on 15 Aug. The exact nature of Beauchamp’s connexion with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, at this juncture is not clear, although early in 1417 he was acting as one of the duke’s officials in Wiltshire.

On 8 Feb. 1417 Sir Walter contracted to fight in France in Henry V’s second campaign.6 Nothing is recorded of him during the first 18 months of the conquest of Normandy, save that in January 1418 he was appointed to take the muster of all the garrisons commanded by Thomas Montagu, earl of Salisbury. He most probably served throughout the long siege of Rouen (July 1418-January 1419), and on the day the city surrendered (19 Jan.) he was made its first English ‘bailli’. A few days later he was given a house in the city, and on 21 Mar. he was also granted the castle of Beausault following its forfeiture by a ‘rebel’ Norman knight. He would seem to have lived in Rouen for two years, during which period he was every now and then ordered to inquire about the loyalty of French petitioners, to take oaths of fealty, to arrest deserters, to raise taxes in the city and to provide for its security. Not until January 1421, when the King visited Rouen on his way home to England, was Sir Walter relieved of his post.

By then, however, Beauchamp was holding the important dual, co-ordinate offices of treasurer of the royal household and treasurer-at-war. He may well have been first appointed the summer before, when his predecessor, Sir John Rothenhale, had died. Naturally, Sir Walter accompanied the King home, there to attend the coronation of the new queen, Katherine. The situation in France required Henry to return there quickly, and on 10 June (the day of his departure) he revised both his will and the list of his executors, now naming Sir Walter among them. In this appointment he was doubtless succeeding the former treasurer of the Household, and thus became (as Rothenhale had been) one of the few ‘working’ executors who were to undertake the routine administration of the will. It is unlikely that Beauchamp went back to France immediately, and in October he was replaced as treasurer of the King’s household, only to take up office in the queen’s. By the following March (1422) he was acting in England as steward of her household, and also serving as chief steward of her dower lands. It is almost certain that, in early May, he accompanied the queen on her voyage to Normandy, and following Henry V’s death on 31 Aug. he doubtless helped escort her when, bringing the King’s body, she returned to England in early November.

The first Parliament of Henry VI’s reign decided that during the King’s minority the government should be exercised by a limited protectorship, assisted by a large and dignified Council. Only three commoners were appointed to this body: Sir Walter Beauchamp and two other former Speakers, Sir Walter Hungerford* and Sir John Tiptoft*. Doubtless Beauchamp owed the appointment to his position as a ‘working’ executor of Henry V’s will, though his links with Queen Katherine may also have been a consideration. In fact, Sir Walter is not recorded as ever attending Council meetings, and he was not formally reappointed in the Parliament which sat from October 1423 until February 1424. However, he was still a councillor on 6 Nov. 1423, when he shared with Ralph, Lord Cromwell, a grant of the temporalities of the see of York during the vacancy caused by the death of Archbishop Bowet. Having undertaken to pay 2,000 marks a year, the custodians enjoyed the right to farm the issues of the see from the day of the archbishop’s death until the end of the vacancy, in April 1426. During this period Beauchamp must have been much preoccupied with the problems of administering Henry V’s will, a task which was made more complicated by the still unfulfilled testament of Henry IV. Curiously, Sir Walter’s own family had a direct interest in a codicil to Henry V’s will, in which Henry had expressed a wish concerning the marriage of Walter’s niece, Elizabeth: if, within a year of his death, she should marry as advised by her mother, Thomas Beaufort, duke of Exeter, Sir Ralph Butler, and her uncle, Sir Walter himself, she was to have estates worth £200 a year for life, but if she chose to live unmarried, the value of the estates was to be reduced by a third (to 200 marks). With her advisers’ consent, she did, in fact, marry Thomas Swynford esquire, a grandson of Katherine Swynford, and son of the half-brother of the duke of Exeter and Bishop Beaufort.

At this time Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, the Protector, was endeavouring to expand his control of the government at the expense of the royal council. Though Beauchamp had earlier been connected with Gloucester, it seems likely that by 1425 he had joined the duke’s political adversaries: no doubt his own former membership of the Council was a contributory factor in this, as was his niece’s new connexion with Bishop Beaufort, who led the opposition to the Protector. A more important factor may have been Sir Walter’s development of close links with another nobleman opposed to Gloucester: namely, his own distant cousin, Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. When, during the Parliament of 1425, a dispute over precedence arose between Earl Richard and Gloucester’s supporter, the Earl Marshal, it was Sir Walter who appeared before the Lords as Warwick’s spokesman and chief counsel. He was already acting as a feoffee of his kinsman’s estates.7 Clearly, it was Warwick’s influence which, on 8 May 1428, brought about Sir Walter’s appointment by the Council as one of the four knights who were to attend continually on the young King’s person. They were, in fact, to act under the supervision of the earl who, that same day, was named as the King’s ‘governor’; and each was to receive an annuity of 100 marks as his fee and enjoy the right to board an esquire and two valets on the Household. In April 1429, moreover, Beauchamp was appointed master of the King’s horse. On 5 Nov. he attended Henry VI’s coronation. His eldest son, William Beauchamp, knighted on the vigil of the coronation, was soon to be made one of the four carvers to the King, of whom Sir Walter’s nephew Sir John Beauchamp, was another.

Sir Walter was not destined to enjoy his new offices at court for any length of time, for he died on I Jan. 1430.8‘In his sickness’, he had made a br