BEAUCHAMP, Sir William (d.c.1421), of Powick, Worcs. and Alcester, Warws.
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Family and Education
s. and h. of Sir John Beauchamp† (d.c.1389), of Powick, by his w. Elizabeth (d.1411); er. bro. of Sir Walter*. m. c.1392, Katherine, ?da. of Sir Gerard Usflete1 of Yorks., 1s. Ida. Kntd. by 20 Dec. 1399.
Commr. of inquiry, Worcs. Mar. 1392 (trespasses, Feckenham), Glos. July, Aug. 1401 (misdemeanours of James Clifford* and Anselm Guise), ?Herefs. Jan. 1403 (murder), Glos. July 1405, Jan. 1406 (unauthorized alienations), Jan. 1412 (contributors to a subsidy), Worcs. Jan. 1414 (lollards), Glos. Feb. 1415 (concealments); oyer and terminer, Worcs. Apr., July 1394, Feb. 1395, Glos. June 1402, Worcs. Dec. 1409; to make proclamation of Henry IV’s intention to govern well, Glos. May 1402; victual the castles of Cardiff and Newport, Wales Sept. 1403; of arrest, Glos. Apr. 1404; to raise royal loans Jan. 1420.
Constable of Gloucester castle 24 Dec. 1392-d.
Sheriff, Worcs. 8 Nov. 1401-29 Nov. 1402, Glos. 5 Nov. 1403-13 Feb. 1405, 6 Nov. 1413-10 Nov. 1414.
J.p. Worcs. 28 Aug. 1405-Jan. 1406, 8 July 1420-d., Glos. 4 July 1406-Feb. 1407, 26 Nov. 1416-Mar. 1419.
Chamberlain to Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, by Apr. 1419.
The family of Beauchamp seated at Powick, some three miles from Worcester, was a cadet branch of that of Beauchamp of Elmley, of which the earls of Warwick became the senior line, William’s great-grandfather, Walter, Lord Beauchamp, sometime steward of the Household to Edward I, having been a younger brother of William, earl of Warwick (d.1298). William’s uncle Roger, Lord Beauchamp of Bletsoe, was Edward III’s chamberlain in 1376-7, at which time his father was a knight of the King’s chamber and also, and until his death shortly before February 1389, constable of Gloucester castle. From his father William inherited, besides Powick, the manors of Acton (Worcestershire), Boddington and Nether Court in Kemerton (Gloucestershire), Alcester (Warwickshire) and South Brewham (Somerset), although the Somerset property was to remain in the possession of his mother until her death in 1411. Contemporary evidence of the value of these estates as a whole is lacking, although in 1412 those in Gloucestershire were estimated for the purposes of taxation at an annual worth of £60, and in 1436 William’s widow’s holdings in Worcestershire alone were valued at £154 a year.2
Beauchamp entered royal service in 1392: on 29 June Richard II granted him and his wife Katherine an annuity of 40 marks from the issues of Gloucestershire ‘on account of their marriage’ and because Beauchamp had been retained to stay with him for life; and on 9 Dec. following Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, was authorized to grant him the constableship of Gloucester castle, to hold for as long as the duke lived. In the following June the King altered the terms of this appointment to the effect that Beauchamp should have the constableship until his own death, and as a consequence for the next 25 years William was a figure of considerable influence in Gloucestershire affairs. There is no evidence that he actively supported the duke of Gloucester and the earl of Warwick in their opposition to Richard II, nor, on the contrary, that he was ever closely attached to the King. Yet he probably regarded the accession of Henry IV sympathetically, especially in view of the renewal of all his royal patents in December 1399 and the fact that he was knighted about the same time.3 Beauchamp’s entry into court circles was perhaps eased by the marriage of his sister Alice, widow of Sir Thomas Butler* of Sudeley, to Sir John Dallingridge*, a knight of the new King’s chamber. He himself was never to achieve the prominent place in royal circles attained by his brother (Sir) Walter Beauchamp (who was already a retainer of Henry IV and receiving a larger annuity than his own); but he was not overlooked: in 1400 his wife was allocated two tuns of wine from the confiscated possessions of Thomas, Lord Despenser, and in August 1401 he himself was granted custody of Llanthony priory. Shortly afterwards, Beauchamp was appointed as sheriff of Worcestershire, an office held by the earls of Warwick in fee but then temporarily in the Crown’s patronage owing to the minority of Earl Richard, and ex officio he held the parliamentary elections of 1402. Later that year he obtained a royal pardon of fines due to the Crown on account of escapes of felons from Gloucester castle. Beauchamp’s post as constable of a castle near the Welsh border naturally led to his involvement in the King’s plans for the defeat of the rebels under Glendower, and in September 1403 he was associated with a member of the King’s Council, Sir John Cheyne I*, in the task of finding supplies of wheat, fish, oats, wine and ale to victual the garrisons of Cardiff and Newport in preparation for a siege. On 3 Nov. he was released from a bond for £17 which he had entered into with Thomas Percy, late earl of Worcester, and which had been among the earl’s possessions recently forfeited for treason. Two days later he was appointed sheriff of Gloucestershire, and in August 1405 he and his wife were granted 20 marks ‘of the King’s gift’. Beauchamp may have been elected for Worcestershire to his first Parliament in 1407 because it was due to assemble at Gloucester castle, where he would of necessity be present in his capacity as constable.4
Beauchamp’s annuity and constableship were confirmed by Henry V, and he attended the new King’s first two Parliaments. In February 1415 he obtained a papal indult to have a portable altar, no doubt as part of his preparations for joining the royal expedition to France. That July he was mustered with his own contingent of eight lances and 30 archers in the retinue of the King’s brother, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, while his own brother Sir Walter joined the same company. By this time Beauchamp’s association with Duke Humphrey was close: shortly before embarkation the duke made him a feoffee of certain of his estates. It seems likely that he fought under his banner at the battle of Agincourt. Beauchamp was returned to the Parliament of March 1416, where his brother, sitting for Wiltshire, acted as Speaker. Both brothers again enlisted under Gloucester’s command for the invasion of Normandy in 1417, and at Southampton in July Sir William was made a trustee of the property of Gilbert, Lord Talbot, who was also about to embark with the royal army. During the campaign in France Beauchamp became one of the duke’s most prominent lieutenants: in February and March 1418 he was commissioned by him to receive the surrender of the strongholds of Vire, St. Lo and Carentan, and that summer he took part in the siege of Cherbourg, being instrumental in negotiating with the garrison an agreement that it would capitulate if no help came from the French king before Michaelmas. In the spring of 1419, Henry V, trying to secure for Gloucester the hand of Blanche, queen of Sicily and daughter of Charles III of Navarre, approved of the duke’s appointment of Beauchamp as one of the negotiators for the match. It is doubtful, however, that Sir William ever made the journey south, for nothing further came of the proposal. He was at that time referred to as ‘the duke’s chamberlain’, but how long he had held this office is not known. He probably returned home with Gloucester at the end of the year, and although his name appeared at the head of the list sent to the Council early in 1420 of those Worcestershire knights and esquires considered best able for military service, it is unlikely that he served abroad again.5
Beauchamp probably died before Henry V made the codicil to his will which was dated 9 June 1421, for in that codicil the King expressed his wish that Beauchamp’s daughter Elizabeth should be granted land worth £200 p.a. for life on condition that she married by the advice of her mother, her uncle, Sir Walter (then treasurer of the Household), her cousin Sir Ralph Butler (later Lord Sudeley) and Thomas, duke of Exeter; and had Beauchamp been still alive his assent for the match would doubtless have been required also. In due course Elizabeth married the duke of Exeter’s kinsman, Thomas Swynford. Beauchamp’s widow survived until 1436, at least, and after her death the principal Beauchamp estates fell under the terms of an entail to her son John. Like his father, John served as constable of Gloucester castle, but he achieved a more important place in national affairs than Sir William, being made KG in 1445, being created Lord Beauchamp of Powick in 1447 and serving as treasurer of the Exchequer from 1450 to 1452.