BEAUMONT, Francis (c.1540-98), of Gracedieu, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. c.1540, 1st s. of John Beaumont, master of the rolls, by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir William Hastings of Leicester; bro. of Henry Beaumont I. educ. Peterhouse, Camb. fellow comm. 1564; I. Temple 1559, called 1568. m. Anne, da. of Sir George Pierrepont† of Holme Pierrepont, Notts., wid. of Thomas Thorold of Marston, Lincs., 3s. 1da. suc. fa. 1557.
Bencher, I. Temple 1578, vacation reader 1581; serjeant-at-law 1589; judge of common pleas 1593.1
The Beaumonts were a distinguished Leicestershire family in the sixteenth century. Francis Beaumont held extensive lands in Stoughton and elsewhere in the county, as well as the manor of Litchurch, Derbyshire, on lease from Francis and George Babington who, for their part, had received it indirectly from Lord Darcy. Beaumont’s estates at Gracedieu were inherited from his mother. They had been made over to Francis, Earl of Huntingdon, by Edward VI at the very end of his reign when John Beaumont had been forced to surrender his lands into the King’s hands and been dismissed from the mastership of the rolls, but within five years of her husband’s death the widow had regained possession.2
It is not known how Francis Beaumont came to represent Aldeburgh in Parliament, but as the brother-in-law of Lord Vaux, and a supporter of the conservative faction at court, it is possible that he owed his seat to Howard influence, even though at the time of the election the Duke of Norfolk was in the Tower. It is possible that he was the ‘Mr. Beaumond’ who served on committees in the 1572 Parliament considering weights and measures (23 May), fraudulent conveyances (3 June), continuation of certain statutes (30 June 1572), the bill against the Family of Love (16 Feb. 1581) and the preservation of game (18 Feb. 1581). However, since Nicholas Beaumont and Thomas Beaumont also sat in this Parliament, it is not possible to attribute these committees to Francis Beaumont with any certainty.
Beaumont’s career is interesting because of the recusancy of his relatives, including Lord Vaux, and his own sympathy with the old religion. In 1584, correspondence sent to Gervaise Pierrepont, brother of Henry Pierrepont and of Anne, Beaumont’s wife, was seized. Included was a note—albeit entirely domestic—from Beaumont himself. Subsequent inquiries revealed a correspondence between him and an undoubted recusant, Mr. Shirley of Staunton Harold. Adrian Stokes and Thomas Cave interrogated Beaumont’s wife and recommended to Walsingham that his mother, ‘a great favourite of papists’, should be confined to her house. It was said that she had received Edmund Campion in 1581. Beaumont’s position was further weakened by his habitual absence from church, for which neglect he excused himself on the grounds that his country house was outside any parish. As late as 1591 he was accused of harbouring seminary priests, but evidently no direct proof could be found.3
Despite these embarrassments he was put on a committee in December 1588 to consider law reform, made serjeant-at-law next year and later a judge. Presumably he benefited from the patronage of the 6th and 7th earls of Shrewsbury. In his introductory speech in the court of common pleas, Beaumont named the 7th Earl as his chief patron. As a judge on the northern circuit, he earned the reputation of being ‘grave, learned and reverend’.4
He died at Gracedieu on 22 Apr. 1598 and was buried at Belton. John Chamberlain informed Dudley Carleton that both Beaumont and Serjeant [Edward] Drew were dead, ‘upon some infection of the gaol, as is most like’. Beaumont’s will, proved on 8 May, commenced with an unexceptionable statement of his hope of salvation through the merits, death and salvation of Christ. His debts were to be met from the tithes of Chaddesden, Derbyshire, and his daughter was to receive £200 from the tithes of Shepshed and Belton, Leicestershire. Previous provision had been made for his sons. To his servants and tenants he left annuities and leases of their holdings. As executors, he appointed Henry Beaumont of Coleorton, George Shirley of Staunton Harold and Robert Brokesbye. His son Francis was the Beaumont of Beaumont and Fletcher.5
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. Foss, Judges, v. 408, 411, 414, 421, 456; DNB; Vis. Leics. (Harl. Soc. ii), 170-2; Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lii), 983.
- 2. Quorndon Recs. ed. Farnham, 255; C142/252/56; C2 Eliz./B5/48; CP, vi. 655-6.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1581-90, pp. 152, 184, 185; Lansd. 53, f. 189; VCH Leics. i. 374; ii. 57; HMC Var. iii. 79, 82, 85-86, 100-2; CJ, i. 97, 100, 102, 127, 128; D’Ewes, 221, 224, 299.
- 4. Lodge, Illus. iii (Talbot Pprs.), p. 59; Cal. I. T. Recs. i. 357; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 353; 1598-1602, p. 46; Lansd. 78, f. 93; DNB.
- 5. C142/252/56; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 136; PCC 41 Lewyn.