BEAUMONT, Sir Thomas I (c.1555-1614), of Stoughton Grange, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. c.1555, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Nicholas Beaumont† of Coleorton, Leics. and Anne, da. of William Saunders of Welford, Northants.; bro. of Sir Henry Beaumont I*. m. by 1584, Katherine (d. 10 May 1621), da. and h. of Thomas Farnham† of Stoughton Grange, 3s. 7da. kntd. 23 Apr. or 11 May 1603. d. 27 Nov. 1614. 1
J.p. Leics. 1598-d.;2 commr. charitable uses, Leics. 1603,3 inquiry into lands of Henry Brooke alias Cobham†, 11th Lord Cobham, Leics. 1603, Bye plotters, Leics. 1603, Gunpowder plotters, Leics. 1606,4 subsidy 1605-8,5 oyer and terminer, Midlands rising, Leics. 1607;6 collector, fifteenths, Leics. 1607.7
Born into an important Leicestershire family, Beaumont was the younger brother of Sir Henry Beaumont I, who inherited the family estates at Coleorton. He established himself in his native county by acquiring through marriage the manor of Stoughton, three miles south-east of Leicester, which he vigorously improved, converting 20 acres at Stoughton to pasture and exploiting coal deposits in Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire (not always profitably) in partnership with his son-in-law, Sir John Ashburnham, and Sir Percival Willoughby*.8
Beaumont was nominated for Leicester in 1597 by the 4th earl of Huntingdon, only to be rejected as ‘an encloser himself, and unlikely to redress that wrong in others’.9 In 1604, however, he was returned for the county with his kinsman Sir George Villiers. When his partner Willoughby chose to sit for Nottinghamshire rather than Tamworth, where he had also been elected, Beaumont persuaded Willoughby to nominate his nephew, Sir Thomas Beaumont II, for the Tamworth seat. Uncle and nephew are never distinguished from one another in the records of the first Stuart Parliament. However, as the uncle was older and sat for a more prestigious seat it has been assumed that most of the references to Sir Thomas Beaumont relate to him.
Beaumont was certainly appointed on 24 Mar. 1604 to the committee to recommend expiring laws for continuance or repeal, as Sir Thomas Beaumont II was not returned for another three days.10 Consequently it seems almost certain that it was Beaumont who was appointed to consider the resulting bill on 23 June.11 He was probably among those ordered to consider a bill confirming the liberty of the subject (29 Mar.), and to attend conferences with the Lords on Union with Scotland (14 Apr.), purveyance (7 May), and wardship (22 May). His principal interest was in religion, and on 19 Apr. he was appointed to prepare for a conference with the Lords on that subject. He also spoke in the debate initiated by Sir James Perrot on 5 May, although his words are not recorded, and was named to committees for bills to prevent pluralism (4 June) and ‘to take away all excuse of not coming to church’ (27 June). His other legislative appointments included the bill against obstructions on navigable rivers (23 June), which was of interest to his partner Willoughby, who owned coal barges on the Trent.12
In the second session Beaumont was joined by his elder brother, Sir Henry, who was elected senior knight of the shire for Leicestershire on 6 Feb. 1606. He continued to show an interest in religious issues, for on 22 Jan. he was appointed to the committee ‘to consider of the fittest course to provide for the general planting of a learned ministry’ and to combat non-residence. Seven days later he was named to the committee for the Sabbath observance bill. In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot he urged, rather impractically on 3 Feb. that measures should be taken to prevent recusants from keeping house, and on the same day he was named to attend the conference with the Lords about the recusant laws. He was subsequently named to committees to consider bills for ‘the better direction of ecclesiastical proceedings’ (1 Apr.) and ‘against such as coming to church do refuse to receive the sacrament’ (7 April). On 3 Apr. he was among those ordered to confer with the Lords about ecclesiastical grievances.13
On 31 Jan. 1606 Beaumont produced the navigable rivers bill from the previous session, which had never been reported, and it was given a first reading. After the second reading on 7 Feb. he was named to the committee.14 The name ‘Sir Thomas Beaumont’ appears twice on the list of the committee to consider the bill to regulate legal fees on 14 Feb. 1606, suggesting that both Members with this name and style were appointed.15 Beaumont may have left before the end of the session as either he or his namesake were reported to be absent from Westminster on 24 May.16
Beaumont was named to just six committees in the third session. He showed only a very limited interest in the Union, the main business of the session: on 28 Nov. 1606 he was added to a committee to prepare for a conference with the Lords and on 16 Feb. 1607 he opposed the expulsion of Christopher Piggott for insulting the Scots.17 Although not among those named to consider the bill to explain the 1604 statute regulating the leather industry after its second reading on 9 Dec. 1606, he apparently attended the committee, to whose members he tendered a proviso, the effect of which is unknown. The committee did not see fit to incorporate his proviso into the bill, but it was ‘remembered’ by Edward Alford at the report stage on 14 Mar. 1607. The House subsequently ordered the bill to be engrossed as it was, but gave permission for the proviso to be tendered again at third reading. There is no evidence that Beaumont took up this offer.18 On 18 Feb. 1607 Beaumont and his brother Sir Henry nominated the Leicestershire collectors of the second fifteenth voted the previous year.19
By 1607 there were signs of growing tension between Beaumont and the 5th earl of Huntingdon, the head of the Hastings family who had recently come of age and replaced Beaumont’s elder brother, Sir Henry I, as custos rotulorum of Leicestershire. Probably as a consequence, Beaumont drew closer to the 1st Lord Grey of Groby (Sir Henry Grey†), Huntingdon’s rival for dominance in the county. Beaumont tried to block the appointment to the bench of Huntingdon’s great-uncle and confidant, Walter Hastings, in the summer of 1607. Beaumont objected to Walter because the latter was widely suspected of harbouring Catholic sympathies. In a letter to Huntingdon he declared that Walter was ineligible for office owing to his wife’s recusancy, claimed that he knew the appointment ‘to be against the mind of the Parliament’, and added that ‘if he lived to the next session it should be amended’. Beaumont also clashed with Huntingdon over Leicestershire’s local composition for purveyance. Indeed, the earl, who took over responsibility for raising this money in 1607, subsequently claimed that he had been consistently opposed by Beaumont.20
In December 1607 Beaumont was compelled to bring an action in Star Chamber against a former servant, Coleman, who had sought revenge for his dismissal by claiming intimacy with his wife and daughters. Repetition of these stories was encouraged, if not instigated, by Walter Hastings’ son, the openly Catholic Sir Henry Hastings of Braunston, whom Beaumont had presented as a recusant at the local quarter sessions for a month’s absence from church and allegedly over-assessed for the subsidy. Hastings claimed that Beaumont was acting in collusion with his own Protestant cousin and namesake, Sir Henry Hastings*, against whom he had suits pending in the duchy of Lancaster court. Coleman was whipped, pilloried, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but escaped. However, sensational as the case was, its impact on county politics was probably mitigated by the refusal of Huntingdon and even Walter Hastings to support the allegations against Beaumont.21
There is no evidence that Beaumont pursued his complaint against the appointment of Walter Hastings when Parliament resumed in 1610, but he was more prominent in the fourth session than he had been before. It is possible that he was added to the privileges committee, for although not recorded among those added to the committee at the beginning of the session he was listed as a member on 11 May, when the committee was ordered to draw up an order about receiving messages from the king.22 In the debate of 28 Feb. 1610, on the Great Contract, he expressed satisfaction that ‘contribution and retribution’ were being taken together, but urged proceeding gradually by considering the value of what was offered and what the country could afford before granting a supply.23 However, on 1 May he demanded ‘that we may first understand what is propounded’, as he complained that what was on offer was ‘darkly propounded’.24 In the supply debate on 13 June he criticized Humphrey May for attacking those who were reluctant to vote subsidies. Although he agreed that the king was ‘fit to be supplied’ and thought two subsidies were inadequate, he did not consider the time was yet right. He joined with Sir Francis Hastings and Herbert Croft in arguing that grievances and supply should go hand in hand and proposed that the latter should be deferred until James I had answered the grievances and the Contract had been concluded. Alternatively, if the king was not ready to give an immediate answer, he proposed that the session should be adjourned for three months, to give Members time to consult their constituents and seek their consent.25 Five days later he was appointed to the committee to prepare a message to the Lords about support.26
On 22 May Beaumont expressed the House’s alarm at the king’s claim that the right to levy impositions formed part of his prerogative when he stated that there was ‘a fear, that our whole liberty be swallowed up’. He was named to a committee appointed to draw up a petition to the king about the subject on 3 July.27 Having been appointed to the Leicestershire commission to try the enclosure rioters apprehended in the Midland rising in 1607, he was named on 18 Feb. to consider a bill ‘for reformation of disorders and abuses amongst commoners, concerning their commons’.28 On 15 June he was appointed to the committee for the bill to endow a hospital and grammar school at Thetford, in Norfolk, which he opposed at the report stage on 26 June. He did not press his opposition to a division, but may have done enough to earn the hostility of the borough patron, the earl of Northampton.29
Returning to Westminster for the fifth session, Beaumont argued on 2 Nov. 1610 that the Commons could only give a conditional reply to the king’s message about the Contract. He seems to have been unsure whether the concessions promised in the last session were still on the table and whether they would be binding. He was also concerned how the money to be paid to the king in compensation would be raised.30 Beaumont’s worries about the Contract became fully evident on 7 Nov., when he made his longest recorded speech. He argued that dangers lay ahead, whether they proceeded with the Contract or broke it off, as ‘both ways we must be undone’. If the king’s demands were met ‘the people [would be] driven to great want’, which was ‘too base for free-born men’. However, he feared the constitutional implications of breaking off the Contract, asking ‘what ... can become of us, when even as things now stand our liberties are infringed?’. He complained that ‘the liberty of the subjects [was] much impeached’ and that ‘Magna Carta [was] not now to be spoken of’. He was particularly resentful that the Crown continued to levy impositions and resort to purveyance, as in his eyes both were self-evidently illegal. He feared that if the Contract failed James would rely ever more on prerogative finance, further eroding the rule of law, and he asked ‘if these things be thus now, what may we expect to find them hereafter?’ Beaumont announced that, in general, his constituents had responded positively to the Contract, and had agreed that if all their grievances were addressed ‘they would be willing to give £200,000 a year and also to give some present supply’. However, he added that ‘they pressed me particularly to tell them whether the impositions, which were resolved in Parliament to be unlawful, were determined by the king to be laid down’. He also reported that many were anxious that the money to compensate the king should not all be rated upon land. Despite his misgivings about the consequences of rejecting the Contract, Beaumont eventually came down on the side of abandoning the negotiations. James’s demand for an additional supply of £500,000, he argued, made it ‘impossible for us to deal for it’.31
Beaumont was one of the 30 Members summoned on 16 Nov. to an audience with the king, at which he ‘showed the greatness of impositions’.32 In his last recorded speech, on 23 Nov., he examined the case for granting James supply now that the Contract had failed. The first point was ‘the king’s necessities’, which, he conceded, was a matter ‘much to be respected’. However, he evidently doubted that a vote of taxation would solve James’s chronic financial problems or stem the rise of prerogative finance. Would anyone, he demanded, ‘undertake that the king shall not want hereafter?’. Next he considered the fear that James would resort to ‘privy seals, and execution of the penal laws’ (by which he was presumably referring to any statute which imposed a financial penalty), but he dismissed this possibility with the assertion that ‘the king is just’. He argued that there was no reason to vote subsidies, as the country was not threatened with invasion and Members had already performed a ‘testimony of our love’ by offering support ‘for the maintenance of the king’. Finally, he raised the question of the impositions. After dwelling on their deleterious impact on the economy he returned to the question of their legality and argued that in Scotland not only was there no comparable tax but there was a law that ‘no judge nor any other shall presume to expound the law contrary to the meaning of the law makers’. In England, he added bitterly, ‘we have the like laws, but they are more infringed’. He ended by calling for a committee, but the session was adjourned the following day.33
Beaumont’s parliamentary career earned him a very mixed reputation. Sir William Heyricke* wrote in 1614 that Leicestershire ‘got as good an opinion in the House the last Parliament by Sir William Skipwith* and Sir Thomas Beaumont the elder as any shire or county in England’.34 However the earl of Northampton called Beaumont ‘that notorious knave that opposed the king so powerfully in Parliament’.35 Perhaps as a result of opposition from the earl of Huntingdon, Beaumont was not elected to the Addled Parliament. He died on 27 Nov. 1614 and was buried at Stoughton. In his will, dated 20 Feb. 1613, he left £10 to the poor, especially the colliers at his Bedworth mine in Warwickshire. He also placed those of his estates which lay outside his native county in trust to pay off his debts, which were substantial, and to provide legacies for his brother Francis and his younger children. The Leicestershire estates were entailed on his eldest son. The profits from his mines he left to Sir John Ashburnham, although they were also to be used to provide an annuity of £40 for his brother. His grandson Thomas represented Leicestershire throughout the Protectorate.36
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Paula Watson / Ben Coates
- 1. E.T. Beaumont, Beaumonts in Hist. 176-8; Nichols, County of Leicester, ii. 854; iii. 744; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 103, 109.
- 2. C231/1, f. 74v; C66/1988.
- 3. Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica (1782), vii. 55.
- 4. C181/1, ff. 71, 72v, 130v.
- 5. SP14/31/1; STAC 8/55/26.
- 6. C181/2, f. 35.
- 7. E179/283/4.
- 8. VCH Leics. v. 327-8; PROB 11/125, f. 265; ‘Depopulation Returns for Leics. in 1607’ ed. L.A. Parker, Trans. Leics. Arch. Soc. xxiii. 282; VCH Warws. ii. 221-2; vi. 28; viii. 111.
- 9. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 194.
- 10. CJ, i. 152b; OR.
- 11. CJ, i. 244b.
- 12. Ibid. 245b; A.C. Wood, ‘Hist. of Trade and Transport on the River Trent’, Trans. Thoroton Soc. liv. 6-7.
- 13. CJ, i. 258a, 261b, 263a, 291b, 294b, 296b; Bowyer Diary, 22.
- 14. Bowyer Diary, 13-14; CJ, i. 265a.
- 15. CJ, i. 268b.
- 16. W. Yorks. AS (Kirklees), DD/WBC/9.
- 17. CJ, i. 326b, 1014b.
- 18. Ibid. 329a, 352b, 366a, 1031a.
- 19. SP46/62, f. 1.
- 20. R. Cust, ‘Purveyance and pols. in Jacobean Leics.’ Regionalism and Revision ed. P. Fleming, A. Gros and J.R. Lander, 151-7; PROB 11/124, f. 342.
- 21. STAC 8/55/26; Secret Hist. of Ct. of Jas. I ed. W. Scott, ii. 229; R. Cust, ‘Honour and pols. in Early Stuart Eng.: the case of Beaumont v. Hastings’, P and P, cxlix. 57-94.
- 22. HMC Lords, n.s. xi. 120.
- 23. CJ, i. 402b.
- 24. Ibid. 423b.
- 25. Parl. Debates, 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 55; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 16; CJ, i. 441a.
- 26. CJ, i. 441a.
- 27. Ibid. 430b, 4