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BEAUCLERK, CHARLES (1670–1726), first Duke of St. Albans, son of Charles II by Nell Gwynn, was born at his mother's house in Lincoln's Inn Fields on 8 May 1670. It is said that one day when the king was with Nell Gwynn she called to the child, 'Come hither, you little bastard, and speak to your father.' 'Nay, Nelly,' said the king, 'do not give the child such a name.' 'Your majesty,' she answered, 'has given me no other name by which I may call him.' Upon this the king gave him the name of Beauclerk, and created him Earl of Burford (Granger, iii. 211; Ellis Correspodence, i. 209 n.) The story can scarcely be accurately told, for the child was created Baron Heddington and Earl of Burford, both in Oxfordshire, before the end of 1670, the year of his birth. In 1684 he was created Duke of St. Albans, and on Easter day of that year accompanied his father and two other natural sons of the king, the Dukes of Northumberland and Richmond, when Charles II made his offering at the altar at Whitehall, the three boys entering before the king within the rails. He was at that time, Evelyn says, 'a very pretty boy' (Diary, ii. 195, 199). During the last illness of his mother it was said that he was about to go into Hungary, and return a good catholic, and that 'the fraternity ' (the other natural sons of the late king) 'would be on the same foot or give way as to their advantageous stations' (Ellis Corresp. i. 264). On his mother's death on 14 Nov. 1687 he received a considerable estate (Luttrell, i. 420), and the next year fulfilled one part of the general expectation, for in 1688 he served in the imperial army against the Turks, and was present at the taking of Belgrade on 20 Aug. of that year. Meanwhile, the regiment of horse he commanded in England was placed under the command of Colonel Langston, who in November 1688 brought it to join the Prince of Orange. The duke took his place in the House of Lords on 9 Nov. 1691. On 17 May 1693 he left for Flanders, and served under William III in the campaign of Landen. A false report was brought to London that he had fallen in that battle. The duke was a gallant soldier, and was highly esteemed by the king, who gave him many tokens of his regard. On his return from Flanders William made him captain of the band of pensioners. He attempted to reform the corps, but on a complaint made by certain of the members the council decided that it was to be kept on the same footing as it had been under Lord Lovelace, the last captain (Luttrell, iv. 250, 260). In April 1694 the duke married Lady Diana Vere, daughter and sole heiress of Aubrey de Vere, twentieth and last Earl of Oxford. He served in Flanders as a volunteer in the July following. In August he received a pension of 2,000l. a year from the crown, half of which was paid out of the ecclesiastical first-fruits (Luttrell, iii. 358; Burnet's Works, vi. 300). The hereditary office of master falconer and the reversion of the office of register of the High Court of Chancery had been granted him by his father. The reversion came to him in 1697, and was worth 1,500l. a year. In the summer of that year he was again with the king in Flanders. On his return after the conclusion of the peace of Ryswick, William gave him 'a sett of coach horses finely spotted like leopards.' In December he was sent to Paris to offer the king's congratulations on the marriage of the Duke of Burgundy with Mary Adelaide, daughter of Victor Amadeus II of Savoy. He had the good fortune the next year to escape from three highwaymen, who, on the night of 18 June, plundered between thirty and forty persons on Hounslow Heath, the Duke of Northumberland being among those attacked. These men 'attempted' the Duke of St. Albans, 'but he was too well attended ' (Luttrell, iv. 394). In 1703 he received a further grant of 800l. a year voted by the parliament of Ireland. The duke voted for the condemnation of Dr. Sacheverell. On the triumph of the tory ministry in January 1712 he was dismissed from his office of captain of the pensioners; he was, however, reinstated by George I, and in 1718 was made a knight of the Garter. He died in 1726. His brother James had died at Paris in 1680. The Duchess of St. Albans, who was a celebrated beauty, died in 1742. The duke had eight sons by her. The eldest succeeded to his father's title; the third was created Lord Vere of Hanworth in 1750; the fifth, Sydney, a notorious fortune-hunter, was the father of Topham Beauclerk [q. v.]; the eighth son was Aubrey Beauclerk [q.v.].

[Luttrell's Brief Relation of State Affairs; Evelyn's Diary, ed. 1854; Ellis Correspondence, ed. Hon. G. A. Ellis; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, iii. 211, 3rd edit.; Burnet's Own Time, Oxford ed.; Collins's Peerage of England, ed Brydges, i. 244; Walpole's Letters, i. 118, ed. Cunningham.]

W. H.