Normandy. Early in the 11th century Roger de Beaumont, a kinsman of the dukes of Normandy, married a daughter of Waleran, count of Meulan, and their son, Robert de Beaumont (d. 1118), became count of Meulan or Mellent about 1080. Before this date, however, he had fought at Hastings, and had added large estates in Warwickshire to the Norman fiefs of Beaumont and Pont Audemer, which he received when his father entered the abbey of St Peter at Préaux. It was during the reigns of William II. and Henry I. that the count rose to eminence, and under the latter monarch he became “the first among the counsellors of the king.” A “strenuous and sagacious man” he rendered valuable service to both kings in their Norman wars, and Henry I. was largely indebted to him for the English crown. He obtained lands in Leicestershire, and it has been said he was created earl of Leicester; this statement, however, is an error, although he exercised some of the privileges of an earl. His abilities as a counsellor, statesman and diplomatist gained him the admiration of his contemporaries, and Henry of Huntingdon describes him as “the wisest man between this and Jerusalem.” He seems to have been a man of independent character, for he assisted Anselm against William Rufus, although he supported Henry I. in his quarrel with Pope Paschal II. When Robert died on the 5th of June 1118 his lands appear to have been divided between his twin sons, Robert and Waleran, while a third son, Hugh, became earl of Bedford in 1138.
Robert de Beaumont (1104-1168), justiciar of England, married a granddaughter of Ralph Guader, earl of Norfolk, and receiving his father’s English fiefs in 1118 became earl of Leicester. He and his brother, Waleran, were the chief advisers of Stephen, and helped this king to seize the bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln in 1139; later, however, Robert made his peace with Henry II., and became chief justiciar of England. First among the lay nobles he signed the Constitutions of Clarendon, he sought to reconcile Henry and Archbishop Becket, and was twice in charge of the kingdom during the king’s absences in France. The earl founded the abbey of St Mary de Pré at Leicester and other religious houses, and by a charter confirmed the burgesses of Leicester in the possession of their merchant-gild and customs. His son, Robert, succeeded to the earldom of Leicester, and with other English barons assisted prince Henry in his revolt against his father the king in 1173. For this participation, and also on a later occasion, he was imprisoned; but he enjoyed the favour of Richard I., and died in Greece when returning from a pilgrimage in 1190. His son and heir, Robert, died childless in 1204.
Waleran de Beaumont (1104-1166) obtained his father’s French fiefs and the title of count of Meulan in 1118. After being imprisoned for five years by Henry I. he spent some time in England, and during the civil war between Stephen and the empress Matilda he fought for the former until about 1150, when he deserted the king and assisted the empress. His later history appears to have been uneventful. The county of Meulan remained in possession of the Beaumont family until 1204, when it was united with the royal domain.
Another member of the Beaumont family, possibly a relative of the earlier Beaumonts, was Louis de Beaumont (d. 1333), bishop of Durham from 1317 until his death. This prelate was related to the English king, Edward II., and after a life spent in strife and ostentation, he died on the 24th of September 1333. John Beaumont, master of the rolls under Edward VI., was probably a member of the same family. A dishonest and corrupt judge, he was deprived of his office and imprisoned in 1552.
The barony of Beaumont dates from 1309, when Henry Beaumont (d. 1340), who was constable of England in 1322, was summoned to parliament under this title. It was retained by his descendants until the death of William, the 7th baron and the 2nd viscount, in 1507, when it fell into abeyance. In 1840 the barony was revived in favour of Miles Thomas Stapleton (1805-1854), a descendant of Joan, Baroness Lovel, a daughter of the 6th baron, and it has since been retained by his descendants.
In 1906 Wentworth Blackett Beaumont (1829-1907), the head of a family well known in the north of England, was created Baron Allendale.
BEAUMONT, CHRISTOPHE DE (1703-1781), French ecclesiastic and archbishop of Paris, was a cadet of the Les Adrets and Saint-Quentin branch of the illustrious Dauphiné family of Beaumont. He became bishop of Bayonne in 1741, then archbishop of Vienne in 1743, and in 1746, at the age of forty-three, archbishop of Paris. Beaumont is noted for his struggle with the Jansenists. To force them to accept the bull Unigenitus which condemned their doctrines, he ordered the priests of his diocese to refuse absolution to those who would not recognize the bull, and to deny funeral rites to those who had confessed to a Jansenist priest. While other bishops sent Beaumont their adhesion to his crusade, the parlement of Paris threatened to confiscate his temporalities. The king forbade the parlement to interfere in these spiritual questions, and upon its proving obdurate it was exiled (September 18, 1753). The “royal chamber,” which was substituted, having failed to carry on the administration of justice properly, the king was obliged to recall the parlement, and the archbishop was sent into honourable exile (August 1754). An effort was made to induce him to resign the active duties of his see to a coadjutor, but in spite of the most tempting offers—including a cardinal’s hat—he refused. On the contrary, to his polemic against the Jansenists he added an attack on the philosophes, and issued a formal mandatory letter condemning Rousseau’s Émile. Rousseau replied in his masterly Lettre à M. de Beaumont (1762), in which he insists that freedom of discussion in religious matters is essentially more religious than the attempt to impose belief by force.
De Beaumont’s Mandements, lettres et instructions pastorales were published in two volumes in 1780, the year before his death.
BEAUMONT, SIR JOHN (1583-1627), English poet, second son of the judge, Sir Francis Beaumont, was born at Grace-Dieu in Leicestershire in 1583. The deaths of his father (in 1598) and of his elder brother, Sir Henry Beaumont (in 1605), made the poet early the head of this brilliant family; the dramatist, Francis Beaumont, being a younger brother. John went to Oxford in February 1597, and entered as a gentleman commoner in Broadgates Hall, the present Pembroke College. He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1600, but on the death of Henry he no doubt went down to Grace-Dieu to manage the family estates. He began to write verse early, and in 1602, at the age of nineteen, he published anonymously his Metamorphosis of Tabacco, written in very smooth couplets, in which he addressed Drayton as his “loving friend.” He lived in Leicestershire for many years as a bachelor, being one “who never felt Love’s dreadful arrow.” But in process of time he became a tardy victim, and married a lady of the Fortescue family, who bore him four stout sons, the eldest of whom, another John, was accounted one of the most athletic men of his time. “He could leap 16 ft. at one leap, and would commonly, at a stand-leap, jump over a high long table in the hall, light on a settle beyond the table, and raise himself straight up.” This magnificent young man was not without literary taste; he edited his father’s posthumous poems, and wrote an enthusiastic elegy on him; he was killed in 1644 at the siege of Gloucester. Another of Sir John Beaumont’s sons, Gervaise, died in childhood, and the incidents of his death are recorded in one of his father’s most touching poems. Sir John Beaumont concentrated his powers on a poem in eight books, entitled The Crown of Thorns, which was greatly admired in MS. by the earl of Southampton and others, but which is lost. After long retirement, Beaumont was persuaded by the duke of Buckingham to move in larger circles; he attended court and in 1626 was made a baronet. This honour he did not long survive, for he died on the 19th of April 1627, and was buried in Westminster Abbey ten days later. The new Sir John, the strong man, published in 1629 a volume entitled Bosworth Field; with a taste of the variety of other Poems
- His father John (d. 1460), the 6th baron, great chamberlain and constable of England, was the first person advanced to the dignity of a viscount in England.