BEAUMONT, Sir Thomas II (c.1582-1625), of Coleorton, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. c.1582, o.s. of Sir Henry Beaumont I* and Elizabeth, da. of John Loveys, Mercer, of London.1 educ. Peterhouse, Camb. c.1596; I. Temple 1610.2 m. lic. 2 Oct. 1600, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Henry Sapcote of Bracebridge, Lincs., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da.3 kntd. 23 Apr. or 11 May 1603;4 suc. fa. 1607, aged 25;5 cr. bt. 17 Sept. 1619,6 Visct. Beaumont of Swords [I] 20 May 1622.7 d. 8 Feb. 1625.8
J.p. Leics. by 1608-16, 1618-at least 1623;9 commr. oyer and terminer, Midlands rising, Leics. 1607, Midlands circ. 1612-16;10 sheriff, Leics. 1610-11;11 capt. militia horse, Leics. by 1614-16;12 commr. sewers, Lincs. 1618, Lincs., Rutland and Northants. 1624;13 commr. subsidy, Leics. 1621-2, 1624.14
Member, Virg. Co. by 1612.15
Beaumont was the only son of one of the most important members of the Leicestershire gentry, based at Coleorton three miles north-east of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, who married another heiress, by whom he had a large family. His uncle, Sir Thomas I*, found a seat for him in the first Stuart Parliament when his business partner, Sir Percival Willoughby, who had been returned for Nottinghamshire and Tamworth, opted to serve for the former. He was returned for Tamworth at a by-election a few days after the opening of the session. The presence of his uncle and namesake in the Commons makes it difficult to establish the extent of his parliamentary activities, but given his youth it is likely that the vast majority of references to ‘Sir Thomas Beaumont’ in the surviving records refer to the uncle. One exception is the appointment of the committee for the legal fees bill on 14 Feb. 1606, when this name occurs twice in the list, although this may be a mistake on the part of the clerk.16 On 24 May 1606, a correspondent of Sir Richard Beaumont*, after reporting that Beaumont’s father had left Westminster that day, wrote that ‘Sir Tho[mas] was not here since’.17 His father’s death in March 1607 left him the head of the family and he obtained leave the following December to travel for three years; but his admission as an honorary member of the Inner Temple in February 1610 indicates he had returned in time to attend the fourth session.18
In 1613 the 3rd earl of Essex initially chose Beaumont as one of his seconds for his abortive duel with Henry Howard*, but quickly replaced him with Richard Ouseley.19 Five years later a masque was performed at Coleorton to celebrate the marriage of Essex’s sister to Sir William Seymour*. The participants included Beaumont himself, Essex, and either Essex’s illegitimate half-brother (Sir) Walter Devereux* or his cousin Sir Walter Devereux* of Leigh Court. The masque may have been written by Thomas Pestell, who had been appointed to the rectory of Coleorton in 1611 and became Essex’s chaplain four years later. The text includes criticisms of the ‘new sect’ of puritans, who were attacked for abolishing ‘country mirth’.20
In 1616 Beaumont lost all his public offices, possibly because of his increasing indebtedness. In a letter to the lord lieutenant of Leicestershire, the 5th earl of Huntingdon, resigning his command of the county’s militia cavalry, he explained that ‘my own occasions will not give me leave to attend the business’. However, in 1618, with the emergence of his kinsman, George Villiers, as the new royal favourite, he was restored as a justice of the peace and granted free warren in his manor of Coleorton. The following year he was created a baronet without having to pay the standard fee of £1,095. Nevertheless, his financial situation continued to deteriorate, and by 1620 he was compelled to mortgage almost all his Leicestershire estates and coal mines, bringing in about £2,000 p.a., to his wife’s first cousin Sir Richard Burnaby. Some of his ventures proved very costly. His pits at Measham, for example, made an overall loss of £4,890 over 13 years. In 1619, together with the favourite’s half-brother Sir Edward Villiers* and Sir Lewis Tresham, he was granted the goods and lands, said to be worth £30,000, of one John Harman of Barlestone in Leicestershire if they could obtain his conviction and forfeiture for petty larceny. Harman objected to so many of the jurors that the case initially failed, and it was not until early in 1620 that a conviction was secured.21
It may have been debt that led Beaumont to seek election for Leicestershire in 1620. Alternatively, he may have feared that Harman would petition Parliament and wanted to be present to defend himself. Either way, his decision to stand led him to challenge directly the authority of the earl of Huntingdon, who had nominated his brother (Sir) George Hastings* and his cousin Sir Henry Hastings for the county seats. This was perhaps surprising, for only two years earlier, at the Coleorton masque, Huntingdon had been characterized as ‘honest Harry’.22
All the sources agree that both members of the Hastings family gained the overwhelming majority of the votes. Beaumont, however, persuaded the sheriff, Sir Alexander Cave, that Sir George Hastings was ineligible because he was neither resident nor a freeholder in Leicestershire. Consequently, he had himself returned with Sir Henry Hastings. On 23 Jan. 1621 Villiers, now marquess of Buckingham, wrote to Sir George asking him accept this outcome, but to no avail. A formal complaint in the name of the freeholders of Leicestershire was read at the privileges committee on 6 Feb. and Beaumont was formally unseated three days later. On 12 Feb. the sheriff complained to the Commons that Beaumont had threatened to sue him if he altered the return, whereupon Beaumont, who did not deny the allegation, promised to bring no action against Cave.23 Beaumont played no further part in the 1621 Parliament, although Harman subsequently complained to the Commons. Claiming to have been the victim of a conspiracy, Harman stated that Beaumont had arrested him for taking money from one of his own tenants and that a juror had been bribed £100 to secure a conviction. The petition was initially rejected after it was heard in committee, and though presented to the Commons on 14 May by Sir Walter Earle it was subsequently allowed to sleep.24
In the autumn of 1621 Beaumont opened negotiations with the Irish magnate, Richard Boyle, 1st earl of Cork, for a match between his heir and one of Cork’s daughters. Agreement was reached in November 1622 but the marriage never took place, although Beaumont retained the greater part of the £4,000 portion.25 Earlier in 1622, presumably thanks to Buckingham’s patronage, he had secured an Irish viscountcy, despite the fact that, as Chamberlain commented, he had ‘no great store of land left’ to maintain his new dignity.26
In the 1624 Parliament Sir Thomas Cheke* introduced a bill to settle a Chancery suit between himself and Beaumont. Beaumont had previously mortgaged lands in Leicestershire to Cheke and, to redeem his property, had conveyed the manor of Elton in Huntingdonshire to him in 1614. However, Beaumont had acquired Elton from his father-in-law who, Cheke claimed, had a concealed interest in the property, which threatened his own title. Beaumont denied intending to defraud Cheke, and made no attempt to oppose the measure. On the contrary, it was Beaumont’s friend Essex who reported the bill in the Lords on 3 May. At the end of the session the bill confirming Cheke’s title was enacted.27
In a hurried will dated 5 Oct. 1624, naming his wife as sole executrix and universal legatee, Beaumont stated that he was ‘enforced at this instant to uphold and maintain mine honour, being called in question, with my sword’. Nothing is known of this duel, which he survived for some months, dying on 8 Feb. 1625. His grandson Henry, an army officer, sat for Nottingham as a Tory in James II’s Parliament, but played a prominent part in the Glorious Revolution.28
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. Nichols, County of Leicester, iii. 743-4; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 296.
- 2. Al. Cant.; I. Temple database of admiss.
- 3. Lincs. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lii), 853; Nichols, iii. 744.
- 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 103, 109.
- 5. C142/302/118.
- 6. CB, i. 127.
- 7. CPR Ire. Jas. I, 542.
- 8. C142/421/130.
- 9. SP14/33, f. 36v; C231/4, ff. 29, 63; HMC Hastings, ii. 62.
- 10. C181/2, ff. 35, 161v, 259v.
- 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 75.