BEAUCHAMP, the name of several important English families. The baronial house of Beauchamp of Bedford was founded at the Conquest by Hugh de Beauchamp, who received a barony in Bedfordshire. His eldest son Simon left a daughter, whose husband Hugh (brother of the count of Meulan) was created earl of Bedford by Stephen. But the heir-male, Miles de Beauchamp, nephew of Simon, held Bedford Castle against the king in 1137-1138. From his brother Payn descended the barons of Bedford, of whom William held Bedford Castle against the royal forces in the struggle for the Great Charter, and was afterwards made prisoner at the battle of Lincoln, while John, who sided with the barons under Simon de Montfort, fell at Evesham. With him the line ended, but a younger branch was seated at Eaton Socon, Beds., where the earthworks of their castle remain, and held their barony there into the 14th century.
The Beauchamps of Elmley, Worcestershire, the greatest house of the name, were founded by the marriage of Walter de Beauchamp with the daughter of Urise d'Abetot, a Domesday baron, which brought him the shrievalty of Worcestershire, the office of a royal steward, and large estates. His descendant William, of Elmley, married Isabel, sister and eventually heiress to William Mauduit, earl of Warwick, and their son succeeded in 1268 to Warwick Castle and that earldom, which remained with his descendants in the male line till 1445. The earls of the Beauchamp line played a great part in English history. Guy, the 2nd, distinguished himself in the Scottish campaigns of Edward I., who warned him at his death against Piers Gaveston. Under Edward II. he was one of the foremost foes of Piers, who had styled him "the black cur of Arden," and with whose death he was closely connected. As one of the "lords ordainers" he was a recognized leader of the opposition to Edward II. By the heiress of the Tonis he left at his death in 1315 a son Earl Thomas, who distinguished himself at Crécy and Poitiers, was marshal of the English host, and, with his brother John, one of the founders of the order of the Garter. In 1369 his son Earl Thomas succeeded; from 1376 to 1379 he was among the lords striving for reform, and in the latter year he was appointed governor to the king. Under Richard II. he joined the lords appellant in their opposition to the king and his ministers, and was in power with them 1388-1389; treacherously arrested by Richard in 1397, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London (the Beauchamp Tower being called after him), but liberated by Henry IV. on his triumph (1399). In 1401 he was succeeded by his son Earl Richard, a brave and chivalrous warrior, who defeated Owen Glendower, fought the Percys at Shrewsbury, and, after travelling in state through Europe and the Holy Land, was employed against the Lollards and afterwards as lay ambassador from England to the council of Constance (1414). He held command for a time at Calais, and took an active part in the French campaigns of Henry V., who created him earl and count of Aumale in Normandy. He had charge of the education of Henry VI., and in 1437 was appointed lieutenant of France and of Normandy. Dying at Rouen in 1439, he left by Isabel, widow of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Worcester, a son, Earl Henry, who was created duke of Warwick, 1445, and is alleged, but without authority, to have been crowned king of the Isle of Wight by Henry VI. He died, the last of his line, in June 1445. On the death of Anne, his only child, in 1449, his vast inheritance passed to Anne, his sister of the whole blood, wife of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury ("the Kingmaker"), who thereupon became earl of Warwick.
Of the cadet branches of the house, the oldest was that of Powyke and Alcester, which obtained a barony in 1447 and became extinct in 1496; from it sprang the Beauchamps, Lords St. Amand from 1448, of whom was Richard, bishop of Salisbury, first chancellor of the order of the Garter, and who became extinct in 1508, being the last known male heirs of the race. Another cadet was Sir John Beauchamp of Holt, minister of Richard II., who was created Lord Beauchamp of Kidderminster (the first baron created by patent) 1387, but beheaded 1388; the barony became extinct with his son in 1400. Roger, Lord Beauchamp of Bletsoe, summoned in 1363, is said to have been descended from the Powyke branch; his line ended early in the 15th century. Later cadets were John, brother of the 3rd earl, who carried the standard at Crécy, became captain of Calais, and was summoned as a peer in 1350, but died unmarried; and William, brother of the 4th earl, who was distinguished in the French wars, and succeeding to the lands of the Lords Abergavenny was summoned in that barony 1392; his son was created earl of Worcester in 1420, but died without male issue in 1422; from his daughter, who married Sir Edward Neville, descended the Lords Abergavenny.
The Lords Beauchamp of "Hache" (1299-1361) were so named from their seat of Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset, and were of a wholly distinct family. Their title, "Beauchamp of Hache," was revived for the Seymours in 1536 and 1559. The title of "Beauchamp of Powyke" was revived as a barony in 1806 for Richard Lygon (descended through females from the Beauchamps of Powyke), who was created Earl Beauchamp in 1815.
See Sir W. Dugdale, Baronage (1675-1676) and Warwickshire (2nd ed., 1730); G.E. C[okayne], Complete Peerage (1887-1898); W. Courthope, Rows Roll (1859); and J.H. Round, Geoffrey de Mandeville (1892).
(J. H. R.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)