Beaumont, Robert de (1104-1168) (DNB00)

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BEAUMONT, ROBERT de, Earl of Leicester (1104–1168), justiciary of England, was son of the preceding, and a twin with his brother Waleran [see Beaumont, Waleran de]. He seems, however, to have been deemed the younger, and is spoken of as postnatus in the 'Testa de Nevill.' He is stated to have been born in 1104 (Ord. Vit. xi. 6) when his father was advanced in years, a date fatal to the story in the 'Abingdon Chronicle' (ii. 229), that he had been at the Benedictine monastery there as a boy, 'regis Willelmi tempore' (i.e. ante 1099). At his father's death (1118) he succeeded to his English fiefs (Ord. Vit. xii. 33), being apparently considered the younger of the twins, and Henry, in gratitude for his father's services, brought him up, with his brother, in the royal household, and gave him to wife Amicia, daughter of Ralph (de Wader), earl of Norfolk, by Emma, daughter of William (Fitz-Osbern), earl of Hereford, with the fief of Bréteuil for her dower (ib.) The twins accompanied Henry to Normandy, and to his interview with Pope Calixtus at Gisors (November 1119), where they are said to have astounded the cardinals by their learning. They were also present at his death-bed, 1 Dec. 1135 (ib. xiii. 19). In the anarchy that followed, war broke out between Robert and his hereditary foe, Roger de Toesny (ib. xiii. 22), whom he eventually captured by his brother's assistance. In December 1137 the twins returned to England with Stephen, as his chief advisers, and Robert began preparing for his great foundation, his Norman possessions being overrun (ib. xiii. 36) in his absence (1138), till he came to terms with Roger de Toesny (ib. xiii. 38). In June 1139 he took, with his brother, the lead in seizing the bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln at Oxford (ib. xiii. 40), and on the outbreak of civil war was despatched with him, by Stephen, to escort the empress to Bristol (October 1139), and is said (but this is doubtful) to have received a grant of Hereford. He secured his interests with the Angevin party (ib. xiii. 43) after Stephen's defeat (2 Feb. 1141), and then devoted himself to raising, in the outskirts of Leicester, the noble abbey of St. Mary de Pré ('de Pratis') for canons regular of the Austin order. Having bestowed on it rich endowments, including those of his father's foundation, he had it consecrated in 1143 by the bishop of Lincoln, whom he had contrived to reconcile. In 1152 he was still in Stephen's confidence, and exerted his influence to save his brother (Gervase, i. 148), but on Henry landing in 1163 he supplied him freely with means for his struggle (ib. i. 152), and attending him, shortly after his coronation (December 1154) was rewarded with his lasting confidence, and with the post of chief justiciar, in which capacity ('capitalis justicia') he first appears 13 Jan. 1155 (Cart. Ant. W.), and again in 1156 (Rot. Pip. 2 Hen. II). He was now in the closest attendance on the court, and on the queen joining the king in Normandy (December 1158) he was left in charge of the kingdom, in a vice-regal capacity, till the king's return 25 Jan. 1163, Richard de Luci [q. v.], when in England, being associated with him in the government. He was present at the famous council of Clarendon (13-28 Jan. 1164), and his name heads the list of lay signatures to the 'constitutions' (MS. Cott. Claud. B. fo. 26), to which he is said, by his friendly influence, to have procured Becket's assent (Gervase, i. 177). As with his father, in the question of investitures he loyally upheld the claims of the crown, while maintaining to the church and churchmen devotion even greater than his father's. In the great crisis at the council of Northampton (October 1164) he strove, with the Earl of Cornwall, to reconcile the primate with the king, pleading hard with Becket when they visited him (12 Oct.) at his house. The following day they were commissioned to pronounce to him the sentence of the court; but when Leicester, as chief justiciary, commenced his address, he was at once cut short by the primate, who rejected his jurisdiction (Gervase, i. 185; Rog. Hov. i. 222, 228; Materials, ii. 393, &c.) Early the next year (1165) he was again, on the king's departure, left in charge of the kingdom, and, on the Archbishop of Cologne arriving as an envoy from the emperor, refused to greet him on the ground that he was a schismatic (R. Dic. i. 318). He appears to have accompanied Henry to Normandy in the spring of 1166, but leaving him, returned to his post before October, and retained it till his death, which took place in 1168 (Rog. Hov. i. 269; Ann. Wav.; Chron. Mailros.). It is said, in a chronicle of St. Mary de Pré (Mon. Ang. ut infra), that he himself became a canon regular of that abbey, and resided there fifteen years, till his death, when he was buried on the south side of the choir; but it is obvious that he cannot thus have entered the abbey. This earl was known as le Bossu (to distinguish him from his successors), and also, possibly, as le Goczen (Mon. Ang. 1830, vi. 467). He founded, in addition to St. Mary de Pré, the abbey of Garendon (Ann. Wav. 233), the monastery of Nuneaton, the priory of Lusfield, and the hospital of Brackley (wrongly attributed by Dugdale to his father), and was a liberal benefactor to many other houses (see Dugdale). His charter confirming to his burgesses of Leicester their merchant-gild and customs is preserved at Leicester, and printed on p. 404 of the Appendix to the eighth report on Historical MSS., and copies of his charters of wood and pasture are printed in Mr. Thompson's essay (pp. 42-84). He is also said to have remitted the 'gavel-pence' impost, but the story, though accepted by Mr. Thompson (p. 60) and Mr. Jeaffreson (Appendix to 8th Report, ut supra, pp. 404, 406-7), is probably false.

[Ordericus Vitalis, lib. xii.,xiii.; Roger Hoveden (Rolls Series); Gervase of Canterbury (ib.) R. Diceto (ib.); Materials for History of Thomas à Becket (ib.); Monasticon Anglicanum, ii. 308 (ed. 1830, vi. 462-69); Dugdale's Baronage, i. 85-87; Lyttelton's Henry II (1767); Nichols's History of Leicester (1795), pp. 24-68, app. viii. p. 15; Thompson's History of Leicester (chap. vi.), and Essay on Municipal History (1867); Foss's Judges of England (1848), i. 190; Eyton's Court and Itinerary of Henry II.]

J. H. R.