Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/51

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Beaufort
Beaufort
47

the Duke of Somerset, was persuaded to take the command of the expedition which was fitted out in that year, the cardinal promised to lend 20,000l. towards its equipment, insisting, however, at the same time that the patent securing the repayment of this sum should be drawn out in the exact words he chose; 'else he would lend no money.' When, therefore, the form was being read before the lords of the council, the Duke of Gloucester said that such reading was needless, since his uncle had passed it, and would have that and no other (Ord. v. 280). Bitterly as the words were spoken, they were true enough, for without the help of the cardinal the whole expedition must have come to naught. In this year Beaufort obtained another general pardon and release from all fines and penalties for anything which he had done. In the marriage of the king with Margaret of Anjou, in 1445, the cardinal must have believed that he saw the promise of that peace for which he had sought so earnestly, and it is therefore interesting to find (Ord. v. 323) that the queen's wedding-ring was made out of a ring with 'a fair ruby' which the cardinal had presented to the king on the day of his coronation. In the mysterious death of the Duke of Gloucester, which took place 23 Feb. 1447, Cardinal Beaufort certainly could have had no part. Bitter as was the duke's enmity against him, Beaufort would never have done a deed which was so contrary to the interests of the Lancastrian dynasty, and which opened the way for the ambitious schemes of the rival house. A few weeks later, on 11 April, the great cardinal died. The scene in which Shakespeare portrays (Second Part Hen. VI, act iii. sc. 3) 'the black despair' of his death has no historical basis. Hall records some words of complaint and repentance which, he says, Dr. John Baker, the cardinal's chaplain, told him that his master uttered on his death-bed. In spite, however, of this authority, there is good reason for doubting the truth of the story. A short account of the cardinal's last days has been given us by an eye-witness (Cont. Croyland). As he lay dying in the Wolvesey palace at Winchester, he had many men, monks and clergy and laymen, gathered in the great chamber where he was, and there he caused the funeral service and the requiem mass to be sung. During the last few days of his life he was busied with his will, and added the second of its two codicils on 9 April. In the evening before he died the will was read over to him before all who were in the chamber, and as it was read he made such corrections and additions as he thought needful. On the morning of the next day he confirmed it with an audible voice. Then he took leave of all, and so died. He was buried, according to his directions, in his cathedral church of Winchester. A large part of his great wealth was left for charitable purposes. When his executors offered the king 2,000l. from the residue of his estate, Henry refused it, saying, 'My uncle was very dear to me, and did me much kindness while he lived; may the Lord reward him! Do with his goods as ye are bound to do; I will not have them' (Blakman, De Virtutibus Hen. VI). At Winchester Beaufort finished the rebuilding of the cathedral, and re-founded and enlarged the hospital of St. Cross, near that city, giving it the name of Nova Domus Eleemosynaria Nobilis Paupertatis. Busied in the affairs of the world, he lived a secular life. In his early years he was the lover of Lady Alice Fitzalan, daughter of Richard, Earl of Arundel, and by her had a daughter named Joan, who married Sir Edward Stradling, knight, of St. Donat's, in the county of Glamorgan. Beaufort was ambitious, haughty, and impetuous. Rich and heaping up riches, he has continually been charged with avarice. He certainly seems to have clung unduly to his office as trustee of the family estates of the house of Lancaster, which must have given him command of a considerable sum of money. Trading in money, he was not to blame if he took care that he should as far as possible be defended from loss, and if he loved it too well he at least made his country a gainer by his wealth. His speeches in parliament are marked by a constitutional desire to uphold the crown by the advice and support of the estates of the realm. He was unwearied in the business of the state and farsighted and patriotic in his counsels. Family relationships with foreign courts, as well as his position as cardinal, gave him a place in Europe such as was held by no other statesman, and made him the fittest representative of his country abroad. The events which followed his death are the best proofs of the wisdom of his policy and of his loyalty both to the crown and to the truest interests of England. [Ordinances of the Privy Council, ii.-v. ed. Sir H. Nicolas; Rolls of Parliament, iii. iv.; Rymer's Fœdera, ix. x.; Gesta Henrici V. ed. Williams, Eng. Hist. Soc.; Thomas Otterbourne's Chron. ed. Hearne; Thomas do Elmham's Vita, &c. ed. Hearne; Letters illustrative of the Wars in France, ed. Stevenson, Rolls Ser.; Historical Collections of a Citizen of London, ed. Gairdner, Camden Soc.; Walsingham's Historia, John Amundesham's Annales, Chron. Monast. Sancti