Beaumont, Basil (DNB00)

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BEAUMONT, BASIL (1669–1703), rear-admiral, was the fifth son, amongst the twenty-one children, of Sir Henry Beaumont, of Stoughton Grange and Cole Orton, a distant cousin of the Duke of Buckingham (Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, and Gardiner's Hist. of England, ii 317). Of his early service in the navy there is no record: it was short and uneventful, and on 28 Oct. 1688 he was appointed lieutenant of the Portsmouth. Six months later, 21 April 1689, he was appointed captain of the Centurion, which ship was lost in Plymouth Sound in a violent storm on 25 Dec. of the same year. Although so young a captain, no blame attached to him. He was accordingly appointed, after some months, to the Dreadnought, and early in 1692 was transferred to the Rupert, in which ship he took part in the battle of Barfleur. He continued in the Rupert during the following year; and in 1694 commanded the Canterbury in the Mediterranean. In 1696 he commanded the Mountagu, in the fleet cruising in the Channel and off Ushant, and was for a short time detached as commodore of an inshore squadron. He was afterwards transferred, at short intervals, to the Neptune, Essex, and Duke, whilst in command of the squadron off Dunkirk, during the remainder of 1696 and till the peace. In November 1698 he was appointed to the Resolution, and during the next year was senior officer at Spithead, with a special commission for commanding in chief and holding courts-martial (23 Feb. 1698-9). In the end of August he was ordered to pay the ship off. He commissioned her again some months later, and continued in her for the next two years, for a great part of which time he lay in the Downs, commanding — as he wrote — 'a number of ships of consequence, with no small trouble and a good deal of charge,' on which he referred it to the lord high admiral, 'if this does not require more than barely commanding as the eldest captain' (9 April 1702). His application did not meet with immediate success; in June he was turned over to the Tilbury, and continued to command the squadron in the Downs, at the Nore, and in the North Sea, till, on 1 March 1702-3, he was promoted to be a rear-admiral, and directed to hoist his flag on board the Mary, then fitting out at Woolwich. His rank, not his service, was altered. During the summer he cruised in the North Sea and off Dunkirk, or convoyed the Baltic trade; on the approach of winter he returned to the Downs, where he anchored on 19 Oct. He was still there on 27 Nov., when the great storm which 'o'er pale Britannia passed,' hurled the ship on to the Goodwin Sands. Every soul on board, the admiral included, was lost. The circumstances of his death have given to Admiral Beaumont's name a wider repute than his career as an officer would have otherwise entitled it to; his service throughout was creditable, without being distinguished; and the only remarkable point about it is that, after having held important commands, he attained flag-rank within fifteen years of his entry into the service, and when he was not yet thirty-four years of age. Two younger brothers, who had also entered the navy, had previously died; one, William Villiers, a lieutenant, had died of fever in the West Indies, 17 July 1697; the other, Charles, was lost in the blowing up of the Carlisle, 19 Sept. 1700; and their mother, Lady Beaumont, after the death of the rear-admiral, memorialised the queen, praying for relief. As Lady Beaumont's second son, George, who, on the death of his elder brother, had succeeded to the title and estates, was unmarried and appointed a lord commissioner of the admiralty in 1714, the implied statement that the family was dependent on Basil is curious. The petition, however, was successful, and a pension of 50l. a year was granted to each of the six daughters.

Beaumont's portrait, by Michael Dahl, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich, to which it was presented by King George IV; it is that of a comely young man, who might have become very stout if he had lived.

[Official documents in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.