BEAUMONT, Hon. John (c.1636-1701), of St. Anne’s, Westminster, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. c.1636, 2nd s. of Sapcote, 2nd Visct. Beaumont of Swords [I], of Cole Orton, Leics. by 1st w. Bridget, da. of Sir Thomas Monson, 1st Bt., of Carlton, Lincs. educ. Market Bosworth g.s.; Christ’s, Camb. matric. 3 Nov. 1653, aged 17. m. (1) lic. 10 Sept. 1663, Felicia (d. 1687), da. of Thomas Pigott of Chetwynd, Salop, wid. of William Wilmer (d. 1660) of Sywell, Northants., and of Sir Charles Compton† (d. 1661) of Grendon, Northants. s.p.; (2) 3 Oct. 1693, Philippa, da. of Sir Nicholas Carew† of Beddington, Surr., s.p.1
Gent. of privy chamber by Dec. 1660, carver by 1679–?bef. 1682, equerry 1685–Sept. 1688.2
Capt. independent tp. of horse 1666–7; capt. of ft. Holland Regt. (later the Buffs) Jan.–Mar. 1674; capt. of gds. [I] 1676–7; capt. Anglo-Dutch brigade 1678–84; lt.-col. of ft. Princess Anne’s Regt. (later 8 Ft.) 1685– Sept. 1688, col. Dec. 1688–95; lt.-gov. Dover Castle 1686–Sept. 1688, 1689–93/4.3
Freeman, Portsmouth Jan. 1688; commr. lodemanage court, Cinque Ports 1689.
Coming from an aristocratic background, Beaumont had embarked on a career as an army officer, although until 1685 most of his commands had been in the Dutch service. His prospects took a distinctly promising turn at the beginning of James II’s reign when he was given the lieutenant-colonelcy of a new English regiment, an equerry’s post in the royal household, and shortly afterwards the lieutenant-governorship of Dover Castle. He also obtained a seat in Parliament. Despite his close associations with the court, he did not see eye to eye with the King’s religious policies, and in September 1688 his stout Anglican conscience came dramatically into conflict with royal designs when he along with five junior officers refused to admit Irish Catholics to their regiment. For this he was cashiered and lost his other appointments. His well-publicized stand against King James, and his active support for William in November, quickly established him in the new King’s good opinions, and shortly after the coronation he was promoted colonel of his old regiment and reinstated as lieutenant-governor of Dover Castle.
Since the office of lord warden of the Cinque Ports remained vacant, Beaumont, as the next senior official, was forced in the summer of 1689 to defend his claims to the ‘government’ of the Ports over those of the Earl of Winchilsea. The King’s unwillingness to grant Winchilsea the lord wardenship arose directly from a reluctance to disoblige Beaumont. With a new election in the offing, Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) may have felt that Beaumont was better motivated for the business of securing Court support from the Ports. Thus for the time being, the lord wardenship was kept vacant while Winchilsea was mollified with the lord lieutenancy of Kent and a pension. All electoral affairs concerning the Ports were left to Beaumont. A by-election arising at Hastings in August, he visited the town ‘to find out a fit man to stand for that place’, and in the process was himself chosen, much to the disdain of the sheriff and local gentry. In February 1690 it was to him that the election writs for the Ports were directed, and he set about promoting Court candidates in a number of the towns, most notably Hastings, Hythe, New Romney and Rye. His task was made especially awkward by the sensibilities aroused in the Convention Parliament on the subject of electoral interference by previous lord wardens and their agents. He assured local gentlemen such as Julius Deedes, the retiring Member for Hythe, whose interest Beaumont needed in support of a Court nominee, that though the King’s predecessors ‘have pretended some right to nominate one in every Port . . . that is not the way he intends to pursue’. Deedes was doubtless not the only one to whom Beaumont pointed out the benefits of serving the King’s will: ‘it may beget you an interest that may be useful to you’. Veiled threats of this order were not well received among the Ports, and during the first session complaints about Beaumont’s electioneering activities led to the passage of a bill denying the lord warden any right to nominate to parliamentary seats.4
Re-elected for Hastings, Beaumont was noted by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Tory supporter of the Court. On 26 Apr. he declared himself ‘totally against’ the imposition of an abjuration oath on the premise that it was ‘rather a snare than a security’, but pledged his utter devotion to the new government. ‘It is well known’, he told the House, ‘that I parted with my commands in his [King James’s] time, because I would not transgress the laws, and thereby lost my bread; and rather than I will injure this government, but with all my power assist it, I will lose my life’. A few days later, he notified the House of a libellous pamphlet, and named the Member responsible for its publication. He was less than enthusiastic in September about joining the King’s expedition to Ireland, pleading to Secretary Nottingham a whole string of excuses: an impending law suit, ill-health, his parliamentary duties, his responsibilities at Dover, as well as the necessity of raising new recruits for his regiment, which had recently suffered serious desertion. He was refused exemption, but was given permission to return early with Lord Marlborough (John Churchill†). While in Ireland, however, he took part in the siege of Kinsale. Once back in England he was complaining earnestly to Lord Nottingham at the end of November about the dilapidated and ill-stocked condition of Dover Castle and its vulnerability to French attack, and he emphasized, with reference to recent actions, the castle’s importance in coastal defence.5
Beaumont appeared on Robert Harley’s† list of April 1691 as a Court supporter and continued to figure in subsequent lists of placemen. His efforts to improve the defensibility of Dover Castle are reflected in his being given a week’s leave of absence on 11 Jan. 1692 ‘to go to Dover on his Majesty’s service’. During the summer he served in Flanders and was present at the siege of Namur. At the outset of supply proceedings on 22 Nov. he moved for presentation of the army and navy estimates, while on 16 Dec. his military experience placed him among those nominees ordered to draft the mutiny bill. By August 1694 Beaumont had been ‘removed’ from his Dover Castle command. It would appear that Lord Romney (Hon. Henry Sidney†), who had become lord warden in 1691, had for some time wanted the post for his nephew, Colonel Robert Smith, and it was he who was appointed in Beaumont’s place. It may have been that Beaumont’s recent remarriage had made him neglectful of his duties (‘Colonel Beaumont is fond to an infinite degree and the happiest man in the world’, it was reported in November), providing Romney with a suitable pretext for his dismissal. The last occasion on which Beaumont’s name occurs in the Journals was on 30 Apr. 1695 when he complained of an insult he had received in the House the previous day from another Member, Sir William Forester. Before the House could properly investigate the incident, the two men met again, and on reopening their quarrel, proceeded to St. James’ Square where in a duel Forester was ‘disarmed’.6
Standing down at the autumn election, Beaumont resigned his regiment in December and thereafter took no further part in public or military affairs. In January 1696 he was granted the half-pay pension of a colonel ‘in consideration of his long and faithful services’, but found great difficulty in obtaining the money. In response to his complaint to the Treasury in May 1698 it was minuted that there ‘was nothing to pay him out of at present’, and his case was deferred until the next meeting of Parliament. Despite this shoddy treatment, Beaumont bore the ministers no malice, willingly supporting government financial measures, for instance, in May 1697 by subscribing £600 to a circulation of Exchequer bills. He died on 3 July 1701, having been for some time in ‘a declining condition’, and predeceasing his elder brother, Viscount Beaumont, whose heir presumptive he had been. Leaving no issue, he bequeathed an annuity to his distant cousin, ‘my worthy kinsman’, Sir George Beaumont, 4th Bt.*, while to his wife he left an estate in the East Riding of Yorkshire as well as the residue of his property elsewhere.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Andrew A. Hanham
- 1. London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 106; Northants RO, Isham mss IC1490, John to Sir Justinian Isham*, 3 Oct. 1693.
- 2. N. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 165.
- 3. J. Childs, Nobles, Gent. and Profession of Arms (Soc. for Army Hist. Res. Sp. Publn. xiii), 6; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 224, 399.
- 4. HMC Finch, ii. 205, 221–2; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 219; Add. 42586, ff. 78–79, 81, 85; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 100.
- 5. Bodl. Rawl. A.79, f. 79; Grey, x. 109; HMC Finch, ii. 432, 458, 493.
- 6. Luttrell Diary, 249; Luttrell, ii. 224, 399, 491–2; iii. 354, 468; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC1490, 1501, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 3 Oct., 18 Nov. 1693; Lexington Pprs. 86.
- 7. Luttrell, iii. 564; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 1281; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, p. 51; Univ. of London Lib. MS 65/3, ‘List of subscribers . . . to circulate Exchequer bills, May 1697’; Nichols, Leics. iii. 744; PCC 91 Dyer.