On this day 850 years ago, Robert “le Bossu” de Beaumont, passed away. He was my two-times 25th, two-times 26th, and three-times 27th great-grandfather.
Born in 1104 in Leicester, England, Robert was the son of Robert de Beaumont, Count of Meulan and 1st Earl of Leicester, and Elizabeth de Vermandois. It is believed that young Robert was the younger of identical twins; his brother was named Waleran. The two boys joined older sisters Emma de Beaumont, born 1102, and Isabel de Beaumont, born circa 1103.
Circa 1106, brother Hugh de Beaumont was born. Sister Adeline de Beaumont was born circa 1107. Circa 1109, sister Aubrey de Beaumont was welcomed to the family. Then, around 1111, sister Maud de Beaumont joined the family.
Seven years later, tragedy struck when their father Robert de Beaumont died in Leicestershire, England on 5 June 1118. Young Robert inherited his father’s title, Earl of Leicester.
Soon thereafter, King Henry I (my multi-times great-grandfather through several lines), out of respect for the boys’ father, fostered Robert and Waleran. Their mother remarried; her second marriage was to William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey. The boys’ new stepfather oversaw their lands on either side of the English Channel.
Circa 1119, half-brother William de Warenne (my 26th great-grandfather) was born in Vermandois, Normandy, France.
In November 1119, Robert and Waleran accompanied Henry I to Normandy to meet Pope Callixtus II. While there, Henry I encouraged the young men, both of whom were learned, to discuss and debate philosophy with the Cardinals.
Half-sisters Gundred de Warenne and Ada de Warenne (my 26th, 27th, and two-time 28th great-grandmother) were welcomed circa 1120.
In 1120, Robert was declared of age and inherited most of his father’s lands in England, while his twin brother Waleran inherited the lands in France.
Sometime after November 1120, Robert married Amice de Gaël in Bretagne, France. Amice’s dowry included estates in Breteuil and Pacy-sur-Eure, Normandy. The marriage was arranged by Henry I; Amice had been betrothed to his deceased son Richard.
Circa 1122, Robert’s half-brother Ralph de Warenne was born.
For the next decade, Robert would spend much of his time and monies integrating the independent barons of Breteuil into the greater complex of his estates. Because Robert was focused on getting his own house in order, he did not, luckily, join his brother in a rebellion against Henry I in 1123 and 1124. The rebellion failed, and Waleran was imprisoned by Henry I. Despite his brother’s confinement, Robert still appeared at the royal court.
Around 1124, half-brother Reginald de Warenne was born.
Meanwhile, in 1125, Robert and Amice welcomed a daughter, Hawise de Beaumont (my 25th and 26th great-grandmother).
In 1129, brother Waleran was released from prison. Thereafter, Robert and Waleran were often found together at Henry I’s court.
Through the 1120s and 1130s, Robert de Beaumont expanded his holdings in Leicestershire by seizing the estates of the See of Lincoln and the Earl of Chester.
On 13 February 1131, Robert de Beaumont’s mother Elizabeth de Vermandois died in Saone-et-Loire, Bourgogne, France.
Sometime before 1133, Robert de Beaumont founded the Benedictine priory of Luffield, near Buckinghamshire, England.
In 1133, Robert de Beaumont founded Garendon Abbey, a Cistercian abbey.
In 1135, Robert and Amice had a son, Robert “Blanchemains” de Beaumont (my 25th, 26th, and three-times 27th great-grandfather). Other known children of the couple were Isabelle and Marguerite (although the dates of their births are unknown.)
In 1135, Robert de Beaumont founded the priory Notre Dame du Désert in the forest of Breteuil, as well as a major hospital in Breteuil.
On 1 December 1135, Henry I died. Both Robert de Beaumont and his brother Waleran were present at the King’s deathbed.
In the anarchy that followed Henry I’s death, war broke out between Robert de Beaumont and his hereditary foe, Roger de Toesny, whom he eventually captured with his brother’s assistance. For two years, Robert de Beaumont remained in Normandy, defending his Breteuil estates from rival claimants. His military acumen allowed him to add Château de Pont St Pierre to his holdings in June 1136.
From then until late 1137, Robert and his brother were increasingly caught up in English court politics. In December 1137, the twins returned to England with the new king, Stephen, as his chief advisers.
However, in his absence, Robert de Beaumont’s Norman possessions were overrun in 1138, until he came to terms with Roger de Toesny.
The outbreak of civil war in England in September 1139 brought Robert de Beaumont into conflict with Robert of Gloucester, the bastard son of Henry I (and my 26th great-grandfather), who was the principal sponsor of Empress Matilda (my multi-times great-grandmother through several lines) being England’s monarch. His port of Wareham and estates in Dorset were seized by Gloucester in the first campaign of the war.
In June 1139, Robert and Waleran participated in a coup that deposed the King’s justiciar, Roger of Salisbury, seizing the bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln at Oxford.
On the outbreak of civil war, October 1139, the twins were dispatched by King Stephen to escort Empress Matilda to Bristol.
In late 1139, Robert de Beaumont re-founded the Collegiate Church of Wareham as an Augustinian priory of Lyre Abbey in Normandy and was its principal benefactor.
On 2 February 1141, at the Battle of Lincoln, King Stephen was captured and imprisoned. Although Waleran continued the royalist fight in England into the summer, he eventually capitulated and crossed back to Normandy to make his peace with the Empress’s husband, Geoffrey of Anjou. Robert de Beaumont had been in Normandy since 1140 attempting to stem the Angevin invasion and negotiated the terms of his brother’s surrender. He quit Normandy soon thereafter; his Norman estates were confiscated and used to reward Norman followers of the Empress. Robert remained on his estates in England for the remainder of King Stephen’s reign. Although he was a nominal supporter of the king, there seems to have been little contact between the two men.
Between 1141 and 1149, a private war between Robert de Beaumont and Ranulf II, Earl of Chester, was waged. In the end, Robert de Beaumont secured control of northern Leicestershire and Mountsorrel Castle in Chester.
During this time, he also devoted himself to founding the Abbey of St. Mary de Pratis, also known as Leicester Abbey. Situated on the south bank of the River Soar, the abbey soon became the most important religious building in the county. In 1143, the Bishop of Lincoln, as a gesture of reconciliation (for that seizure in 1139), consecrated the abbey.
Four years later, on 19 January 1147, half-brother William de Warenne was killed at the Battle of Mount Cadmus, while the crusader army was marching across Anatolia on their way to the Holy Land (Second Crusades).
Circa 1150, Robert of Beaumont gave to one Solomon, a clerk, an acre of land at Brackley to build a house for showing hospitality to the poor, together with a free chapel and graveyard. This place was known as the Hospital of St. James and St. John.
Since his brother Waleran was not in England, Robert of Beaumont exercised supervision over his twin brother’s earldom of Worcester, and in 1151, he intervened to frustrate King’s Stephen’s attempts to seize the city.
In 1152, Robert’s brother Waleran found himself in another political scrape. Robert de Beaumont asked King Stephen to intervene to save Waleran.
In 1153, Robert de Beaumont founded Nuneaton Priory, a Benedictine monastic house in Kintbury, Berkshire.
In January 1153, Henry, Duke of Normandy, (my many-times great-grandfather through several lines) and son of Empress Matilda, arrived in England. Despite the fact that Robert of Beaumont had initially supported King Stephen during the civil war, Henry II and Robert of Beaumont were reconciled. Robert de Beaumont shifted his support to Henry, Duke of Normandy, for the English crown, in exchange for the return of Robert de Beaumont’s Normandy estates. In a charter dated July/August 1153, and witnessed by Warren, son of Gerald, brother of King Henry II (Guarino filio Geraldi, Henrico duo frater), Henry II restored property to son of Count Robert, Robert Earl Legrec (Rodberto filio comitis Legrec, Rodberti comitis) held by his father, Robert, from Mellend grandfather, William Britolio (atris sui…sicut comes Rodbertus de Mellend avus suus…Willelmus de Britolio) and granted him the property of William de Pasci in England and Normandy (Willelmus de Pasci in Anglia et in Normannia).
In June 1153, Robert de Beaumont hosted Henry, Duke of Normandy, at his Leicester estate, where Henry celebrated his Pentecost court. The two men were in a constant company until the peace settlement between the Duke and King Stephen at Winchester in November 1153.
Earl Robert crossed with the duke to Normandy in January 1154 and resumed his Norman castles and honors. In addition, Robert de Beaumont was appointed Steward of England and Normandy under King Henry II in 1154.
Starting in October 1154, Henry II appointed Robert de Beaumont as chief justiciar of England. As chief justiciar, Robert de Beaumont was charged with the country’s administration and legal process. He appears in that capacity in numerous administrative acts. He served in this role with Richard de Luci, another former servant of King Stephen. Robert de Beaumont would occupy the office until his death, earning the respect of the emerging Angevin bureaucracy in England. His opinion was quoted by learned clerics, and his own learning was highly commended.
Robert de Beaumont acted as viceroy during Henry II’s absence from England in December 1158 through 25 January 1163.
Circa 1164, the possessions and monies of the Collegiate Church of St. Mary de Castro—built by his father, Robert de Beaumont—were transferred to Leicester Abbey. Soon after, Leicester Abbey became the second wealthiest abbey in the country, as well as one of the largest and most influential landowners in Leicestershire.
During this time period, he also gave lands in Dalby on the Wolds, Leicestershire to the Knights Hospitallers who used it to found Dalby Preceptory.
In 1164, Robert de Beaumont was present at the council of Clarendon, and his name heads the list of lay signatures to the constitutions. The Constitutions of Clarendon were a set of legislative procedures passed by Henry II to restrict ecclesiastical privileges and curb the power of the Church courts and the extent of Papal authority in England.
On 12 October 1164, Robert de Beaumont strove, along with the Earl of Cornwall, tried to reconcile the church primate (Thomas Beckett) with Henry II. The following day, the two men were commissioned to present to Thomas Becket with the sentence of the court. But when Robert de Beaumont, as chief justiciary, began his address, Archbishop Thomas Becket interrupted his speech, rejecting the King’s jurisdiction.
Early the next year, 1165, Henry II once again departed for France, and Robert de Beaumont was appointed viceroy. During this time, the Archbishop of Cologne arriving as an envoy from the Holy Roman Emperor; however, he refused to meet with Robert de Beaumont on the grounds that he was a schismatic.
Robert de Beaumont accompanied Henry II to Normandy in the spring of 1166, but returned to his post of viceroy before October 1166, holding it until his death.
In 1166, half-sister Gundred de Warenne, widow of Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick, died. (Gundred is infamous for expelling King Stephen’s garrison from Warwick Castle. After being tricked into believing that her husband was dead, she surrendered control of the castle to the invading army of Henry of Anjou, who would later become King Henry II of England.)
As hard as it might have been losing a half-sister, it must have been harder for Robert to lose his twin brother, Waleran, who died on 9 April 1166, in Préaux, France. Waleran’s last years were difficult, having fallen out of royal favor. Twenty days prior to his death, Waleran entered the abbey of St Peter of Préaux as a monk. He died and was buried there.
Nearly two years later, on 5 April 1168, Robert de Beaumont died at Brackley Castle in Northamptonshire. On his deathbed, he was received as a canon of Leicester Abbey and was buried on the south side of the choir, north of the high altar. His entrails were buried at the Hospital of St. James and St. John.