Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick

Guy de Beauchamp
Earl of Warwick

Guy de Beauchamp standing over the decapitated body of Piers Gaveston. From the 15th-century Rous Rolls.[1]
Spouse(s) Isabel de Clare ?
Alice de Toeni


Father William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick
Mother Maud FitzJohn
Born c. 1272
Died 12 August 1315(1315-08-12)
Buried Bordesley Abbey, Worcestershire
Arms of Beauchamp: Gules, a fesse between six cross crosslets or

Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick (c. 1272 12 August 1315) was an English magnate, and one of the principal opponents of King Edward II and his favourite Piers Gaveston. Guy de Beauchamp was the son of William de Beauchamp, the first Beauchamp earl of Warwick, and succeeded his father in 1298. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Falkirk and subsequently, as a capable servant of the crown under King Edward I. After the succession of Edward II in 1307, however, he soon fell out with the new king and the king's favourite Piers Gaveston. Warwick was one of the main architects behind the Ordinances of 1311, that limited the powers of the king and banished Gaveston into exile.

When Gaveston returned to England in 1312  contrary to the rulings of the Ordinances  he was taken into custody by the Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. Warwick abducted Gaveston and, together with the Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, had him executed. The act garnered sympathy and support for the king, but Warwick and Lancaster nevertheless managed to negotiate a royal pardon for their actions. After the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, King Edward's authority was once more weakened, and the rebellious barons took over control of government. For Warwick the triumph was brief; he died the next year.

Guy de Beauchamp is today remembered primarily for his part in the killing of Gaveston, but by his contemporaries he was considered a man of exceptionally good judgement and learning. He owned what was for his time a large collection of books, and his advice was often sought by many of the other earls. Next to Lancaster, he was the wealthiest peer in the nation, and after his death his lands and title were inherited by his son, Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick.

Family background

Seal of Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, as appended to the Barons' Letter, 1301. The arms shown are those of Newburgh, the family of his predecessors the Beaumont Earls of Warwick. The Beauchamps frequently quartered their own arms with those of Newburgh, on occasion placing the latter in the 1st & 4th quarters, positions of greatest honour
Armorial of Newburgh Earls of Warwick, adopted c. 1200 at start of age of heraldry: Checky azure and or a chevron ermine[2]

Guy de Beauchamp was the first son and heir of William de Beauchamp, 9th Earl of Warwick, (c. 1238 1298). His mother was Maud FitzJohn, daughter of John fitz Geoffrey, who was Justiciar of Ireland and a member of the council of fifteen that imposed the Provisions of Oxford on King Henry III.[3] William was the nephew of William Maudit, 8th Earl of Warwick, and when his uncle died without issue in 1268, he became the first Beauchamp earl of Warwick.[4] In 1271 or 1272 his first son was born, and in reference to the new family title, William named his son after the legendary hero Guy of Warwick.[1] William de Beauchamp was a capable military commander, who played an important part in the Welsh and Scottish wars of King Edward I.[4]

A marriage between Guy and Isabel de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford, was contemplated, or possibly even took place and then annulled.[5][a] It was not until early 1309 that Guy married Alice de Toeni, a wealthy Hertfordshire heiress.[6] By this time Guy had already succeeded as Earl of Warwick, after his father's death in 1298.[7] By Alice, Guy had two sons, including his heir and successor, Thomas, and five daughters:

Service to Edward I

Edward I knighted Guy de Beauchamp at Easter 1296.[8] Warwick's career of public service started with the Falkirk campaign in 1298.[1] Here he distinguished himself, and received a reward of Scottish lands worth 1000 marks a year.[9] At this point his father was already dead, but it was not until 5 September that Guy did homage to the king for his lands, and became Earl of Warwick[8] and hereditary High Sheriff of Worcestershire for life. He continued in the king's service in Scotland and elsewhere. In 1299 he was present at the king's wedding to Margaret of France at Canterbury, and in 1300 he took part in the Siege of Caerlaverock.[5] The next year he was a signatory to a letter to the Pope, rejecting Rome's authority over the Scottish question, and also participated in negotiations with the French over the release of the Scottish King John Balliol.[5][10] He was present at the Siege of Stirling in 1304, serving under Edward, the Prince of Wales.[8] In March 1307 he made preparations to accompany Prince Edward to France, but this journey never took place.[5]

Early in 1307, Edward I made his last grant to Warwick, when he gave him John Balliol's forfeited lordship of Barnard Castle in County Durham.[5] On 7 July that year, near Burgh by Sands in Cumberland, Warwick was present when King Edward died.[11] Together with Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, and Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, he carried the ceremonial swords at the coronation of King Edward II on 25 February 1308.[8]

Conflict with Edward II

Before his death, the old king had exiled Prince Edward's favourite Piers Gaveston, and Warwick was among those charged with preventing Gaveston's return.[12] The new king, however, not only recalled his favourite, but soon also gave him the title of earl of Cornwall. Warwick was the only one of the leading earls who did not seal the charter, and from the start took on an antagonistic attitude to Edward II.[9] Gaveston was a relative upstart in the English aristocracy, and made himself unpopular among the established nobility by his arrogance and his undue influence on the king.[13] He gave mocking nicknames to the leading men of the realm, and called Warwick the "Black Dog of Arden".[b]

Warwick was in constant opposition to King Edward II. Great seal of Edward II

Gaveston was once more forced into exile, but Edward recalled him in less than a year. The king had spent the intervening time gathering support, and at the time, the only one to resist the return of Gaveston was Warwick.[14] With time, however, opposition to the king grew. Another source of contention was Edward abandoning his father's Scottish campaigns, a policy that opened the Border region up to devastating raids from the Scots.[15] This affected Warwick greatly, with his extensive landed interest in the north.[16] Tensions grew to the point where the king in 1310 had to ban Warwick and others from arriving at parliament in arms.[5] They still did, and at the parliament of March 1310, the king was forced to accept the appointment of a commission to draft a set of ordinances towards reform the royal government.[17]

The leaders of these so-called Lords Ordainers were Robert Winchelsey, Archbishop of Canterbury, on the side of the clergy, and Warwick, Lincoln and Lancaster among the earls.[17][18] Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, was the most experienced of the earls, and took on a modifying role in the group.[19] Thomas of Lancaster, who was Lincoln's son-in-law and heir, was the king's cousin and the wealthiest nobleman in the realm, but at this point he took a less active part in the reform movement.[20] Warwick is described by some sources as the leader of the Ordainers; he was certainly the most aggressive.[5] The set of Ordinances they drafted put heavy restrictions on the king's financial freedom, and his right to appoint his own ministers. It also  once more  ordered Gaveston to be exiled, to return only at the risk of excommunication.[21]

Gaveston's death

Gaveston's third and final exile was of even shorter duration, and after two months he was reunited with Edward in England.[22] Archbishop Winchelsey responded by excommunicating Gaveston, as the Ordinances had stipulated.[23] Lancaster, who had by this time inherited his father-in-law Lincoln, had taken over leadership of the baronial opposition.[24] A number of the barons set out in pursuit of Gaveston while the king left for York. Gaveston ensconced himself at Scarborough Castle, and on 19 May 1312 agreed on a surrender to Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, as long as his security would be guaranteed.[25]

Pembroke lodged his prisoner in Deddington in Oxfordshire. On 10 June, while Pembroke was away, Warwick forcibly carried away Gaveston to Warwick Castle.[26] Here, in the presence of Warwick, Lancaster and other magnates, Gaveston was sentenced to death at an improvised court. On 19 June he was taken to a place called Blacklow Hill  on Lancaster's lands  and decapitated. According to the Annales Londonienses chronicle, four shoemakers brought the corpse back to Warwick, but he refused to accept it, and ordered them to take it back to where they found it.[27] Gaveston's body was eventually taken to Oxford by some Dominican friars, and in 1315, King Edward finally had it buried at Kings Langley.[27]

The brutality and questionable legality of the earls' act helped garner sympathy for the king in the political community.[28] Pembroke was particularly offended, as he had been made to break his promise of safety to Gaveston, and his chivalric honour had been damaged. From this point on Pembroke sided firmly with King Edward in the political conflict.[29] The king himself swore vengeance on his enemies, but found himself unable to move against them immediately, partly because they were in possession of a number of highly valuable royal jewels taken from Gaveston.[30][31] A settlement was reached in October, whereby the rebellious barons and their retainers received a pardon.[32] The king nevertheless emerged strengthened from the events, while Warwick and Lancaster were largely marginalised.[33] This all changed in 1314, when the king decided to stage his first major campaign against the Scots. Warwick and Lancaster refused to participate in the campaign, which ended in a humiliating English defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn on 24 June. This led to another political bouleversement, and Edward was forced to reconfirm the Ordinances, and submit to the leadership of the rebellious barons.[34]

Death and historical assessment

The coat of arms of the Beauchamp family

In mid-July Warwick had to withdraw from government to his estates, due to illness.[35] Political leadership was soon left almost entirely to Lancaster, when Warwick died on 12 August 1315. The chronicler Thomas Walsingham reported rumours that the king had him poisoned.[36] He was buried at Bordesley Abbey in Worcestershire, an establishment to which his family had served as benefactors.[5] In value, his possessions were second only to those of the earl of Lancaster among the nobility of England.[37] His lands, though primarily centred on Warwickshire and Worcestershire, were spread out over nineteen counties as well as Scotland and the Welsh Marches.[5] His heir was his oldest son, whom he had named Thomas after the earl of Lancaster.[5] Thomas, born probably on 14 February 1314, did not succeed to his father's title until 1326, as Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick.[7][38] In the meanwhile his possessions went into the king's hand, who donated his hunting dogs to the earl of Pembroke.[39] A younger son, named John, also became a peer, as John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp. Like his older brother, he distinguished himself in the French wars, and was a founding member of the Order of the Garter.[40]

Guy de Beauchamp is probably best remembered by posterity for his opposition to King Edward II, and for his part in the death of Gaveston.[5] To contemporaries, however, he was considered a man of considerable learning and wisdom. His library, of which he donated 42 books to Bordesley Abbey during his lifetime, was extensive. It contained several saints' lives as well as romances about Alexander and King Arthur.[1] As mentioned, Edward I entrusted the supervision of his son with Warwick. Likewise, when the earl of Lincoln died in 1311, he supposedly instructed his son-in-law Thomas of Lancaster to heed the advice of Warwick, "the wisest of the peers".[41] Chronicles also praised Warwick's wisdom; the Vita Edwardi Secundi said that "Other earls did many things only after taking his opinion: in wisdom and council he had no peer".[1][5] Later historians have reflected this view, in the 19th century William Stubbs called Warwick "a discriminating and highly literate man, the wisdom of whom shone forth through the whole kingdom".[5] He was politically and economically well connected by traditional ties of kinship and marriage.

Warwick's death came at an inconvenient time; Thomas of Lancaster proved unequal to the task of governing the nation, and further years of conflict and instability followed. Nevertheless, the problems of Edward II's reign were deep, and in the words of Michael Hicks: "one must doubt whether even Warwick could have brought unity as one chronicler supposed".[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hicks, Michael (1991). Who's Who in Late Medieval England (1272-1485). Who's Who in British History Series. 3. London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 0-85683-092-5.
  2. Source: Arms of "Thomas, Earl of Warwick" stated in several 13th-century Rolls of Arms, incl. Collins' Roll, c. 1296
  3. Carpenter, David (2004). "John fitz Geoffrey (c. 1206–1258)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38271.
  4. 1 2 Coss, Peter (2004). "Beauchamp, William (IV) de, ninth earl of Warwick (c. 1238–1298)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/47242.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Hamilton, J. S. (2004). "Beauchamp, Guy de, tenth earl of Warwick (c. 1272–1315)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1835.
  6. Cokayne, George (1910–59). The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. xii (New ed.). London: The St. Catherine Press. p. 774.
  7. 1 2 Fryde, E. B. (1961). Handbook of British Chronology (Second ed.). London: Royal Historical Society. p. 453.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Cokayne (1910–59), xii, pp. 3702.
  9. 1 2 Maddicott (1970), p. 69.
  10. Prestwich, Michael (1997). Edward I (updated ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 495. ISBN 0-300-07209-0.
  11. Prestwich (1997), p. 24.
  12. Phillips, J.R.S. (1972). Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke 1307-1324 (updated ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 557. ISBN 0-19-822359-5.
  13. McKisack, May (1959). The Fourteenth Century: 1307–1399. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 2–4. ISBN 0-19-821712-9.
  14. Maddicott (1970), p. 90.
  15. Maddicott (1970), pp. 1089.
  16. Maddicott (1970), pp. 72, 111, 325.
  17. 1 2 McKisack (1959), p. 10.
  18. Prestwich, M.C. (2005). Plantagenet England: 12251360. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 182. ISBN 0-19-822844-9. OCLC 185767800.
  19. Phillips (1972), p. 9.
  20. Maddicott (1970), pp. 9, 847.
  21. The text of the Ordinances can be found in Rothwell, H. (ed.) (1975). English Historical Documents III, 11891327. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode. pp. 527–539. ISBN 0-413-23310-3.
  22. Hamilton, J. S. (1988). Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, 1307-1312: Politics and Patronage in the Reign of Edward II. Detroit; London: Wayne State University Press; Harvester-Wheatsheaf. pp. 92–3. ISBN 0-8143-2008-2.
  23. Hamilton (1988), p. 94.
  24. Maddicott (1970), p. 119.
  25. Hamilton (1988), p. 96.
  26. Hamilton (1988), p. 97.
  27. 1 2 Hamilton (1988), p. 99.
  28. McKisack (1959), pp. 289.
  29. Phillips (1972), pp. 367.
  30. Roberts, R. A. (ed.) (1929). "Edward II, the lords ordainers, and Piers Gaveston's jewels and horses, 1312-1313". Camden Miscellany. London: Royal Historical Society. viii: 26.
  31. Maddicott (1970), 13054.
  32. McKisack (1959), p. 30.
  33. Maddicott (1970), p. 1589.
  34. Prestwich (2005), p. 190.
  35. Phillips (1972), p. 92.
  36. Maddicott (1970), p. 170.
  37. Maddicott, J. R. (1970). Thomas of Lancaster, 1307–1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-19-821837-0.
  38. Cokayne (1910–59), xii, pp. 3725.
  39. Phillips (1972), p. 94.
  40. Cokayne (1910–59), ii, pp. 501.
  41. Maddicott (1970), p. 115.
Peerage of England
Preceded by
William de Beauchamp
Earl of Warwick
Succeeded by
Thomas de Beauchamp

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