Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick, at Esole

When Sir John Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp of Warwick, died from plague at Calais on 2nd December of 1360 he left no legitimate children so his title became extinct. His various properties  passed to family members, with Esole and the other property in and around Nonington going to his elder brother, Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick.

Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, the father of Thomas and John de Beauchamp,  had been a staunch supporter of Edward I and one of the leading opponents of Edward II’s misrule.  He died in 1315 when Thomas, his eldest son and heir to the Earldom of Warwick, was only two and John, his other son, was a baby.  Thomas became a ward of King Edward II who gave the wardship to his favourite, Hugh Le Despenser.
Guy de Beauchamp is sometimes referred to as the 2nd Earl of Warwick, which causes some confusion. The earldom had been inherited by Guy’s father, William, through his mother, Isabel de Maudit, heiress to the Beaumont Earls of Warwick whose title had been created in 1088. William was the 9th Earl of Warwick, but the 1st Beauchamp Earl of Warwick.

When Edward III came to the throne Thomas became the ward of Roger, Lord Mortimer, afterwards Earl of March. In 1327 the Earl of March had received a grant of the benefit of Thomas’s marriage and married Thomas to Katherine Mortimer, his eldest daughter. It was obviously a successful union as the couple had five sons and ten daughters. Thomas was still in his minority in 1329 when he was knighted and granted full possession of his extensive property making him one of the wealthiest men in England.

From then onwards Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick, served the Crown in several campaigns in Scotland and in France. In the 1330’s he served in Scotland and became commander of the armies there in 1337.
Thomas accompanied the King to France in 1339 and in 1340 he was present at the siege of Tournai and took part in the discussions preceding the Truce of Esplechin. Following the truce Thomas was held in Malines from September of 1340 until May of 1341 as surety for Edward III debts, and the year after his release he took part in the siege of Vannes in Brittany. Thomas was well rewarded by the King for his services and was appointed Earl Marshall of England in 1344.

Thomas de Beauchamp and John de Beauchamp, the younger brother, and Lord Say, their brother-in-law, fought alongside Edward the Black Prince at the victory at Crecy in 1346. Thomas was one of the leaders of the English vanguard and his already formidable military reputation was greatly enhanced, and the following year he was at the siege of Calais.

Thomas and John de Beauchamp were both founding members of the Order of the Garter when it was instituted in 1348 as reward for their services to King Edward III in various campaigns and victories. The King also gave him a gift of over £1,300 in 1347 and in 1348 granted him an annuity of 1,000 marks [£666.00].

Thomas accompanied the Black Prince on his raid through southern France in 1355 and in September of the following year again fought alongside the Prince in another victory over the French at Poitiers where, the chronicler Geoffrey Baker wrote, “the Earl of Warwick and his comrades fought like lions”. The French king King John II, known as the Good, was captured at Poitier and put up for ransom.

Thomas was a witness at the Treaty of Bretigny concluded in 1360 between King Edward III of England, and King John II which released John on payment of a ransom of three million crowns. The treaty also temporarily brought hostilities to a halt, and saw the English renounce claims to Anjou and Normandy while retaining Gascony and Guyenne. However, the treaty was never fully implemented, and war broke out again in 1369.

Sir John de Beauchamp died of plague at Calais on 2nd of December of 1360 and the ownership of Esole passed to Thomas de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick. Sir John had most likely acquired his Kent properties so that he and other members of his family, including the Earl of Warwick, and their entourages had accommodation when travelling from London to Sandwich or Dover to take ship to the Continent, or likewise in the other direction from the Continent to Sandwich or Dover and then to London, breaking their journey in both directions at Sir John’s other Kent estates near Rainham. Esole to Rainham is just under forty miles and Rainham to London is approximately the same distance. Forty miles would have been a day’s journey for travellers on horseback on the roads in use at that time.
The house at Esole is only some five or six miles from Sandwich, then one of the most important ports in England, and some ten miles or so from Dover, then a lesser port than Sandwich. The travellers could have crossed the English Channel from either port to Northern France and the Low Countries where King Edward III was campaigning in pursuit of his claim to the French throne. In addition to providing accommodation for travellers these Kent estates could also have supplied provisions for the de Beauchamp fighting men and horses campaigning across the Channel and later to Sir John when he was Captain of Calais. The Earl of Warwick and his retainers would also have benefited from use of these Kent properties when he was later campaigning in Northern France.

In the early 1360’s Thomas accompanied the Black Prince in Aquitaine and in 1362 he went on a three year crusade to aid the Teutonic Knights in their war against Lithuania, at that time still a pagan kingdom.

For various legal reasons property ownership was often reassigned through trusts and other legal ruses to protect ownership so that it often appears that property is actually owned by people other than the actual owner. This appears to have happened in early 1368 when the Priory of Christ Church in Canterbury archives record a memorandum that “Sir John de Beauchamp, brother of the Earl of Warwick has enfeoffed Sir Roger de Beauchamp, Sir John son of Sir Giles de Beauchamp, Thomas Hungerford, and John Rouse the younger, in the manor of Easole, in the County of Kent, together with other manors, on these conditions: namely, that. they should enfeoff the Prior and Chapter of Holy Trinity in Canterbury, in the said manor of Easole, with its appurtenances for ever, in honour of the Image of Our Lady Saint Mary Undercroft of Canterbury, in order to have a perpetual commemoration in the said convent of the soul of the said Sir John, and of his father’s, mother’s, and brother’s souls in their masses and prayers after the discretion of the said feoffees, and by permission of Our Lord the King, if there should be need for them to ask for it”.
Sir John de Beauchamp had actually died in 1360, so it had taken eight years for those enfeoffed in his will to offer Esole to the Priory. Possibly it had ceased to be of any benefit to the family by then and so they decided to comply with Sir John’s wishes. Obviously the Priory thought there was no financial benefit in accepting the manor. After the Black Death of 1347-49 had swept through England and killed up to half of the population the resulting shortage of labour had caused an increase in agricultural workers wages which led to a decline in revenues and the value of agricultural land.

Ownership of Esole remained with Thomas de Beauchamp and in the early part of 1369 he reorganized some properties held in trust and reassigned Esole, along with some other manors, to the benefit of William de Beauchamp, one of his younger sons, in order to provide him with an annual income.

When hostilities against France resumed in 1369 Thomas returned to Calais with John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, where news of his arrival convinced Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, to withdraw. Thomas subsequently took part in Gaunt’s raid into Normandy and on his return to Calais he contracted the plague and died on 13th November of 1369. Sir John de Beauchamp, the Earl’s younger brother, had also died from plague at Calais almost exactly nine years earlier on 2nd December of 1360.

Thomas de Beauchamp’s body was returned to England and buried alongside his wife, who had died in August of 1369, in St Mary’s Church, Warwick. If, as with his brother Sir John, the earl’s  body had returned via Sandwich then it’s possible his body may have been kept overnight at the Beauchamps manor house or in St. Mary’s Church, Nonington.

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