The Beauchamp earls of Warwick in the Later Middle Ages.
Ensconced as sheriffs of Worcestershire since Norman times,
the Beauchamps owed their earidom to a particularly fortunate
marriage in the thirteenth century. Thereafter, they, like other
magnate families, owed their increasing prosperity to marriage
alliance and to royal service, found wanting only when the Crown
itself exhibited weakness.
Though virtually all the Beauchamp earls belonged to the
later middle ages, the chance survival of their records and other
factors have dictated that emphasis be laid on their history
after 1369 and that, within that period, a personal bias be given
to the life of the fifth earl. The balance has been redressed,
however, by the discussion of other aspects not confined to the
The fourth earl's disgrace in 1397 marked the nadir of
Beauchamp fortunes, a situation reversed by the advent of Henry
IV. The beginning of the Lancastrian regime practically
coincided with the majority of Earl Richard, who oversaw the
recovery and expansion of the family's wealth and influence and
prepared the way for their short-lived dukedom. This was
extinguished, along with their earldom, on the failure of the
male line in 1446.
Detailed attention is given to the estate administration and
finances of the fourth and fifth earls, who took an interest in
such matters. As a result, they probably enjoyed a fairly steady
income from land (political loss aside) in the period 1395-1423,
and its expenditure reflected their current preoccupations:
lawsuits, the purchase of property, the war, and patronage.
The Beauchamps dispensed largesse to a numerous following,
the subject of a final chapter dealing with the cost and nature
of their patronage, the composition and stability of the
affinity, and the interaction of the war and peace-time retinues.