Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick
Born: February 14, 1314
Warwick, Warwickshire, England
Died: November 13, 1369
Calais, France (Age 55)
Warwick in History
The early years of Thomas Beauchamp were undoubtedly turbulent. With political strife within England at its height, and the magnates contemplating civil war against King Edward II and his hated favorites, it was not a good environment for a young noble to be born into. To make matters worse, Thomas's father Guy, the tenth earl, died when the younger Beauchamp was less than two years old. Since Thomas was well under age, his lands were put in the protection of several different men, at different times, including Edward II's favorite Hugh Despencer; the Earl of Arundel; and Roger Mortimer. The latter of these men would be most responsible for deposing Edward II, in favor of the late king's son, Edward III, with the help of his lover, none other than Queen Isabella, and Thomas would ultimately marry Mortimer's daughter Katherine. Thomas was able to survive during the three years of the Mortimer regency because of this link, but Edward III had Mortimer arrested and executed in 1330, taking control of his own country. This did not effect Warwick's standing in the least, and he gained his first military experience during the Scottish campaigns of the 1330s. By 1337 though, tensions between England and France were coming to a head, and it was in this conflict that Warwick would truly make a name for himself.
The Hundred Years War did not begin with any grand success, and it nearly bankrupted the nation, forcing Edward III to leave several of his nobles as collateral, including Warwick, for nearly a year under the custody of several bankers. By the mid-1340s, however, the war was gaining momentum for the English, and Warwick played large roles in the major English victories at Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), fighting alongside Edward III's eldest son and heir, Edward the Black Prince. Furthermore, the earl served Edward III on the Rheims campaign (1359); the Black Prince in Gascony (1364); and fought with the Teutonic Knights in Prussia. By the time he returned to England, Warwick was being used more as a diplomat than a soldier, but still accompanied John of Gaunt (Edward III's third surviving son) on yet another French expedition in 1369. The goal of the journey was to capture the city of Harfleur, which was unsuccessful, and Warwick died of plague while in Calais. One cannot say that the earl's life was in vain though, considering he arose from a rough time in history to become one of the leading military commanders of his time and one of the founding members of the Order of the Garter.
Warwick in Shakespeare
Appears in: Edward III
The Earl of Warwick appears only within the first two acts of Edward III and is portrayed as the father of the Countess of Salisbury. Historically, he was not the countess's father. Warwick is accosted by Edward III to convince his daughter, whom the king has become infatuated with, to become his mistress. The earl reluctantly agrees to do so but is proud of his daughter when she refuses to give up her honor. After the scene where Warwick attempts to convince his daughter, he disappears from the action, despite the fact that he was a major commander within the Battles of Crecy and Poitiers, which take up a majority of the remainder of the play.