Beaufort, Henry

, bishop of Winchester, and cardinal priest of the church of Rome, was the son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, by his third wife, Catherine S win ford. He studied for some years both at Cambridge and at Oxford, in the latter in Queen’s college, and was afterwards a benefactor to University and Lincoln colleges, but he received the principal part of his education at Aix la Chapelle, where he was instructed in civil and common law. Being of royal extraction, he was very young when advanced to the prelacy, and was made bishop of Lincoln in 1397, by an arbitrary act of Boniface IX. John Beckingham, bishop of that see, being, contrary to his wishes, | translated to Lichfield, to make room for Beaufort, but Beckingham, with becoming spirit, refused the proffered diocese, and chose to become a private monk of Canterbury. In 1399 Beaufort was chancellor of the university of Oxford, and at the same time dean of Wells. He was lord high chancellor of England in 1404, and in some years afterwards. The following year, upon the death of the celebrated Wykeham, he was, at the recommendation of the king, translated to the see of Winchester. In 1414, the second of his nephew Henry V. he went to France, as one of the royal ambassadors, to demand in marriage Catherine, daughter of Charles VI. In 1417 he lent the king twenty thousand pounds (a prodigious sum in those days), towards carrying on his expedition against France, but had the crown in pawn as a security for the money. This year also he took a journey to the Holy Land and in his way, being arrived at Constance, where a general council was held, he exhorted the prelates to union and agreement in the election of a pope; and his remonstrances contributed not a little to hasten the preparations for the conclave, in which Martin III. was elected. We have no farther account of what happened to our prelate in this expedition. In 1421, he had the honour to be godfather, jointly with John duke of Bedford, and Jacqueline, countess of Holland, to prince Henry, eldest son of his nephew Henry V. and Catherine of France, afterwards Henry VI. M. Aubery pretends, that James, king of Scots, who had been several years a prisoner in England, owed his deliverance to the bishop of Winchester, who prevailed with the government to set him free, on condition of his marrying his niece, the granddaughter of Thomas Beaufort, earl of Somerset. This prelate was one of king Henry Vlth’s guardians during his minority; and in 1424, the third of the young king’s reign, he was a fourth time lord-chancellor of England. There were perpetual jealousies and quarrels, the cause of which is not very clearly explained, between the bishop of Winchester, and the protector, Humphrey duke of Gloucester, which ended in the ruin and death of the latter. Their dissensions began to appear publicly in 1425, and to such a height, that Beaufort thought it necessary to write a letter to his nephew the duke of Bedford, regent of France, which is extant in Holinshed, desiring his presence in England, to accommodate matters between them. The regent accordingly arriving in England the 20th of December, was | met by the bishop of Winchester with a numerous train, and soon after convoked an assembly of the nobility at St. Alban’s, to hear and determine the affair. But the animosity on this occasion was so great on both sides, that it was thought proper to refer the decision to the parliament, which was to be held at Leicester, March 25, following. The parliament being met, the duke of Gloucester produced six articles of accusation against the bishop, who answered them severally, and a committee appointed for the purpose, having examined the allegations, he was acquitted. The duke of Bedford, however, to give some satisfaction to the protector, took away the great seal from his uncle. Two years after, the duke of Bedford, returning into France, was accompanied to Calais by the bishop of Winchester, who, on the 25th of March, received there with great solemnity, in the church of Our Lady, the cardinal’s hat, with the title of St. Eusebius, sent him by pope Martin V. In September 1428, the new cardinal returned into England, with the character of the pope’s legate lately conferred on him; and in his way to London, he was met by the lord-mayor, aldermen, and the principal citizens on horseback, who conducted him with great honour and respect to his lodgings in Southwark; but he was forced, for the present, to wave his legatine power, being forbidden the exercise of it by a proclamation published in the king’s name. Cardinal Beaufort was appointed, by the pope’s bull, bearing date March 25, 1427-8, his holiness’s legate in Germany, and general of the crusade against the Hussites, or Heretics of Bohemia. Having communicated the pope’s intentions to the parliament, he obtained a grant of money, and a considerable body of forces, under certain restrictions; but just as he was preparing to embark, the duke of Bedford having sent to demand a supply of men for the French war, it was resolved in council, that cardinal Beaufort should serve under the regent, with the troops of the crusade, to the end of the month of December, on condition that they should not be employed in any siege. The cardinal complied, though not without reluctance, and accordingly joined the duke of Bedford at Paris. After a stay of forty-five days in France, he marched into Bohemia, where he conducted the crusade till he was recalled by the pope, and cardinal Julian sent in his place with a larger army. The next year, 1430, the cardinal accompanied king Henry into France, being invested with the | title of the king’s principal counsellor, and bad the honour to perform the ceremony of crowning the young monarch irt the church of Notre Dame at Paris; where he had some dispute with James du Chastellier, the archbishop, who claimed the right of officiating on that occasion. During his stay in France he was present at the congress of Arras for concluding a peace between the kings of England and France, and had a conference for that purpose with the dutchess of Burgundy, between Calais and Gravelines, which had no effect, and was remarkable only for the cardinal’s magnificence, who came thither with a most splendid train. In the mean time the duke of Gloucester took advantage in England of the cardinal’s absence to give him fresh mortification. For, first, having represented to the council, that the bishop of Winchester intended to leave the king, and come back into England to resume his seat in council, in order to excite new troubles in the kingdom, and that his intentions were the more criminal, as he made use of the pope’s authority to free himself from the obligations of assisting the king in France; he procured an order of council forbidding all the king’s subjects, of what condition soever, to accompany the cardinal, if he should leave the king, without express permission. The next step the protector took against him, was an attempt to deprive him of his bishopric, as inconsistent with the dignity of cardinal; but the affair having been a long time debated in council, it was resolved that the cardinal should be heard, and the judges consulted, before any decision. Being returned into England, he thought it necessary to take some precaution against these repeated attacks, and prevailed with the king, through the' intercession of the commons, to grant him letters of pardon for all offences by him committed contrary to the statute of provisors, and other acts of prsemunire. This pardon is dated at Westminster, July 19, 1432. Five years after, he procured another pardon under the great-seal for all sorts of crimes whatever, from the creation of the world to the 26th of July 1437. Notwithstanding these precautions, the duke of Gloucester, in 1442, drew up articles of impeachment against the cardinal, and presented them with his own hands to the king, but the council appointed to examine them deferred their report so long that rhe protector discontinued the prosecution. The cardinal died June 14, 1447, having survived the duke of Gloucester not above a mouth, of whose | murder he was suspected to have been one of the contrivers, and it is said that he expressed great uneasiness at the approach of death, and died in despair; but for this there does not appear much foundation, and we suspect the commonlyreceived character of Beaufort is mostly credited by those who have considered Shakspeare as an authentic historian. We rather agree with the historian of Winchester, that there is no solid ground for representing him as that ambitious, covetous, and reprobate character which Shakspeare has represented, and who has robbed his memory, in order to enrich that of his adversary, popularly termed the “good duke Humphrey” of Gloucester. Being involved in the vortex of worldly politics, it is true, that he gave too much scope to the passions of the great, and did not allow himself sufficient leisure to attend to the spiritual concerns of his diocese. He possessed, however, that munificent spirit, which has cast a lustre on the characters of many persons of past times, whom it would be difficult otherwise to present as objects of admiration. It he was rich, it must be admitted that he did not squander away his money upon unworthy pursuits, but chiefly employed it in the public service, to the great relief of the subjects, with whom, and with the commons’ house of parliament, he was popular. He employed his wealth also in finishing the magnificent cathedral of Winchester, which was left incomplete by his predecessor, in repairing Hyde-abbey, relieving prisoners, and other works of charity. But what, Dr. Milner says, has chiefly redeemed the injured character of cardinal Beaufort, in Winchester and its neighbourhood, is the new foundation which he made of the celebrated hospital of St. Cross. Far the greater part of the present building was raised by him, and he added to the establishment of his predecessor, Henry de Blois, funds for the support of thirty-five more brethren, two chaplains, and three women, who appear to have been hospital nuns. It appears also, says the same writer, that he prepared himself with resignation and contrition for his last end; and the collected, judicious, and pious dispositions made in his testament, the codicil of which was signed but two days before his dissolution, may justly bring into discredit the opinion that he died in despair. He was buried at Winchester in the most eleg-ant and finished chantry in the kingdom. 1


Biog. Brit Milner’s Hist, of Winchester. See also an elaborate life of Banfort, by Mr. Gough, in Vetusta Monurnenta. vl, 11, Nichols’s Royal Wills,