Robert de Beaumont - Robert de Meulent, Bellamont

Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle Photo © Paul Englefield, August 2006

Robert de Beaumont was the eldest son of Roger de Beaumont and nephew and heir of Hugh, Count of Meulent. Robert de Beaumont was recorded as having contributed sixty ships to the invading fleet being ‘the noblest, the wealthiest and most valiant seigneur of Normandy’. Robert is said to have given proof of his courage and intelligence beyond his years and in the great fight did what deserves lasting fame ‘boldly charging in upon the enemy with the troops he commanded in the right wing of the army’.

For his services he received ninety manors in Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Wiltshire and Northamptonshire. Robert's brother Henry was made constable of Warwick Castle in 1068 and as reward for helping suppress the Rebellion of 1088 he was made Earl of Warwick. In 1080 Robert and his brother Henry, were responsible for reconciling King William to his son Robert Court-heuse, but after William’s death both Robert and Henry took sides with William Rufus against Court-heuse.

Robert Court-heuse, having become Duke of Normandy, exchanged, in 1090, the Castle of Ivri for the Castle of Brionne with Roger de Beaumont, without obtaining the consent of Robert de Meulent. The latter, having a quarrel with the monks of Bec, whose monastery was in the territory of Brionne, was greatly angered by this transaction, and repairing to the Duke at Rouen, boldly demanded of him the restoration of Ivri. The Duke answered that he had given his father the Castle of Brionne for it, which was a fair exchange. The Count replied, "I was no party to that bargain, and repudiate it; but what your father gave to my father that will I have, or by Saint Nicaise I will make you repent your conduct to me." The Duke, highly incensed, had him immediately arrested and imprisoned, and seizing the Castle of Brionne, gave it into the keeping of Robert, son of Baldwin de Meules. Roger de Beaumont, on receipt of these tidings, sought the Duke, and with the skill of an old courtier contrived to pacify his resentment, and obtain the release of his son and the restoration of Brionne; but Robert de Meules, who was in charge of it, refused to surrender it, and the Count de Meulent was obliged to resort to force. Siege was laid to the castle in regular form, and the garrison stoutly holding out, Gilbert du Pin, commanding the beleaguering forces, caused arrows, with their steel heads made red-hot in a furnace, to be shot over the battlements, and which, falling on the roofs of the buildings within the walls, set them on fire. The conflagration spreading, the place became no longer tenable, and Brionne remained from that period in the hands of the Counts of Meulent.

Robert became Earl of Leicester through an agreement with Ivo de Grentmesnil.

The town of Leicester had four masters - the King, the Bishop of Lincoln, Earl Simon (Simon de St. Liz, Earl of Huntingdon), and Ivo, the son of Hugh (de Grentmesnil). The latter had been heavily fined for turbulent conduct, and was in disgrace at Court. He was also galled by being nicknamed "the Rope-dancer," having been one of those who had been let down by ropes from the walls of Antioch. He therefore had resolved to rejoin the Crusade, and made an agreement with the Count of Meulent to the following effect : -

The Count was to procure his reconciliation with the King, and to advance him five hundred silver marks for the expenses of his expedition, having the whole of Ivo's domains pledged to him as a security for fifteen years. In consideration of this, the Count was to give the daughter of his brother Henry, Earl of Warwick, in marriage to Ivo's son, who was yet in his infancy, and to restore him his father's inheritance. This contract was confirmed by oath, and ratified by the King, but Ivo died on his road to the Holy Land, and Robert de Meulent, by royal favour and his own address, contrived to get the whole of Leicester into his own hands, and being in consequence created an English earl, his wealth and power surpassed those of any other peer of the realm, and he was exalted above nearly all his family.

In order that Robert might marry Elizabeth de Vermandois, a papal dispensation was obtained, as the Count Of Vermandois and Robert were both great-grandsons of Gautier II surnamed “Le Blanc” Count of the Vexin. Robert and Elizabeth had three sons and five daughters: Robert and Waleran (twins) and Hugh (the poor), Emma, Adeline, Amicia, Albreda and Isabel. Robert is said to have died heartbroken when his wife Elizabeth left him for William de Warren, Earl of Warren and Surrey. Upon his death he was buried near his father at Preaux but his heart was sent to the monastery of Brackley in Northhamptonshire, which he had founded, and there preserved in salt.

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