Beaufort, Sir Thomas d. 1427, Duke of Exeter, warrior and chancellor, was the third and youngest son of John of Gaunt by Catherine Swynford, and was called, like his brothers, De Beaufort, after his father's castle of that name. With them he was legitimated by Richard II in 1397 (Rot. Parl. iii. 343), and from that king he shortly after received a grant of Castle Acre (Pat. 22 Ric. II, p. 1, m. 11). As a half-brother of Henry IV he was assured state employment, being made K.G. about 1400, constable of Ludlow in 1402, and admiral of the fleet for the northern parts in 1403 (Pat. 5 Hen. IV, p. 1, m. 20). In the insurrection of 1405 he was one of the commanders of the king's forces against the northern rebels, and on their surrender took a chief part (Ann. Hen. 408-9) in procuring the execution of Scrope and Mowbray (8 June 1405). On 9 Feb. 1407 his legitimation was confirmed by Henry, and he had a grant soon after of the forfeited Bardolph estates in Norfolk, and was made captain of Calais. In 1408-9 he was made admiral of the northern and western seas for life, and on the anti-clerical reaction of 1409 he received from Henry the great seal 31 Jan. 1410, being the only lay chancellor of the reign (Claus. 11 Hen. IV, m. 8 dors.). In 1411 he asked leave to resign, but was refused (ib. 12 Hen. IV, m. 9), and he opened and adjourned the parliament of 5 Nov.-19 Dec. 1411.
Beaufort was allowed to resign 5 Jan. 1412 (Rot. Parl. iii. 658), and, taking part a few months later in the French expedition under the Duke of Clarence (T. Wals. ii. 288), was created earl of Dorset 5 July 1412. On the accession of Henry V. (1413) he was made lieutenant of Aquitaine (Rot. Vasc. 1 Hen. V, m. 8), and was associated in the embassy to France in 1414. Accompanying Henry on the invasion of the next year, he was appointed captain of Harfleur (T. Wals. ii. 309) on its surrender (22 Sept. 1415). He remained in charge of Harfleur, and during the winter of 1415-6 ravaged the Caux close up to Rouen (ib. 314). In March 1416 he was defeated by Armagnac at Balmont, and was closely besieged in Harfleur till he was relieved in August by the Duke of Bedford [see John, duke of Bedford]. He had been made lieutenant of Normandy 28 Feb. 1416, and on 18 Nov. he was created in parliament duke of Exeter for life (Pat. 4 Hen. V, m. 11). In the summer of 1417 he went on pilgrimage to Bridlington, and subsequently hearing of the Foul Raid (which took place in Oct. 1417) and the siege of Roxburgh by the Scots, raised forces (the king being in Normandy) and relieved Roxburgh (T. Wals. ii. 325). At Henry's summons he passed over to Normandy about Trinity (May) 1418, at the head of reinforcements 15,000 strong (ib. 328). He besieged and took Evreux (ib. 329), but failed to take Ivry. He was now (1 July 1418) created by Henry count of Harcourt in Normandy (Rot. Norm. 6 Hen. V). On the approach of Henry to Rouen he sent forward the duke to reconnoitre and summon the town to surrender (20-29 July 1418). On the siege being formed he took up his quarters on the north, facing the Beauvoisine gate. The keys of Rouen were given up to Henry 19 Jan. 1419, and handed by him to his uncle, the duke, whom he made captain of the city, and who took possession of it the next day. He was then despatched to reduce the coast towns. Montivilliers was surrendered to him 31 Jan. (1419), and Fécamp, Dieppe, and Eu rapidly followed. In the following April he laid siege to Château-Gaillard, which surrendered to him after a five months' leaguer 23 Sept. (1419). In the spring he was sent to the French court to negotiate the treaty of Troyes (21 May 1420), and in the autumn he took part in the siege of Melun (T. Wals. ii. 335). On Henry's departure he was left with the Duke of Clarence, and was made prisoner on his defeat at Baugé (22 March 1421). Regaining his liberty he was despatched to Cosne with the relieving force in the summer of 1422 (ib. 343), but, being one of Henry's executors, returned to England at his death (31 Aug. 1422), and was present at his obsequies. The chroniclers differ as to the king's instructions (see Stubbs, Const. Hist. iii. 92); but it seems probable that he entrusted his son to
Thomas Beauforde his uncle dere and trewe
Duke of Excester, full of all worthyhode.
Hardyng, p. 387
It is certain that the duke was placed on the council under Gloucester's protectorate (Rot. Parl. iv. 175), and he was also appointed justice of North Wales (Pat. 1 Hen. VI, p. 3, m. 14). He seems, however (Rot. Franc. 5 Hen. VI, m. 18), to have returned to the French wars before his death, which took place at his manor of Greenwich about 1 Jan. 1427 (Esch. 5 Hen. VI, n. 56) By his will (given in Dugdale) he desired to be buried at St. Edmund's Bury, where, 350 years later, his body was found as perfect and entire as at the time of his death. He had married Margaret, daughter and heir of Sir Thomas Nevill of Hornby, but he left no issue.
Thomas of Walsingham (Rolls Series)
Chronicque d'Enguerrand de Monstrelet
Poem on the Siege of Rouen (Archæologia, vols. xxi, xxii)
Dugdale's Baronage (inaccurate), ii. 125
Bentley's Excerpta Historica, pp. 152 sq.
Foss's Judges of England (1845), ii. 151
Puiseux's Siége et Prise de Rouen (1867).
Contributor: J. H. R. [John Horace Round]