Margaret de BEAUMONT: Birth: ABT 1125. Death: AFT 1185
Note: N1168 Justiciar of England 1155–1168. In 1120 Robert was declared of age and inherited most of his father's lands in England, while his twin brother took the French lands.
He appears fitfully at the royal court despite his brother's imprisonment until 1129. Thereafter the twins were frequently to be found together at Henry I's court.
Robert held lands throughout the country. In the 1120s and 1130s he tried to rationalise his estates in Leicestershire. Leicestershire estates of the See of Lincoln and the Earl of Chester were seized by force. This enhanced the integrity of Robert's block of estates in the central midlands, bounded by Nuneaton, Loughborough, Melton Mowbray and Market Harborough.
The outbreak of civil war in England in September 1139 brought Robert into conflict with Earl Robert of Gloucester, the bastard son of Henry I and principal sponsor of the Empress Matilda.
Probably in late 1139, Earl Robert refounded his father's collegiate church of St Mary de Castro in Leicester as a major Augustinian abbey on the meadows outside the town's north gate, annexing the college's considerable endowment to the abbey.
The battle of Lincoln on 2 February 1141 saw the capture and imprisonment of King Stephen. Although Count Waleran valiantly continued the royalist fight in England into the summer, he eventually capitulated to the Empress and crossed back to Normandy to make his peace with the Empress's husband, Geoffrey of Anjou. Earl Robert had been in Normandy since 1140 attempting to stem the Angevin invasion, and negotiated the terms of his brother's surrender. He quit Normandy soon after and his Norman estates were confiscated and used to reward Norman followers of the Empress. Earl Robert remained on his estates in England for the remainder of King Stephen's reign. Although he was a nominal supporter of the king, there seems to have been little contact between him and Stephen, who did not confirm the foundation of Leicester Abbey till 1153. Earl Robert's principal activity between 1141 and 1149 was his private war with Ranulf II, Earl of Chester.
The arrival in England of Duke Henry, son of the Empress Mathilda, in January 1153 was a great opportunity for Earl Robert. He was probably in negotiation with Henry in that spring and reached an agreement by which he would defect to him by May 1153, when the duke restored his Norman estates to the earl. The duke celebrated his Pentecost court at Leicester in June 1153, and he and the earl were constantly in company till the peace settlement between the duke and the king at Winchester in November 1153. Earl Robert crossed with the duke to Normandy in January 1154 and resumed his Norman castles and honors. As part of the settlement his claim to be chief steward of England and Normandy was recognised by Henry.
Earl Robert began his career as chief justiciar of England probably as soon as Duke Henry succeeded as King Henry II in October 1154. The office gave the earl supervision of the administration and legal process in England whether the king was present or absent in the realm. He appears in that capacity in numerous administrative acts, and had a junior colleague in the post in Richard de Luci, another former servant of King Stephen. The earl filled the office for nearly fourteen years until his death, and earned the respect of the emerging Angevin bureaucracy in England. His opinion was quoted by learned clerics, and his own learning was highly commended.
He died on 5 April 1168, probably at his Northamptonshire castle of Brackley, for his entrails were buried at the hospital in the town. He was received as a canon of Leicester on his deathbed, and buried to the north of the high altar of the great abbey he had founded and built.
Robert founded and patronised many religious establishments. He founded Leicester Abbey and Garendon Abbeyin Leicestershire, the Fontevraldine Nuneaton Priory in Warwickshire, Luffield Abbey in Buckinghamshire, and the hospital of Brackley, Northamptonshire. He refounded the collegiate church of St Mary de Castro, Leicester, as a dependency of Leicester abbey around 1164, after suppressing it in 1139. Around 1139 he refounded the collegiate church of Wareham as a priory of his abbey of Lyre, in Normandy. His principal Norman foundations were the priory of Le Désert in the forest of Breteuil and a major hospital in Breteuil itself. He was a generous benefactor of the Benedictine abbey of Lyre, the oldest monastic house in the honor of Breteuil. He also donated land in Old Dalby, Leicestershire to the Knights Hospitallers who used it to found Dalby Preceptory.
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