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The Seventh Earl Beauchamp

A Victim of His Times

Peter Raina

The 7 th Earl Beauchamp was a prominent figure in English public life in the years 1900–30, but his career ended in scandal. He was barred from English soil, his reputation was destroyed and his papers were withheld from public view. In this book, Peter Raina uses previously unreleased documents to reassess Beauchamp’s life and legacy.
Born into the aristocracy, Beauchamp was driven by a sense of noblesse oblige and devoted his life to public service. Though some of this was ceremonial, Beauchamp was keen to involve himself in practical politics, where he showed his independence of mind. He joined the Liberals as they pushed through change against obstruction from his own landowning class. He championed Irish Home Rule. In 1914 he opposed entry into the war and lost any chance of promotion. However, he remained deeply loyal to his party even after its split and decline, and worked tirelessly in its cause.
His life touched on great events such as the formation of Australia and, in Britain, the great reforms of 1906–9, the 1911 Parliament Act, the crisis of 1914, the creation of the Irish Free State, the Liberal collapse, the first Labour government and the economic slump. Through all these, he busied himself in party affairs, but one aspect of his private life worked against him and, in a Sophoclean twist, he fell from grace.
This book documents the Earl’s involvement in politics, explores his personality and looks carefully at the issues that brought him down. In the light of this analysis, it is hoped that historians will recognize his significant contribution to the events of his day.
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Chapter 13: Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports

Extract

← 240 | 241 →

CHAPTER 13

Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports

Early history of the ports

The Cinque Ports have a long, complicated and intriguing history. This history has been thoroughly described elsewhere,1 but we will outline it briefly here so as to put Earl Beauchamp’s appointment as Lord Warden into context. The Confederation of Cinque Ports was the consequence of their special location. The coastline of south-east England, historically known as the ‘Saxon shore’ (or ‘Kent shore’), commands a short sea link between England and the European continent. The narrowness of the channel caused the English to live under constant threat of attack from abroad. And such attacks indeed happened, as was seen in AD 43 when the Romans first landed on the Saxon shore. It was the Romans who first understood the strategic importance of this bit of coastline and they proceeded to build fortresses and lighthouses along it. The five ports on the Saxon shore were soon ordered to guard the coast more solito or ‘according to the usual custom’. After the Norman Conquest, William I, following the same strategic thought as the Romans, granted a charter to these ‘Cinque Ports’, and the charter was confirmed by succeeding Sovereigns. However, it is a charter of Edward I [1278] that secured permanent acceptance of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports – originally Hastings, Romney, ← 241 | 242 → Hythe, Dover and Sandwich, to which were added the two ‘ancient towns’ of Rye and...

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