Countess Mary Beaumont

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Mary Beaumont, Countess of Buckingham

Birthdate: (63)
Birthplace: Glenfield, Leicestershire, England, United Kingdom
Death: April 19, 1632 (59-67)
Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: London, Greater London, UK
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Anthony Beaumont, of Glenfield in Leicestershire and Anne Armstrong
Wife of Sir Thomas Compton; Sir George Villiers, of Brokesby and Sir William Raynor
Mother of Redeemed Compton; Mary Barnsbridge; Crescens Compton; Ann Compton; John Viscount Purbeck Villiers, Viscount Purbeck and 3 others
Sister of Anne Brett, Lady Brett and Sir Francis Beaumont

Managed by: Carlos F. Bunge
Last Updated:

About Countess Mary Beaumont

Picture Mary Villiers (née Beaumont), Countess of Buckingham by James Stow, published by George Perfect Harding © National Portrait Gallery, London Mary Beaumont, Countess of Buckingham (c1570 - 1632)

Mary Beaumont, Countess of Buckingham, was born around 1570. The daughter of Anthony Beaumont of Glenfield in Leicestershire, the beautiful nineteen year old met George Villiers of Brooksby while she was a waiting gentlewoman to her rich relation Lady Elizabeth Beaumont of Coleorton Hall and wasted no time in manoeuvring herself into a position in his household, and marrying him soon after the death of his first wife Audrey Saunders. Mary enjoyed the life of a squire’s wife, bearing him four children, including their second son George, later the King’s favourite.

When Sir George died in 1606, his eldest son William inherited Brooksby, and Mary and her family moved into the dower house at Goadby. Although later detractors claimed that young Villiers’s graceful form was garbed in a shabby doublet prior to his first meeting King James, it seems unlikely that Mary and her family were poverty-stricken, for in addition to her life interest in the manor which had 360 acres attached to it; she also had a jointure of 200 a year, so as Clarendon comments, ‘she had a good jointure in the account of that age.’[i] Sir George had also left a provision of £50 or £60 pounds per annum for Mary’s children, to be left in trust until they reached their majority. [ii]

In any case Dame Villiers does not appear to have lacked resourcefulness, and six months later she married the eighty year old Sir William Rayner of Orton Longueville in Huntingdonshire. Sir William was soon disabused of the notion that his new wife had married him for love, for she remained living at Goadby whilst he resided at Stanton- upon- the Wolds; even ransacking his home at Stanton when he was away, taking money and wool which she attempted to sell. It has to be said that Mary’s behaviour at this time does her no credit, and reveals the character which was displayed throughout the rest of her eventful life of calculating ambition, hardness and lack of principle.

Mary made a third advantageous marriage to Sir Thomas Compton shortly after Sir William’s death in November 1606. Compton was the son of Sir Henry Compton and Lady Frances Hastings and the brother of William Compton, later created Ist Earl of Northampton in 1618. Knighted in 1603, Sir Thomas’s brother William was an intimate at Belvoir Castle, seat of the Earls of Rutland, frequently dining there and accompanying the 5th Earl Roger Manners at hunting, and Lord Compton had provided tents in April 1603 when the new king James I visited Belvoir for the first time. As the wife of Sir George Villiers there had been limited contact between the wealthy and influential Manners’ family and the squire from Brooksby, other than a letter to Countess Elizabeth in December 1588 concerning a request for a living, and in 1605 when George Villiers sent a fighting cock to Earl Roger. Still, the Earl thought enough of Villiers to leave him some of his hunting hounds in his will. Over the next few years Mary continued to work hard at ingratiating herself with the noble family at Belvoir, sending gifts of artichokes, apples, cucumbers, larks, veal and lamb. Sir Thomas and Lady Compton also provided a cook for the funeral arrangements of Earl Roger in 1612. Their cultivation of their powerful neighbours continued with Roger’s successor, his brother Francis; sending rabbits for the king’s visit in 1614, and frequent gifts of food.

Increasingly ambitious and unscrupulous, Mary calculatedly groomed and pushed forward her beautiful son George for a life at the decadent court of King James, and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams when George became the King’s favourite and it was rumoured also his lover. The young man was showered with innumerable titles, including that of Duke of Buckingham, and given great wealth, which he shared with his family and Mary was created Countess of Buckingham in 1618 by the doting king. The Countess continued to outrage and shock the court by her ruthless pursuit of wealth and power; dominating the King and her son, and even resorting to abduction in her relentless determination to provide wealthy marriages for her kin, including Buckingham.

Mary became even more unpopular when she converted to Catholicism, causing the Spanish Ambassador in England, Count Gondomar, to boast that England would be converted through her influence. Like her son the Duke, Mary was a target for libels and scurrilous ballads, and it was rumoured that she had taken the Bishop of Lincoln as her lover.

In 1625 Mary and her son Buckingham were implicated in poisoning King James, becoming increasingly hated and vilified, and Buckingham was assassinated three years later. Mary herself died in 1632, and was given the honour of a magnificent tomb in Westminster Abbey, surrounded by royalty.

[i] Edward, Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil wars in England, ed. W.D. Macray (Oxford 1888)

[ii] C. R. Cammell, The Great Duke of Buckingham (London 1939).p.38

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Countess Mary Beaumont's Timeline

1537
1537
1569
1569
Glenfield, Leicestershire, England, United Kingdom
1572
1572
Age 3
1572
Age 3
1572
Age 3
1591
1591
Age 22
UK
1591
Age 22
Stoke, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom
1592
August 28, 1592
Age 23
Brooksby, Leicestershire, England, (Present UK)