I wonder how many people who cross The Solent to holiday on the Isle of Wight, or for that matter how many residents of the Garden Isle, know that the island once had its very own king? A king with Warwickshire connections!
King Henry of the Isle of Wight was born on 21st March 1425, the son of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick. Richard had been the regent of France and as Captain of Calais presided over the trial and subsequent execution of Joan of Arc.
As a child Henry Beauchamp had been the companion and playmate of the future King Henry VI, who, following Richard Beauchamp’s death in 1439, lavished honours on his former playmate.
Henry Beauchamp – King
In 1444 King Henry made Henry Beauchamp the premier Earl of England and on 14th April the following year gave him the title Duke of Warwick, the new title being second only in rank to the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshall of England. Plus, to place Henry on a more equal footing, he created Beauchamp the King of The Isle of Wight and is said to have crowned him personally. Henry’s rapid elevation did not sit well with the nobility of England, especially with that of the Isle of Wight who argued that there was nothing in English law that allowed for there to be a King of the Island.
This could be the reason it is unlikely that Henry ever set foot on his Island kingdom. Another reason could be that his health, which had always been poor, failed and he died on 11th June 1446 aged only 21. As such, depending on which report you read, he had been King of the Island for at most four years.
Although only 21 Henry did leave a widow and an heir, two year old Anne. However, while the Earldom could pass down the female line the Dukedom and the Kingship could not, so both titles became extinct. Making Henry the first and up to now, the last King of the Isle of Wight and the first and as yet, last Duke of Warwick.
Henry’s death also brought to an end the Beauchamp line of Earls of Warwick. Within three years both his daughter and his widow were dead and the Earldom passed to his sister, also Anne. She had married Richard Neville in 1449 and by virtue of his marriage to Anne he took the title Earl of Warwick.