Charles Beauclerk, Earl of Burford
Charles Francis Topham de Vere Beauclerk, Earl of Burford (born 22 February 1965), is a British aristocrat who is heir to the title Duke of St Albans. Beauclerk first came to public attention when he attempted to interfere with a debate in Parliament, declaring a bill which proposed to exclude hereditary peers from automatic voting rights in the House of Lords to be treasonable. He is a writer and exponent of the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship. He prefers not to use his title, believing it to be worthless since most hereditary peers were removed from political office by the House of Lords Act 1999.
Lord Burford is the eldest son and heir apparent of Murray Beauclerk, 14th Duke of St Albans. He is descended from Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St Albans, the natural son of Charles II and Nell Gwyn.
Beauclerk first came to wide public attention during a debate on the House of Lords Act 1999 concerning the amendment of voting rights for hereditary peers. After listening to the debate while seated on the first step of the Throne, as was his right as the eldest son of a peer, Beauclerk leapt to his feet, crossed the floor of the House, stood on the Woolsack (the Speaker's seat in the House of Lords) and declared the bill treason to the life and culture of Britain, insisting that hereditary peers should retain their right to sit and vote in the House. He said, "This bill, drafted in Brussels, is treason. What we are witnessing is the abolition of Britain... Before us lies the wasteland... No Queen, no culture, no sovereignty, no freedom. Stand up for your Queen and country and vote this bill down."
His actions led to criticism from Labour Party MPs. Angela Smith said it was the "tantrum of a naughty child", adding that "While claiming to defend tradition, he clearly showed no respect for it; while decrying the will of the elected House to be 'treason', he showed no respect for democracy."
Subsequently, Beauclerk stood as the first ever candidate for the right-wing Democratic Party at the 1999 Kensington and Chelsea by-election. Kensington and Chelsea was perceived as a very safe seat for the Conservatives. Beauclerk's campaign manager John Gouriet, head of the group Freedom in Action, said that "Lord Burford feels very strongly as a true patriot that the Conservative Party has failed completely to stop the revolutionary march of socialism in the last few months." The seat was won, as expected, by the Conservative candidate Michael Portillo. Beauclerk received 189 votes (0.9%).
Oxfordian theory and writings
Through his father he is the heir of the family of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (hence the double surname), and has played a prominent role in promoting the Oxfordian theory that his ancestor wrote the works of William Shakespeare. He also claims that de Vere was the real author of works attributed to other Elizabethan writers, including John Lyly, George Gascoigne and Thomas Watson. Beauclerk regularly lectures on Oxfordian subjects in the United States.
In 2010 he published Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom: The True History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth, in which he espouses a version of "Prince Tudor theory" which holds that Oxford was the lover of Queen Elizabeth I, and that Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton was in fact their son. Beauclerk supports the most radical version of the theory, which adds the claim that Oxford himself was the Queen's son, and thus the father of his own half-brother, having fathered him with his own mother.
Beauclerk has also written a biography of his ancestress Nell Gwyn (Macmillan, 2005), which was the inspiration for the 2016 West End hit of the same name starring Gemma Arterton. Piano Man, his life of John Ogdon (Simon & Schuster, 2014), was shortlisted for the Spear Book Awards biography prize and was described by Jeremy Nicholas in his review for Gramophone as, ‘Perhaps the most riveting, intimate and revealing biography of a musician I have read.’
On 29 December 1994, at Manaton, Dartmoor, Beauclerk was married to Canadian actress and pop singer, Louise Ann Robey. From that marriage he has one son, James Malcolm Aubrey Edward de Vere Beauclerk, Lord Vere of Hanworth (born 2 August 1995). Following their divorce in 2001, they shared custody of their son.
In June 2017 Beauclerk married Sarah Davenport, who is an artist and designer, at Bestwood Lodge in Nottingham.
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