Sir William Betham 1
- Born: 22 May 1779, Stradbroke, Suffolk 1
- Christened: 28 May 1779, Stradbroke, Suffolk 1
- Marriage: Elizabeth Crampton
- Died: 26 Oct 1853, Dublin, Leinster, Ireland aged 74 1
- Buried: 1853, Monkstown, Co. Dublin 1
Noted events in his life were:
• Biography: A Short Biography. 1 Betham, Sir William (1779\endash 1853), antiquary, eldest surviving son of William Betham (1749\endash 1839) and his wife, Mary Planque (1752/3\endash 1839), daughter of William Damant of Eye, Suffolk, was born on 22 May 1779 at Stradbroke, Suffolk. In his early years he acquired a practical knowledge of typography, and
undertook to revise a portion of William Camden's Britannia for the edition published by Stockdale in 1806. In 1805 he went to Dublin to search for documents in connection with a law case on which he was employed. He found them, unarranged and neglected, in 'the tower' at Dublin Castle, and in the office of the Ulster king of arms. The sinecure office of keeper of the records in 'the tower' at Dublin Castle was at that time held by Philip Henry Stanhope, Lord Mahon, who, on Betham's representations, appointed him as his deputy. Betham also obtained the appointment of deputy to Admiral Chichester Fortescue, then
Ulster king of arms.
Betham was knighted in 1812, and was appointed Ulster king of arms in 1820. He devoted much time to the preparation of catalogues and indexes to collections of records. In 1827 he published a volume of Irish Antiquarian Researches, illustrated with plates. This publication was succeeded in 1830 by the first volume of a work by him, Dignities, feudal and parliamentary, and the constitutional legislature of the United Kingdom; the nature and functions of the Aula Regis, the Magna Concilia, and the Communia Concilia of England; and the history of the parliaments of France, England, Scotland, and Ireland, investigated and considered with a view to ascertain the origin, progress, and final establishment of legislative parliaments and of the history of a peer or lord of parliament. This volume was reissued in 1834 with a new title-page, as The Origin and History of the Constitution of England, and of the Early Parliaments of Ireland. The author, in a preliminary note, stated that the title by which the work was first published inadequately expressed its real character, and that it had been thought expedient to republish it with one more fully declaring its contents and objects.
Betham also published in 1834 The Gael and Cymbri, which inquired into the origins of the Celtic peoples. In 1837 he issued Observations on evidence taken before a committee of the House of Commons on the record commission. Betham took an active part in the proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy,
Dublin, after his admission to it as a member in 1826. He became one of its governing body, acted as secretary, and made several contributions to its publications. In 1840 differences arose in relation to the distribution of prizes and the publication of essays by George Petrie, and he apparently withdrew from
the academy for many years. His last publication appeared in two volumes in 1842, with the explanatory title of Etruria Celtica: Etruscan literature and antiquities investigated, or, The language of that people compared and identified with the Iberno-Celtic, and both shown to be Phoenician.
Betham's large collection of manuscripts in Irish was purchased from him in 1850 by the Royal Irish Academy. He died in Dublin on 26 October 1853, and was buried at Monkstown, co. Dublin. As Ulster king of arms he was succeeded by Sir John Bernard Burke. Betham's genealogical and heraldic manuscripts were sold at auction in London by Sotheby and Wilkinson in 1860, chiefly to private
collectors. Portions, however, were bought for the British Museum, London, and for the office of Ulster king of arms, Dublin.
J. T. Gilbert, rev. Michael Erben
Sources W. Stokes, The life and labours in art and archaeology of G. Petrie (1868) · priv. coll. · Records of Office of Ulster King of Arms, Dublin · Royal Irish Acad. · Fourth report, HMC, 3 (1874) · G. Petrie, A letter to Sir William Rowan Hamilton in reply to certain charges made against the author by Sir
William Betham (1840) · A. J. Webb, A compendium of Irish biography (1878)· C. Knight, ed., The English cyclopaedia: biography, 6 vols. (1856\endash 8) [suppl. (1872)] · J. F. Waller, ed., The imperial dictionary of universal biography, 3 vols. (1857\endash 63) · Men of the time (1887)
Archives BL, genealogical and heraldic collections, Add. MSS 19828\endash 19865, 19996\endash 19997, 21032\endash 21033, 23683\endash 23711, 24331, 34766, 38019, 44933 · Bodl. Oxf., pedigrees; English translation with notes of Ossianic poems; Syllabus Chartarum et Literarum Patentium · Coll. Arms, Irish genealogical collections [copies] · Genealogical Office, Dublin, abstracts and pedigrees · NL Ire., corresp. and papers · NL Scot., London pedigrees · priv. coll. · PRO NIre., Irish pedigrees · Royal Irish Acad. · W. Yorks. AS, Leeds, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Betham's copy of Robert Glover's Visitation of Yorkshire with further additions | Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland, Dublin, Records of Office of Ulster King of Arms · Yale U., Beinecke L., letters to T. J. Pettigrew
William married Elizabeth Crampton, daughter of Rev. Cecil Burleigh Crampton and Nicola Mary Marsh.