11 August, 2013

The De Clare Sisters

I saw someone on Facebook recently mixing up Edward II's nieces Eleanor and Margaret de Clare, and also seemingly unaware of their younger sister Elizabeth.  Here's a quick post about them.

Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford, was born on 2 September 1243, son of Earl Richard and Maud de Lacy, great-grandson of the famous William Marshal, earl of Pembroke.  Gilbert was first married to Alice de Lusignan, half-niece of Henry III, with whom he had two daughters, Isabel, Lady Berkeley (1262 - c. 1333/38) and Joan, countess of Fife (c. 1264/67 - after 1322).  This marriage was annulled in 1285, which made Isabel and Joan illegitimate.  On 30 April 1290, aged forty-six, Gilbert married Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's second-eldest surviving daughter Joan of Acre, who was born in the Holy Land in the spring of 1272 and thus was eighteen or almost at the time of her wedding to the irascible Gilbert.

Gilbert and Joan's eldest child Gilbert, earl of Gloucester, was born on or around 10 May 1291, just over a year after their wedding, and was killed at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314.  The younger Gilbert had no surviving children with his wife Maud de Burgh (but see here for her claims to be pregnant twenty months after his death), and left his vast lands and fortune to be divided equally among his three younger sisters and their husbands.  His sisters were:

- Eleanor, born in October or November 1292, died June 1337
- Margaret, date of birth unknown, probably in the spring or summer of 1294, assuming a regular spacing between the four siblings; died April 1342
- Elizabeth, born on 16 September 1295, just a few weeks before the death of their father Gilbert 'the Red' on 7 December 1295, aged fifty-two; died November 1360.

For the 45332896th time, Edward II did ***NOT*** arrange the marriage of Eleanor de Clare and Hugh Despenser the Younger.  Eleanor and Hugh married on 26 May 1306 at Westminster, in the presence of her grandfather Edward I, who had arranged the match.  There is ample evidence for this wedding date - for which, please see my post on the subject - and I'm sick to death of the laziness of writers who can't be bothered to research properly and instead repeat the usual rubbish about Edward II arranging it after Hugh had become his favourite, a dozen or more years after Hugh and Eleanor actually married.  Edward II did arrange the marriages of Margaret and Elizabeth de Clare, however, to his 'favourites' Piers Gaveston, earl of Cornwall in 1307 and Sir Hugh Audley in 1317, in Margaret's case, and to Sir Roger Damory in 1317 in Elizabeth's.  Elizabeth had previously been married to the earl of Ulster's eldest son and heir John de Burgh (d. 1313) and Theobald, Lord Verdon (d. 1316).

All the de Clare sisters were married two or three times and all left children.  Eleanor had at least nine or ten children with Hugh Despenser the Younger and at least one with her second husband William la Zouche, lord of Ashby, whom she married in 1329.  Her heir on her death in June 1337 was her eldest son Sir Hugh Despenser (1308/09 - 1349).  Eleanor's third of the de Clare inheritance passed from the Despensers to the Beauchamps and the Nevilles in the fifteenth century, as Eleanor and Hugh the Younger's great-great-granddaughter Isabel Despenser married Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick.  Margaret's daughter Joan Gaveston died young; her sole heir on her death in 1342 was her younger daughter Margaret Audley, abducted and forcibly married by Sir Ralph Stafford in 1336.  Elizabeth's heir when she died in 1360 was her granddaughter Elizabeth de Burgh (1332-1363), daughter of Elizabeth's only son William de Burgh; the younger Elizabeth married Edward III's son Lionel, duke of Clarence.  Elizabeth's share of the de Clare lands passed from the de Burghs to the Mortimers, thanks to Philippa of Clarence's marriage to Edmund Mortimer.  Elizabeth de Clare also left two daughters, Isabella Verdon and Elizabeth Damory.

All the de Clare sisters suffered imprisonment during or after Edward II's turbulent reign: Eleanor in the Tower of London in and after 1326, as she was the wife of an executed traitor (one Flemish chronicle claimed that she had had an affair with her uncle Edward II and was imprisoned in case she was pregnant by him); Margaret at Sempringham Priory in May 1322 after she successfully pleaded for the life of her husband Hugh Audley, once a royal favourite then a rebel, for the rest of Edward's reign; and Elizabeth at Barking Abbey, also in March 1322 for the same reason as her sister, but only for a few months.  [For Margaret and Elizabeth, see: Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 428, 440, 651; Livere de Reis de Britanie e le Livere de Reis de Engletere, ed. John Glover, p. 345]

And finally, just for the record, these are Edward II's nieces, the ones who lived to adulthood:

Eleanor de Clare, Lady Despenser (1292-1337)
Margaret de Clare, countess of Cornwall and Gloucester (1293/94-1342)
Elizabeth de Clare, Lady Burgh (1295-1360)
Mary de Monthermer, countess of Fife (1297 - after 1371)
Joan de Monthermer, a nun (1299-?) [all the above, daughters of his sister Joan of Acre]
Joan of Bar, countess of Surrey (1295/96-1361) [daughter of his sister Eleanor]
Eleanor de Bohun, countess of Ormond (1304-1263)
Margaret de Bohun, countess of Devon (1311-1391) [daughters of his sister Elizabeth]
Margaret of Norfolk, duchess of Norfolk (c. 1322-1399)
Alice of Norfolk (c. 1324 - early 1350s) [daughters of his half-brother Thomas]
Joan of Kent, countess of Kent and mother of Richard II (1328-1385) [daughter of his half-brother Edmund]


Anerje said...

It's easy to think that Edward arranged the marriage of Eleanor and Hugh - until you look at the date. As he arranged Margaret's to his beloved Piers, it would be natural to assume he did likewise for Hugh. Margaret obviously liked marrying Edward's favs :>

Sami Parkkonen said...

I got just one thing to say (like the kids today like to say); WORD!

Carla said...

Very clear summary. Out of interest, how does Elizabeth relate to the Elizabeth de Burgh who married Robert Bruce? I imagine they were related somehow through Elizabeth de Clare's first marriage to John de Burgh - is this right?

Despite all her marriages, it's notable that Elizabeth founded Clare College under her own name. Maybe she got rather fed up with being handed around the marriage market like a game of pass-the-parcel.

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla, Elizabeth's husband John was the brother of Robert Bruce's wife Elizabeth de Burgh. Another sister, Maud, was married to Elizabeth de Clare's brother the earl of Gloucester; there was a double wedding of the de Clare and de Burgh siblings in September 1308. Yes, good point that it's Clare College at Cambridge, not Burgh College!

Thanks, Sami! :)

Anerje, yes, it's an easy assumption that I'm sick of people making when the dates are so wildly wrong.

Carla said...

Many thanks. I guessed it might be something like that but didn't know the details.

M Jenkins Pender said...

Thanks for helping me work out all the kinks in the family tree! I try for 3 sources for marriages - as there is a lot of misinformation .... Mo Pender Calgary, Alberta Canada