10 February, 2019

The Date of Birth of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester (1291-1314)

Gilbert was the eldest grandchild of Edward I and only seven years younger than his uncle Edward II, and was the only son and heir of arguably the greatest English nobleman of the late thirteenth century, Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester (1243-1295). Gilbert 'the Red' married Edward I's second daughter Joan of Acre on 30 April 1290, and their first child, Gilbert, was born a year later. Exactly when the younger Gilbert was born is not entirely certain, though his date of birth fell somewhere between 23 April and 13 May 1291; here's a post about it.

The inquisition post mortem of Gilbert 'the Red' was taken in late 1295 and early 1296, soon after Gilbert's death at age 52 in early December 1295. He had held lands in every county of the south of England, Wales, and Ireland. The jurors in each English county had a pretty good general idea of his son and heir's age and approximate date of birth, and realised that the young Gilbert was either four or five years old (he was actually four), but their stated dates of birth for him vary somewhat. The Sussex jurors thought that Gilbert turned five at the feast of the Annunciation, 23 Edward I, which is 25 March 1295. This would place Gilbert’s birth around 25 March 1290, over a month before his parents even married. Buckinghamshire said he was 'aged five at the feast of St Mark last', which gives a date of birth of 25 April 1290, five days before his parents' wedding and also impossible. Somerset said 'aged four at the feast of St George last', or 23 April 1291. Wiltshire and Hampshire just said 'aged four and more', Worcestershire, Berkshire and Gloucestershire 'aged four and nine months' and Devon 'aged four at the Invention of Holy Cross last', which gives a date of birth of 3 May 1291. Surrey, Kent, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire all said that Gilbert was five or 'five and more' and Hertfordshire that he was 'aged five at Whitsunday next', which would give a date of birth of 13 May 1291. Suffolk said he was four and a half years old at the beginning of January 1296, and Norfolk, impossibly, that Gilbert was 'six and more'.

The inquisition post mortem of Gilbert's mother Joan of Acre was taken in June 1307 a few weeks after her death (and shortly before her father Edward I died). Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire both said that Gilbert was 'aged 17 on 11 May last', which again is a year too old, though jurors on two other Buckinghamshire inquisitions both said 'aged 16 on 11 May last'. Half a dozen inquisitions in Gloucestershire also said either '16 on 11 May last' or '17 on 11 May last'. Berkshire and Sussex said 17 and more, Cambridgeshire, Somerset, Essex and Kent said 16 and more, and Wiltshire and Norfolk thought he was, impossibly, 18. Northamptonshire and Dorset said 'age unknown' and Devon didn't mention Gilbert's age. Hertfordshire said 'aged 16 on 1 May last' and Glamorgan said 'aged 16 on the first Friday in May last', i.e. they thought Gilbert was born on 5 May 1291.

All of this gives us a date of birth for the young earl of Gloucester sometime between 23 April and 13 May 1291. We see that all the jurors on both his parents' IPMs, except Northamptonshire, Dorset and Devon who failed to come up with an age in 1307, had a not too inaccurate idea of how old Gilbert was. Perhaps they thought he was five in 1295 when he was actually only four, or thought he was seventeen in June 1307 when he was actually sixteen, but none of them thought he might be eight or thirteen or seventeen in 1295, or conversely, that he was only eight or eleven or fourteen in 1307. Quite a lot of them also had a pretty good idea of the time of year he was born, late April or early May. So, although we don't know the exact date of Gilbert de Clare's birth, we can narrow it down to a three-week period a year after his parents' wedding.

The date of Gilbert's death at the battle of Bannockburn is certain: 24 June 1314, when he was twenty-three years old. He was buried at his family's mausoleum of Tewkesbury Abbey in Gloucestershire. As he and his wife Maud de Burgh had no children, the heirs to his vast inheritance were his three younger sisters: Eleanor Despenser, born c. 14 October 1292; Margaret Gaveston, probably born sometime in the first half of 1294; and Elizabeth de Burgh, born 16 September 1295. At Gilbert's own IPM in July/August 1314, the jurors gamely had a stab at guessing his sisters' ages. Eleanor was actually twenty-one going on twenty-two at the time, and the estimates of her age varied between twenty and twenty-five; Margaret was probably twenty, and the estimates varied between eighteen and twenty-two; and Elizabeth was eighteen going on nineteen, and the estimates varied between sixteen and twenty. Some of the jurors copped out and just said that all three women were 'of full age' or 'aged sixteen and more', and a few counties weren't sure if they really were Gloucester's heirs, as his widow was thought to be pregnant. Again, although the estimated ages of the de Clare sisters vary, they weren't massively inaccurate, and all the jurors knew their correct birth order.

Sources: CIPM 1291-1300, no. 371; CIPM 1300-07, no. 435; CIPM 1307-17, no. 538.

No comments: