01 April, 2019

Robert, Lord Clifford (1274-1314)

A post about Robert, Lord Clifford, who was born c. 1 April 1274 and who was the second highest ranking Englishman, after the earl of Gloucester, who fell at the battle of Bannockburn in June 1314.

Robert was the only son of Roger Clifford, born c. 1248 and the son and heir of Roger Clifford the elder (1221-85). Roger the younger, born c. 1248, drowned in the Menai Strait between Anglesey and the mainland of North Wales on 6 November 1282, when the bridge Edward I had built to connect the two collapsed. Robert Clifford was eight years old when his father died, and eleven when his grandfather, whose heir he was, died in 1285. His father's inquisition post mortem of December 1282 says Robert was then either seven, eight or nine, and the Westmorland jurors specifically stated that he would be nine at 'Easter, 11 Edward I.' Easter Sunday in Edward I's eleventh regnal year fell on 18 April 1283, and in 1274 fell on 1 April. The IPM of Robert's mother in May 1292 states that he was 'eighteen at Easter last', confirming Robert's date of birth around Easter 1274, though the Yorkshire jurors claimed that he was 'aged eighteen on the feast of St Michael next,' i.e. 29 September. [CIPM 1272-91, no. 478; CIPM 1291-1300, no. 70]

Robert Clifford's mother Isabel Vipont (d. 1292) was one of the two daughters and co-heirs of Robert Vipont and Isabel FitzJohn, and she was a first cousin of Guy Beauchamp, earl of Warwick and his sister Isabella, mother of Hugh Despenser the Younger. Robert was one of the five FitzJohn heirs when his great-uncle Richard FitzJohn died childless in 1297, and the inheritance was shared out among the two surviving FitzJohn sisters, Robert Clifford as grandson and co-heir of Isabel FitzJohn, his aunt Idonea Leyburne née Vipont as daughter and the other co-heir of Isabel FitzJohn, and Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster, as son and heir of Aveline FitzJohn. [CIPM 1291-1300, no. 422] Robert Clifford, therefore, inherited the Clifford lands, half of the Vipont lands, and a fifth of the FitzJohn lands. Robert's aunt Idonea married Sir John Cromwell as her second husband, and as she had no children, made a deal with her first cousin Isabella Beauchamp's son Hugh Despenser the Younger in 1315 that her lands would pass ultimately to Hugh's second son Edward Despenser. They duly did on Idonea and John Cromwell's deaths in the 1330s.

The Cliffords had long been a Marcher family, but the Vipont inheritance shifted their centre of power to the north of England, and in March 1310 Edward II granted Robert Clifford the great northern stronghold of Skipton (CPR 1307-13, pp. 220, 273). It remained in the family until the seventeenth century. The famous Rosamund Clifford, mistress of Henry II, was the sister of Robert's great-great-grandfather Walter, and the much-married and long-lived Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676), countess of Dorset and Pembroke and high sheriff of Westmorland, was Robert's descendant and the last of the Cliffords of Skipton.

Robert Clifford's mother Isabel Vipont entrusted his upbringing to Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and Robert married Gilbert's niece Maud de Clare on 13 November 1295, when he was twenty-one. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Annales Monastici, vol. 4, ed. H. R. Luard, p. 523] Maud was one of the two daughters and ultimate heirs of Thomas de Clare (c. 1245-1287), lord of Thomond in Ireland and a younger brother of Gilbert 'the Red', and her mother was the Anglo-Irish noblewoman Juliana FitzGerald. Maud was thus a first cousin of Edward II's nieces the three de Clare sisters, and her sister Margaret married Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, of Kent. Her brother Gilbert, their father's heir, was briefly married to Hugh Despenser the Elder's second daughter Isabella but died at the of age of twenty-six in November 1307, leaving their other brother Richard as the Thomond heir. Maud de Clare's date of birth, or even whether she was older or younger than her sister Margaret, is hard to ascertain; her brother Gilbert was born in Limerick on 3 February 1281, and her other brother Richard was, according to Gilbert's IPM of late 1307, born around 1283/85. Maud was probably born in the late 1270s and was perhaps five or so years younger than Robert Clifford.

Robert and Maud's first son Roger Clifford was said by the Westmorland and Yorkshire jurors who took part in Robert's IPM of July 1314 to be aged fourteen on the feast of St Agnes in Edward II's seventh regnal year, which would give him a date of birth of 21 January 1300. The Worcestershire jurors, however, gave him a date of birth of 2 February 1299, and the Cumberland jurors said in July 1314 that he was fourteen 'on the feast of St Agnes, second last past,' which would also give a date of birth in early 1299. [CIPM 1307-17, no. 533] Roger would have had to prove that he had turned twenty-one, in 1320 or 1321, so that he could take possession of his late father's lands, but his proof of age doesn't seem to exist.

Robert and Maud's daughter Idonea - presumably named after Robert's aunt Idonea Leyburne, formerly Vipont - was probably born around 1302/3, and their second son Robert, Robert Clifford's ultimate heir and ancestor of all the later Cliffords, was born on 7 November 1305. [CIPM 1327-36, no. 77] Robert the younger married Isabel Berkeley, sister of Thomas, Lord Berkeley (d. 1361). His sister Idonea Clifford married Henry, Lord Percy (1301-52) and was the ancestor of all the later Percys, including Henry, first earl of Northumberland (1341-1408) and his brother Thomas, first earl of Worcester (1343/4-1403), her grandsons.

Robert, Lord Clifford (b. 1274) took part in Edward I's siege of Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland in July 1300, when he was twenty-six and a new father. The English herald(s) who wrote a poem (in French) in praise of the English noblemen at Caerlaverock was particularly impressed by Robert:

"I well know that I have given him no praise of which he is not worthy. For he exhibits as good proofs of wisdom and prudence as any I see...If I were a young maiden, I would give him my heart and my body, so good is his fame."

Someone had a bit of a man-crush there, evidently. Lucky Maud de Clare, is all I can say. Robert was high in Edward II's favour in the first few years of his reign, and as well as being granted Skipton Castle was also made marshal of England in September 1307 and 'captain and chief keeper of the king's munitions and men-at-arms in Scotland' in August 1308. There are also quite a few references to pardons or grants being made 'on the information of Robert Clifford', revealing that he had a lot of access to the king. Despite this, Robert was one of the men who planned to capture Piers Gaveston in 1312 after his return from his third exile, and, with Thomas, earl of Lancaster, seized the king's and Gaveston's goods at Tynemouth in May 1312, which they later restored to Edward.

Robert Clifford fought for Edward II at Bannockburn on 23 and 24 June 1314, and was killed there, the second highest ranking Englishman after the earl of Gloucester to fall during the battle. Robert Bruce returned his body to England with full honours, and he was buried at Shap Abbey in the modern county of Cumbria (see here). Robert was forty years old when he died. His widow Maud née de Clare was abducted by John the Irishman in 1315, and romantically married Sir Robert Welle or Welles, one of her rescuers (see here). Maud and her sister Margaret Badlesmere became the Thomond heirs when their nephew Thomas de Clare died as a child in 1321. To my knowledge, she had no more children with Robert Welles.

Robert Clifford's elder son and heir Roger, born 1299 or 1300, was hanged as a Contrariant in York in March 1322. Roger had no legitimate children as he never married, though an old story told in the north of England states that he had a mistress whom he loved dearly, Juliane of the Bower, for whom he had a house built. Robert, Lord Clifford's ultimate heir therefore was his second son Robert, born 1305. Twenty-year-old Robert and his fifteen-year-old ally John Mowbray, son of a Contrariant executed in 1322, attacked Tickhill Castle in Yorkshire in early 1326. Robert the younger's second son Roger, born at Brougham in Westmorland on 20 July 1333, was his heir and the ancestor of the later Cliffords. 


sami parkkonen said...

Once again fantastic stuff.

I so hope that someone would make a good, realistic and decent documentary and/or movie about the battle of Bannockburn as it was one of the most dramatic in the medieval history of Britain. The noble men and knights who fell in that battle have been forgotten for too long perhaps because it was such a defeat but also because so many "historians" and story tellers have used it to cast Edward in a bad light and as a coward.

In reality if Edward had had the troops he wished for, infantry that is, and all the barons would have joined him (many of them including Thomas of Lancaster sent the minimum of troops required by the law) the result would have ended otherwise and the history would had been completely different.

Amanda said...

I agree with Sami, but as said before I would like to see a true and balanced documentary or drama regarding Edward II aired on British tv. It would be so refreshing to see Edward I, II & III reigns highlighted and explored in a sensible fashion instead of the interminable Tudor dynasty.

Unknown said...

Just writing to say that I've just reconnected with your blog (which I bookmarked years ago!) and am thoroughly enjoying your painstaking approach to sources. What I truly appreciate is the way you involve your reader by your engagement in the lives and personalities of those you write about. Looking forward to reading your Philippa of Hainault and John of Gaunt bios. I've long been fascinated by him. And I'm always pleased to see more written about women. As a history teacher at the middle school level I always emphasize the idea of history as being written primarily about men but made by everyone. Thanks for your work.

Kathryn Warner said...

Thank you so much for the kind comment!