07 February, 2010

Yet Another Abduction

Several abductions of noble ladies, and subsequent forced marriages, which took place during the reigns of Edward II and Edward III are pretty well-known: Elizabeth de Burgh by Theobald de Verdun in 1316, her sister Eleanor Despenser by William la Zouche in 1329, their niece Margaret Audley by Ralph Stafford in 1336, and Alice de Lacy by Hugh Frene that same year. (Alice de Lacy's grandmother Maud Longespee, née Clifford, was abducted and forcibly married to John, Lord Giffard in about 1270, near the end of Henry III's reign.) Here's some info about yet another abduction which took place in 1315, considerably less well-known than those above, involving Maud, Lady Clifford and a shadowy, or rather, murky character called John le Ireys, John 'the Irishman'.

Some background: Maud Clifford was born around 1279 as the daughter* of Thomas de Clare (c. 1245-1287), lord of Thomond, and was the sister of Margaret, Lady Badlesmere and the first cousin of the earl of Gloucester killed at Bannockburn and his sisters Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth. She married Robert, Lord Clifford and had four children: Roger, Lord Clifford, a Contrariant wounded while fighting against the royal army at Boroughbridge in March 1322 and subsequently executed at the tower in York which has borne his name ever since, still only at the beginning of his twenties and unmarried; Idonea (d. 1365), who married Henry, Lord Percy and was the grandmother of the first earl of Northumberland and the first earl of Worcester; Robert, Lord Clifford (1305-1344), who married Isabel, sister of Thomas, Lord Berkeley and was the ancestor of the later lords of Clifford; Margaret (d. 1382), who married Sir Peter Mauley, whose father Peter claimed in about 1322 that he was captured by Margaret Clifford's uncle Bartholomew Badlesmere and forced to agree to the marriage of his son and Margaret and to make a recognisance of a staggering £20,000 to Bartholomew. [1]

[* I always thought Maud was the elder daughter and that Margaret Badlesmere was born about 1287, but a petition presented by Margaret in 1327 claimed that she, Margaret, was the elder. The petition can be seen here.]

Maud's husband Robert, Lord Clifford was born in April 1274 as the son and heir of Isabel Vipont of Westmorland and Sir Roger Clifford, who drowned in November 1282 when Edward I's bridge across the Menai Straits from the Welsh mainland to Anglesey collapsed. (Henry II's mistress Rosamund Clifford, by the way, was the sister of Robert's great-great-grandfather Walter.) The Cliffords were, with the Percys, probably the most important family in the north of England at this time, and were also influential in the Welsh Marches. Robert embarked young on a highly successful military career, taking part in Edward I's Scottish wars of the 1290s and early 1300s, and Edward II appointed him marshal of England and chief guardian of Scotland early in his reign. The author of the Roll of Arms of Caerlaverock - about the noblemen who took part in Edward I's siege of Caerlaverock Castle in 1300 - wrote particularly flatteringly about Robert even by the standards of the poem, in which all the English earls, barons and knights present at the siege, not to mention the king and his sixteen-year-old son Edward of Caernarfon, are marvellously brave, valiant, astonishingly handsome and just all-round wonderful. The poet says of Robert "If I were a young maiden, I would give him my heart and body, So good is his fame" (Si je estois une pucellette, Je li donroie quer e cors, Tant est de li bons li recors; thanks to Brad Verity for bringing this passage to my attention) and declares "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." [2] Robert Clifford was one of the men who besieged Piers Gaveston at Scarborough Castle in May 1312, but was for the most part loyal to Edward II and fought for him at Bannockburn; he was killed in the battle, aged forty, most probably during the earl of Gloucester's early assault on Robert Bruce's schiltrons. Robert Clifford was the second highest-ranking Englishman, after Gloucester, to fall at Bannockburn, and Bruce courteously sent his body back to England with full honours. On 24 September 1314, exactly three months after his death in battle, Edward II ordered the 'keeper of the king's victuals' at Carlisle Castle to "deliver a tun of wine to the executors of the will of Sir Robert de Clifford, who is with God, for the interment of Sir Robert's corpse." [3] Robert was almost certainly buried at Shap Abbey.

John le Ireys or John 'the Irishman', abductor of Lady Clifford, was a valet in Edward II's household and apparently high in the king's favour; Edward spent the large sum of six pounds on medicines for John when he was dying at the Gilbertine priory of St Katherine in Lincoln in 1317. [4] John was, like countless other young men of the era, capable of the most horrific violence: in 1308, he was one of eight people (one of them a woman, in fact) accused of torturing a man named John de Asshelond in Somerset by tying him to a table, "piercing his feet with a hot iron" and burning his face down to the bone in five places with the same iron, until he agreed to sign a bond for a hundred pounds to one of the torturers. [5] Despite this, Edward II saw fit to appoint John as custodian of Barnard Castle in County Durham, late of the earl of Warwick, on 15 August 1315, just three days after Warwick's death. (Edward replaced John with Henry Fitzhugh on 18 December 1315, after the abduction of Maud Clifford.) [6] John was said to be "on the king's service in the marches of Scotland" at various times in 1315, and eighty "horsemen of [his] lineage and alliance" were said to be on their way from Ireland that June to aid him, but had been "disturbed at sea for lack of ships." [7]

Edward II was at Clipstone in Nottinghamshire with Queen Isabella on 12 November 1315 (their son John of Eltham was born nine months later, incidentally) when he heard the news that John the Irishman and "many others" had abducted Maud Clifford at Bowes, and also stolen her goods. Bowes is less than five miles from Barnard Castle, where John was custodian, and as far as I can tell belonged in 1315 to the earl of Richmond, Edward II's first cousin. John and his men took Maud to Barnard Castle; what happened to her there is uncertain, and I can only hope that her ordeal wasn't too terrible and that she wasn't raped, although this may be a forlorn wish. The Scalacronica says tersely that "John the Irishman ravished the Lady Clifford" (Johan le Irroys ravist la dame de Clifforde), although the Anglo-Norman word ravir can also be translated as 'abduct', 'snatch' or 'take by force' as well as 'ravish' or 'rape', and the men who temporarily freed Edward II from Berkeley in 1327 were also said to have ravi him from Lord Berkeley's custody. [8] Whatever else happened, however, John did not force Maud to marry him.

John the Irishman may have been in Edward II's favour, but the king was hardly going to allow him to go around abducting noblewomen, and sent Sir William Montacute to Maud's aid. Montacute served as steward of Edward's household from 1316 to 1318 and then as steward of Gascony, was said by the Vita Edwardi Secundi to be the "commander of the royal cavalry," and played an important role in the campaign against Llywelyn Bren in early 1316, so was clearly a highly competent soldier and was also a man the king had known for many years and trusted. Edward sent three other knights - one of them was Sir Robert de Welle, of whom more later - and thirty-six squires and men-at-arms "to make rescue of the lady de Clifford, captured by John le Irreis." William Montacute "returned thence to the king at Clipston with the said knights and men-at-arms, having made the rescue aforesaid," on 6 December. [9] Unfortunately, I don't have any details of how they effected the rescue - whether they had to besiege the castle or whether John gave Maud up without a fight. Four days after sending Montacute, Welle and the others to the north, Edward ordered Maud's brother-in-law Bartholomew, Lord Badlesmere, her first cousin John, Lord Mowbray (son of her father's sister Rohese de Clare), John de Doncaster and Thomas de Sheffield to 'hear and determine' (oyer et terminer) what had happened. [10]

Despite this lawless act, John the Irishman subsequently remained in Edward II's household and in his favour - though he did remove him as custodian of Barnard Castle - and Edward was prepared to shell out large sums of money on medicines in 1317 to try to save his life. John couldn't have known it in 1315, but some years later Maud Clifford, already a wealthy and well-connected woman, would become even more attractive as a wife; the deaths of her childless brother Gilbert in 1307, her other brother Richard in 1318, and her little nephew Thomas in 1321 meant that she and her sister Margaret Badlesmere shared their father's Thomond inheritance between them. Maud ended up marrying her knight in shining armour: Sir Robert de Welle of Worcestershire, one of the men Edward had sent with William Montacute to rescue her. Maud and Robert were married by 16 December 1315, on which date Edward II took Maud's dower lands, and all the goods in them, into his own hands because the couple had married without his licence. He pardoned them in October 1316 on payment of a £100 fine, and restored all Maud's lands with the issues backdated to the day he had seized them. [11] Maud's son Roger, Lord Clifford appointed his stepfather Robert de Welle as one of his attorneys when he accompanied his uncle Bartholomew Badlesmere overseas in March 1320 (Badlesmere was going to the pope with Hugh Despenser the Elder on Edward II's business), though in fact Robert went abroad himself on pilgrimage the same month and Edward II pardoned him again that July for going overseas contrary to the king's mandate. Edward had granted Roger Clifford and his brother-in-law Henry Percy all the lands of their late fathers in 1318 and 1319, although they were both still underage, "for the defence and safety of the said castles against the Scots, the king's enemies." [12]

Roger Clifford and Bartholomew Badlesmere were executed as Contrariants in March/April 1322, and Margaret Badlesmere was imprisoned until November that year. Robert de Welle, however, remained high in Edward II's favour: he was one of his sister-in-law Margaret Badlesmere's mainpernors in November 1322, the king granted the 'wardship of the hospital of St Nicholas, Pontefract' to Robert Woodhouse at Robert's request the day after his stepson Roger Clifford's execution, and over the next few months pardoned a number of Contrariants also at Robert's request. One of the pardons, of an adherent of Roger Clifford named Sir John Stirkeland, was made "at the request of Hugh le Despenser the younger, and of Robert de Welle," which suggests that Robert was well and truly in favour with the regime. Robert also received the London houses which had formerly belonged to his stepson, and in the summer of 1326 Edward II sent him to Scotland to meet Robert Bruce and discuss the peace treaty between Scotland and England. [13] Margaret Badlesmere's 1327 petition cited above (in which she claimed to be older than her sister Maud) accused Robert of taking her share of the sisters' inheritance "with the aid and maintenance of Hugh le Despenser." Maud Clifford died sometime before 13 March 1327 (when her share of the Thomond inheritance was in the king's hands [14]), having outlived her abductor John the Irishman by a decade; unfortunately I haven't (yet) found the date of Robert de Welle's death, and perhaps because of his closeness to Edward II and the Despensers, I've found him very difficult to trace after their downfall.


1) The National Archives SC 8/200/9974 and 9975; Calendar of Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 481; Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, p. 53.
2) Thomas Wright, ed., The roll of arms, of the princes, barons, and knights who attended King Edward I to the siege of Caerlaverock, in 1300, pp. 11-12.
3) Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1308-1348, p. 74.
4) Andy King, 'Bandits, Robbers and Schavaldours: War and Disorder in Northumberland in the Reign of Edward II', in Thirteenth-Century England IX, ed. Michael Prestwich, Richard Britnell and Robin Frame, p. 122. Dr King has also written an article about John the Irishman's abduction of Maud Clifford, though unfortunately I haven't read it yet: 'Jack the Irishman and the Abduction of Lady Clifford in November 1315: The Heiress and the Irishman', Northern History, 38 (2001), pp. 187-195.
5) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 42, 168-169.
6) TNA SC 8/3/120E; Cal Close Rolls 1313-1318, p. 417; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 267.
7) Cal Close Rolls 1313-1318, pp. 165, 246; Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 418.
8) J. Stevenson, ed., Scalacronica, By Sir Thomas Gray of Heton, knight. A Chronicle of England and Scotland From A. D. MLXVI to A. D. MCCCLXII, p. 147.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1323-1327, pp. 440-441; Cal Docs Scotland 1308-1348, p. 86.
10) Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, p. 422.
11) Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 266; Cal Pat Rolls 1313-1317, p. 551; Cal Close Rolls 1313-1318, p. 367; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 84, 269; TNA SC 8/317/E267.
12) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 433, 434, 490; Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, pp. 370-371, 378, 404.
13) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 604; Cal Pat Rolls 1321-1324, pp. 85, 88, 193, 201; Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 278.
14) Cal Fine Rolls 1327-1337, pp. 35, 41, 43; Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 159; TNA C 135/3/7.


Susan Higginbotham said...

Fascinating post! Glad to know that Maud found a knight in shining armor!

Brad Verity said...

Kathryn, what a great post! The Clare women certainly suffered for being the survivors of that lineage - it's incredible that all five female cousins were imprisoned at one point in their lives, and that three out of five were abducted. There's a lot to be learned from researching their lives, and my hats off to you for all the important work you're doing!

Wonderful find with the 1327 petition! I wonder where Margaret's supposed birth in Ireland in 1287 originates from? Since she apparently was older than Maud, that means she was born before 1279, which puts her much closer to the age of her husband Badlesmere, born about 1275.

It also makes her giving birth in her late 30s, since son and heir Giles Badlesmere was born in October 1314, and there was a youngest daughter, Margaret, apparently born after him.

Earl Gilbert the Red arranged Margaret's marriage to the Umfraville heir in 1289. Since Maud was younger, her marriage would have been arranged next, but probably not much later. Robert Clifford was returned to the wardship of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, in 1291, and Earl Gilbert would have made sure Clifford was linked to the Clares by marriage before he went to Cornwall's household.

Edward's household seemed to be full of hotheaded alpha-male soldiers, this John le Ireys being one of many examples. So much for the court of effeminate favorites that is so often portrayed or intimated because of the homosexual angle.

Louis X said...

Poor Lady Maud! One may only hope that she was not violated, but when a man is the type to abduct a woman, he is likely also the type to force her in other ways. :(

Kathryn Warner said...

Thanks, Susan! I really hope Maud and Robert were happy together.

Louis: unfortunately, that would also be my take on the situation, poor lady. :(

Brad: thank you! The Clare ladies and their lives really are fascinating, and I love researching them.

I stumbled on an entry in the Fine Rolls yesterday, which of course I can't find again now I'm actually looking for it, which described Margaret Badlesmere in 1327 as the 'senior heir' of their brother and nephew, which would tend to confirm she was the elder sister. It seems she must have been about 10 years older than is generally thought.

The Genealogics site gives 13 Nov 1295 as the date of Maud and Robert Clifford's wedding, but I don't know what the source is. Presumably it must have been arranged long before that.

Yes, whatever else Edward and the men of his court were, they certainly weren't a bunch of fops! John le Ireys reminds me a lot of a man close to Edward called Robert Ewer or Lewer, another violent type.

Carla said...

Poor Maud. Is it likely that John le Ireys intended to persuade or force her to marry him, and was forestalled by the arrival of the cavalry?

Gabriele Campbell said...

Hugh le Despenser aided someone to grab some land? Was that his apprenticeship?:)

Kate Plantagenet said...

Do you think family members locked heiresses away - as in "Princess in the tall tower" kind of way?!!! It would be for their own good. Poor women. If their family didn't protect them.....eeeek! Thanks once again for highlighting the women. Their stories are just as fascinating, and I agree with Susan....so glad Maud had a knight in shining armour.

STAG said...

Remarkable essay
What a romantic story just in time for Valentine's Day

Thank you

Kathryn Warner said...

Carla: I would think so, as I'm sure John's motive in abducting Maud must have been to marry her, for her wealth. So a lucky escape for her!

Gabriele: I know, amazing, isn't it?? I'm sure Hugh must have taken some commission on the deal. ;)

Kate: it might have been a good idea, I think! I was discussing Ralph Stafford's abduction of Margaret Audley in 1336 with Christy recently, and I was very surprised that such a desirable heiress was a) not yet married and b) left somewhere where she could be abducted. I'm researching several women at the moment for upcoming posts, maybe ancestors of yours - Isabella Mortimer Fitzalan (d 1292) and Eleanor Fitzalan Percy (d 1328)

STAG: thank you for dropping by, and the kind comments! Glad you liked the post.

Sarah said...

Hi Kathryn,

a bit late commenting on this post, but I've also been reading about the Clare family and was a bit stumped with the ages of Margaret and Maud.

I read in Michael Altschul's book about the Clare family that in 1289 the Red Earl gave the Earl of Angus (Umfraville) 1,200 marks to have the marriage of his son (Gilbert) for Margaret.
Althschul also gives 1295 as the date Maud marries Clifford, but no source is given.

I've since found The Complete Peerage online, this says Robert Clifford marries Maud Clare the 2nd and youngest daughter of Thomas de Clare but unfortunately doesn't give a date.

Really enjoy your blog and your books btw!

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi Sarah! I'm away at the moment but Will rep!y to your comment next week! ☺

Kathryn Warner said...

Hi again Sarah! The source for Maud de Clare marrying Robert Clifford in 1295 is a monastic chronicle: Annales Monastici, vol. 4, ed. H. R. Luard, p. 523. They married on 13 November 1295. Their first son Roger was born in either early 1299 or early 1300, according to the evidence of Robert's inq. post mortem after he was killed at Bannockburn. Their second son and ultimate heir Robert the younger was born in 1305. I'm not sure of the source for the 1289 agreement between Clare and Umfraville but almost certainly the Patent or Close Roll - I can check that easily if it helps.

I'm confused as to whether Maud Clifford or Margaret (Umfraville) Badlesmere was the elder of the two de Clare daughters. There seems to be evidence for both. Their brother Gilbert was born in Limerick on 3 February 1281 (his proof of age still exists) and their other brother Richard was born about 1283 or 1285, according to Gilbert's inq. post mortem in late 1307. I'm sure I've written a blog post somewhere about Maud and Margaret but it needs updating...hope to do that sometime :-)