Roger Clifford, the 2nd Baron Clifford born in 1299 at Appleby Castle inherited the title, estates and inherited role of Sheriff of Westmorland upon the death of his father at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 at the age of fourteen. It was never a good idea to inherit as a minor as it could play havoc with estate income but 1314 was a particularly bad time to inherit property in the North of England. The Scots took advantage in the military ineptitude of Edward II to raid the borders, into Durham and on into Yorkshire. Skipton Castle was soon withstanding Scottish marauders.
Little wonder then that Roger, when he attained his majority, found himself drawn towards Thomas of Lancaster, Edward II’s cousin (His father was Edmund Crouchback, Edward I’s brother) a man of sound military experience. Through a complicated series of manoeuvres King Edward II was forced to form a council with Thomas of Lancaster at its head. The goal was to try to make some sense out of the chaos that followed Edward’s policies and reliance upon his favourites – Piers Gaveston and then Hugh Despencer.
Not that the council’s policies did much good. Berwick was lost to the English in 1318 and Edward’s favourite, the avaricious Hugh Despencer, so successfully irritated the nobility (who were already a tad tetchy about Edward II’s whole management style) that they revolted. The flames were first fanned into open revolt on the Welsh Marches where nobles including the Earl of Hereford and Sir Roger Mortimer found that their land was prey to Despencer and his father.
The Earl of Hereford was, according to the Lannercost Chronicle, Roger Clifford’s father-in-law so it was almost inevitable that he should have been drawn in to the conflict. As is always the case, history is not necessarily clear-cut. Another source states that Roger Clifford was unmarried at the time of his death, his marriage having been annulled but more of that shortly. It should also be added that Despencer had helped himself to some land belonging to Roger’s mother the heiress Maud de Clare giving Clifford more than enough reason to take up arms.
Edward realizing that he was on the verge of loosing his kingdom exiled Despenser and called on his loyal subjects to tackle Thomas of Lancaster and his cronies. Mortimer and the Welsh marches were subdued in January 1322. A northern army led by Thomas of Lancaster posed more of a threat.
Of key importance to Edward II’s victory over his subjects in 1322 was Sir Andrew de Harcla, the hero of the Siege of Carlisle, who marched south with an army of borderers upon hearing that Lancaster had turned to the Scots for support. The Lannercost Chronicle contains an account of the Battle of Boroughbridge:
On Tuesday, then, after the third Sunday in Lent, being the seventeenth of the kalends of April [16 March 1322], the aforesaid Earls arrived in force, and perceiving that Sir Andrew had anticipated them by occupying the north end of the bridge, they arranged that the Earl of Hereford and Sir Roger de Clifford (a man of great strength who had married his daughter) should advance with their company and seize the bridge from the pikemen stationed there, while the Earl of Lancaster with the rest of the cavalry should attack the ford and seize the water and ford from the pikemen, putting them to flight and killing all who resisted; but matters took a different turn. For when the Earl of Hereford (with his standard‑bearer leading the advance, to wit, Sir Ralf de Applinsdene) and Sir Roger de Clifford and some other knights, had entered upon the bridge before the others as bold as lions, charging fiercely upon the enemy, pikes were thrust at the Earl from all sides; he fell immediately and was killed with his standard‑bearer and the knights aforesaid, to wit, Sir W de Sule and Sir Roger de Berefield; but Sir Roger de Clifford, though grievously wounded with pikes and arrows, and driven back, escaped with difficulty along with the others.
The Chronicle records the overnight armistice between Lancaster and de Harcla, who had once served Lancaster. It continues:
But during that night the Earl of Hereford’s men deserted and fled, because their lord had been killed, also many of the Earl of Lancaster’s men and those of my Lord de Clifford and others deserted from them. When morning came, therefore, the Earl of Lancaster, my Lord de Clifford, my Lord de Mowbray and all who had remained with them, surrendered to Sir Andrew, who himself took them to York as captives, where they were confined in the castle to await there the pleasure of my lord the King.
Roger had been seriously wounded but it didn’t save him from Edward II’s wrath. In March 1322 the motte and bailey castle at York gained a new name when Roger Clifford was hanged in chains from its walls. Clifford may have given his name to Clifford’s Tower but his lands from Hartlepool to Westmorland were confiscated by the crown.
A man found guilty of treason not only forfeited his life but also the wealth of his family. In this case the third lord was Roger’s brother, Robert (the good news is that everything was restored in 1327). The king played fast and loose with the laws of the land when he confiscated many of the Clifford estates. There were rules about dower lands and entails which should have resulted in Robert, who was a minor, keeping more than he did but wars cost money and besides, Edward II had favourites to please. Two thirds of the Clifford estates were bagged by the crown. The third that remained had come into the family along with Maud de Clare.
Roger died without legitimate heirs although folklore, as recorded by William Wordsworth (yes – the William Wordsworth) notes that Roger had a mistress by whom he had a number of children (allegedly). Julian of the Bower (yes I know it’s a boy’s name) is supposed to have been so beloved of Roger that he had a house built for her near Penrith in the Whinfell Forest. Julian’s Bower is not without controversy. The name is given to turf mazes across the country and Julian’s Bower near Penrith may or may not be the remnants of a medieval love nest given that Nicholson and Burn in their county history identify its origins as Roman. There is no reason given for Roger’s marriage being annulled but then much of Roger’s personal life seems to be as nebulous as will o’ the wisp.
My next post will take an overview of Edward II’s reign which is convenient as I have just started a book called ‘The Cup of Ghosts’ by Paul Doherty about Matilda of Westminster, a fictional confidante of Isabella of France – Edward II’s wife and personal ‘She-wolf.’