The 7th Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert, the Red Earl, was born in 1243. He took part of the second Barons War in 1262 which saw the barons rise against King Henry III. He was one of Simon de Montfort’s supporters and took part in the Battle of Lewes. They were turbulent times and although de Montford effectively toppled the Crown it wasn’t long before there was a falling out amongst the barons. This resulted in Gilbert changing sides and fighting on the side of Prince Edward at the Battle of Kenilworth and the Battle of Evesham where de Montfort was killed.
When Henry III died whilst Edward I was in Sicily, de Clare found himself Guardian of England. On the home front however, the story remained rather more complicated. Gilbert was married to his first wife in 1253 when he was just ten years old. She was Alice de Lusignan – King Henry III’s niece – a possible reason for the relatively leniency with which Gilbert found himself being treated by Henry III during the baron’s war. Having said that the pair separated in 1267. Apparently Alice had taken a shine to her cousin young Prince Edward who would one day be Edward I. The marriage was annulled in 1285.
In 1290 Gilbert married the twenty-two year old Joan of Acre, a daughter of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile (not sure how that works on the laws of consanguinity marrying the daughter of your first wife’s cousin –dispensation was required.) The pair had a son also called Gilbert and three daughters; Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth. He died in 1295 and was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.
Gilbert junior was born in 1291 and became the 8th Earl of Gloucester when he was four. Just a reminder here – his grandfather was Edward I who had some seventeen children in total by his two wives. Joan of Acre was born in 1272 whilst Edward was on crusade. He was raised, in part, at court in the household of his grandfather’s second wife Margaret of France.
It is sometimes thought that he was in his uncle Prince Edward of Carnarvon’s household. In 1305 there was a dispute that resulted in Edward I cutting his son’s household. The prince wrote to his sister Elizabeth to ask her to write to their step-mother to ask their father to restore two members of his household to him: one was Gilbert de Clare the other was Piers Gaveston. The following year both men were knighted prior to war with Scotland at the so-called Feast of the Swans. However, and you probably shouldn’t be surprised by this, there was a second Gilbert de Clare who was approximately three years older than Prince Edward and it was he who was in the prince’s household. The two Gilberts were cousins – but let’s not get into the genealogy.
Unfortunately once Edward of Carnarvon became king our Gilbert became increasingly disgruntled with the king’s relationship with Gaveston and in 1310 became one of the Lords Ordainers seeking to reform the king’s household resulting in Gaveston’s exile from England in 1311 and his death in 1312 when he returned to England – Edward II having announced that Gaveston’s sentence was unlawful and effectively reducing the country to a state of civil war. Gilbert as a royal relation was able to smooth troubled waters between the two groups. He would go on, with the demise of Gaveston to be one of Edward’s loyal supporters. Possibly one of the reasons for his dissatisfaction was that when he inherited his titles at the age of sixteen he was quickly immersed in border warfare serving in border warden roles and as Captain of Scotland.
On 24 June 1314 Gilbert was part of his uncle’s army in Scotland at Bannockburn. He was killed. The body was sent back to England with due honour. He was only twenty-three had no children so the de Clare estates were divided between his three sisters who were now co-heiresses.
There is a final sting in the tale of this post. In 1308 Gilbert married Maud or Matilda de Burgh, daughter of the Earl of Ulster. The pair did apparently have a son called John in 1312 who did not survive long after his birth. However, when her husband died in 1314 Maud claimed she was pregnant so that the estates of the Earldom of Gloucester could not be split. The law required that everyone wait for a posthumous child to be born. Three years later it was decided that she really couldn’t have been pregnant for twice as long as an elephant and the earldom was broken up between Gilbert’s three sisters.
Maud died in 1320 and was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey beside her husband who is pictured in one of the abbey’s stained glass windows as depicted at the start of this post.