Robert de Clifford, 3rd Baron de Clifford (5 November 1305–20 May 1344) was Roger Clifford’s brother. Roger had been hanged in the aftermath of the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. The family properties and titles taken back by the crown. Following the downfall of Edward II, Robert was reinstated to the lands and titles which belonged to the Clifford family. He married Isabel de Berkeley at Berkeley Castle in 1328 (yes, I know we’re back to red hot pokers but just let’s ignore that link shall we?) and they had seven children. It would appear that the early years of the reign of Edward III was a quiet one for the Cliffords.
However a little digging reveals yet another shady marriage linked to the power politics of the north and hurtles the blog straight back into the chaotic times of Edward II. Here’s what Yerburgh had to say in 1912 from his text entitled Some Notes on Our Family History. The comments in italics are mine:
There is not much to be said about Robert de Clifford (damned by faint praise). In the account of the Dacres of Gillsland his betrothal to Margaret de Multon and her elopement with Ranulph de Dacre will be found. He rose with the fortunes of Edward III., and he recovered the inheritance which his elder brother’s troubles and misfortunes had lost for a while. He was a favourite with both the Edwards of England and Scotland, and he made a great match for his young son to a family of great power in the North, and died after he had been Lord of Skipton in possession twenty-eight years.
Not an exciting twenty-eight years then…except of course this is a man who was involved with the politics and interminable war with Scotland. So his ‘quiet’ was probably our ‘quite exciting’, all things considered.The Collectanea Cliffordiana by Arthur Clifford offers some further information which confirms this. Just as his forefathers had played their role on the borders so to did the third baron. He entertained Edward Baliol who was King of Scotland at Brough and at Appleby and when he wasn’t entertaining the king he was conducting warfare against him (must have made for interesting after dinner conversation). He is recorded as having taken his turn as warden of the West Marches in the eighth year of Edward III’s reign. His co-warden was a man called Ranulph de Dacre which brings us back to Yerburgh’s so-called ‘elopement’ which turns out not to be a romantic interlude but to be the abduction of a minor in order to acquire land and more importantly power.
Margaret de Moulton’s family held the Barony of Gilsland. She was her father Thomas’s only heir. She had been married at the age of seven to Robert Clifford in that an agreement was reached – the actual ‘marriage’ would have taken place when Margaret came of age. In the meantime she clearly remained at home. Other young brides might have found themselves being brought up in the houses which they would one day supervise. It depended entirely upon the families, the arrangements and the fastness of the contracts that the two groups made. As it was the Clifford family were going through tricky times. King Edward II, who always had his eye on ways to make money, claimed her as his ward and sent her to Warwick Castle, from where Ranulph abducted her when she was thirteen. The Barony of Gilsland was right on the edge of England. It was an important feature in the geography and politics of the borders.
Ranulph de Dacre was pardoned at the end of October 1317 “for stealing awai in the nighte out of the king’s custody from his Castell of Warwick of Margaret, daughter and heir of Thomas of Molton of Gilsland, whoe helde of ye Kinge in capite, and was within age, whearof the sayd Ranulphe standeth indighted in Curis Regis.” Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiquarian, V4, P470. The marriage and the accruement of power was one of the factors which turned Dacre into Lord Dacre. The other factor was the salient point that border barons could behave rather badly in their own time so long as they kept the Scots out of England when required to do so.
It is possible to surmise that Edward II cannot have been very happy about pardoning Dacre as Ranulph was involved in the judicial murder, of Edward II’s favourite, Piers Gaveston, in 1312. Ranolph was pardoned for any part he had taken in the death of Piers in 1313, as were the other conspirators including Ranulph’s father and brother.
As for Ranulph and Robert Clifford, they clearly arrived at a consensus given their roles as joint wardens and indeed survivors of the nasty political games of the period. The Lannercost Chronicle recorded the marriage between Robert and Margaret but also that there had been a pre-contract between Thomas de Moulton and William de Dacre before the Clifford contract which again wasn’t unusual and reflects the way in which families negotiated with one another and jockeyed for position within society. The concept of negotiation, pre-contract and contract were important ones because a pre-contract was as legally binding as the actual thing – so having promised Margaret to the Dacres, Thomas should not have arrived at an arrangement with the Cliffords – turning Margaret’s abduction from a moral blackspot into a fine and chivalrous deed (the sentence is best read in an ironic tone) .
As for Isobel de Berkeley, well it turns out that women who married into and out of the Clifford family weren’t always particularly good at doing what the monarch, or even their fathers, wanted them to do. She married again after a brief widowhood. In 1345 she had to pay a fine and receive a pardon for marrying a chap called Sir Thomas de Musgrave without getting royal permission to do so first. I’d like to think it was a love match but no doubt a bit more digging will uncover an unpleasant matrimonial tale …it makes me glad to come from a long line of peasants.