Thomas Clifford, the Eighth Lord of Skipton

st albansThomas was born in 1415 so he was seven when his father died. The size of the Clifford estates meant that Thomas passed into the wardship of King Henry VI. Often children were passed into the hands of unscrupulous guardians who used the opportunity to strip their charges’ estates or marry them off to their own children. Thomas was more fortunate as he was placed in the custody of his own mother. It was she who arranged the marriage of Thomas to Joan the daughter of Lord Dacre of Gilsland keeping alive the tradition of intermarriage between the powerful northern families. They had four sons and six daughters.

 

Like his father, Thomas took an active role in keeping the Scots under control along the border and like his father he took part in the Hundred Years War, which was drawing to a close by this time. In the years following Henry V’s victory at Agincourt the English had gradually lost the land they had gained. Following the death of Henry VI’s uncle the Duke of Bedford, poor leadership resulted in a rapid decline in English fortunes only halted by peace negotiations and marriage between King Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou.

 

Henry VI’s gentle nature may have suited him for monastic life but they did not suit him for the role of medieval monarch. Frictions between the various court factions were beginning to show the cracks in the Plantagenet royal family.

The Cliffords were associated with Richard of Cambridge through Thomas’s aunt Maud who was Richard’s second wife, Thomas’s godmother and Thomas was a beneficiary of her will.  Logically then, the Cliffords should have sided with the House of York as Cambridge’s descendants would be known because of the ties which bound the two families together. However, there seems to have been a growing enmity between the two clans. One possible reason could be to do with Maud retaining the castle at Conisborough and its estates as part of her dower. Yerburgh suggests that the bad blood that developed into a feud during the Wars of the Roses might be accounted for by the death of one of Cambridge’s men at the hand of Clifford whilst hunting but history hasn’t left a detailed account.

 

Politics gradually turned into warfare. The first battle of the Wars of the Roses was the Battle of St Albans in May 1455. Richard, Duke of York (Richard of Cambridge’s son) led a force of about 3,000 towards London. Henry VI’s army halted at St Albans on their way to intercept York. St Albans found itself behind barricades while the Lancastrians (those for Henry VI) negotiated with the Yorkists. Thomas Clifford, loyal to his king, was commanding the vanguard. Fighting was fierce but ultimately the Earl of Warwick tilted matters in favour of York by breaking through some houses into the market place.

 

Lord Clifford was killed and his body stripped. His twenty-one-year-old son found the body. A feud was born that would continue until the death of Thomas Clifford’s son at Ferry Bridge.  Before that John Clifford’s fury would lead to increasing ferocity on the battle field and the deaths of the flower of England’s nobility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More complicated family trees – and a link to the Plantagenets.

IMG_3953John Clifford, the Tenth Lord, maintained the reputation for jousting that his father had bequeathed to him. Like his father he met with the Douglas family in tournament at Carlisle and like his father he was established as a favourite at court.  He was present at the coronation of Henry V and following the victory at Agincourt at the coronation of Katherine of Valois.

The Cliffords were definitely  on the up. It helped that their experiences on the Scottish borders made them warriors.  John maintained his role in the north and added to the family homes by extending Appleby Castle – the gatehouse which stands today was commission by him.  John aside from his parochial responsibities in the north and job as MP for Henry IV and Henry V’s parliaments also managed to find time  to gain a reputation for thrashing the french during the Hundred Years War.

 

Edward III’s mother was Isabella of France (the one married to Edward II and known in history as the ‘she wolf’’). Upon the death of her brothers she was the last remaining member of the family so logically the French throne should have passed to her son King Edward III of England. Certainly that was what had been promised. However, the French were not keen on the English and also had a salic law in place which prohibited women from claiming the throne so handed the crown straight to a male cousin causing the English to become very irritated indeed and spend slightly more than a hundred years trying to prove their point with varying amounts of success.

 

Edward III carried his claim into war against France and it continued intermittently thereafter through the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , Henry V and Henry VI. In its early years when the English were successful it was an opportunity for knights to make a fortune in loot and ransoms. It was also an opportunity to gain influence and power. Yerborough records of John Clifford:

 

Henry V retained him in his service for one year for the war with France. The contract was to this effect, that the said John, Lord Clifford, with fifty men-at-arms well accoutred, whereof three to be knights, the rest esquires, and one hundred and fifty archers, whereof two parts to serve on horseback, the third on foot, should serve the king from the day he should be ready to set sail for France, taking for himself 4s.for every knight, for every esquire is., for every archer 6d. a day.

P29 Yerborough, Some Notes on Our Family History

 

John was by Henry V’s side at Agincourt and at the Siege of Harfleur, then the inevitable happened. He got himself killed. He was thirty-three years old in 1422 when he was killed at the Siege of Meaux.  Again according to Yerborough and the Chronicle of Kirkstall he “was buried at Bolton Abbey apud canonicos de Boulton.’ Elizabeth his wife outlived him and married, secondly, Ralph, Earl of Westmorland.”  The moral of the story being that if you were sufficiently important someone would pickle you and send you home to your grieving wife who would promptly marry someone just as important as you even if you were a knight of the garter.

 

Marrying someone important was rapidly becoming a family pass time for the Cliffords.  Elizabeth Clifford started out as Elizabeth Percy. She was the daughter of Shakespeare’s Earl of Northumberland – Harry Hotspur- meaning that not only was she a scion of the most powerful border family in the country but she was also a Plantagenet. Her grandfather had been Edward Mortimer, Earl of March and her grandmother Philippa was the only child of Lionel Duke of Clarence, the second son of King Edward III.

Ties to the Plantagenets were even deeper and even more complicated than the Elizabeth Percy link. John’s sister Matilda (or Maud depending on the text) married Richard, Duke of Cambridge. Richard’s first wife Ann had been a Mortimer (a daughter of the fourth Earl of March– so definitely some kind of cousin of Elizabeth Percy) but Ann had died in childbirth leaving children and brothers who would find their Plantagenet bloodline and claim to the throne increasingly problematic.

 

Richard and Maud had one daughter Alice – about whom I’m currently quite upset as I thought I knew the House of York family tree rather well on the grounds that knowing who was related to whom becomes very important if you study the Wars of the Roses and now there’s someone new for me to worry about. Maud, on the other hand, was not in the least bit worried by the looks of it. She outlived Richard who managed to get himself executed in 1415 in the aftermath of the Southampton Plot.

 

The Southampton Plot had been designed to depose Henry V and replace him with Edward Mortimer – Richard’s young brother-in-law by his first wife Ann Mortimer. Edward Mortimer had a very good claim to the throne being descended from the second son of Edward III. Henry V didn’t take very kindly to Richard and his friends pointing out that Henry’s dad (Henry IV) had stolen the throne from his cousin (Richard II).  Aside from the fact that usurping thrones is generally not very nice, Henry IV and V were descended from John of Gaunt who was the third son of Edward III. Neither of them really should have been king at all – the descendants of the second son having a better claim than the descendants of the third son.  Henry demonstrated that family trees are all very well but actually being a medieval king was largely about having a large sword, an even larger army and a reputation for winning.  Had Henry V lived to see his son grow to adulthood Richard of Cambridge may well have ended up as a footnote in history as it was Henry V failed to do the one other thing that a medieval king needed to do – provide the kingdom with a strong adult male to succeed him.

 

Maud spent a lot of time at Conisborough Castle after Richard’s death and became a founder an patron of Roche Abbey.  She must have seen the various members of the Plantagenet family and their associated noble scions taking sides after Henry V’s death as to who should wield power in England – the House of York to which the Cliffords were allied through marriage or the House of Lancaster. Her will, dated 1446 (just nine years before the First Battle of St Albans), makes no mention of her troublesome step-children who would feature heavily in the Wars of the Roses.

 

Just to complicate matters that little bit further Matilda/Maud had already been married once to John Neville, the Sixth Baron Latimer. The divorce documents still remain – “casusa frigiditatis ujusdem Johannis Nevill  Now there’s a story to be told in those few words!  Who needs soap operas when the Plantagenets and the Cliffords are in town?

Maud Clifford and some very unsavoury men…

IMG_3953Before leaving the troubled reign of Edward II for the calmer waters of the Hundred Years War it is time to conclude with the story of Robert Clifford’s wife Maud – or what we know of it.  As is often the case at this time sources provide information about Maud’s birth and marriage as well financial snippets pertaining to her value in terms of estate and marriageability but no insight into her personality or mind.

Maud de Clare was born on the Welsh Marches, the daughter of Thomas de Clare and Julianna FitzMaurice. The family held land in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Norfolk and Ireland. Maud and her sister were eligible brides and would ultimately become even more wealthy but before a series of male deaths within the Clare family brought that to pass Maud was married to Robert de Clifford in 1295  at the age of about nineteen keeping old alliances strong and strengthening the Clifford family coffers.

Maud and Robert had four children: Roger, who inherited the title upon his father’s death in 1314 but who fought on the losing side at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, his brother Robert who regained the family titles and estates in 1327; a daughter Idonea who marries into the Percy family and another daughter Margaret whose own marriage was not without its difficulties (more of that anon).

Maud, widowed in 1314, was an heiress and heiresses were having a tricky time of things during the reign of Edward II.  There are many accounts of abductions and forced marriages.  We know that Maud was at Bowes in 1315 and we know that she was kidnapped by a man called John the Irishman who was a member of Edward II’s household and custodian of Barnard Castle.

He had a pretty unsavoury reputation, as did many of Edward II’s friends, though by this time intermittent border warfare and the frequency of Scottish raiders meant that law and order was declining in the north. Even the March Laws could not protect the weak and powerless from the strong and heavily armed.

In any event, Bowes is close to Barnard Castle and John apparently helped himself to Maud and her chattels. Oddly enough he did not force the widow into a new marriage which would have been the sensible thing to do as she came from an influential family. Perhaps John thought that Edward II would sanction that event at a later date? Or perhaps there was some other game in mind? Who knows what goes on in the mind of a medieval warlord?

Edward II, who was staying in Nottingham at the time, was not terribly amused. He sent Sir William Montacute, Sir Robert de Welle, three more knights and thirty-six esquires and men of arms to Bowes to rescue Maud. There was also to be an enquiry as to what had happened. Maud was rescued but John appears to have suffered no ill effects of having kidnapped and ‘ravist’ Maud other than loosing custody of Barnard Castle.  In fact when John was dying in 1317 Edward II’s accounts show that the king spent a lot of money on the care of John – did he regard Maud’s kidnap as something of a prank?  Or was there perhaps a sub-text about which history knows nothing?  Maud’s views are not recorded but it is known that her son Roger was very anti-Edward and no wonder.

Maud Clifford had, however, met her knight in shining armour. Sir Robert de Welle from Worcestershire was a knight but not necessarily a suitable husband for someone who held important political connections, lands and was a wealthy woman in her own right. Women such as these, even widows, could rarely expect to marry where they chose and Edward II was known for handing over unwilling brides to enrich his favourites.

Maud and Robert were married by 16 December 1315 without the king’s permission. As a consequence of which Edward II took Maud’s dower lands and all the goods in them. They were returned following payment of a large fine (£100).  So far so good.

Except of course the plot thickens. Robert de Welle was given power of attorney by his step-son in 1320 but did not join with the Ordainers against the king in 1322 suggesting that de Welle was the King’s man. In fact it appears that Maud’s new husband remained on good terms with Edward II receiving lands and valuables from him through the rest of the king’s reign. In 1323 he became one of the keepers for the Bishopric of Winchester as well as going in 1326 to Scotland to treat with Robert the Bruce and just to show that the armour was a bit on the tarnished side his sister-in-law also complained bitterly about the way he took her property as well as that of his wife’s. He also acquired his step-son’s London properties once Roger was attainted, although this could have been a method for keeping the property in the family.  Equally it could have been a touch of that avariciousness that Edward II liked to see in the men around him.

 

He turns up in Norfolk in 1326 as Lord of Well Hall which was which was held under the Earl of Clare, the capital lord. The text (Notes and Queries, Number 84, June 7, 1851  A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Geneologists, etc.) goes on to note “He died circ. 9 Edw. III.” This means that de Welle died in the ninth year of Edward III’s reign putting it somewhere around 1335 his wife having died in 1327 and de Welle himself having lost the powers he once wielded with the overthrow of Edward II.