Before 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.