Lady Elizabeth de Clare Profile

    • Lady Elizabeth de Clare
    • ID: I573
    Elizabeth's married John de Burgh, heir to the Earl of Ulster in 1308. He died just one year after the birth in 1312 of their son William Donn de Burgh.

    When Elizabeth's brother Gilbert, 7th Earl of Hertford, was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Elizabeth and her two sisters became his heirs. Elizabeth's maternal uncle, King Edward II, recalled her from Ireland to England so he could select a husband for her. She left Ireland in 1316, leaving behind her young son by her first husband.
    Elizabeth de Clare (16 September 1295 4 November 1360) was the heiress to the lordships of Clare, Suffolk in England and Usk in Wales. She was the youngest of the three daughters of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and Joan of Acre, and sister of Gilbert de Clare, who later succeeded as the 7th Earl. She is commonly referred to as Elizabeth de Burgh, due to her first marriage to John de Burgh. Her two successive husbands were Theobald II de Verdun (Of the Butler Family) and Roger D'Amory.

    First marriage
    She accompanied her brother Gilbert to Ireland for their double wedding to two siblings: the son and daughter of the Earl of Ulster. Elizabeth married John de Burgh on 30 September 1308.
    He was the heir to the Earl of Ulster, and Elizabeth could expect to be a countess in due course. She gave birth to their only child, a son, in 1312; he would become William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster. Only a year later, her husband John was unexpectedly killed in a minor skirmish. Now a widow, Elizabeth remained in Ireland until another family tragedy compelled her immediate return to England.

    Her father had been one of England's wealthiest and most powerful nobles, and her mother was a daughter of King Edward I of England. When Elizabeth's only brother Gilbert, 7th Earl of Hertford was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 aged only 23 and leaving no surviving issue, his property was equally divided between his three full sisters, Elizabeth, Eleanor and Margaret. This made Elizabeth one of the greatest heiresses in England. Her maternal uncle, King Edward II, recalled her to England so he could select a husband for her. She left Ireland for good in 1316, leaving behind her young son, William.

    Second marriage
    Edward II placed her in Bristol Castle, but his plans to marry her to one of his supporters were dashed in February 1316, when Elizabeth was abducted from Bristol by Theobald II de Verdun, the former Justiciar of Ireland. He and Elizabeth had been engaged before she was called back to England. She was Lady Verdun for only six months however, for Theobald died on 27 July 1316, at Alton, Staffordshire, of typhoid. He left behind three daughters from a prior marriage and Elizabeth, who was pregnant. She fled to Amesbury Priory, where she stayed under the protection of her aunt Mary de Burgh, who was a nun there, and where Theobald's posthumous daughter, Isabel de Verdun, named after the Queen, was born on 21 March 1317.

    Third Marriage

    Just a few weeks later after Isabel's birth, Edward II married Elizabeth to Sir Roger D'Amory, Lord D'Amory, Baron of Armoy in Ireland.

    D'Amory had been a knight in her brother's service who rose to prominence as a favourite of Edward II. Now married to him, Elizabeth was caught up in the political upheavals of her uncle's reign. She gave birth to another daughter, Elizabeth, in May 1318. Roger was reckless and violent, and made a deadly enemy of his brother-in-law, Hugh the younger Despenser. D'Amory switched sides, joining the Marcher Lords led by Roger Mortimer and Thomas, Earl of Lancaster in the rebellion known as the Despenser War. He died in March 1322, having been captured by the royalist forces at the Battle of Boroughbridge where the rebels were soundly defeated. Elizabeth was taken and imprisoned at Barking Abbey with her children by the victorious faction.

    Loss and recovery of property
    At this time she became the victim of an elaborate plot by Hugh Despenser the younger with the help of King Edward II. It provides a good example of the abuse of power which eventually led to their downfall. Despenser had received Gower from the king, who had taken it from its previous holder, William de Braose. Elizabeth was forced to exchange Usk for Gower, which was less valuable. De Braose then undertook legal proceedings against her for possession of Gower, which were successful under pressure from the king. Finally, de Braose gave Gower to the Despensers.

    Elizabeth supported her friend Queen Isabella when she invaded England, and she benefited greatly from the reign of Isabella's son, King Edward III of England. In January 1327, after the fall of the Despensers, the lands they had taken were returned to her.

    Later life and legacy
    She took a vow of chastity after Roger's death, effectively removing herself from the aristocratic marriage market. She enjoyed a long and fruitful widowhood, becoming patroness of many religious houses. Elizabeth is best remembered for having used much of her fortune to found Clare College, Cambridge. The survival of many of her household records has been a boon to medieval scholars, particularly those focusing on medieval women; a study of Elizabeth by Frances Underhill, For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh, is largely based upon these records.

    Her eldest daughter, Isabel de Verdun married Henry de Ferrers, 2nd Lord Ferrers of Groby, and her younger daughter, Elizabeth d'Amory, married John Bardolf, 3rd Lord Bardolf of Wormegay, Knight Banneret (1314 - 363). Her son William, 3rd Earl of Ulster married Maud of Lancaster, by whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster. William had been murdered in Ireland in 1333, twenty-seven years before her own death which took place on 4 November 1360.
    Clare, Elizabeth de [Elizabeth de Burgh; known as lady of Clare] (1294/5-1360), magnate and founder of Clare College, Cambridge, was usually known as Elizabeth de Burgh, and was described by herself and others as lady of Clare. She was the youngest daughter of Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester and Hertford (1243-1295), and Joan of Acre (1272-1307), daughter of Edward I. From his marriage to Joan, Gilbert de Clare had one son, who succeeded his father, and three daughters; from his earlier marriage to Alice de la Marche, which was dissolved in 1285, he had two daughters. Elizabeth probably spent her childhood in the household of her mother and her second husband, Ralph de Monthermer.

    On 30 September 1308 Elizabeth married John de Burgh, the eldest son of Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster (d. 1326); her brother, Earl Gilbert de Clare (1291-1314), married Matilda or Maud de Burgh the day before. Elizabeth and John de Burgh had one son, William de Burgh, born on 17 September 1312, who succeeded his grandfather as earl of Ulster, John having died on 18 June 1313. The death of Earl Gilbert de Clare at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314 radically altered Elizabeth's prospects, as she and her two sisters became the heirs to estates valued at about £6000 a year. Gilbert de Clare left no surviving son, and, although his widow claimed to be pregnant, these hopes proved illusory. The marriage settlement of Earl Gilbert and Joan of Acre in 1290 had provided for the entail of the Clare estates on their children; all other members of the Clare family were excluded from the succession. There was some initial confusion over the names of the heirs (Elizabeth was called Isabella in some of the surveys in her brother's inquisition post mortem), but this was cleared up in August 1315. Edward II, however, still postponed the partition, using the countess's reported pregnancy as his excuse. In view of the size and wealth of the inheritance, and the king's need for support among the nobility, he wished to ensure that the heiresses were married to men he favoured. It was in these circumstances that he summoned Elizabeth to return from Ireland, and she was lodged in Bristol Castle.

    Elizabeth de Burgh was abducted from Bristol Castle on 3 February 1316 by Theobald de Verdon, first Lord Verdon [see under Verdon, Theobald de (1248?-1309)], who married her, alleging that they had been betrothed in Ireland. Theobald died on 27 July 1316; his and Elizabeth's daughter, Isabella, was born at Amesbury on 21 March 1317. During Elizabeth's pregnancy it is likely that Edward II brought pressure to bear on her to marry Roger Damory, a member of the court circle; this marriage had taken place by 3 May 1317, and there was one daughter, Elizabeth. The husbands of Elizabeth's two full sisters at that point were also members of the court circle, Hugh Despenser the younger being the husband of Eleanor, and Hugh Audley of Margaret. The partition of the Clare lands finally took place in 1317, each heiress and her husband receiving their share on 15 November. One-third of the estates was held in dower by the widowed countess of Gloucester, and was divided among the three heiresses after her death in 1320.

    The politics of the next few years were dominated by the younger Despenser's ambitions to expand his Clare lordship of Glamorgan. He forced Hugh Audley to hand over his Welsh share of the Clare inheritance, and this development, together with Despenser's other encroachments in south Wales, probably persuaded Damory (who had succeeded to the lordship of Usk on the countess's death in 1320) to join the marcher rising of 1321. He died at Tutbury probably on 12 March 1322, shortly after the castle surrendered to the king; that date was always commemorated as his anniversary by his widow. According to her own account, recorded in 1326, Elizabeth was captured at her castle of Usk before her husband's death, and interned with her children at Barking Abbey. There she was forced to hand over Usk to the younger Despenser in exchange for Gower, a lordship which she lost soon afterwards. Her English lands were restored to her on 2 November 1322, but she failed to secure redress from Edward II for the loss of her Welsh lands. She supported Queen Isabella's invasion in the autumn of 1326, and her lordship of Usk was restored by Edward III on 26 February 1327.

    Elizabeth never remarried after 1322. Much is known about her life during her widowhood because of the survival of many of her household accounts and a considerable number of estate documents. She had a wide circle of friends among the nobility. She remained in close touch with her children and grandchildren, and furthered their interests. Her daughter Isabella married Henry Ferrers of Groby before 20 February 1331, and her daughter Elizabeth married John Bardolf of Wormegay before 25 December 1327. Her son William was granted the earldom of Ulster in 1327, while still a minor, and went to Ireland the following year, his mother having previously secured information as to the state of the country. He was murdered at Belfast in 1333, and his daughter ultimately succeeded to the earldom of Ulster and her grandmother's inheritance. Elizabeth played an active role in the supervision of her estates. The majority of her lands belonged to her one-third share of the Clare inheritance; this comprised much of the honour of Clare in East Anglia, the lordship of Cranborne in Dorset, and the lordship of Usk. Her jointure from her marriage to John de Burgh consisted of lands in Ireland where Elizabeth was an absentee landowner, relying on her attorneys. She held dower in England and Ireland from her marriage to Theobald de Verdon, and a few manors had been granted jointly to her and Roger Damory. Elizabeth's wealth from her English and Welsh lands can be assessed from two valors of 1329-30 and 1338-9. These show that income fluctuated, the totals amounting to £2723 and £2368 respectively. Even at the lower figure, there is no doubt that Elizabeth ranked with the higher nobility.

    Elizabeth was known for her piety and proved a generous patron. She had taken a vow of chastity by 1343, and frequently went on pilgrimage to Canterbury, Walsingham, and Bromholm. Her patronage was partly directed to houses previously connected with the Clare family, such as Anglesey Priory in Cambridgeshire, and the house of Augustinian friars at Clare, Suffolk. In 1347 she founded a house of Franciscan friars at Walsingham to the dismay of the Augustinian canons of the priory there who were under her patronage. Her principal benefaction was Clare College, Cambridge; her initial grant to the struggling University Hall was made in 1336, but it was not until she secured full rights of patronage ten years later that her main grants were made. She provided the college with statutes in 1359. Her will was dated 1355, five years before her death, and underlines her concern for her own salvation and that of her three husbands, and for her family and dependants. Of her religious bequests, the largest went to Clare College, and the Convent of the Minoresses outside Aldgate, London.

    Elizabeth's main residences were in the eastern counties, at Clare, Anglesey, and Great Bardfield in Essex. From time to time she resided at Usk, and at least once at Cranborne. In 1352 she built a house in the outer precinct of the Convent of the Minoresses outside Aldgate, and from then until her death she spent part of each year in London. She died on 4 November 1360; the cause and place of her demise are not known. She was buried in the Minoresses' church. Her tomb does not survive but is likely to have been impressive; John Hastings, earl of Pembroke (d. 1375), left £140 in his will for a tomb similar to that of Elizabeth de Burgh.
    54 Total Ancestors
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  • Last Modified: May 11, 2013
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