Gilbert de Clare Profile

    • Gilbert de Clare
    • ID: I581
    Earl Gilbert 'the Red' de Clare of Gloucester belonged to a family who had come to England with William the Conqueror and had increased its lands and importance over the centuries ... He was a colorful man, not only because of his bright red hair...
    Clare, Gilbert de [called Gilbert the Red], seventh earl of Gloucester and sixth earl of Hertford (1243-1295), magnate, was born at Christchurch, Dorset, on 2 September 1243, the eldest son of Richard de Clare, earl of Hertford and earl of Gloucester (1222-1262), and his second wife, Maud (d. 1288/9), daughter of John de Lacy, earl of Lincoln (d. 1240). The Clares owed their leading position in the English nobility to royal favour, inheritance, and profitable marriages. Ambitious to increase his family's standing still further, and encouraged by Henry III, who wished to strengthen relations between the crown and the nobility, Earl Richard arranged in 1252 the marriage of Gilbert to the king's niece Alice, daughter of Hugues de Lusignan, count of La Marche and Angoulême, and Yolande, daughter of Pierre Mauclerc, duke of Brittany, for a dowry of 5000 marks. In the spring of the following year Earl Richard and William de Valence, the king's half-brother, accompanied Gilbert, by then nine, to Poitou to solemnize the marriage. Whether he was educated at home, or in the household of the king or another magnate is not recorded, whereas his younger brothers, Thomas de Clare (1244x7-1287) and Bogo de Clare (1248-1294), who entered the church, are known to have studied at Oxford (1257-9).

    Rebellion, 1263-1264
    After the death of Richard de Clare, a leading member of the baronial government imposed on the king in the provisions of Oxford of 1258, on 15 July 1262, Henry III took his vast estates and lordships in England, Wales, and Ireland into his own hands, and appointed keepers including Humphrey (IV) de Bohun, earl of Hereford (d. 1275), who had charge of Glamorgan and Usk to protect the southern march from possible attack by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Wales. Although Gilbert de Clare was not quite nineteen years of age, he hoped to secure immediate seisin of his inheritance, but the king, who had regained power, had no wish to surrender control of the valuable rights of wardship. Despite the intercession of William de Valence, Clare had difficulty in securing even an audience, and much to his indignation his claim was rebuffed. He was further incensed when the king ordered an investigation into the royal franchises which he asserted Earl Richard had usurped. What drove him into outright opposition, however, was the manner in which he considered Henry III had abused his royal rights of overlordship by his allocation of excessive dower to Richard de Clare's widow, Maud. Early in 1263 she was assigned the castles of Usk and Trelleck, Monmouthshire, the third penny of the county of Hertford, and the castle, manor, and honour court of Clare with other manors, thus depriving Clare of two strategically important marcher fortresses, a symbol of his comital dignity and the administrative centre of one of his English honours.

    In March 1263 Gilbert de Clare refused to do homage to Henry III's heir, the Lord Edward, at Westminster, and in May he joined Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, at an assembly at Oxford which successfully demanded that the king should observe the provisions of Oxford, and denounced all opponents as mortal enemies. In July and August he secured seisin of his father's lands in return for a fine of £1000. Nevertheless, angered perhaps by Montfort's refusal to agree to the surrender of the castles assigned in dower to his mother, Clare may then have allied briefly with the king (he was certainly summoned to attend him at Windsor in October 1263), but in December he conspicuously refused to support either of the contending sides when they sought the arbitration of Louis IX. Despite claims that Clare's mother persuaded him to support the reformers after Louis repudiated the provisions, he seems to have been still uncommitted on the eve of the civil war. It was only after the king captured Northampton on 5 April 1264 that he led an attack on the Jews of Canterbury and joined Montfort in the siege of Rochester. Shortly afterwards the king occupied Clare's castle at Tonbridge, Kent, but released Countess Alice because of her royal connections. Clare accompanied Montfort on his march to Lewes, and after their final peace overtures had been rejected, they were both declared enemies of the king. On 14 May Clare (together with his younger brother Thomas) was knighted on the field of Lewes by Montfort, and such was his standing that, although young and untried, he commanded in the centre in the battle in which, according to one tradition, the king insisted on surrendering to him.

    Triumvir, 1264-1265
    Following the rebels' victory Gilbert de Clare, as the most powerful man in the kingdom next to Montfort, became in June 1264, one of the triumvirate empowered to appoint the council of nine whose advice the king was required to follow. Initially he also received a stream of grants including custody of the lands of three important supporters of the king: the lordship and castle of Pembroke belonging to William de Valence on 6 June, the estates of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (d. 1304), except the castles of Lewes and Reigate, on 20 June, and the lands of the queen's uncle, Peter of Savoy, on 10 July 1264. He was also given formal livery of the lands he had inherited from his father when he came of age in September 1264. Clare was excommunicated on 20 October by the papal legate Guy Foulquois and his lands placed under an interdict for his continued defiance, and he probably joined Montfort in the two campaigns which forced the marchers released after Lewes to submit.

    Towards the end of the year, however, he complained increasingly about Montfort's lavish grants to his sons, his use of foreign knights, his unfair distribution of the ransoms of loyalists, and, most of all, his autocratic rule. Fearing for his own safety after the arrest of Robert de Ferrers, earl of Derby (d. 1279), and alleging that Llywelyn was ravaging his lands, Clare fled to the marches in February 1265, and refused to attend a tournament arranged for Northampton on 20 April. A settlement was patched up on 12 May and a week later Montfort denied that there was any discord between them, but hope of a reconciliation disappeared after Clare made an abortive attempt to seize the king and the earl on their way to Hereford, and the Lord Edward escaped from detention there on 28 May with the aid of Clare's brother, Thomas, whom Montfort had ill-advisedly allowed to remain a member of the prince's household. Gilbert de Clare, Roger Mortimer, a powerful marcher baron often at odds with him, and Edward then gathered at Ludlow, Shropshire, where the prince undertook to uphold the good old laws of the kingdom, to abolish evil customs, and to rule through natives. Montfort responded by proclaiming Clare a rebel, and negotiating an agreement with Llywelyn on 19 June at Pipton-on-Wye, Powys, which threatened Clare's power in south Wales. After his ships destroyed the vessels in which Montfort had hoped to escape across the Severn, Clare joined Edward in the overnight march of 31 July to 1 August, which resulted in the defeat of the Montfortians outside Kenilworth Castle. Gilbert de Clare commanded one of the divisions at the decisive battle of Evesham on 4 August 1265, which caused Montfort to exclaim, alluding to Clare's nickname (which derived from the colour of his hair), ‘this red dog will eat us today’ (Continuatio chronici Willelmi de Novoburgo, 547).

    Gilbert de Clare and the end of the civil war
    In the confusion that followed Montfort's defeat and death, Gilbert de Clare's officials temporarily occupied or looted over 160 properties in England, far more than were seized by any other magnate, and usurped further franchises throughout his estates. At a parliament held at Winchester on 8 September Clare allegedly supported the decision to confiscate the lands of the rebels, and later he opposed the offer of terms to Simon de Montfort the younger, against whom he seems to have had a grudge. He was absolved by the pope and pardoned by the king for supporting Montfort on 6 and 9 October respectively, and early in 1266 he participated in Edward's campaign against the Cinque Ports, at Winchelsea intervening to save the life of a man whom Edward wished to hang, in the hope of securing the surrender of others. Meanwhile, in October 1265, despite Mortimer's objections Clare had been granted custody of the lordship of Brecon during the minority of Humphrey (VI) de Bohun, grandson of the earl of Hereford, and in February 1266 he was pardoned £900 of the fine he had made to have seisin of his lands in 1263 while under age ‘in part compensation of his damages and losses in the king's service’ (CPR, 1258-66, 553).

    Even so, relations between Gilbert de Clare and Henry III again deteriorated. In the spring of 1266, when Clare brought a suit against his mother to secure some of the lands assigned to her, the king took Glamorgan into royal custody and did not release it until November. Moreover, when the king distributed the lands of the dispossessed rebels, he failed to reward Clare adequately for his decisive part in Montfort's overthrow. Lacking, therefore, a vested interest in the territorial settlement, and feeling perhaps renewed sympathy for former associates he had helped to disinherit, Clare joined the other members of the committee that drew up the dictum of Kenilworth on 31 October 1266 in decreeing that the rebels should be allowed to repurchase their lands by fines related to their part in the rebellion. When the dictum failed to bring peace, Clare concluded that the rebels would only submit if they were granted a further concession: immediate seisin of their lands pending payment of their fines. He also become deeply suspicious of the growing influence at court of Roger Mortimer, whom he even accused of plotting his death.

    By January 1267, when a new, less generous dower settlement for Maud was agreed, rumours were already circulating that dissension had again broken out between Clare and Edward. The following month he failed to attend a parliament at Bury St Edmunds, and instead denounced the king's failure to remove aliens from his government, and insisted on the restitution of their lands to the disinherited. When the king rejected his demands, Clare suddenly occupied London on 8 April 1267 and was joined by many rebels from their base in the Isle of Ely. As Henry began preparations for a siege of the city, his brother Richard, earl of Cornwall, and others intervened to bring the two sides together. By the terms of the peace agreed in mid-June, the king promised to ask the grantees to restore their lands to the disinherited, and Clare undertook to withdraw from the city and was given an amnesty. As surety for his future conduct he agreed to offer 10,000 marks, which the pope later doubled in addition to requiring him to surrender custody of either his eldest daughter or Tonbridge Castle for three years. Within weeks the civil war had come to an end.

    Relations with Edward
    Gilbert de Clare and the royal family now tried to effect a reconciliation. On 24 June 1268 he took the cross with Edward at Northampton and agreed to accompany him on his crusade. Soon afterwards, at the instance of the prince, Henry III waived the requirement that Clare should surrender either his daughter or Tonbridge Castle as security for his future conduct. As a further mark of goodwill, in October 1268 Clare was allowed to revive family claims to the town and castle of Bristol, long in the possession of the crown, on condition that if he was successful, Edward could retain it provided he gave Clare reasonable compensation.

    These improved relations were short-lived. Clare believed that the treaty of Montgomery (25 September 1267) between Henry III and Llywelyn threatened his attempts to bring the Welsh rulers of upland Glamorgan under his authority. His anger increased in May 1269, when Henry III challenged his possession of the manors of Portland and Wyke, Dorset, which the baronial council had committed to Richard de Clare in 1258. Clare's reaction was to refuse to attend parliaments or to be present at Henry's ceremony for the translation of Edward the Confessor at Westminster on 13 October 1269.

    As the deadline for Edward's departure approached, it became clear that, despite the urgings of Louis IX who summoned him to Paris in February 1270 to discuss the dispute, Clare was refusing to go. Richard of Cornwall again agreed to arbitrate and on 27 May announced a settlement by which Clare was to join the crusade in the passage of March 1271. He would receive 8000 marks if he co-operated with Edward in the Holy Land, and 2000 marks if he led an independent force. Clare was to surrender the castles of Tonbridge and Hanley, Worcestershire, as surety for his departure, and he was threatened with a fine of 20,000 marks and possible excommunication if these terms were broken. The king for his part undertook to do right to Clare and Llywelyn ‘according to the laws and customs of the March’ (Raine, 29). Clare claimed that the award was biased against him and that in any case he was in debt. So although Edward left on crusade on 20 August 1270, Clare failed to fulfil his vow. Rumours of Edward's amorous interest in Countess Alice, who was already estranged from her husband by 1267, may have deepened the two men's mutual distrust and contributed to Clare's and Alice's formal separation in July 1271.

    Nevertheless Clare behaved co-operatively during Edward's absence on crusade, no doubt because he was preoccupied with consolidating his authority in Glamorgan and building his impressive castle at Caerphilly, begun in 1268. Clare's links with the royal family were further strengthened on 6 October 1272 when his younger sister Margaret (1250-1312) was married, unhappily as it eventually turned out, to Edmund, son and heir of Richard of Cornwall. As Henry III lay dying at Westminster on 16 November 1272, Clare was summoned to his bedside and undertook to maintain the peace and to do all in his power to protect the kingdom for Edward. Following the king's funeral he took the lead in swearing fealty to the new king before the high altar of Westminster Abbey, and he intervened decisively to settle a dispute in London over the mayoralty. When Edward I returned to England in August 1274, Clare entertained him at Tonbridge, and he may have carried one of the ceremonial swords of state at his coronation, which he attended with a retinue of 100 knights.

    Later life, relations with Edward I, and death
    In Edward I Gilbert de Clare faced a masterful and devious monarch who was intent on increasing the wealth and power of the crown. His claims to Bristol were dismissed in 1276, and in 1279-80 the king began a systematic attack on his alleged usurpation of franchises. It is indicative that he was considered the chief offender that he was the only magnate for whom a separate list of appropriations was drawn up covering twenty counties in southern England. Clare was outraged, and two sources even claim that it was he, not John de Warenne, who, when challenged about his franchises, waved a rusty sword crying ‘Here is my warrant’ (Sutherland, 82 n. 2). Relations between the two men did not break down completely, however, because although Edward recovered many franchises, his real aim was to make clear that the exercise of such rights was a delegation of royal authority.

    Edward also needed Clare's considerable resources for his Welsh wars. Clare accompanied the king on his campaign in north Wales in 1277, and was thanked for his ‘immense labours and expenses’ (CClR, 1272-9, 435). In April 1282 he was appointed to lead the army in the south, with the title of ‘Captain and Warden in South Wales and West Wales’, but was dismissed after he was ambushed by the Welsh, and William de Valence, the king's cousin, was killed. Late in the following year he took part in the trial at Shrewsbury of Dafydd, Llywelyn's brother, and in July 1287 was made ‘Captain of the parts of Brecknock’. By then, in testimony to his rank rather than to his friendship with the king, the tempting prospect had opened up of marriage into the royal family. In May 1283 Edward I sanctioned Clare's marriage to Joan of Acre (1272-1307), his second surviving daughter with Eleanor of Castile, even though the earl's first marriage was not finally dissolved until May 1285, and a papal dispensation for the second not given until November 1289. Clare welcomed Edward I with great ceremony when he visited Glamorgan in December 1284, and then celebrated Christmas with him at Bristol before accompanying him to France where the king did homage to Philippe IV. Between January 1278 and May 1286 he witnessed more royal charters than any of his rank except the earl of Lincoln, and his standing with Edward was not affected when in 1288 he acted as spokesman for the barons when they refused a subsidy for the king until his return from abroad.

    Clare's power was considerably strengthened on 10 March 1289 when, following the death of his mother, Maud, he received seisin of her third of his father's estates, but when final arrangements were made on 17 April 1290 for Clare's marriage, Edward I required him to surrender all his lands into the king's hands. The 46-year-old Gilbert married Joan, by then eighteen, at Westminster Abbey in early May 1290, and on 27 May the lands were restored jointly to them for life, with provision that they should pass to Clare's heirs with Joan or, if they were childless, to her children by a later marriage. His two daughters with Alice, Isabel (1263-1338) and Joan, were excluded. Gilbert de Clare celebrated the marriage with a banquet at Clerkenwell on 3 July 1290. He had four children from his second marriage, a son and heir, Gilbert de Clare (1291-1314), and three daughters, Eleanor, Margaret de Clare, and Elizabeth de Clare, the eventual coheirs of the Clare inheritance.

    Clare's most dramatic confrontation with the king was the consequence of a long-running dispute with his fellow marcher Humphrey (VI) de Bohun, earl of Hereford. As Clare's ward he had agreed in 1270 to purchase his marriage for £1000, but by 1290 had paid only 390 marks. In 1278 they were quarrelling over hunting rights in the Malverns, and when Clare began to build a castle at Morlais, Glamorgan, in an area in dispute between them, Hereford appealed to the king in January 1290. Not only did Clare fail to appear to answer the charge but he launched raids against the earl of Hereford's men in Brecon. Edward I, who was already embroiled in a dispute with Clare over his claim to custody of the temporalities of the bishopric of Llandaff during vacancies, which he eventually forced the earl to renounce in October 1290, took decisive action to suppress private warfare and vindicate his own authority. The two earls were summoned to appear in parliament at Westminster in January 1292. They were condemned to imprisonment at the king's pleasure and Glamorgan and Brecon were confiscated for life. A fine of 10,000 marks was also imposed on Clare but, possibly as a result of pressure from other magnates, the king restored Glamorgan to him on 7 May and the fine was never paid.

    In 1291 Clare attended the king at Norham when he settled the succession to the Scottish throne, and he was at Berwick on 7 November 1292, when Robert (V) de Brus resigned his claim to the Scottish throne to his son and his heirs. In June 1293 he was appointed captain of the forces in Ireland, and stayed there until the following year. In October 1294, however, a Welsh revolt drove Clare and his family from Glamorgan. When he proved unable to suppress it, Edward intervened and in June next year received the rebels into the king's peace ‘against the earl's wishes’, and again took Glamorgan into his own hands (Ann. Mon., 4.526). It was only restored to Clare on 20 October 1295, six weeks or so before he died at Monmouth Castle on 7 December. He was buried on 22 December on the left of his grandfather Earl Gilbert at Tewkesbury Abbey. His widow, Joan, married as her second husband Ralph de Monthermer, a knight of her household, and died in April 1307.
    Historical significance

    Such evidence as survives provides no clear picture of Gilbert de Clare's family relations. If he was careful to make provision for his first wife ‘in consideration of the nobility of her kin and because he did not wish to cause her grief for lack of suitable maintenance’ (Altschul, 38), he disinherited his two daughters with her to secure a royal alliance. On another occasion, when he attributed his delay in coming to court to the illness of one of his children, his reluctance to have the reason made public leaves his motives unclear. Easier to establish is his interest in the chivalric culture of his time. He was an active tourneyer - Edward presented him with gilded leather armour in 1278, and in 1292 appointed him to administer his royal statutes to regulate the sport. Nevertheless, only Clare's political role as the greatest of the king's subjects is well documented. He played a decisive part in bringing about Montfort's triumph in 1264, and in ensuring Edward's victory in the following year, but not before requiring him to make promises about his future conduct. His intervention in London in 1267 probably ensured a peaceful end to the civil war. Edward I's trouble-free accession owed much to his co-operation, and he played a significant part in the king's Welsh wars. No wonder one chronicler, in assessing a career that spanned three decades, affirmed that ‘after the king he was the most mighty in the kingdom in deed and discourse’ (Flores historiarum, 3.96). But if, as Altschul contends, Clare consistently supported the principles of the provisions of Oxford between 1262 and 1267, it is difficult to see why he found it necessary to change sides five times in as many years. Moreover, his view that Clare was ‘the moderating force against the extremes of both’ sides is hardly borne out by his part in ensuring Montfort's victory at Lewes, or by his support for a royal government which disinherited its opponents after Evesham (Altschul, 120). Personal ambitions and animosities, combined with some politically expedient xenophobia, are more in evidence than constitutional principles. The decisive early years make more sense in the light of Gilbert de Clare's youth. He was only eighteen when his father's death plunged him into politics; he was not quite twenty-four when the civil war ended. This surely helps to explain his resentment in 1264-5 at having to share power with the immensely experienced and forceful Simon de Montfort, thirty-five years his senior. Moreover, youthful rivalry was probably the origin of his stormy relations with Edward, only four years older than himself. Another key to his political conduct is his role as the greatest of the marcher lords. His estates in south Wales not only ensured that relations with Llywelyn were a constant source of political and military anxiety, but also provided a refuge in time of crisis and enabled him to claim the regality of Glamorgan, the right to hear all pleas, to wage war, and to conclude peace. Truculent, irascible, and hot-headed, Gilbert de Clare was the arbiter of English politics in the 1260s, feared, as Ralph Hengham put it later in the century, even by the king himself, and aptly described by the Lanercost chronicler as ‘vigorous in arms, and very bold in defence of his right’ (Chronicon de Lanercost, 168), but his contumacious behaviour and failure to understand the changed realities of political power in the late thirteenth century led to his humiliation by Edward I.
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  • Last Modified: May 11, 2013
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