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Clare, Richard de, sixth earl of Gloucester and fifth earl of Hertford (1222–1262), magnate, was born on 4 August 1222, the eldest son of , and his wife, Isabel, daughter of . He had two brothers, William (1228–1258) and Gilbert (b. 1229), both unmarried, and two sisters, Amicia (1220–1283), wife of Baldwin de Revières, earl of Devon (d. 1245), and of Robert de Guines (d. 1283), and Isabel (b. 1226), wife of Robert (V) de Brus (d. 1295), of Annandale.

Ward of Hubert de Burgh

Richard de Clare was a minor at the time of his father's death, and heir to one of the greatest collections of estates and lordships in all of England and Wales. His wardship and marriage were thus matters of the keenest interest to the politically powerful and ambitious of the day. The justiciar Hubert de Burgh, using his position in the government of Henry III, managed to have custody of Richard assigned to himself. On Hubert's fall from power in 1232, the king transferred custody of both Richard and his lands to the new royal favourites, Peter des Roches, bishop of Winchester, and his nephew Peter des Rivaux. Hubert de Burgh's wife, in an apparent effort to rescue the family fortunes, secretly married Richard de Clare to her daughter Margaret; but the marriage was apparently never consummated, and was in any event mooted by Margaret's death in 1237. In the meantime both Peter des Roches and Peter des Rivaux had themselves fallen from power in 1234, and thereafter King Henry kept the wardship in his own hands, although allowing custody of at least some of the Clare lands to be secured by Richard de Clare's uncle Gilbert Marshal, earl of Pembroke. During this time the king began searching for a suitable marriage. A proposed arrangement with the great French comital family, the Lusignans, fell through, and in 1238 Richard de Clare was married to Maud, daughter of John de Lacy, earl of Lincoln. The prime mover in the marriage negotiations seems to have been the king's brother, Richard of Cornwall, who was Richard de Clare's stepfather, having married the widowed Isabel Marshal in 1231. Notwithstanding his marriage Clare remained the ward of the king until 1243, when he came of age and received both official seisin of his inheritance and formal dubbing to knighthood.

The complexities, intricacies, and rivalries involved in the story of Richard de Clare's wardship are an excellent case study of the stakes and resources at issue when contemplating the lives of the upper aristocracy in the thirteenth century. A connection to Richard de Clare was a prize well worth pursuing at full tilt. His inheritance was vast. It included, besides the two comital titles, the English honours of Clare, Gloucester, Tonbridge, and St Hilary, and half of the honour of Giffard, along with the two great marcher lordships of Glamorgan and Gwynllŵg in south Wales. Clare added significantly to this inheritance himself. Upon the partition of the Marshal estates between 1246 and 1247 he obtained, as heir of his mother, Isabel Marshal, an additional important marcher lordship, Usk, and the great Anglo-Irish liberty of Kilkenny. In 1258 and 1259, through a complex series of purchases and exchanges, he also obtained two-thirds of the barony of Southoe Lovetot, Huntingdonshire, and some lucrative properties in Dorset. By this time Richard de Clare was, by every criterion—annual income (close to £4000), knight's fees (nearly 500), and both the sheer number of and the strategic location of his estates and lordships—easily the richest and potentially the most powerful baron, next to the members of the immediate royal family, in the British Isles (excluding Scotland) as a whole.

Political career

Richard de Clare's political career revolved around two objectives: the drive to ground and consolidate his power on the local level, particularly on the Anglo-Welsh march, where it was most at risk; and then to extend that power on the national level during the early stages of the baronial reform movement beginning in 1258. Initially he focused his efforts and energies on his personal holdings. Surviving evidence suggests a conscientious and successful programme to bureaucratize the management of his English estates, by grouping them into a series of administrative and fiscal units, cutting across honorial lines, with the capita of Clare and Tewkesbury as the privileged headquarters (and residences) for the south-eastern and the south-western properties respectively. Considerably more ingenuity was required to establish efficient control in the Irish lordship of Kilkenny, particularly since Clare probably visited it only twice—briefly in 1247 upon receiving seisin and then for a longer time in 1253. The evidence about its organization in his own lifetime is extremely sparse, but his absenteeism suggests not a lack of interest or control, but rather satisfaction that his administrative arrangements were working well enough to permit substantial autonomy, tempered by periodic visits of officials sent out from his own household.

Hardest of all, and most important of all, was the challenge of the marcher lordships. They were the major objects of Clare's interest, because he sensed correctly that they were the truest source of his ability to translate status into power. Cardiff, much more than the manor and castle of Clare, was the true caput and the real base of the role of the Clare family in the history of the thirteenth century. There is evidence that Richard de Clare obtained unofficial seisin of Glamorgan and Gwynllŵg by 1242 or even 1240, and that he immediately launched an aggressive strategy, not so much of administrative structuring but rather of the application of sheer force. The two lordships had been at risk in the 1230s; allied with Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, ruler of Gwynedd, the Welsh dynasts of the upland commotes threatened to reverse the expansion of Clare power initiated by Richard de Clare's father, Earl Gilbert, in the 1220s. The greatest problems were the lords of Afan, Meisgyn and Glynrhondda, and Senghenydd, along with their sometime ally Richard Siward, lord of Llanblethian. By a mix of short wars, strategic castle building, and judicial process, Clare eliminated or neutralized the troublemakers. Richard Siward tried to challenge Richard de Clare's quasi-regal authority in Glamorgan, by bringing a curia regis appeal in 1247: to no avail. The writ that ran in the march was not that of the king of England. Thus by the late 1240s Clare had successfully exerted and demonstrated his superiority, and his position was not to be challenged again until the remaining Welsh lords allied themselves with a resurgent Gwynedd, now led by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, a decade later.

The potential of a new Welsh threat may have prompted, and certainly conditioned, Clare's sudden and decisive appearance on the stage of English national politics from 1258. Until then, thanks to his close ties to his stepfather, Richard of Cornwall, and to King Henry himself, he had confined himself to some highly visible, but stylized and conventional, activities in the cosmopolitan world of élite society. For example, he attended Richard of Cornwall on trips to the continent in 1242 and in 1250, and in 1256–7 went to Germany as an envoy on behalf of his stepfather's candidacy for election as king of the Romans. He made pilgrimages to the shrine of St Edmund of Canterbury at Pontigny in 1248–9 and to Santiago de Compostela in 1250. He accompanied King Henry to France in 1254 for a lengthy stay and went on to Burgos for the marriage of the Lord Edward and Eleanor of Castile in October of that year. On numerous occasions in the late 1240s and early 1250s he travelled to France for tournaments, often in tandem with his younger brother William; some of these trips were discrete enterprises, and some were combined with some of his other activities as just noted. The true significance of these events lies in their timing. It is certainly not coincidental that Richard de Clare's travels (including his stay in Ireland for much of the year 1253) were concentrated in the decade from 1248 to 1257, when he had largely completed his campaign to secure his power in his marcher lordships, and before new problems arose posed by the rise of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd on the one hand, and the baronial reform movement on the other.

The baronial revolt

Richard de Clare's role in the baronial reform movement was not always consistent, but until his early death in 1262 it was decisive. Whichever side he supported at any given time had the upper hand, and largely for that reason. His strong connections to the royal family help explain his caution and conservatism, but his dissatisfaction with some of Henry's policies and style also prompted his occasional, but sharp, anti-royalist actions. Certainly the failure of the king to act decisively against Llywelyn ap Gruffudd must have contributed to Clare's willingness to anchor the charter group (including Simon de Montfort, Roger (III) Bigod, earl of Norfolk and also a major marcher lord, and five others) whose oath of mutual support in April 1258 led directly to the provisions of Oxford the following June. Perhaps his memory of his experiences as a ward in the 1230s may also have contributed to a feeling that King Henry's capriciousness or wilful stubbornness, in similar cases or as extended into his handling of his international projects, required rebuke and correction. But it is exceedingly doubtful that he ever contemplated with relish or favour the prospect of putting the kingship into a kind of open-ended receivership, or the sweeping sorts of local reforms envisioned in the provisions of Westminster in 1259. And he came quickly to dislike, and increasingly to mistrust, Simon de Montfort's moralistic zeal, coupled with (but not concealing) the earl of Leicester's own acquisitiveness and especially his standing as something of an outsider.

When Llywelyn's threat to Glamorgan did not materialize by 1259 or 1260, and when events proved that the reform movement had in fact no fully adequate mechanism to deal with an unwilling king, Richard de Clare came back, firmly, to the royal side. When Henry overplayed his hand by securing papal negation of the two provisions, Clare briefly rejoined Montfort in the spring of 1261, calling for submission of the dispute to arbitration by Louis IX of France. When Henry refused and threatened military action, Clare once again, and for the final time, switched sides. By this time he seems to have fallen ill, and the indications are that he passively accepted, rather than actively supported, the king's actions in late 1261 and 1262, in which, among other steps, he formally annulled the provisions and in their stead reissued Magna Carta. In any event Richard de Clare's death in the summer of 1262 instantly renders pointless any further speculation about actions he might still have undertaken or any influence he might have had in shaping the future course of the reform movement. His record in the period from 1258 to 1261 has been judged harshly by some contemporary chroniclers and by some modern scholars sympathetic to Simon de Montfort; but it is perfectly plausible to understand his actions as having been driven by a series of ad hoc reactions to rapidly changing circumstances, structured around the priorities he clearly gave, during his entire lifetime, both to the political situation on the Welsh march and to his close and multifaceted connections with the royal family.

Progeny and death

With his wife, Maud de Lacy, Richard de Clare had seven children: three sons and four daughters. Their marriages and careers are instructive of the kinds of élite networking the Clares and other families doggedly pursued. The eldest son and heir, was married in 1254 to Alice, daughter of Hugues de Lusignan, count of La Marche and Angoulême. While Richard de Clare himself had seen the prospect of a Lusignan marriage fall through in 1238, he did promote (or at least accepted King Henry's promotion of) a Clare–Lusignan connection in the next generation. The second son, , was a close friend and agent of Edward I, both before his assumption of the throne in the latter stages of the baronial movement and civil war in the 1260s and later in the expansion of English power in Ireland, where he became lord of Thomond. The youngest son, , was a notorious and colourful clerical careerist and pluralist. The oldest daughter, Isabel (1240–c.1271), furthered her father's cosmopolitanism by being married to Guillaume, marquess of Montferrat. The second daughter, Margaret (1249–1312), strenghtened Clare ties to the royal family in general, and to Richard of Cornwall in particular, by marriage to the latter's son and heir, Edmund of Cornwall. A connection with the northern baronage came via the marriage of the third daughter, Rose (Rohese) (b. 1252, d. after 1299) to Roger (III) de Mowbray, lord of the Yorkshire barony of Thirsk. Only with their final child, Eglentina, who died shortly after her birth in 1257, did the Clares fail to promote and extend their associations.

Richard de Clare died at Eschemerfield, near Canterbury, on 15 July 1262 and was buried two weeks later at Tewkesbury Abbey. The site was appropriate since Tewkesbury was the caput of the honour of Gloucester, the first (and often only) comital title by which Clare was designated in contemporary sources, and also because the annals of Tewkesbury Abbey are the single most valuable literary source for the reconstruction of the family history for this period. Rumours were reported in some other chronicles that Clare was the victim of poisoning (by persons unknown); the silence of the Tewkesbury account on this point strongly indicates that such rumours were unfounded. There had been earlier reports of an attempted poisoning in 1258, supposedly instigated by King Henry's uncle, William de Valence, earl of Pembroke, in retaliation for Clare's support of the baronial reform movement; and Valence's purported agent in the plot, Clare's seneschal, Walter de Scoteny, was tried and hanged. The truth about the 1258 plot remains an open question, but it seems clear that Richard de Clare's death in 1262 was due to natural, if unknown, causes. His widow, Maud, never remarried, and died in 1288 or 1289.

Michael Altschul


M. Altschul, A baronial family in medieval England: the Clares, 1217–1314 (1965) · M. Altschul, ‘Glamorgan and Morgannwg under the rule of the de Clare family’, Glamorgan county history, ed. G. Williams, 3: The middle ages, ed. T. B. Pugh (1971), 45–72 · J. R. Maddicott, Simon de Montfort (1994) · J. B. Smith, ‘The lordship of Glamorgan’, Morgannŵg, 2 (1958), 9–37 · F. M. Powicke, King Henry III and the Lord Edward: the community of the realm in the thirteenth century, 2 vols. (1947) · G. T. Clark, ed., Cartae et alia munimenta quae ad dominium de Glamorgancia pertinent, ed. G. L. Clark, 6 vols. (1910) · Ann. mon., vol. 1 · Close rolls of the reign of Henry III, 14 vols., PRO (1902–38) · CPR, 1232–72 · inquisition post mortem, TNA: PRO, C 132/27/5 · TNA: PRO, curia regis rolls, KB 26

Wealth at death  

see TNA: PRO, C 132/27/5; Close rolls of the reign of Henry III, 1261–4, pp. 284–93