Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Hertford

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Gilbert de Clare
7th Earl of Hertford
8th Earl of Gloucester
4th Lord Marcher of Glamorgan
9th Lord Marcher of Cardigan
10th Baron of Clare
10th Baron of Tonbridge
De Clare.png
Coat of Arms used by Gilbert de Clare.
Born10 May 1291
Clare Castle, Clare, Suffolk, Kingdom of England
Died24 June 1314(1314-06-24) (aged 23)
Bannockburn, Kingdom of Scotland
Cause of deathKilled in battle
Resting placeTewkesbury Abbey
Known forService in the Wars of Scottish Independence
Years active1308–1314
ResidenceCaerphilly Castle, Lordship of Glamorgan, Wales
LocalityEast Anglia, Gloucestershire, England
Lordship of Glamorgan, Principality of Wales
Net worthc. £6,000 p.a.
Wars and battlesWars of Scottish Independence
Battle of Bannockburn
OfficesWarden of Scotland,
Captain of Scotland and the Northern Marches
PredecessorGilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford
SuccessorEarldom of Gloucester was recreated and passed to Hugh de Audley, 1st Earl of Gloucester Husband of Margaret de Clare
Spouse(s)Maud de Burgh
ParentsGilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford
Joan Plantagenet, Princess of England

Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Hertford, 8th Earl of Gloucester, 10th Lord of Clare, 4thLord Marcher of Glamorgan (c. 10 May 1291 – 24 June 1314) was an English nobleman and a military commander in the Wars of Scottish Independence. In contrast to most English earls at the time, his main focus lay in the pursuit of war rather than in domestic political strife.[1] He was the son of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford, and Joan Plantagenet, Princess of England, daughter of Edward I. The older Gilbert died when his son was only four years old, and the younger Gilbert was invested with his earldoms at the young age of sixteen. Almost immediately, he became involved in the defence of the northern border, but later he was drawn into the struggles between Edward II and some of his barons. He was one of the Lords Ordainers who ordered the expulsion of the king's favourite Piers Gaveston in 1311. When Gaveston was killed on his return in 1312, Gilbert de Clare helped negotiate a settlement between the perpetrators and the king.


Caerphilly Castle in the Welsh Marches, Gilbert de Clare's main residence, was built by his father, Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester
A torn manuscript page with a medieval line-drawing of a battle. The English defeat in the Battle of Bannockburn marked a turning point in the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Gilbert de Clare was the son of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford – known as Gilbert 'the Red' – who in 1290 married Joan Plantagenet, Princess of England, daughter of King Edward I of England. As a condition for the marriage, the Earl had to surrender all his lands to the king, only to have them returned jointly to himself and his wife for the lifetime of either. This grant was made on the condition that the lands would pass to the couple's joint heirs, but if they were childless to Joan's heirs from any later marriages. The younger Gilbert was born the next year, around 10 May 1291, securing the inheritance for the de Clare family, but his father died only four years later, on 7 December 1295, while the boy was still a minor. Because of the joint enfeoffment, Joan kept the custody of the family lands, and did Homage to the king on 20 January the next year.

In 1297, Joan secretly married Ralph de Monthermer, 1st Baron Monthermer, a knight in the late earl's household. This enraged Edward I, who had other marriage plans for Joan. The king imprisoned Lord Monthermer, but later relented, and sanctioned the marriage.Because of the previous settlement, Joan was still titled countess, and her new husband became Earl of Gloucester and Hertford. This, however, only lasted for the life of Princess Joan, who died in 1307. Only a few months later, Gilbert was granted his inheritance, and by March 1308 made Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, at the young age of sixteen. This grant was made by King Edward II of England, who succeeded his father King Edward I of England in July 1307. It was previously believed that Edward II and Gilbert were brought up together, but this is based on a confusion with another person of the same name. This other Gilbert de Clare, who was closer to the king in age, was in fact the earl's cousin, the son of Thomas de Clare, Lord of Thomond.

Early service under King Edward II of England

Gilbert's first years as earl were predominantly concerned with the Scottish Wars. He had no personal interest in the region, but the Welsh Marches, where his landed interest lay, were largely pacified at the time, and Scotland presented a good opportunity to pursue military glory and reward. He was almost immediately trusted with important military commands on the northern border, and served as warden of Scotland from 1308 to 1309, and as captain of Scotland and the northern marches in 1309. He led an expedition to relieve the castle of Rutherglen Castle in December 1308.[2] The war effort, however, was not pursued with the same intensity by Edward II as it had been by his father. The new king's neglect of the Scottish Wars allowed Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland to regain the initiative in the war.

This situation led to frustration among the English nobility. In addition to the Scottish issue, there was also discontent with the king's treatment of his favourite, Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall. Piers Gaveston's promotion from relative obscurity to Earl of Cornwall, combined with his arrogant behaviour, caused resentment among the established nobility. Gloucester was initially not hostile to Gaveston, who had married Gloucester's sister Margaret in October 1307. He did, however, share in the other earls' frustration with Edward's lack of initiative towards Scotland. In 1308, therefore, Gloucester was among the earls who demanded Gaveston's exile, a demand the king was forced to meet. After this, he seems to have been reconciled with the king, and in 1309 he acted as a mediator when the earls agreed to Gaveston's return. Relations between the king and the nobility deteriorated even further, however, after Gaveston's return. In 1310, a group of so-called Lords Ordainers were appointed to draft the Ordinances of 1311, a set of restrictions on the rule of Edward II, including a renewed exile for Gaveston. Gloucester, who was still a supporter of the king, was not initially among the Ordainers, but was appointed on 04 March 1311, upon the death of the Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln.

Escalation of the national conflict

My lord earl, the wrong done to you is not to be blamed on Earl Guy, for he did what he did with our support and counsel; and if, as you say, you have pledged your lands, you have lost them anyhow. It only remains to advise you to learn another time to negotiate more cautiously.

— A letter from Gloucester to the earl of Pembroke, quoted in the Vita Edwardi Secundi.

In spite of his participation in the baronial reform movement, Gloucester still maintained the trust of the king. He, Gaveston and the John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey were the only earls to accompany the king on a Scottish campaign in 1310–11. In March 1311, while the Ordinances were still in the workings, Gloucester was appointed guardian of the realm while the king was still in Scotland. There are signs that he might have fallen out with Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster – who was at this point the leader of the opposition against the king – over a feud between two of their respective retainers. When Gaveston once more returned from exile, however, Gloucester sided with the baronial opposition. The earls divided the country into different parts for defence, and Gloucester was given charge of the south. In June 1312, Gaveston was captured by Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, who was working in cooperation with Lancaster. Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, who had the custody of Gaveston and had guaranteed his safety to the king, appealed to Gloucester, as Gaveston's kinsman, for assistance. Gloucester, however, refused to help, and Gaveston was killed. This act brought the country to the brink of civil war, and Gloucester was one of the few men who was still trusted enough by both sides to be able to take on a role as mediator. In the following months, he was among the main negotiators working towards an agreement between the king and the offending earls, an effort that was at least temporarily successful.

Gloucester remained in the inner circle around the king over the next months. In the summer of 1313, he was again guardian of the realm while the king was in France, and in February 1314, he was sent to France on a diplomatic mission regarding Gascony.[3][4] The greatest problem of the reign, however, remained the unresolved conflict with Scotland, and the resurgence of Robert the Bruce. In the summer of 1314, Edward finally embarked on a major Scottish campaign. The objective was to protect the English garrison at Stirling Castle from an attack by Bruce. The campaign was impeded by the absence of some of the greater magnates, such as Lancaster and Warwick. There were still a number of great lords in the king's company, including Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, Pembroke and Gloucester. These men were valuable to the king for their ability to raise large numbers of troops from their dominions in the Welsh Marches. On 23 June 1314, the royal army had passed Falkirk and was within a few miles of Stirling. There were, however, signs of strife between the earls of Gloucester and Hereford. Gloucester had been given the command of the English vanguard], a position he had earned through his loyalty to the king. Yet Hereford, who had been placed under Gloucester's command, believed the command belonged to him, in his capacity of hereditary Constable of England.

Death at Bannockburn

Now one of Edward's strongest supporters, he accompanied the king on a campaign to Scotland in 1314, when several other nobles refused. He was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn on 24 June, under somewhat unclear circumstances. Gloucester was the most prominent of the casualties of the battle, which ended in a humiliating defeat for England. As he had no issue, his death marked the end of the prominent de Clare family. His estates were divided between his three sisters, one of whom was married to the king's new favourite, Hugh Despenser the Younger. Despenser's ruthless expansion of the de Clare lordship of Glamorgan in Wales led directly to the troubles of Edward II's later reign, including a rebellion in the Welsh Marches, the defeat of the Earl of Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge, and eventually the deposition of the king by Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella in 1326. Gloucester was involved in a brief skirmish with the Scots on 23 June, the day before the main battle.[5] While the king considered whether to camp for the night or to engage the Scots immediately, Gloucester and Hereford – either through insubordination or a misunderstanding – charged directly into the place called the New Park, where the Scots were encamped. The English immediately ran into difficulties, and Hereford's cousin Henry de Bohun was killed by King Robert the Bruce.[6] It was perhaps during the subsequent retreat that Gloucester was thrown off his horse, but managed to escape unharmed.[7] The next day the English were still not entirely decided on the course of action. While Gloucester took the part of certain experienced captains, recommending that Edward avoid battle that day, the younger men surrounding the king labelled this lethargic and cowardly, and advised attack.[8] According to the Vita Edwardi, when Edward grew angry and accused Gloucester of treason, the earl forcefully replied that he would prove his loyalty on the field of battle.[9]

The most detailed account of the Earl of Gloucester's death at the Battle of Bannockburn is the chronicle Vita Edwardi Secundi.[5] This account is written as a moral tale, expounding on the earl's heroism and the cowardly conduct of his companions. For this reason, its historical accuracy must be taken with some caution.[10] According to some accounts, Gloucester rushed headfirst into battle in the pursuit of glory, and fell victim to his own foolishness. The Vita, on the other hand, claimed that, as the earl was vigorously trying to fend off the Scottish attacks, he was knocked off his horse, and killed when his own men failed to come to his rescue.[11] It is also likely that the quarrels between Gloucester and Hereford over precedence could have contributed to the chaotic situation.[5] According to one account, Gloucester rushed into battle without a distinguishing coat of arms, exposing himself to the Scottish soldiers, who otherwise would have been eager to secure a valuable ransom.[12]

After Gloucester was killed, the English army soon fell into disarray, and the battle resulted in a resounding victory for the Scots, and a humiliating withdrawal for the English.[13] It was widely agreed that Gloucester, with his proud family history and valuable estates, was the most prominent of the many casualties that day.[14] Robert the Bruce mourned his death [b] and stood vigil over Gloucester's body at a local church.[15] Later he allowed its transfer to England, where the earl was buried at Tewkesbury Abbey, on his father's right-hand side.[16]

Dispersal of estates and aftermath

Gloucester's political importance did not end with his death; his disappearance from the political scene had immediate consequences. In his Welsh lordship of Glamorgan, the uncertain situation caused by his death caused a short-lived rebellion in 1316.[17] In Ireland, where he also held large possessions, the power vacuum he left behind facilitated the 1315 invasion by Robert the Bruce's brother Edward.[18] The greatest consequences, however, resulted from the division of the de Clare estates. In 1308, Gilbert de Clare had married Maud (or Matilda) de Burgh, the daughter of Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster. The couple left no surviving issue, so his death marked the end of the great de Clare family.[5] The family lands were worth as much as £6,000, second only to those of the Earl of Lancaster among the nobility of the realm.[19]

The lands went into royal possession while the matter of inheritance was being settled.[20] By the entail of 1290, the lands could only be inherited by direct descendants of the seventh earl and Joan of Acre. Maud managed to postpone the proceedings by claiming to be pregnant, but by 1316 it was clear that this could not be the case. The late earl's sisters, Eleanor, Margaret (now widowed after the death of Gaveston) and Elizabeth were by 1317 all married to favourites of Edward II: Hugh Despenser the Younger, Hugh de Audley and Roger d'Amory respectively.[21] The three were granted equal parts of the English possessions, but Despenser received the entire lordship of Glamorgan in Wales, politically the most important of the de Clare lands.[22]

Not content with his part, Despenser used his relationship with the king to impinge on the lands of other Marcher lords. This caused resentment among such men as Hereford and Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, who rose up in rebellion in 1321. The rebellion was crushed, but resistance continued under the Marcher lords' ally Thomas of Lancaster, who was defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, and executed. Although this victory temporarily secured Edward's position on the throne, he was eventually deposed in 1326 by Roger Mortimer, with the help of the king's wife, Isabella of France. The title of Earl of Gloucester was recreated by Edward II's son Edward III of England in 1337, for Hugh de Audley.


  1. Brown (2008), pp. 77–8.
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Altschul_1965.2C_p._160
  3. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Altschul163
  4. Phillips (1972), p. 86.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named DNB
  6. Vita Edwardi, p. 89
  7. Brown (2008), pp. 121–2.
  8. Brown (2008), p. 125.
  9. Vita Edwardi, p. 91.
  10. Brown (2008), p. 119.
  11. Vita Edwardi, pp. 89–91.
  12. Prestwich (2005), pp. 257–8.
  13. McKisack (1959), pp. 38–9.
  14. Brown (2008), pp. 130, 185.
  15. Brown (2008), p. 130.
  16. Altschul (1965), p. 164.
  17. Prestwich (2005), p. 164.
  18. Brown (2008), pp. 145, 148.
  19. Maddicott (1970), pp. 22–3.
  20. Brown (2008), pp. 145–6.
  21. Maddicott (1970), p. 193.
  22. Brown (2008), pp. 159–60.

External links

Inquisition Post Mortem [1]
  1. Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem