House de Clare

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House de Clare
Noble House
CoA Gilbert de Clare.svg
Coat of Arms Associated with House de Clare
CountryNormandy Duchy of Normandy
Glamorgan Lordship of Glamorgan
England Kingdom of England
Lordship of Ireland Lordship of Ireland
EstatesEarldoms, Baronys, Manorial Lordships
TitlesEarl and Countess, Baron and Baroness, Knights
FounderRichard FitzGilbert, 1st Lord of Clare
Current headNatalie de Clare, 4th Countess of Markland, DGK
EthnicityNorman Danes

House de Clare is a Norman Noble family whose name originates from Clare in Suffolk where their first castle, Clare Castle; and the seat of their barony, was situated: the Honor of Clare. The de Clares were one of the great baronial families of the 12th, 13th and early 14th century England, holding wide estates 22 English counties and Marcher Lordships in Wales. The de Clares also briefly held estates in Ireland and took part in the Scottish Wars for Independence. They were descended from Richard FitzGilbert, 1st Lord of Clare (1035-1090), who accompanied William the Conqueror (1028-1087) into England during the Norman conquest of England.

House de Clare Origin

The de Clare family descends from Gilbert de Brionne, whose father, Geoffrey de Brionne, was the eldest of the illegitimate sons of Richard I, Duke of Normandy. The early Normans followed the Viking custom of marriage called more danico, which they considered a legitimate form of marriage.[1] The Church considered this the same as concubinage, therefore it did not command the same respect and inviolability as Christian marriage, hence making Geoffrey de Brionne an illegitimate child.[2][3] They became one of the most powerful and influential noble families of their time in England, Wales, and Ireland.

Gilbert de Brionne was one of the guardians of William II of Normandy who would become the Duke of Normandy in 1035. When Gilbert was assassinated in 1039, his young sons Baldwin de Meules et du Sap and Richard de Bienfaite et d'Orbec fled with their guardians to Baldwin V, Count of Flanders. They returned to Normandy when William married Baldwin's daughter in 1053, and William took them into high favour. After the conquest of England Richard received huge estates including Clare and Tonbridge by which he became the founder of House de Clare.[4] Richard fitz Gilbert (of Tonbridge) was referred to as Richard of Clare in the Suffolk return of the Domesday Survey.[5] On his death, Richard's English estates passed to his son Gilbert de Clare, 2nd Lord of Clare (1055-1117) who was the first to use the surname de Clare permanently.

House de Clare in England

Arms of Richard de Clare II, Earl of Hertford and Gloucester, Founders book of Tewkesbury Abbey, c. 1525

Gilbert's eldest son Richard de Clare, 3rd Lord of Clare (1090-1136) was the ancestor of the Earls of Hertford and Gloucester. Gilbert's younger son Gilbert, establishing himself in Wales, acquired the Earldom of Pembroke and Marcher Lordship of Striguil. The elder line obtained the Earldom of Hertford, and were thenceforth known as Earls of Hertford and Lords of Clare. [6][7] It should be noted that there was never an Earl of Clare as the Honor of Clare was a Baronial Honor, not an Earldom, but for some reason there are historical documents where some of the de Clare Lords would style themselves as the Earl of Clare which referenced the caput of their initial honor of Clare as they were the Earls "of" Clare (or from Clare) not "the Earl of Clare." In a strange twist of fate, the male line of the de Clare family would come to an end in the battle of bannockburn in 1314. After Gilbert de Clare's death in 1314 his sister became the sou jure 11th Lady of Clare and would establish Clare College which today is the second oldest of Cambridge’s thirty-one colleges. It was founded in 1326, and generously endowed a few years later by Lady Elizabeth de Clare who was also a granddaughter of King Edward I.

In 1336 King Edward III granted licence to Lady de Clare to establish a collegium. It became known as Clare Hall in 1339. The original endowment consisted of estates at Great Gransden and Duxford, and provided for the maintenance of a maximum of fifteen ‘Scholars’ (subsequently to be called ‘Fellows’), of whom no more than six were bound strictly by priestly orders. By the 15th century the de Clare name had effectively faded into history and all the titles were held by various other noble families of the realm. By the 16th century the seat of the Honour of Clare would fall into disrepair and be abandoned for centuries. All their estates, lands, titles and accomplishments for England, Ireland and Wales would pass into other families while the de Clare legacy would become nothing more than a passing page in the mists of time. The blood, sweat, sacrifices, and tears were all for nothing because the world today is, as Lady Markland (2015) states, "...fraught with the disease of republicanism." Of all the people in the world who have lineages tracing to the historical House de Clare, Natalie de Clare is the only one who uses the House de Clare designation.

Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms of House Brionne
Coat of Arms of the Duchy of Normandy
Coat of Arms of House de Clare
Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of England
Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Gwynedd
Coat of Arms of House Morgannwg

The coat and shield with the three chevrons was probably first used at the end of the 12th century.[8] The stained glass window above is not earlier than Gilbert de Clare, 4th Earl of Hertford, 5th Earl of Gloucester, the first de Clare to be buried in the chancel of Tewkesbury Abbey. King Iestyn ap Gwrgant [ˈjɛstɪn ap ˈgʊrgant] (English: Justin, son of Gwrgant) (c. 1045 – 1093) was the last ruler of the Welsh kingdom of Morgannwg, which encompassed the counties of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire. King Iestyn ap Gwrgant was the last ruler of the royal house of Morgannwg, which had a lineage stretching back over five centuries to Tewdrig (c. 550–584). The members of this royal house had links to the other royal houses of Wales through marriage, and were descendants of the celebrated Rhodri Mawr. Glamorgan would eventually become the Lordship of Glamorgan. The de Clare Coat of Arms remained virtually unchanged through the centuries passing from father to son and so forth. After the Battle of Bannockburn the use in English, Irish, and Welsch society declined significantly over the centuries to its complete disuse today. Lady Markland's Coat of Arms use elements of various arms associated with the de Clare's and their time as leaders in the history of this region.

House de Clare Today

The primogeniture of the last male de Clare was broken in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn. Male primogeniture is based on the idea that a male is superior to a female and thus, a male's surname does not change upon marriage. The tradition of the female changing her surname once married was an archaic symbol of a change of property (the wife was the property) from her father to her husband and Lady Markland refuses to honor that tradition. At the time Lady Markland started using the designation of 'House de Clare there were,, and still are not, any claims to House de Clare by any member of European nobility and have not been for centuries. The term "House de Clare" went into disuse at the end of the 14th century. There are many descendants in the world today that can trace their lineages back to the historical House de Clare, but none of them have ever tried to revive or claimed the ancient noble house. Lady Markland's genealogical proofs show that her lineages, though broken between male and female primogeniture, almost all trace back to the historical House de Clare, and before them back to Denmark with few exceptions, from both her paternal and maternal lines respectively. Since Lady Markland is both a descendent of this ancient house and whose surname happens to be de Clare and Without anyone else in the world taking claim, Natalie de Clare as declared herself as head of House de Clare.


  1. Reynolds, P. L. (1994). Marriage in the Western Church: the Christianization of marriage during the patristic and early medieval periods (Vol. 24). Brill. ISBN 90-04-10022-9
  2. Crouch, D. (2006). The Normans: the history of a dynasty. A&C Black.
  3. Stenton, F. M. (1971). Anglo-Saxon England (Vol. 2). Oxford University Press.
  4. Richard Mortimer, Clare, Richard de [Richard fitz Gilbert] (1030x35–1087x90), magnate, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online by subscription.
  5. Rumble, A. (Ed.). (1986). Domesday Book, 34, Suffolk.
  6. Altschul, M. (1965). A baronial family in medieval England: the Clares, 1217-1314. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Publishing
  7. Barlow, F. (2014). The feudal kingdom of England: 1042-1216. Routledge.
  8. The Archaeological Journal, Article 51, pg 43- published under the direction of The Council of The Royal Archaeological Insutute of Great Britain and Ireland, available at Google books online at

External links