Clifford, Henry de, fifteenth Lord Clifford, first Earl of Cumberland, eleventh Baron of Westmoreland, and second Baron Vesci 1493-1542, was the eldest son of Henry de Clifford, tenth Baron of Westmoreland [qv.], by his first wife, Anne, daughter of Sir John St. John of Bletsho (Dugdale, 344; Whitaker, 327). He is said to have been brought up with Henry VIII. He seems at one time to have been on bad terms with his father; and a letter is still preserved written by the old lord to one of the privy councillors, complaining of the ungodly and ungudely disposition of my sonne Henrie Clifforde, in such wise as yt was abominable to heare yt. The father proceeds to accuse his son of open robbery and violence, in such wyse as some whol townes are fayne to kepe the churches both nighte and daye, and dare not come att ther own housys, as well as of apparelling himself and his horse in cloth of gold and goldsmith's work, more lyk a duke than a pore baron's sonne as hee is (Whitaker, 327-8).
In his father's lifetime he appears as Sir Harry Clifford. He was one of the gentlemen of Yorkshire originally chosen to be present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold; but his name, for some reason or other, is struck out of the list. In 1522 he was sheriff of Yorkshire. From 1522 to 1526 he was actively engaged in border warfare. In the latter year (October 1525, according to Doyle) he seems to have been appointed lord warden of the marches, an office which he held for fully two years. He was succeeded by William, lord Dacre (before 26 June 1528), with whom he had a long contention about the castle of Carlisle. Both nobles were summoned before the council of the north on 16 Oct. 1528, after the Earl of Northumberland had vainly striven to make a final award (26 Feb. and 2 April) (State Doc. iii. 241, Nos. 2667, 2995, iv. 4419-21, &c.). In 1533 he had a similar dispute with the young Duke of Richmond, relative to his right to hold a sheriff's tourn in Kendal. In May and June 1534 he was engaged in the inquiry into Lord Dacre's treason, and on 27 Oct. is again found ruling the borders in quiet (cf. Dugdale, i. 344). A year later he had charge of the privy seal (3 April 1335), because none of the king's council would receive it. Three weeks after this he was one of the Middlesex commissioners, oyer et terminer, for the trial of the prior of the Charterhouse, Bishop Fisher of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More (dated 1 and 26 June) (ib. vols. v. vii. viii.).
In the summer of 1525 Henry VIII made his illegitimate son Henry Blount Duke of Richmond and Somerset. On this occasion Clifford was created Earl of Cumberland (18 June), when Anne Boleyn's father was made Viscount Rochford (Hall, 703; Cal. of State Doc. iv. pt. iii. 1431). Seven years later he was made a knight of the Garter (Dugdale, 344). He was also governor of the town and castle of Carlisle and president of the council of the north (ib.).
In the political and religious troubles of the age he seems to have adhered to the king. Thus he is found signing the July letter of 1530, begging Clement VII to sanction the king's divorce (Cal. of State Doc. iv. No. 6513). In 1534 he was sent to search Bishop Tunstall's house at Auckland for a copy of that prelate's treatise, De Differentia Regię et Ecclesiasticę Potestatis (ib. v. 986). At the time of Aske's rebellion his was one of the three great families of the north that remained faithful to the crown, though Robert Aske was a distant relative of his own. The earl had hard work to hold his castle of Skipton (October 1536), weakened as it was by wholesale desertion, against the rebels' siege; and Mr. Froude tells the romantic story that his eldest son's wife, Lady Eleanor Clifford, and her infant children were rescued from the extremest danger at Bolton Abbey, and carried safely into Skipton Castle through the very heart of the besieging host, by the chivalrous courage of Robert Aske's brother Christopher (Froude, ii. 552-4, 562; cf. Whitaker, 335). In reward for his devotion the earl received several manors that had belonged to the dissolved monasteries, notably the site of Bolton Abbey, with the Skipton possessions of this foundation. His second marriage brought him the whole Percy fee in the same district, and thus made the Clifford family lords of almost all Craven. He was made K.G. in 1537. He died on 22 April 1542 (1543?), and was buried at Appleby or Skipton (ib. 336; cf. Dugdale, i. 340). He married, first, Margaret, daughter of George Talbot, fourth earl of Shrewsbury; secondly, Margaret, daughter of Henry Percy, fifth earl of Northumberland. By his first wife, who must have died before 1517, he had no issue. By his second he had Henry Clifford, second earl of Cumberland [qv.], his son and successor, Sir Ingram Clifford, knt. (d. s. p.), and four daughters.
Calendar of State Documents for the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. Brewer, vols. ii-ix.
Froude's History of England, ed. 1870
Doyle's Official Baronage, i. 490-1. Much genealogical information may be got from the inscriptions on the great family portrait-pictures drawn up originally in June 1589, at the order of Margaret, countess of Cumberland, at Westminster. Two copies of the large picture are still extant, one at Hotham (formerly at Skipton Castle), the other and the original at Appleby Castle. See Whitaker, ed. 1878, pp. 339-53, where the inscriptions are printed entire.
Contributor: T. A. A. [Thomas Andrew Archer]