Clifford, Robert de, fifth Baron Clifford by tenure, first baron by writ 1273-1314, only son of the Roger de Clifford who was killed in North Wales in 1282, by his wife Isabella, daughter and coheiress of Robert de Vipont, was born about Easter 1273 (History of Westmoreland, Ann. Wint. 109; Rishanger, 87, 103; Ann. Dunst. 291; Parl. Writs, i. 536; Cal. Geneal. 139, 331). Clifford was thus left heir to the Clifford estates of his grandfather, Roger de Clifford [qv.], who died in 1285, and to a moiety of the Vipont inheritance shared between his mother Isabella and her sister Idonea de Leyborne (Cal. Geneal. 331, 540, &c.; Ann. Wigorn. 550).
Clifford was summoned to do service by proxy for his Northumbrian estates about July 1282, being at that time under age. In 1285 he is found paying 100l. relief as one of Ralph Gaugy's heirs, and according to Sir Matthew Hale was in the king's employ when only nineteen (Parl. Writs, i. 230, 241; Siege of Carlaverock, 186). It is not, however, till 1297 that he comes forward prominently. In this year he was appointed justice of the forests beyond Trent, an office which he still held in April 1300, and apparently in 1305. In the previous May (1297) he had been summoned to attend Edward across the sea, but can hardly have done so, as on 12 July he was appointed captain of the Cumberland fortresses and ordered to invade Scotland with Henry de Percy (Parl. Writs, 536; Siege of Carl. 186; cf. Rymer, ii. 774). In the course of the same year (1297) he was made captain and guardian of the Scotch marches and the county of Cumberland (18 Oct., 14 Nov.); and towards the middle of June 1297 as a baron received a personal summons to the York muster for 12 Nov. 1298 (Parl. Writs, 536). In 1297 he was appointed governor of Carlisle; in 1298 governor of Nottingham Castle; and in February 1301 signed the Lincoln letter to the pope as castellan of Appleby (ib. Nicolas, Carlaverock, 186), denying the claim that Scotland was a fief of the papacy. In 1299 he was deputed with Antony Bek [see Bek, Antony I] to superintend the castle garrisons on the marches; and in the same year received his first summons to parliament (29 Dec.). His last summons is dated 26 Nov. 1313 (Siege of Carlaverock, 186; Hist. Peerage, 111).
In the intervening years he had been distinguishing himself by his military achievements, which seem to have opened with a brilliant raid into Scotland, immediately before Christmas 1297 (Rishanger, 183); though, according to a much later chronicler, he had been present at the battle of Dunbar on 27 April 1296 (Knyghton, 2480). From this date he seems to have been actively employed on the Scotch marches in almost every year till his death. His exertions brought about the fall of the fortress of Carlaverock in July 1300, which the king in return entrusted to his guardianship (Siege of Carlav. pp. 27, 28, 76, 86). In 2 Edward II he was again warden of the Scotch marches, and on 20 Aug. 1308 was appointed captain and chief guardian of all Scotland on either side of the Firths in company with the Earl of Angus. He was reappointed to the same office on 15 Dec. 1309, having in the previous October been despatched against Scotland with the Earl of Hereford and Henry de Beaumont. On 4 April 1311 he was nominated guardian south of the firths, and on 18 June was a commissioner of array for Westmoreland and Cumberland (Dugdale, 338; Parl. Writs, 687-8).
In return for these services he received many grants and lucrative posts. On 15 Oct. 1306 he was enfeoffed in Robert Bruce's forfeited manor of Hert and Hertlepool, a grant which in later years embroiled the Cliffords with the bishops of Durham, who claimed that these estates, being situated within their county palatine, should revert to them on the treason of the original holder (Reg. Pal. Dun. iii. 58, 59, iv. 261). Skelton, in Cumberland, he received on the forfeiture of Christopher de Seton (Dugdale, 338; Escheat Rolls, i. 260, cf. 106). Skipton Castle was given him in exchange for his claims in the vale of Monmouth on 7 Sept. 1310 (Hist. of Westmoreland, i. 274; cf. Palgrave, Kalendar, 34); and Edward I is said to have granted him the Scotch lands of William Douglas in satisfaction of a claim for 500l. a year. According to Barbour it was this grant that made Sir James Douglas side with Bruce; and the Scotch rhyme has more than one story of the vengeance taken by the good Lord Douglas on his English rival the Clifford. Nor were the gifts of Edward II less munificent. To those already mentioned may be added the marshalry of England (3 Sept. 1307), and the several grants of 3 & 4 Ed. II of which Sir Harris Nicolas makes mention (Rymer, iii. 9; Siege of Carlav. 186). By a special clause in the ordinances of 1311 the royal grants to Clifford were exempt from the general restoration decreed (Chron. of Ed. I and II, i. 199). He was also appointed guardian of Norham Castle on the eve of the Assumption 1314.
Clifford, who in 1302, 1303, and 1305 was acting as custos for the Bishop of Durham, was deputed to inquire into the question of the forfeiture of Balliol's manors of Gaynesford and Castle Bernard (11 Dec. 1305). He was summoned to the great parliament of Carlisle (January 1307), and is said to have been present at Edward I's deathbed, where he received that monarch's dying instructions relative to the banishment of Gaveston (Reg. Pal. Dun. iv. 795-7; Parl. Writs, i. 536; Nicolas, Carlav. 186). In 1307-8 he was invited to be present at Edward II's coronation, was reappointed governor of Nottingham Castle, and in the early half of the latter year entered into a league with Antony Bek, bishop of Durham [qv.], to preserve the king's rights (Parl. Writs, 617-18; Dugdale, 338). He seems to have been a favourite with Edward II. He signed the Stamford letter of the barons to the pope on 6 Aug. 1309 (Chron. of Ed. I and II, i. 162). His name occurs in one list among those of the ordainers (ib. 172; but cf. Stubbs, ii. 327-8). That he had as yet hardly thrown himself definitely into the opposition is shown by his declaration of 17 March 1310 that the king's concessions should not be construed into a precedent (Chron. 171); while the ordinance alluded to in the last paragraph seems to show that towards the end of 1311 (28 Oct.) he was not viewed with distrust by the barons. Next year, however, he is found occupying a more decided position. On the rumour of Gaveston's return he was assigned to guard the northern counties against any collusion between the favourite and Robert Bruce (c. January 1312). On 4 May he entered Newcastle with an armed force, in company with the Earl of Lancaster; and a fortnight later he was besieging Gaveston in Scarborough Castle (Chron. of Ed. I and II, i. 204; Parl. Writs, 688; Rymer, ii. 328). After Gaveston's death he was appointed one of the representatives of the baronial party, and as such had a safe-conduct for an interview with the papal legates before Christmas 1312. Lancaster, Hereford, and Warwick, however, refused to confirm his arrangements on technical grounds; on 16 Oct. 1313 a pardon was granted him for his share in the murder of Gaveston (ib. 221, 443, 688, &c.).
On 23 Dec. 1313 Clifford was summoned to join the muster at Berwick for the Scots expedition of June 1314. When about the beginning of Lent (c. 20 Feb.) 1314 came the news of the distress of the Stirling garrison, Clifford was one of the few great lords on whose loyalty Edward felt that he could rely. He was hurriedly excused from attendance at the parliament summoned for 21 April, and bidden to muster his men at Berwick by the same date (Parl. Writs, 688; Chron. Ed. II, 201). On the eve of Bannockburn, Clifford commanded the eight hundred chosen warriors sent to attempt the relief of Stirling. The account of his defeat in this effort by a small force of Scotch under Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray, is one of the most picturesque incidents in the siege of Stirling. Next day (24 June 1314) he was slain in the great battle: turpiter in fugam convertitur is the phrase of one chronicler. Bruce, with characteristic generosity, sent back his dead body, like that of the Earl of Gloucester, to the English king (Barbour, xi. 513-655, xii. 29, 99-164; Chron. Ed. I and II, ii. 202; Trokelowe, 85, 87).
Clifford married (13 Nov. 1295) Matilda or Maud (d. 1327, Escheat Rolls, ii. 4), daughter and coheiress of Thomas de Clare, brother of Gilbert de Clare, last earl of Gloucester but one. This Maud, his executrix, after having had his will proved on 18 Sept. 1314, was seized and carried off while on a journey by James Iseys, guardian of Castle Bernard, c. 11 Nov. 1315, and is said to have afterwards married Robert de Welles, a baron of Lincolnshire (Ann. Wigorn. 523; Chron. Ed. I and II, 48; Reg. Pal. Dun. iv. 607; Dugdale, 339). Clifford was succeeded by his eldest son Roger, born on 2 Feb. 1299 (Whitaker, 311, &c.), who, after joining the insurgent barons in 1321-2, is variously reported to have been executed at York (23 March 1322) immediately after the battle of Boroughbridge, and to have survived till the commencement of Edward III's reign (Reg. Pal. Dun. iv. 1051; Chron. Ed. I and II, i. 302, ii. 77-8, with which cf. Whitaker, 348; Dugdale, 339; Escheat Rolls, ii. 5). A second son, Robert de Clifford, held the estates from about 1327, if not earlier, to about 1344 (Reg. Pal. Dun. iv. 182; Escheat Rolls, v. 118).
Clifford was one of the greatest barons of the age. In addition to the estates of his grandfather, he inherited from his mother, Isabella de Vipont (d. 1291), a moiety of the barony of Westmoreland. He thus became possessed of Brougham, Burgh, Pendragon, and perhaps Appleby castles (for a full list of his manors see Dugdale, pp. 339-340). By agreement with his aunt Idonea he is said to have enjoyed all the Vipont estates in Westmoreland during his life; but it was not till after her death that his son Robert united all the inheritance of this family (Hist. of Westmoreland, 274, &c.; Dugdale, 339).
Clifford was one of Edward I's most vigorous soldiers and administrators. Rishanger describes him as miles illustris. The author of the Siege of Carlaverock is more emphatic in his praise. Clifford's valour at this siege and his long services for Edward I and II seem to justify the eulogy. He was the founder of the north-country branch of the Clifford family (Rishanger, pp. 97, 185; Siege of Carlaverock (text), pp. 27, 28, 76, 86).
Dugdale's Baronage, vol. i.
Whitaker's History of Craven, ed. Morant, 1877
Nicolas's Historic Peerage, ed. Courthope
Siege of Carlaverock, ed. Nicolas
Nicolson and Burn's History of Westmoreland
Parliamentary Writs, vols. i. and ii. div. iii.
Calendarium Genealogicum, ed. Roberts
Kalendar of Exchequer, &c. ed. Palgrave
Escheat Rolls, vols. i. ii.
Rotuli Parliament. vol. i.
Tres Scriptores Historić Dunelm. ed. Raine (Surtees Society)
Rymer's Federa, ed. 1704, vol. ii.
Barbour's Bruce, ed. Skeat (Surtees Society)
Knyghton ap. Twysden's Decem Scriptores. The following volumes are quoted from the Rolls Series: Annales Wigorn., Winton., Dunstapl. ap. Annales Monastici, ed. Luard
Chronicles of Edward I and II, ed. Stubbs
Rishanger, ed. Riley
Registrum Palatin. Dunelm., ed. Hardy.
Contributor: T. A. A. [Thomas Andrew Archer]