Clare, de (DNB00)

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CLARE, de, Family of. The powerful and illustrious family of De Clare, 'a house which played so great a part alike in England, Wales, and Ireland' (Freeman, Norm. Conq. v. 212), descended directly from Count Godfrey, the eldest of the illegitimate sons of Richard the Fearless, duke of Normandy (Cont. Will. Jum. viii. 87). To him was given, says Ordericus (iii. 340), Brionne cum toto comitatu, but, according to William of Jumièges and his continuator (iv. 18, viii. 37), the Comté of Eu. His son Gilbert inherited Brionne (Ord. Vit. iii. 340), and tested, as 'Brioncensis comes,' the foundation charter of the abbey of Bee, whose founder, Herluin, was his vassal. William of Jumidges, however, styles him Count of Eu ('comes Ocensis') at his death (vii. 2), the Comté he states, having passed at his father's death to his uncle William, but being eventually recovered by him (iv. 18). On this point Stapleton (i. Ivi) may be consulted, but with caution, for his version is confused. Count Gilbert was one of the guardians (Will. Jum. vii. 2) to whom the young duke was conunitted by his father (1036), but was assassinated in 1039 or 1040 (ib.) Thereupon his two young sons fled, with their guardians, to Baldwin of Flanders (Ord. Vtt. iii. 340). The marriage of the Conaueror with Baldwin's daughter restored the exiles to Normandy, where William took them into high favour, and assigned to Richard Bienfaite and Orbec, and to Baldwin Le Sap and Meules (ib.) Ordericus (ii. 121) mentions the two brothers as among the leading men in Normandy on the eve of the conquest.

Both brothers were in attendance on their kinsman during his conquest of England. The one, as Baldwin de Meules, was left in charge of Exeter on its submission (1068), and made sheriff of Devonshire. Large estates in Devonshire and Somersetshire are entered to him in Domesday as 'Baldwin of Exeter' or 'Baldwin the Sheriff.' His brother Richard [see Clare, Richard de (d. 1090?)] was the founder of the family of De Clare. Their surname, which they derived from their chief lordship, the castle and honour of Clare, was not definitely adopted for some two or three generations, and tnis, with the fact that several members of the family bore the same christian names, has plunged the history of the earlier generations into almost inextricable confusion. Dugdale is perhaps the chief offender, but, as Mr. Planché rightly observed, 'the pedigree of the Clares as set down by the genealogists, both ancient and modern, bristles with errors, contradictions, and unauthorised assertions' (p. 150). His own paper (Journ, Arch. Assoc. xxvi. 150 et seq.), so far as it goes, contains probably the best version, that of Mr. Clark on 'The Lords of Morgan' (Arch. Journ. xxxv. 325) beings though later, more erroneous. Mr. Ormerod also, in his 'Strigulensia,' and Mr. Marsh, in his 'Chepstow Castle,' examined the subject, the latter treating it in great detail.

The leading facts, however, are these : On the death of Richard, the founder of the house, his English estates passed to his son Gilbert (d. 1115?) [q.v.], who acouired by conquest possessions in Wales. Of his children, Richard, the eldest son, was the ancestor of the elder line, the earls of Hertford and Gloucester [see Clare, Richard de, d. 1136 ?] ; while Gilbert, a younger brother, establishing himself in Wales, acquired the earldom of Pembroke, and was father of the famous Strongbow, the conqueror of Ireland [see Clare, Richard de, d. 1176]. With him this line came to an end, his vast Irish and Welsh possessions passing to his daughter Isabel, who left by her husband, William Marshal, five daughters and coheiresses. The elder line obtained (from Stephen probably) the earldom of Hertford, ana were thenceforth known as earls of Hertford or of Clare, just as the yoimger line were known as earls of Pembroke or of Striguil. It is implied, in the 'Lords' Reports' (iii. 124) and elsewhere, that they were styled earls of Clare before they were earls of Hertford, but investigation disproves this. By the death of the other coheirs of William, earl of Gloucester (d. 1173), the succession to that earldom, with the honour of Gloucester and lordship of Glamorgan, opened (1217-20) to Gilbert de Clare, earl of Hertford or Clare (d. 1230) [q. v.], and from that time the heads of the house were earls of Gloucester and Hertford. Gilbert had already inherited, through his grandmother, the honour of St. Hilary, and through his ancestress Rohaise (Giffard) a moiety of the Giffard estates, and both he and his father had been among the barons appointed as guardians of Magna Carta. The accession of the Gloucester inheritance now further increased their power, and 'from this time the house of Clare became the acknowledged head of the baronage' (Arch. Journ. xxxv. 337). Their vast possessions were again increased by Gilbert's marriage with one of the heiresses of the Marshalls, earls of Pembroke, a granddaughter of his kinsman Strongbow. In his grandson Gilbert, 'the Red Earl' [q. v.], his house attained its highest glory. Almost the arbiter of the barons' war, he became under Edward I the most powerful subject in the kingdom, and married, in 1290, the king's daughter Joan. With the death of his son Gilbert [q. v.], who fell gloriously at Bannockburn (24 June 1314), there passed away this famous house, of which it has been said with much truth that 'for steady hereditary influence, supported on the whole by moderation of conduct, and always by great personal valour, no family at all approached to that of the earls of Gloucester and Hertford' (ib. p. 338).

The vast possessions of the De Clares were divided among the three sisters of the last earl, of whom Elizabeth [q. v.], inheriting Clare, became lady of Clare ('Domina Claræ'), and after losing three husbands became in her widowhood foundress of 'Clare College,' Cambridge (1347). Her granddaughter and heiress, by her first husband, Elizabeth de Burgh, was in turn lady of Clare, and married Lionel, son of Edward III (1360), who was hence created (1362) duke of Clarence ('de Clarentia'), the style of whose herald is still preserved in Clarenceux king of arms. Their descendant and heir, the Duke of York, ascended the throne as Edward IV (1461), by which 'the honour of Clare' became merged in the crown, and formed part, as it still does, of the duchy of Lancaster.

The dukedom of Clarence was conferred on Thomas, son of Henry IV (1411), and on George, brother of Edward IV (1461-2), and was finally revived (1789) for Prince William, afterwards William IV. The title was also conferred, as an earldom, on the late Duke of Albany (1881).

The town, county, and river of Clare in Ireland also derive, through Strongbow, their name from this family. Thus this name 'became, through them, so incorporated in our national history and literature that in one or more of its forms it is familiar wherever the English language is spoken' (Antiquary, v. 60).

Clare as a place-name is of doubtful origin. It was certainly a stronghold of early date, and a seat of power before the Conquest. A description of the castle a century ago will be found in the 'Gentleman's Magazine' for 1787 (lvii. 789), and a curious deed by the lady of Clare in that for 1793 (lxiii. 30). The latter is of interest as illustrating the quasi-regal position of its lords.

[William of Jumièges and his continuator; Ordericus Vitalis (ed. Société de l'Histoire de France); Monasticon Anglicanum; Stapleton's Rolls of the Norman Exchequer; Lords' Reports on the Dignity of a Peer (1829), iii. 124-9; Gent. Mag.; Planché's Earls of Gloucester (Journal of the Archæological Association, vol. xxvi.); Clark's Lords of Glamorgan (Archæological Journal, vol. xxxv.); Parkins's Clarence (Antiquary, vol. v.); Notes and Queries, 10th ser., v. 424; Freeman's Norm. Conq.; Ormerod's Strigulensia; Marsh's Chepstow Castle.]

J. H. R.