Clinton, Edward Fiennes de (DNB00)
|←Clinton, Charles John Fynes||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11
Clinton, Edward Fiennes de
|Clinton, Geoffrey de→|
CLINTON, EDWARD FIENNES de, ninth Lord Clinton and Saye, Earl of Lincoln (1512–1585), lord high admiral, son of Thomas, eighth lord Clinton, who died of the sweating sickness in 1517, was born in 1512, and, being left a royal ward, married, in or about 1530, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Blount, and widow of Gilbert, lord Talboys, but better known in history as the mistress of Henry VIII and the mother of his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, duke of Richmond. Mr. Froude calls her 'an accomplished and most interesting person' (Hist. of England, cabinet ed. i. 389 n), but old enough to be her boy-husband's mother. It is fair to presume that this marriage confirmed young Clinton in the king's favour, and we find him in 1532 in attendance on the king at Boulogne and Calais; in 1536 he was summoned by writ to parliament; in 1539 he was one of the deputation to receive Anne of Cleves, and in May 1540 was one of the challengers in the grand tournament held at Westminster. He was shortly afterwards invited by Lord Little, then lord high admiral (and afterwards Duke of Northumberland), to take service afloat, and served under his immediate command in the expedition to Scotland in 1644, and in the storming of Edinburgh (Froude, iv. 35), on which occasion he was knighted by the Earl of Hertford (afterwards Duke of Somerset), the commander-in-chief of the army. From Scotland the fleet was sent to Boulogne, then besieged by the king, and there Clinton served on shore till the capture of the town on 14 Sept. In the following year he held a command in the fleet under Lord Lisle, which repelled the threatened invasion of the French under Annebault;and in 1646 was one of the commissioners to settle the terms of peace with France, and signed as a witness on 7 June (Rymer, Hagæ 1741, vol. vi. pt. iii. p. 138).
After the accession of Edward VI, Clinton commanded the fleet which co-operated with Somerset in the invasion of Scotland in 1547, and had an important share in the decisive victory at Musselburgh. He was then appointed governor of Boulogne, and held that post till the surrender of the place by treaty in April 1650. His defence during the previous winter, when left almost entirely without support, won him deserved credit; and on his return to England he was appointed, 14 May 1550, lord high admiral, with very full powers and privileges, and received in addition lands and manorial rights to the value, it would appear, of about 500l. per annum. In the following April he was elected a knight of the Garter, and was installed on 30 June. Minor offices in great number were heaped upon him, including that of lord-lieutenant of the county of Lincoln, and, on 1 July 1553, that of governor of the Tower. This would seem to have been with the object of strengthening the cause of Lady Jane Grey, on whom the crown was settled by the will of Edward VI, to which Clinton was a witness. His share in this intrigue may fairly be attributed to his old intimacy with the Duke of Northumberland, for after the duke's death he seems to have had no difficulty in making his peace with Queen Mary, and in the following year took an active part in the suppression of Wyatt's rebellion, which was in the nominal interest of Lady Jane Grey. In October 1554 he was sent, in company with Garter king-at-arms, to invest the Duke of Savoy with the order of the Garter. In 1557 he was associated with the Earl of Pembroke in the command of the English contingent sent to the support of the Spaniards at St. Quentin, and though it did not arrive till after the battle had been won (10 Aug.), some of the glory of that brilliant victory fell on Clinton, in England at least (cf. Macaulay, Hist. of England, cabinet ed. ii. 299). On Mary's accession he had been deprived of his office of lord high admiral, but was again appointed to it on 18 Feb. 1557-8, witn a special commission (12 April) as commander-in-chief of the fleet and forces to be employed against France and Scotland. It was a time of great difficulty and danger; Calais had fallen (19 Jan.), and the grief of the people was only equalled by their dread sense of coming evil. Clinton's return to office seems to have put new life into the conduct of affairs. By May he had mustered a force of some two hundred and fifty vessels of all sizes, detached squadrons of which scoured the Channel, while the main fleet, combined with a Flemish squadron, attempted an attack on Brest. Brest they found too strong, but landing near Conquêt, they ravaged the country for several miles, till a party of some five hundred Flemings, straggling too far inland, were cut off and taken prisoners, and eventually the fleet was forced by sickness and the late season to return to Spithead. Nothing at all commensurate with the cost and magnitude of the expedition was achieved, though, as a formidable diversion, and by drawing the French troops away from Flanders, something might have been done on the north. But the English counsels were feeble; Mary was dying, and Philip had no wish to win success for the English without a more distinct idea of what his future relations with them were likely to be. The war thus languished, and an armistice was concluded, which in the following March, four months after Elizabeth's accession, was converted into a treaty of peace, in which the loss of Calais was practically accepted by the English.
The change of queen and religion made no change in Clinton's position. He continued lord high admiral under Elizabeth as under Mary, and directed, though he had no immediate share in, the naval operations in Scotland in 1560, and at Havre in 1562-3. He was in attendance on the queen on her visit to Cambridge in 1564, when the degree of M.A. was conferred on him as well as on some others of the royal train. In 1569 he, together with the Earl of Warwick, commanded the army which quelled the formidable rising of the north, and drove its leaders, the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, over the border into Scotland; and in 1570, when Elizabeth was publicly excommunicated by the pope (15 May), and it seemed not improbable that France, if not Spain, might make some attempt to give effect to the sentence, Clinton in person took command of the fleet, with special orders to guard the North Sea, and 'to sink at once, and without question, any French vessels he might find carrying troops to Scotland.' His services during this critical period were recognised by his being advanced on 4 May 1572 to the dignity of Earl of Lincoln. A few weeks later he was sent to France on a special mission to receive the ratification of tie treaty, and, though perhaps not officially, to be present at the marriage of the king's sister Marguerite with the king of Navarre, which was celebrated on 8-18 Aug., only six days before St. Bartholomew; and yet, as he took his departure, he carried away the expression of the king's hope 'that his sister's would not be the only marriage on which those who wished well to Europe would have to congratulate themselves.' This appears to have been Clinton's last public service, though he continued at court and on the queen's council till his death on 16 Jan. 1584-5. He was buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor, where his grave is marked by a highly ornate monument in alabaster and porphyry, erected to his memory by his widow, Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Kildare, and widow of Sir Anthony Browne, who has been identified with the lady celebrated by the Earl of Surrey as the fair Geraldine [see Fitzgerald, Elisabeth].
By his first wife Clinton had three daughters. About 1541 he contracted a second marriage with Ursula, daughter of William, lord Stourton, who died in 1551, leaving a family of two daughters and three sons, the eldest of whom, Henry, was made a knight of the Bath at the coronation of Queen Mary. About 1553 he married Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, by whom he had no children. In after years there seems to have been a bitter quarrel between her and the children by the second marriage. Clinton's will, dated 11 July 1584, contains some curious clauses intended to guard her from any attempt on the part of his son Henry to dispute the will, or to molest her in the possession of her estates, and on 18 Jan., only three days before the earl's death, Henry wrote to Lord Burghley soliciting bis favourable influence; his father, he said, was in the extremity of sickness, and his mother-in-law was scheming to deprive him of his inheritance, and had already, by her evil speeches at court, incensed the queen against him. On 16 Jan. he wrote again, announcing the death of his father, and complaining bitterly of the hard dealing of his mother-in-law, who, when he called to see bis dying father, refused him admittance.
Of Clinton's ability as a councillor we have no direct evidence, beyond the fact that be continued to the last the trusted friend of Burghley. In his military capacity he did well whatever he had to do, though it was but little, and though any share he may have had in the organisation of the young navy was probably vicariously performed, he must still have exercised some degree of supervision. That he must have been a man of remarkable tact is abundantly proved by his having maintained himself in a foremost position in the state under the very different circumstances of the four reigns of Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, and by has having been the confidential friend of such very different men as Somerset, Northumberland, and Burghley. His portrait as a young man, by Holbein, in the royal collection, was engraved by Bartolossi for 'Imitations of Original Drawings by Holbein,' published by John Chamberlaine in 1793.[Collins's Peerage of England (ed. 1768), iii. 59-80; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 497-500 ; Cal. State Papers (Dom.), 1547-85 ; Froude'a Hist. of England, passim.]