Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clifford, Conyers

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507379Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11 — Clifford, Conyers1887Thompson Cooper

CLIFFORD, Sir CONYERS (d. 1599), military commander, was the eldest son of George Clifford, esq., of Bobbing Court in Kent, by his wife Ursula, daughter of Roger Finch. He served in the army sent under the Earl of Essex to the siege of Rouen in 1591, being then a captain (Sir R. Coningsby, Journal of the Siege of Rouen, ed. Nichols, 38, 39, 64). He and John Wotton especially distinguished themselves in rescuing from the enemy the dead body of the earl's brother, Walter Devereux, who had fallen into an ambuscade during a demonstration before Rouen (W. B. Devereux, Lives of the Devereux, Earls of Essex, i. 231). In the same year Clifford was knighted. He represented the borough of Pembroke in the parliament which met 19 Feb. 1592-3. At the bachelors' commencement in 1594-5 the university of Cambridge conferred upon him the degree of M.A. (Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, ii. 529).

On the news being received of the siege of Calais by the Spaniards, the Earl of Essex pushed to Dover, whence he wrote to Sir Anthony Shirley (3 April 1596) that he had sent Clifford to see whether he could ascertain the state of the town. Later in the same year Clifford accompanied the famous expedition against Cadiz, in the capacity of serjeant-major of the troops. He was one of the officers who formed the council. The declared value of his share of the plunder was 3,256l.

By letters patent dated 4 Sept. 1597 he was appointed president of the province of Connaught in Ireland, with a fee of 100l., and the command and conduct of forty horsemen and a band of footmen. For some months previously he had acted as chief commissioner of that province, and constable of the castle of Athlone. The Earl of Essex, having received a supply of a thousand men from England, prepared to march northward, and, in order to divide the forces of Tyrone, he directed Clifford to penetrate from Connaught into Ulster to create a diversion. Clifford's force consisted of fifteen hundred foot and a hundred horse. On coming to the Curlew mountains, the baggage and ammunition were halted under the protection of the horse, while the infantry attempted the passage. The rebels under O'Rourke attacked them vigorously, but were checked, and the men, having nearly consumed their ammunition, were seized with a panic and took to flight. Clifford and Sir Andrew Ratcliffe with 120 men were slain on the field. This was in 1599, about the month of August.

Clifford married Mary, daughter of Francis Southwell, esq., of Wymondham Hall, Norfolk, and widow successively of Thomas Sydney, esq., and Nicholas Gorge, esq. By her he had issue two sons, Henry and Conyers, and a daughter, Frances, who died young. His wife survived him, and married a fourth husband, Sir Anthony St. Leger, knight. She died on 19 Dec. 1603, aged thirty-seven.

Clifford is author of 'A brief Declaration relating to the Province of Connaught, how it stood in 1597.' Lambeth MS. 632, f. 22.

[Birch's Elizabeth, i. 457, 468, ii. 16, 19, 21, 53, 426; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. ii. 278, 551; Cox's Hibernia Anglicana, i. 412, 421; The Devereux, Earls of Essex, i. 231, 335, 358, 360, 361, 365, 377, ii. 53, 56, 57; Lascelles's Liber Munerum Publicorum Hiberniæ, pt. ii. 189; Mason's Hist. of St. Patrick's, Dublin, Append. p. lii; Morgan's Sphere of Gentry, lib. iii. 88; Moryson's Itinerary, pt. ii. 17, 21, 22, 37; Willis's Not. Parl. iii. (2) 136; Winwood's Memorials, i. 91.]

T. C.