Elizabeth de Clare

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Elizabeth de Clare
Lady de Burgh
Elizabeth de Clare.jpg
Spouse(s) John de Burgh
Theobald II de Verdun
Roger D'Amory


William de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster
Isabel de Verdun
Elizabeth D'Amory
Father Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford
Mother Joan of Acre
Born 16 September 1295
Died 4 November 1360 (aged 65)

Elizabeth de Clare (16 September 1295 – 4 November 1360) was the heiress to the lordships of Clare, Suffolk in England and Usk in Wales. She was the youngest of the three daughters of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and Joan of Acre, and sister of Gilbert de Clare, who later succeeded as the 7th Earl. Born in Acre, she is commonly referred to as Elizabeth de Burgh, due to her first marriage to John de Burgh. Her two successive husbands were Theobald II de Verdun (of the Butler family) and Roger D'Amory.

First marriage[edit]

She accompanied her brother Gilbert to Ireland for their double wedding to two siblings: the son and daughter of the Earl of Ulster. Elizabeth married John de Burgh on 30 September 1308. He was the heir to the Earl of Ulster, and Elizabeth could expect to be a countess in due course. She gave birth to their only child, a son, in 1312; he would become William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster. Only a year later, her husband John was unexpectedly killed in a minor skirmish. A widow, Elizabeth remained in Ireland until another family tragedy compelled her immediate return to England.[citation needed]


Her father had been one of England's wealthiest and most powerful nobles, and her mother was a daughter of King Edward I of England. When Elizabeth's only brother Gilbert, 7th Earl of Hertford was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 aged only 23 and leaving no surviving issue, his property was equally divided between his three full sisters, Elizabeth, Eleanor and Margaret. This made Elizabeth one of the greatest heiresses in England. Her maternal uncle, King Edward II, recalled her to England so he could select a husband for her. She left Ireland for good in 1316, leaving behind her young son, William.

Second marriage[edit]

Edward II placed her in Bristol Castle, but his plans to marry her to one of his supporters were dashed in February 1316, when Elizabeth was abducted from Bristol by Theobald II de Verdun, the former Justiciar of Ireland. He and Elizabeth had been engaged before she was called back to England. She was Lady Verdun for only six months since Theobald died on 27 July 1316, at Alton, Staffordshire, from typhoid. He left behind three daughters from a prior marriage and Elizabeth, who was pregnant. She fled to Amesbury Priory, where she stayed under the protection of her aunt Mary de Burgh, who was a nun there, and where Theobald's posthumous daughter, Isabel de Verdun (named for the Queen), was born on 21 March 1317.[1]

Third Marriage[edit]

Just a few weeks later after Isabel's birth, Edward II married Elizabeth to Sir Roger D'Amory, Lord D'Amory, Baron of Amory in Ireland.

D'Amory had been a knight in her brother's service who rose to prominence as a favourite of Edward II. Now married to him, Elizabeth was caught up in the political upheavals of her uncle's reign. She gave birth to another daughter, Elizabeth, in May 1318. Roger was reckless and violent, and made a deadly enemy of his brother-in-law, Hugh the younger Despenser. D'Amory switched sides, joining the Marcher Lords led by Roger Mortimer and Thomas, Earl of Lancaster in the rebellion known as the Despenser War. He died in March 1322, having been captured by the royalist forces at the Battle of Boroughbridge where the rebels were soundly defeated. Elizabeth was taken and imprisoned at Barking Abbey with her children by the victorious faction.

Loss and recovery of property[edit]

At this time she became the victim of an elaborate plot by Hugh Despenser the younger with the help of King Edward II. It provides a good example of the abuse of power which eventually led to their downfall.[2] Despenser had received Gower from the king, who had taken it from its previous holder, William de Braose. Elizabeth was forced to exchange Usk for Gower, which was less valuable. De Braose then undertook legal proceedings against her for possession of Gower, which were successful under pressure from the king. Finally, de Braose gave Gower to the Despensers.[3]

Elizabeth supported her friend Queen Isabella when she invaded England, and she benefited greatly from the reign of her Cousin King Edward III of England. In January 1327, after the fall of the Despensers, the lands they had taken were returned to her.[4]

Later life[edit]

She took a vow of chastity after Roger's death, effectively removing herself from the aristocratic marriage market. She enjoyed a long and fruitful widowhood, becoming patroness of many religious houses. She died on 4 Nov. 1360.[5]


Elizabeth is best remembered for having used much of her fortune to found Clare College, Cambridge.[5] The survival of many of her household records has been a boon to medieval scholars, particularly those focusing on medieval women; a study of Elizabeth by biographer Frances Underhill, titled For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh, is largely based upon these records.

Elizabeth de Clare's eldest daughter, Isabel de Verdun married Henry de Ferrers, 2nd Lord Ferrers of Groby, and her younger daughter, Elizabeth d'Amory, married John Bardolf, 3rd Lord Bardolf of Wormegay, Knight Banneret (1314–1363). Her son William, 3rd Earl of Ulster married Maud of Lancaster, by whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster Who became the future wife of Edward III's second son Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence. William had been murdered in Ireland in 1333, 27 years before her own death on 4 November 1360.[citation needed]



  1. ^ The Complete Peerage, vol XII, p. 252.
  2. ^ Fryde 106
  3. ^ Fryde 110-112, Holmes
  4. ^ Fryde 117
  5. ^ a b  Shuckburgh, Evelyn Shirley (1887). "Clare, Elizabeth de". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 


  • Fryde, Natalie (1979). The tyranny and fall of Edward II, 1321-1326. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-54806-3. 
  • Holmes, G. A. (1955). "A Protest against the Despensers, 1326". Speculum (Speculum, Vol. 30, No. 2) 30 (2): 207–212. doi:10.2307/2848467. JSTOR 2848467. 
  • Underhill, Frances Ann (1999). For Her Good Estate: The Life of Elizabeth de Burgh. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-21355-7.