Earl of Clare

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Earl of Clare was a title of British nobility created three times: once each in the peerages of England, Great Britain, and Ireland.

The title derives from Clare, Suffolk, where a prominent Anglo-Norman family was seated since the Norman Conquest, and from which their English surname sprang from possession of the Honour of Clare. The Norman family who took the name 'de Clare' became associated with the peerage as they held, at differing times, three earldoms (Gloucester, Pembroke, and Hertford).

The Honour of Clare[edit]

The death of the young Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) entailed the break-up of the Honour of Clare, as he and his young wife were childless and the lands were distributed among three co-heiresses.[1] His death marked the end of the great de Clare family. The family lands, were worth as much as £6000, (equivalent to £4,080,000 in 2015),[2] second only to those of the Earl of Lancaster among the nobility of the realm.[3]

The lands went into royal wardship while the matter of inheritance was settled.[4] By the entail of 1290, the lands could only be inherited by direct descendants of the late earl's father. The late earl's sisters, Eleanor, Margaret (now widowed after the death of Piers Gaveston) and Elizabeth were by 1317 all married to favourites of Edward II: Hugh Despenser the Younger, Hugh de Audley and Roger d'Amory respectively.[5] The three were granted equal parts of the English possessions, but Despenser received the entire lordship of Glamorgan in Wales, politically the most important of the de Clare lands.[6]

Possible medieval earls[edit]

The "Earl of Clare" was probably not a medieval title. Some contemporary sources called them "Earls of Clare", but many modern historians treat this as if it were a "styled" (self-assumed) title. There was no standardised method of reference to earls in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the Clares were one of a handful referred to as earls in this period without a county mentioned. For example, Gerald of Wales recounts an incident relating to the Earl of Clare, possibly referring to William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester.[7] Such references led some older historians to assume the Earls of Gloucester and Hertford also carried the title Earls of Clare. The title, for instance, is given in the original Dictionary of National Biography.[8] The confusion probably stems from misinterpretation of references, such as that of "Earl Gilbert de Clare", in which Clare was taken as a title rather than a surname. The modern view is there was no such title.[9] Accordingly, the accepted modern view is that the first creation of the title Earl of Clare dates to 1624.[10][11]

Earl of Clare, first creation (1624)[edit]

It was first created in the Peerage of England in 1624 for John Holles, 1st Baron Haughton. The title became extinct upon the death of his great-grandson, the fourth earl, in 1711.

Earls of Clare, second creation (1714)[edit]

The next creation of the Earl of Clare was in 1714 in the Peerage of Great Britain for Thomas Pelham-Holles, nephew of the last earl of the first creation. At his death the title again became extinct.

Earls of Clare, third creation (1795)[edit]

The title was again created, in the Peerage of Ireland, in 1795 for John FitzGibbon, 1st Viscount FitzGibbon, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He had already been created Baron FitzGibbon, of Lower Connello in the County of Limerick, in 1789, and Viscount FitzGibbon, of Limerick in the County of Limerick, in 1793. These titles were also in the Peerage of Ireland. In 1799 he was made Baron FitzGibbon, of Sidbury in the County of Devon, in the Peerage of Great Britain. He was succeeded by his eldest son, the second Earl. He served as Governor of Bombay from 1830 to 1834. He died childless and was succeeded by his younger brother, the third Earl. He represented County Limerick in the House of Commons and served as Lord Lieutenant of County Limerick. Lord Clare's only son, John Charles Henry FitzGibbon, styled Viscount FitzGibbon, was killed in action during the Battle of Balaclava where he charged with the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars. On Lord Clare's death in 1864 the peerages became extinct.[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ May McKisack, The Fourteenth Century (Oxford History of England) 1959:40.
  2. ^ UK Consumer Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)", MeasuringWorth.com.
  3. ^ J.R. Maddicot, (1970). Thomas of Lancaster, 1307–1322. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1970:22f).
  4. ^ Michael Brown, Bannockburn: The Scottish War and the British Isles, 1307–1323. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press (2008:145f).
  5. ^ Maddicott 1970:193.
  6. ^ Brown 2008:159f.
  7. ^ Gerald of Wales, The Journey through Wales, trans. Lewis Thorpe (Penguin Classics, 1978), p. 142.
  8. ^  Stephen, Leslie, ed. (1887). "Clare, Richard de (1222-1262)". Dictionary of National Biography. 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 393. 
  9. ^ For example, Michael Altschul, ‘Clare, Richard de, sixth earl of Gloucester and fifth earl of Hertford (1222–1262)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [1], accessed 23 Oct 2009.
  10. ^ Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, A Complete Guide to Heraldry, Reissued by READ Books, 2008 ISBN 978-1-4437-5719-5
  11. ^ Charles Henry Browning, The Magna Carta Barons and Their American Descendants, Philadelphia, 1898
  12. ^ ThePeerage.com
  13. ^ Dutton, Roy Forgotten Heroes: The Charge of the Light Brigade p 98