John Clifford, 9th Baron de Clifford

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For other people named John Clifford, see John Clifford (disambiguation).
The Murder of Rutland by Lord Clifford by Charles Robert Leslie (1794-1859)
Arms of Clifford: Chequy or and azure, a fess gules

John Clifford, 9th Baron de Clifford, also 9th feudal baron of Skipton[citation needed] (8 April 1435 – 28 March 1461), was a Lancastrian military leader during the Wars of the Roses. He was one of the strongest supporters of Queen Margaret of Anjou, consort of King Henry VI. Clifford is notorious for the slaying of Edmund, Earl of Rutland, younger brother of the future King Edward IV, following the Battle of Wakefield in 1460.


Skipton Castle, seat of the Clifford family

John Clifford was born at Conisborough Castle on 8 April 1435,[1] the son of Thomas Clifford, 8th Baron Clifford (d.1455) by his wife Joan Dacre, the daughter of Thomas de Dacre, 6th Baron Dacre of Gilsland and Philippa de Neville, daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland.


He had three younger brothers and five sisters:[2]


Clifford was a beneficiary under the will, dated 15 August 1446, of his godmother and great-aunt, Maud Clifford, the widow of Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, executed on 5 August 1415 for his part in the Southampton Plot.[6] At the age of twenty, following his father's death at the First Battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455, Clifford inherited the barony of Clifford, the family seat at Skipton Castle and the hereditary office of High Sheriff of Westmorland. He proved his age in order to obtain livery of his lands on 16 June 1456, and in February 1458 'with a grete power' demanded compensation for his father's death.[1] He was summoned to Parliament on 30 July 1460.[7]

Perhaps motivated by a desire to avenge his father, Clifford was in the forefront of the Lancastrian cause. He led the Lancastrian right wing[citation needed] at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, and was knighted on 31 December.[7] The battle was a surprise attack[citation needed] on the Yorkist stronghold of Sandal Castle, and was a complete Lancastrian victory. The Yorkists were routed, and their leader, Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, slain. York's son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and York's brother-in-law, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, were captured and killed.

Clifford's name is notorious for the slaying of Edmund, Earl of Rutland following the battle, an act which contemporary chroniclers attribute to Clifford personally.[citation needed] Captured sons of noblemen were usually ransomed. Rutland was only 17, was the second son rather than his father's heir, was militarily inexperienced,[8] and was wounded and defenceless when he was killed.[citation needed] His death was thus viewed as murder by the Yorkists, and looked upon with disfavour by his fellow Lancastrian leaders, although Clifford defended the killing as a just execution[citation needed] no different from the beheading of Rutland's uncle, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, following the battle.[9] The slaying of Rutland infuriated his elder brother, the future King Edward IV, who was in Wales at the time of the battle, and vowed vengeance.[citation needed] It may have been King Edward IV who gave Clifford his nickname, 'the Butcher'.[10]

Marriage and progeny[edit]

Clifford married Margaret Bromflete (1443 – 12 April 1493), the daughter and heiress of Henry Bromflete, Lord Vescy by his second wife Eleanor Fitz Hugh. She survived her husband and at some time before 14 May 1467 remarried to Sir Lancelot Threlkeld,[11] by whom she had three sons and four daughters.[12] By Margaret Bromflete Clifford had two sons and a daughter:[13]

Death & attainder[edit]

Clifford was killed at Dintingdale on 28 March 1461,[15] struck by an arrow in the throat after having carelessly removed his gorget.[citation needed] He is said to have been buried in a pit, along with others slain there.[16] On 4 November 1461 he was attainted, meaning that his title and estates were forfeited.[16] When Edward IV became King the widowed Lady Clifford, fearing her son, Henry Clifford, 10th Baron Clifford, would be slain in retaliation, is said to have sent him into hiding.[16] The Lancastrian victory at Bosworth on 22 August 1485 ended the Wars of the Roses, and on 9 November 1485 the attainder was reversed, and the family estates restored.[16]

Mention by Shakespeare[edit]

According to Shakespeare's play Henry VI, Part 3, following Hall's Chronicle and Holinshed's Chronicles, John Clifford, after the Battle of Wakefield, slew in cold blood the young Edmund, Earl of Rutland, son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York, cutting off his head, crowning it with a paper crown, and sending it to Henry VI's Queen, Margaret of Anjou, although later authorities state that Rutland was slain during the battle.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Cokayne 1913, p. 293.
  2. ^ Richardson I 2011, pp. 508–9.
  3. ^ Richardson IV 2011, pp. 41–2.
  4. ^ Richardson IV 2011, p. 41-.
  5. ^ a b c d e Richardson I 2011, p. 508.
  6. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 293; Richardson I 2011, p. 508.
  7. ^ a b Cokayne 1913, p. 293; Richardson I 2011, p. 509.
  8. ^ Wakefield is the only battle he is known to have fought in.
  9. ^ Although Salisbury was elderly, he had participated in numerous battles against the Lancastrians.
  10. ^ In much later histories Clifford is also referred to as 'Black-faced Clifford'; see Gee, p. 36.
  11. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 294.
  12. ^ Richardson IV 2011, pp. 98–9
  13. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 294; Richardson I 2011, pp. 508–9; Richardson IV 2011, pp. 97–8.
  14. ^ Richardson I 2011, pp. 52, 509.
  15. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 509.
  16. ^ a b c d Cokayne 1913, p. 294; Richardson I 2011, p. 509.


  • Cokayne, George Edward (1913). The Complete Peerage, edited by Vicary Gibbs. III. London: St. Catherine Press. 
  • Gee, H.L. (1960). Folk Tales of Yorkshire. London: Thomas Nelson. 
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. I (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City.  ISBN 1449966373
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. IV (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City.  ISBN 1460992709

Further reading[edit]

Clifford is depicted in Sharon Kay Penman's historical novel, The Sunne in Splendour.

Peerage of England
Preceded by
Thomas Clifford
Baron de Clifford
Succeeded by
Henry Clifford