Richard "de Tonbridge" "de Clare" Fitzgilbert Lord de Bienfaite
- Born: Abt 1024, Bienfaite, Normandy, France
- Christened: Brionne, Normandy, France
- Marriage: Rohese Giffard about 1054 in England
- Died: Abt 1090, St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, England about age 66
- Buried: Priory, St. Neot's, Huntingdonshire, England
The Clares came to England with the Conqueror. Like many other great families which settled in England after the Conquest, they were related to the dukes of Normandy and had established themselves as important members of the Norman feudal aristocracy in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. The origin of the family can be traced to Godfrey, eldest of the illegitimate children of Duke Richard I (the Fearless), the Conqueror's great-grandfather. While the Duke granted Godfrey Brionne, he did not make him a count. Godfrey's comital title derives from the grant of the county of Eu made to him after 996 by his half-brother, Duke Richard II. After Godfrey's death, Eu was given to William, another of Duke Richard I's bastard sons, and Gilbert, Godfrey's son, was left with only the lordship of Brionne. However, under Duke Robert I, father of William the Conqueror, Gilbert assumed the title of count of Brionne while not relinquishing his claim to Eu. When Count William of Eu died shortly before 1040, Gilbert assumed the land and title, but he was assassinated in 1040 and his young sons, Richard and Baldwin, were forced to flee Normandy, finding safety at the court of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders. When William the Conqueror married Count Baldwin's daughter, he restored Gilbert's sons to Normandy, although he did not invest them with either Brionne or Eu or a comital title. William granted the lordships of Bienfaite and Orbec to Richard fitz Gilbert, and Le Sap and Meules to Baldwin. While Gilbert's descendants later pressed a claim for Brionne, it was never restored.
Richard and Baldwin fitz Gilbert took part in the Norman conquest of England, and both assumed important positions in the Conqueror's reign. Baldwin was made guardian of Exeter in 1068, and appears in the Domesday Book as sheriff of Devon, lord of Okehampton and numerous other estates in Devon, Dorset, and Somerset. His sons William and Richard were also sheriffs of Devon and participated in the abortive Norman penetration of Carmarthen in the early twelfth century.
However, the lasting position of the family in England must be credited to Baldwin's brother, Richard fitz Gilbert I. He was regent of England jointly with William de Warenne during the Conqueror's absence in 1075, and he served in various other important capacities for the King. King William rewarded his cousin well, granting him one of the largest fiefs in the territorial settlement. The lordship centered on Clare (obviously the origin of the Clare family name), Suffolk, which had been an important stronghold in Anglo-Saxon times. The bulk of Richard fitz Gilbert's estates lay in Suffolk, Essex, Surrey, and Kent, but comprised holdings in various other counties in the southern and eastern parts of the kingdom as well. In addition, King William arranged for Richard's marriage to Rohese, sister of Walter Giffard, later Earl of Buckingham, and her dowry, consisting of lands in Huntingdon and Hertford, became absorbed in the family inheritance.
After Richard's death, his extensive properties in Normandy and England were divided between his two eldest sons. The Norman fiefs of Bienfaite and Orbec passed to Roger, while Gilbert, inherited the English honors of Clare and Tonbridge.
While Gilbert fitz Richard I found himself at odds with the Conqueror's successor, William Rufus, he and other members of the family enjoyed great favor with Rufus' successor King Henry I. Some have suggested that Henry's largesse was due to the fact that Walter Tirel, husband of Richard's daughter Adelize, shot the arrow which slew Rufus. Proof of this is lacking, but with certainty the wealth and position of the Clare family increased rapidly during Henry's reign. One of Rohese Giffards brothers (Walter) was made Earl of Buckingham and another Bishop of Winchester. Gilbert fitz Richard's brothers were also rewarded: Richard, a monk at Bec, was made abbot of Ely in 1100; Robert was granted the forfeited manors of Ralph Baynard in East Anglia; Walter, who founded Tintern Abbey in 1131, was given the great lordship of Netherwent with the castle of Striguil in the southern march, territories previously held by Roger, son of William fitz Osborn, Earl of Hereford, who had forfeited them in 1075. In 1110 Gilbert was granted the lordship of Ceredigion (Cardigan) in southwestern Wales, and immediately embarked upon an intensive campaign to subjagate the area.
After Gilbert fitz Richard I died in 1117, his children continued to profit from royal generosity and favorable connections. His daughters were all married to important barons; William de Montfichet, Lord of Stansted in Essex, the marcher Lord Baderon de Monmouth, and Aubrey de Vere, Lord of Hedingham in Essex and father of the first Vere Earl of Oxford. Of the five sons, little is known of two: Hervey, whom King Stephen sent on an expedition to Cardigan abt 1140, and Walter, who participated in the Second Crusade of 1147. Baldwin established himself as an important member of the lesser baronage by obtaining the Lincolnshire barony of Bourne through marriage. Richard fitz Gilbert II, the eldest and heir, was allowed to marry Adeliz, sister of Ranulf des Gernons, Earl of Chester, thus acquiring lands in Lincoln and Northampton as her marriage portion. He tried to consolidate the gains made by his father in Cardigan, but was killed in an ambush in 1136 and the lordship was soon recovered by the Welsh.
Of Gilbert fitz Richard I' sons, Gilbert was the only one to achieve any great prominence, being the founder of the great cadet branch of the family and the father of one of the most famous men in English history. Gilbert fitz Gilbert de Clare was high in the favor of Henry I, perhaps because his wife Isabell, daughter of Robert de Beaumont, Count of Meulan and Earl of Leicester, was one of Henry's favourite mistresses. When Gilbert's uncle Roger died without heirs, Henry granted Gilbert the lordships of Bienfaite and Orbec in Normandy. When another uncle, Walter, Lord of Netherwent in South Wales, died without issue in 1138, King Richard? gave Gilbert this lordship in addition to the lordship of Pembroke, which had been forfeited by Arnulf of Montgomery in 1102. Gilbert was also created Earl of Pembroke in 1138. At his death in 1148, he was succeeded by his son Richard fitz Gilbert, aka "Strongbow" who led the Norman invasion of Ireland and obtained the great lordship of Leinster in 1171.
Thus, in just two generations, the cadet branch of the Clares became one of the most important families in England. Strongbow was Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Netherwent, and Lord of Leinster being the most powerful of the marcher and Anglo-Irish magnates under King Henry II. Strongbow d. in 1176 and son Gilbert d. abt. 1185, ending the male line. In 1189, the inheritance passed to Strongbow's daugther Isabel and her husband, William Marshal.
Meanwhile, the senior side prospered. After Richard fitz Gilbert II died in 1136, Clare, Tonbridge, and other estates passed to the eldest son Gilbert fitz Richard II, who was created Earl of Hertford by King Stephen. Gilbert died probably unmarried in 1152, when his younger brother Roger inherited the estates and comital title. Roger resumed the the campaign against the Welsh in Cardigan where, after 8 years, he was defeated in 1165. However, Roger did add some lands and nine knights' fees through his marriage to Maud, daughter and heir of the Norfolk baron James de St. Hillary. Roger died in 1173 and his widow, Maud, conveyed the remainder of the inheritance to her next husband, William de Aubigny, Earl of Arundel. The Clare estates along with the earldom passed to Roger's son, Richard, who for the next 4 decades until he died in 1217, was the head of the great house of CLARE, adding immensely to the wealth, prestige, and landed endowment of his line.
Roger's son Richard, hereinafter Richard de CLARE acquired half of the former honor of Giffard in 1189 when King Richard I, in need of money for the Third Crusade, agreed to divide the Giffard estates between Richard de CLARE and his cousin Isabel, Strongbow's daughter based on their claims of descendancy to Rohese Giffard. Richard de CLARE obtained Long Crendon in Buckingham, the caput of the Giffard honor in England, associated manors in Buckingham, Cambridge, and Bedfordshire, and 43 knights' fees, in addition to some former Giffard lands in Normandy. When Richard de CLARE's mother Maud died in 1195, he obtained the honor of St. Hilary. Maud's 2nd husband, William de Aubigny, Earl of Arundel, who had held St. Hilary jure uxoris, d. in 1193, and despite the fact he had a son and heir, the honor reverted to Maud and after her death escheated to the crown. Richard de CLARE offered 360 and acquired it. The honor later became absorbed into the honor of CLARE and lost its separate identity.
Richard de CLARE's most important act, however, was his marriage to Amicia, 2nd daughter and eventual sole heir to William Earl of Gloucester. The Gloucester inheritance included the earldom and honor of Gloucester with over 260 knights' fees in England, along with the important marcher lordships of Glamorgan and Gwynllwg. It was not easy though!! William died 1183, leaving 3 daughters. The eldest, Mabel, married Amaury de Montfort, Count of Evreux, while the second, Amicia married Richard de CLARE. King Henry II meanwhile arranged the marriage of the youngest Isabel, to his son John, Count of Mortain, in 1189. When John became King in 1199, he divorced Isabel to marry Isabelle of Angoulªme, but, he kept the 1st Isabel in his custody. Then in 1200, John created Mabel's son Amaury Earl of Gloucester. In addition, Richard de CLARE and his son Gilbert were given a few estates and 10 fees of the honor of Gloucester of Kent; otherwise, John kept the bulk of the honor, with the great lordships of Glamorgan and Gwynllwg. Mabel's son Amaury died without issue in 1213. Shortly thereafter, John gave the 1st Isabel in marriage to Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, who was also created Earl of Gloucester. When Geoffrey died, the inheritance was assigned to Hubert de Burgh, the justiciar. Hubert married Countess Isabel shortly before her death in Oct. 1217, however, he did not retain the estates, since they passed to Amicia, now recognized as Countess of Gloucesthire, and her husband Richard de CLARE, despite the fact Richard and Amicia had been separated since 1200.
Richard outlived Isabel by several weeks and by 28 Nov 1217, he was dead, leaving Gilbert, aged 38, as the sole heir to the Clare and Gloucester estates and title. Gilbert de CLARE assumed the title of Earl of Gloucester and Hertford and was charged £350 relief for the honors of Clare, Gloucester, St. Hilary and his half of the old Giffard barony. He controlled some 456 knights fees, far more than any other, and it did not include some 50 fees in Glamorgan and Gwynllwg.
By a remarkable series of fortuitous marriages and quick deaths, the CLARES were left in 1217 in possession of an inheritance which in terms of social prestige, potential revenues, knights' fees, and a lasting position of great importance among the marcher lords of Wales. They were probably the most successful family in developing their lands and power during the 12th century and in many ways the most powerful noble family in 13th century England. By 1317, however, the male line of Clares became extinct and the inheritance was partitioned. Between 1217 and 1317 there were four Clare generations.
Gilbert de CLARE, born abt. 1180 had a brother Richard/Roger and a sister Matilda. Richard accompanied Henry III's brother, Richard of Cornwall, to Gascony in 1225-26 and was never heard from again. Matilda was married to William de Braose (died 1210 when he and his mother were starved to death by King John), eldest son of the great marcher baron William de Braose (died 1211), Lord of Brecknock, Abergavenny, Builth, Radnor, and Gower, who was exiled by King John. Matilda returned to her father and later (1219) sued Reginald de Braose, second son of William, for the family lands, succeeding only in recovering Gower and the Sussex baronry of Bramber.
Gilbert de CLARE, Earl of Gloucester and Hertford from 1217 to 1230, married Oct. 1214 his cousin Isabel, daughter and eventual co-heiress of William Marshal (died 1219), earl of Pembroke. Gilbert and Isabel had three sons and two daughters, with the eldest son and heir Richard, born 4 Aug 1222, thus only 8, when his father died. In 1243, Richard de CLARE came of age and assumed the estates and titles of his father until he d. 15 July 1262. His brother William, b. 1228 held lands of Earl Richard in Hampshire and Norfolk for the service of a knight's fee. In June 1258, during a baronial reform program, William was granted custody of Winchester castle. A month later he died, reportedly by poison administered by the Earl Richard's seneschal (an official in a medieval noble household in charge of domestic arrangements and the administration of servants; a steward or major- domo. Middle English, from Old French, of Germanic origin), Walter de Scoteny, in supposed collaboration with Henry III's Poitevin half-brothers, who strongly opposed the baronial program and Earl Richard's participation in it. (Why didn't they poison Richard??)
Earl Gilbert's daughters were very well placed. Amicia, born 1220, was betrothed (promised to be given in marriage) in 1226 to Baldwin de Reviers, grandson and heir to William de Reviers, Earl of Devon (died 1217). Baldwin was only a year or two older than Amicia and Earl Gilbert offered 2,000 marks to the King for the marriage and custody of some Reviers estates during Baldwin's minority. The marriage must have been consummated around 1235, since Baldwin's son and heir (Baldwin) was born the next year. After Baldwin died in 1245, Amicia (died 1283) controlled the lands of her son (died 1262) and was given permission to marry a minor English baron, Robert de Guines/Gynes, uncle of Arnold III, Count of Guines.
Earl Gilbert's other daughter, Isabel born 1226, married 1240 the Scots baron Robert Bruce, lord of Annandale (d 1295), and by him was the grandmother of the hero of Bannockburn. Her marriage was probably arranged by her mother Isabel and uncle, Gilbert Marshal who gave her the Sussex manor of Ripe as a marriage portion.
Isabel Marshal outlived Earl Gilbert de CLARE by ten years, during which time she was busy. In 1231 she married Richard of Cornwall, to the displeasure of Richard's brother King Henry III, who was trying to arrange another match for Richard. She died 1240, after 4 children by Richard, only one of which lived past infancy. According to the Tewkesbury chronicle, she wished to be buried next to her 1st husband, but Richard of Cornwall had her buried at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire, although as a pious gesture he allowed her heart to be sent to Tewkesbury.
Richard married Rohese Giffard, daughter of Walter Giffard Lord Longueville and Agnes Ermentrude Fleitel, about 1054 in England. (Rohese Giffard was born in 1034 in Longueville, Normandy, France and died after 1133.)