The Baron de Clifford is a barony by writ in the Peerage of England dating back to the year 1299. Historically speaking this is really the title of Baron Clifford as it was not until the late eighteenth century that its holders began styling themselves as the 'Lord de Clifford', partly no doubt in order to make their title sound more ancient, and partly to distinguish themselves from the holders of the other Clifford barony (for which see naturally Baron Clifford).

1. The Cliffords of Clifford

The Cliffords are descended from a Norman adventurer named Richard Fitz Pons who appears as one of the supporters of Bernard of Neufmarche during his incursions into the Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog in the years 1088 to 1093 and later took possession of Cantref Bychan in the Tywi Valley. Richard married Maud, the daughter of Walter of Gloucester, and their younger son Walter Fitz Richard became steward of Clifford Castle near Hay-on-Wye in Herefordshire. Walter subsequently took advantage of the dislocation caused by the civil war between Stephen and the Empress Matilda to take possession of Clifford Castle and adopt the surname of de Clifford, whilst the family subsequently remained active in south Wales and the border region throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

It was one of Walter's descendants named Robert de Clifford who later received a writ of summons to Parliament dated 29th December 1299 by which means, according to later doctrine, he became the Lord or Baron Clifford. Through his mother Isabella de Vieuxpont he inherited half the lordship of Westmorland including Brougham Castle together with the office of Hereditary Sherriff of Westmorland. It was this inheritance that shifted the focus of the Clifford family from the Welsh Marches to the north-west of England and thereafter they became one of the most important of the northern baronial dynasties. The 1st Baron was one of the most active military commanders of his age, and featured prominently in both Edward I and Edward II's Scottish campaigns. He became Marshal of England in 1307, and later fought at the battle of Bannockburn on the 25th June 1314, where he led the charge against the Scottish lines and met his end on the field of battle.

Whilst the 1st Baron had sympathised with the opposition to Edward II in the early years of his reign his son Roger, 2nd Baron, took matters one step further and wholeheartedly joined the Contrariants and was taken prisoner at the battle of Boroughbridge on the 16th March 1322, being subsequently executed at York on the 23rd March 1322. This naturally led to something of a hiatus in the succession and it wasn't until 1327 that his younger brother and heir Robert was confirmed in possession of the Clifford estates. The 3rd Baron later bore the fruits of a agreement made by his father back in 1308 when he inherited the estates of his great-aunt Idione de Vieuxpont after the death of her husband in 1335 and thereby came into possession of the other half the lordship of Westmorland, before his own death on the 20th May 1344 at the age of thirty-eight.

His son the 4th Baron was only a teenager when he succeeded and was still not yet of age when he died without issue in 1345. He was succeeded by his brother Roger, the 5th Baron, who earned a considerable reputation fighting in both Scotland and France, became both the Sheriff of Cumberland and the Governor of Carlisle Castle, and also served as warden of the East and West Marches. He died on the 13th July 1389, and was followed by his eldest son Thomas, the 6th Baron, who had earlier been taken over from his father as the Governor of Carlisle Castle in 1384. In the year 1391 he went off to join the crusade in the Baltic where he fought and killed one of the Douglasses in pursuance of a feud which had been simmering since the days of the 1st Baron. Suitably contrite he then set off for Jerusalem on pilgrimage and died somewhere in the Mediterranean at some indeterminate date towards the end of 1391. His only son and successor John, now the 7th Baron, was only two at the time, and after a lengthy minority he married Elizabeth Percy, the daughter of a Henry Percy, better known as 'Harry Hotspur', before he was killed fighting in France on the 13th March 1422, leaving his seven year old son Thomas to inherit.

Further misfortune was then to befall the family as the Wars of the Roses were to take their toll on the Cliffords. Thomas, 8th Baron was killed fighting on the Lancastrian side at the battle of St Albans on the 22nd May 1445, and a similar fate befell his heir John, 9th Baron who was killed by a stray arrow on the 28th March 1461 on the eve of the battle of Towton. That battle was of course a notable Yorkist victory which led to the accession of Edward IV as king and as a result the 9th Baron was posthumously attainted on the 4th November 1461 with his title forfeited. His son Henry, 10th Baron subsequently became known as ‘The Shepherd Lord’, thanks to the tradition that he was forced to disguise himself as a shepherd in order to avoid capture. He was however later able to regain the title when his father's attainder was reversed on the 9th November 1485 following Henry VII's victory at the battle of Bosworth.

Naturally the Cliffords prospered with the ultimate victory of the Lancastrian cause and Henry, 11th Baron found himself promoted in the ranks of the peerage when he was created the Earl of Cumberland on the 18th June 1525. His grandson George 3rd Earl of Cumberland and 13th Baron was a mathematician and navigator who made nine voyages to the West Indies between the years 1589 and 1598 but died without surviving male issue on the 29th October 1605. As far as most people were concerned at the time his titles duly passed into the hands of his younger brother Francis, 4th Earl of Cumberland and then to his son Henry Clifford the 5th and last Earl who died without male issue on the 11th December 1643.

2. The Tuftons and their successors

When the 13th Baron died in 1605 he left an only daughter named Anne, and notwithstanding the fact that her uncle had entered into possession of the family estates and was universally regarded as being the Baron Clifford, on the 3rd November 1606 her mother the Dowager Countess of Cumberland (being Margaret Russell, a daughter of the 2nd Earl of Bedford) entered a claim for the barony on her behalf, which was referred to the Commissioners for the Marshal. Nothing came of this, nor indeed of the claims that Anne Clifford put forward herself in 1628 and again in 1663. In fact between 1605 and 1643 both she and her mother were engaged in an almost constant series of law suits with their cousins the Earls of Cumberland. The dispute was eventually settled when 5th and last Earl of Cumberland died without any male heirs in 1643, and therefore in accordance with the entail Anne now inherited the family estates together with the office of hereditary sheriff of Westmorland.

After spending the next thirty years managing the family estates Anne Clifford died on the 22nd March 1676 leaving, by her first marriage to Richard Sackville, 3rd Earl of Dorset, two daughters named Margaret and Isabella. The eldest daughter Margaret married John Tufton, 2nd Earl of Thanet and was the mother of Nicholas Tufton, 3rd Earl of Thanet; the youngest Isabella married James Compton, 3rd Earl of Northampton and died leaving an only daughter named Alethea who later died without issue on the 14th October 1678. This was eventually to leave Anne Clifford's grandson, Thomas Tufton, 6th Earl of Thanet as the sole representative of his grandmother whose claim to the Clifford barony had earlier been ignored.

By this time attitudes towards the succession in ancient 'baronies by writ' had changed and on the 12th December 1691, the House of Lords resolved that Thomas Tufton "was the right heir to Robert de Clifford" who had been first summoned back in 1299 "and that the said title of Lord de Clifford doth belong to him and his heirs". As a consequence of this decision, Anne Clifford was retrospectively recognised as having inherited the title on her father's death, after which it was deemed to have fallen in to abeyance at her own death in 1676, said abeyance being terminated in 1678 in favour of the 3rd Earl of Thanet, from whom the title passed down the line to the aforementioned Thomas Tufton.

Having successfully established his right to be the 18th Baron Clifford, Thomas Tufton then went and died without issue on the 30th July 1729. The Thanet title went to his nephew and heir male whilst that of Clifford went to the heir general and so fell into abeyance between his five daughters, Katherine, Anne, Isabel, Margaret and Mary. There it remained until the 3rd August 1734, when the abeyance was terminated in favour of the third daughter Margaret, who thus became the 19th Baroness. She married Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester (of the 1744 creation) but died without any surviving issue on the 28th February 1775, when the Barony again fell into abeyance. Shortly after her death, her grand-nephew Edward Southwell (being the grandson of Katherine, eldest daughter of the 6th Earl of Thanet) claimed the title, with the abeyance being terminated in his favour when he was called to Parliament on the 17th April 1776.

The 20th Baron died a year or so later on the 1st November 1777 and was succeeded by his on 21st Baron who, as noted above, was the first to add the particule ‘de’ to the title and style himself as the 'Lord de Clifford'. He later died without issue on the 30th September 1832, when the Barony fell into abeyance between the issue of his deceased sisters.

3. The Russells

The title was again called out of abeyance on the 4th March 1833 in favour of Sophie, the sole heir of George Kein Coussamaker, whose mother Catherine was one of the 21st Baron's sisters. Sophie married a naval commander by the name of John Russell (from the family of the Dukes of Bedford, and thereby a distant relation of the 13th Baron's wife) and after her death on the 3rd January 1874, the title passed to her son, Edward Southwell Russell, formerly the Liberal Member of Parliament for Tavistock between 1847 and 1852.

The 23rd Baron died on the 6th August 1877 and was succeeded by his only son also named Edward Southwell, who was succeeded in turn at his death on the 6th April 1894 by his only son. Jack Southwell Russell, the 25th Baron, married a 'Gibson Girl' from the Vaudeville Theatre named Evelyn Chandler in 1906 and then got himself killed in a motor accident on the 1st September 1909 leaving his two year old son Edward Southwell Russell to inherit the title. The 26th Baron was variously a racing driver, dog-food salesman and a supporter of the British Union of Fascists. He married Evelyn Meyrick, daughter of the nightclub manageress Kate Meyrick, but is best remembered as the last peer to be tried before the House of Lords, when he faced a charge of manslaughter as a result of a collision on the Kingston bypass in 1935. To the surprise of many the 26th Baron was acquitted of the charge, but afterwards had a fairly respectable military career for which he was awarded an OBE.

He died on the 3rd January 1982, when he was succeeded by his son John Edward Southwell Russell, who is the present and 27th Baron de Clifford. Although the 27th Baron is married he has no children, and his heir presumptive is his younger brother William Southwell Russell who has a son and two daughters.


Note that in the interests of historical accuracy the 1st to 20th Barons have been set out below as barons 'Clifford' rather than 'de Clifford'.


THE BARONS DE CLIFFORD

CLIFFORD

Title forfeited in 1461, restored in 1485

The de jure barons

Title later deemed to have been in abeyance between 1676 and 1678

TUFTON

Title formally restored in 1691

Title in abeyance between 1721 and 1734

Title in abeyance between 1775 and 1776

SOUTHWELL

Title in abeyance between 1832 and 1833

COUSSMAKER

RUSSELL


SOURCES

  • The entry for DE CLIFFORD from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition
  • J.E. Powell and K. Wallis, The House of Lords in the Middle Ages, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1968)
  • George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)
  • Stirnet Genealogy at http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/genfam.htm
  • The entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for; Clifford, Robert, first Lord Clifford (1274–1314); Clifford, Roger, fifth Baron Clifford (1333–1389); Clifford, Thomas, sixth Baron Clifford (1362/3–1391); Clifford, Thomas, eighth Baron Clifford (1414–1455); Clifford, John, ninth Baron Clifford (1435–1461), Clifford, Henry, tenth Baron Clifford (1454–1523); Russell, Edward Southwell, twenty-sixth Baron de Clifford (1907–1982)

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