George CLIFFORD

(3rd E. Cumberland)

Born: 8 Aug 1558, Brougham Castle, Westmorland

Died: 30 Oct 1605, The Savoy, Middlesex, England

Buried: Skipton

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: Henry CLIFFORD (2 E. Cumberland)

Mother: Anne DACRE (C. Cumberland)

Married: Margaret RUSSELL (C. Cumberland) 24 Jun 1577, St. Mary Overies, Southwark

Children:

1. Francis CLIFFORD (b. 1584 - d. 1589)

2. Robert CLIFFORD (b. 1585 - d. 1591)

3. Anne CLIFFORD (14 B. Clifford)


Clifford,George(3E.Cumberland)01.jpg (142371 bytes)

George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
by George Perfect Harding, after Nicholas Hilliard
watercolour, (circa 1590)


The most flamboyant member of the Clifford family, an entravagant courtier and naval adventurer. He was an accomplished jouster - the Queen's Champion. He was a distinguished Admiral who played an important part in the destruction of the Spanish Armada and was first Governor of the East India Company.

George Clifford, fourteenth Baron Clifford of Westmoreland, and sheriff of that county by inheritance, and in the same descent also thirteenth lord of the honour of Skipton in Craven, Yorkshire, and also Lord Vipont and Baron Vesey, was born in his father's feudal castle of Brougham, near Penrith on the 8 Aug 1558. From his father, Henry Clifford, 2 Earl of Cumberland, be inherited a name which had figured with distinction in the wars between the rival houses of York and Lancaster, on account of the fidelity of its holders to the cause of the Red Rose; and, almost in the lifetime of the subject of this paper, Shakespeare added to it a still wider renown than genealogists and chroniclers could confer upon it. To this family also belonged, the Fair Rosamond, 'whose name is so mixed up with the royal palace at Woodstock and the abbey of Oseney near Oxford'; to say nothing of the Shepherd Lord, 'whose story lives enshrined in undying verse, and about whom I have said my say'.

Even when he was a boy, George Clifford seems to have been the object of the ambitious hopes and schemes of his father, who treated for his future marriage with a daughter of Francis, second Earl of Bedford. But the father's early death broke off the negotiation for a time. He was sent as a youth to Battle Abbey, in order to be trained in the ways and manners of a I scholar and a gentleman; and, doubtless with the same view, he was sent both to Oxford and Cambridge to complete his education. This, however, was cut short by the Earl of Bedford, who, obtaining a grant of him in wardship from the Queen, married him to his own daughter, to whom his father had betrothed him in infancy. The marriage ceremony was performed 24 Jun 1577, at the church of St. Mary Overy, in Southwark, the fair bride being two years older than her youthful spouse.

As a young man he appears to have spent his time in jousts and tournaments, and to have so excelled in tilting that lie was frequently employed by the Virgin Queen as her champion. In this way he spent a good deal of his large patrimony; and it is probable that the Queen added little or nothing to it when she made him a Knight of the Garter, and appointed him one of the peers who sat in judgment on the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots. In the course of his education it would seem that he showed a taste for mathematical studies, which are said not only to have inclined him to, but to have fitted him for, maritime employment.

Clifford,George(3E.Cumberland)02.jpg (116087 bytes)

His first adventure afloat was destined for the South Seas; but he did not embark on this expedition in person, having fitted out at his own cost a small flotilla of vessels, which he despatched under the command of one Robert Withrington, who, after having committed much havoc upon the coast of Brazil, returned home returned home with apparently very little gain. The Earl in the following year (1587) set sail for Slut's, in hopes of assisting Roger Williams in the defence of that town against the Duke of Parma; but it had surrendered before his arrival. He next took part in the defeat of the Armada, on board the Bonaventure, a ship built in 1560, ran on a sandbank in 1588, but got off without hurt. The Queen was so satisfied with his behavor on the occasion that she gave him a commission to proceed the same year to the Spanish coast as general. One of the royal ships, the Golden Lion, was placed at his disposal for this expedition; but the Earl, nevertheless, victualled and furnished it at his own cost.

Although he met with little or no success in this expedition, better luck was in store for him; for he shortly afterwards set sail again in one of the ships of the royal navy, called the Victory, and soon succeeded in capturing two French ships, which, belonging to the party of the League, were deemed fair prizes. The Earl was not very scrupulous on such occasions, at all events so says the narrative. He afterwards fell in with eleven ships from Hamburg and the Baltic; after a few shots, they sent their masters on board, slowing their passports. These were respected for themselves, but not for some property belonging to a Jew of Lisbon, which they confessed was on board, and which was valued at 4,500. This, it is needless to say, the Earl 'appropriated'.

Altogether the Earl performed nine voyages by sea in his own person, and on his own account, most of them to the West Indies, 'with great honour to himself and service to his Queen and his country'. In 1589 he gained the strong town of Fayal, one of the most important of the Azores; and in his last voyage, in 1598, he succeeded in capturing the strong fort of Puerto Rico, a Spanish city which is described at that time as 'less in circuit than Oxford, but very much bigger than all Portsmouth within the fortifications, and in sight much fairer': 'No other subject', writes Southey, 'ever undertook so many expeditions at his own cost'; and honest Fuller styles him 'the best-born Englishman that ever hazarded himself in that kind'. He adds, in his own quaint style, that the earl's fleets 'were bound for no other harbour the port of Profit in passage thereunto'. But, though he obtained great credit for true honour and valour, yet there were some harsher ingredients in his character; and so, when the Earl added to his paternal coat-of-arms 'three murdering chain-shots', there were those who remarked that the 'canting' heraldry was never leas misplaced.

Clifford,George(3E.Cumberland)04.jpg (9867 bytes)

George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
Nicholas Hilliard
 (circa 1590)

Clifford,George(3E.Cumberland)03.jpg (4284 bytes)

George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland
after Nicholas Hilliard
oil on canvas, (circa 1590)


It appears, however, that, in spite of all the money which he cleared by his buccaneering, he lost such large sums in the tilt-yard and in horse-racing as even to embarrass his splendid patrimony in the north, and to lead him to sell many of his broad acres; at all events, be is said in the 'History of Westmoreland' to have consumed more than any of his ancestors.

When King James travelled southward from Scotland to take possession of his new kingdom, the Earl attended him in his progress at York with such an equipage of followers and retainers that he seemed to be rather a King than only Earl of Cumberland. Whilst he was at York, there arose a contest between him and the Lord President of the Northern lurches as to which should carry the sword of state before the King, and upon due inquiry the honour was held to devolve upon the Earl.

He died not very long afterwards, in the forty-eighth year of his age, in the Duchy House in the Savoy, London, and was buried at Skipton. The armour which he wore may still be seen in the castle of Appleby, in his native county. His two sons having died before him, he left an only daughter, Anne, fourteen Baroness Clifford, Countess of Dorset and Countess of Pembroke and Montgomery; to whom he bequeathed a fortune of 15,000, entailing his estates upon his brother, whom he probably thought better able in those days to hold them fast than a woman, however strong-minded she might be.

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