Sir Gervase CLIFTON

Born: ABT 1570

Died: 1618

Father: John CLIFTON (Sir)

Mother: Anne STANLEY

Married: Catherine DARCY Jun 1591


1. Catherine CLIFTON (m. Esme Stuart, 3° D. Lennox)


The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Sir Gervase Clifton of Leighton Bromswold, 1st s. of Sir John Clifton of Barrington Court, Som. by Anne, dau. of Thomas Stanley, 2nd Baron Monteagle. educ. St. Alban Hall, Oxf. 1586; G. Inn 1588. suc. fa.1593. Kntd. c.1596; cr. Lord Clifton 1608. J.p. Hunts. from 1596; sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 1597-8; steward of lordship of Brampton, Hunts., and of manor of Spaldwick 1595; bailiff and collector of liberty called Gloucester's Fee, Hunts. 6 Feb 1595; gent. privy chamber by 1603.

Clifton not to be confused with his cousin and namesake of Clifton, Nottinghamshire. Came from Barrington in Somerset, and settled in 1591 at Leighton Bromswold. Two previous owners of Leighton Bromswold, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt and Sir Henry Darcy, had been knights of the shire for Huntingdonshire, and in 1597 and 1601 it was Clifton's turn. The only reference to him by name in the records of the House is his appointment to a committee considering armour and weapons, 8 Nov 1597, but as a Huntingdonshire county Member he could have attended committees concerning enclosures (5 Nov 1597), the poor law (5, 22 Nov), penal laws (8 Nov), monopolies (10 Nov), the subsidy (15 Nov), Robert Cotton's lands (25 Nov), and draining the fens (3 Dec); and in 1601, the order of business (3 Nov), monopolies (23 Nov), and draining the fens (28 Nov). Clifton probably had connexions with the Earl of Essex as, after the abortive rising of 1601, his name was suggested as one who might take part in a plot to release the Earl. Later he turned to Robert Cecil, whom he petitioned for some stewardships of royal manors in Nov 1603. Among other acquaintances he counted Robert Bruce Cotton, the antiquary, and John Chamberlain, the letter writer, who visited him in 1602.

In Feb of that year, perhaps during a visit to his relatives, he attended a bear-baiting at Nottingham, when the bear broke loose and chased Clifton's son upstairs. Clifton ‘opposed himself with his rapier against the fury of the beast and saved his son’. Soon after this, his son died, leaving him with an only daughter married, at King James's suggestion, to Esmι Stuart, Seigneur d'Aubigny, younger brother of the Duke of Lennox and a kinsman of the King. In 1611 Clifton wrote to
the King about ‘the fraudulent proceedings’ of Aubigny and Lennox, who, he feared, might ‘be his destruction’.

Hearing that Bacon had ordered a survey of his lands, he declared that if a ‘hard decree’ were made against him, Bacon ‘should not be keeper long after’, for which he was put in the Tower by the Privy Council on 30 Dec and, on 17 Mar following, prosecuted in the Star Chamber. Thanks to royal intervention, he was soon back in the less stringent Fleet prison and allowed to see visitors. During the summer he became reconciled to his relatives, and it came as a surprise to Chamberlain when, on 5 Oct 1618, Clifton stabbed himself. As a suicide his goods were forfeited to the Crown; on 18 Nov 1618 they were granted to Aubigny.
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