CLERE, Sir John (?1511-57), of London, Norwich and Ormesby, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. ?1511, 1st surv. s. of Sir Robert Clere of Ormesby by 2nd w. Alice, da. of Sir William Boleyn of Blickling, Norf. m. by 1531, Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Tyrrell of Gipping, Suff., 3s. inc. Edward 2da. suc. fa. 8 Aug. 1529. Kntd. 1539.1
J.p. Norf. 1540-?53; capt. Peter Longanarde 1545, Swepestake 1546; keeper, Wormegay park, Norf. by 1552; treasurer, army in France Nov. 1549-Apr. 1550; commr. relief, Norf. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553; v.-adm. 1556.2
The first son of his father’s second marriage, John Clere benefited little from the succession because part of the Clere estate was held by his half-brother’s widow and most of the remainder stayed with his mother during her life. That Sir Robert Clere mistrusted his son’s habits appears from the condition which he attached to a bequest of plate and a gold chain, ‘that he avoid riot and great gaming’, although as Sir Thomas Tyrrell, whose daughter John Clere married, was later to complain that he had been left not only to pay for the marriage feast but also to keep the couple in food and lodging for seven years, there does not appear to have been much scope for extravagance.3
Clere’s position improved in 1538, when on his mother’s death he gained possession of nearly 20 manors, mainly on the east coast of Norfolk: in the following year he was knighted and in 1540 he was put on the Norfolk bench. Thirteen years later he added to his patrimony the reversion of three manors bought from his uncle Sir James Boleyn, among them the future family seat of Blickling. Rarely on good terms with his neighbours, above all the Pastons, Clere was not infrequently in the Star Chamber, where one complainant criticized his ‘covetous appetite and ungodly disposition’. At least in Henry VIII’s time he could treat such attacks the more lightly in that he enjoyed the patronage of the Howards: the 3rd Duke of Norfolk had been overseer of his father’s will and his younger brother Thomas, a servant of the Earl of Surrey, was to be commemorated in one of Surrey’s sonnets after dying from wounds received when he saved the earl’s life in France in 1545. It was during this phase of Clere’s career that he attended his first two Parliaments as Member for Bramber, one of the Howard boroughs in Sussex. He was one of a group around Surrey arrested during the second session of the Parliament of 1542 for eating flesh in Lent.4
If it was as a courtier and a dependant of the Howards that he first came to public notice, it was as a naval captain and an administrator that Clere made his name. Early in 1548 he commanded a patrol in the North Sea and two years later he served in the Channel. His service at sea commended him to the admiral John Dudley, Viscount Lisle, whom in 1546 he accompanied to France to negotiate peace. Presumably he served under Dudley’s successor as admiral, Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, but nothing has come to light about his part in the Scottish war. Clere’s plundering of West Somerton church perhaps helped to foment Ket’s rebellion during 1548: he answered the Marquess of Northampton’s call for support from Norfolk gentlemen and after Northampton’s replacement by Dudley, then Earl of Warwick, he assisted in restoring order. Dudley rewarded him with lands said to have been promised to him by Henry VIII and with the treasurership of the army stationed in northern France until the surrender of Boulogne in 1550. His closeness to Dudley probably accounts for his Membership of the Parliament of March 1553 as much as his friendship with the leading resident at Thetford, Richard Fulmerston. During the succession crisis Clere seems to have declared for Lady Jane Grey and to have prevented a military force from Great Yarmouth from reaching Mary. When the tide turned in Mary’s favour his arms were impounded but he is not known to have been imprisoned.5
Clere sued out a pardon in October 1553 but was not reappointed to the commission of the peace. The marriage of his daughter to the Protestant Walter Haddon suggests that his sympathies were still on that side. His election as first knight of the shire for Norfolk in 1555 can thus scarcely have pleased the court and may have owed little to the new duke. In the Commons he had the bill enabling merchants to take coin out of the realm committed to him after its second reading on 22 Nov., but he did not align himself with the opposition as did his fellow-knight John Appleyard, and his appointment as vice-admiral at Portsmouth in the following year shows that he was regarded as politically reliable as well as professionally competent. His first mission, to escort Charles V on his voyage to retirement in Spain, brought him a gold chain from the ex-emperor, but his second was to prove fatal. In July 1557 he was given command of a fleet against Scotland which on 21 Aug. was surprised by an enemy force in the Orkneys, and in the engagement which followed he was drowned. Following his death the Council ordered an inquiry to be held into alleged disorders committed by his men in churches and religious houses in Scotland.6
Before setting forth Clere had made a will by which he left his lands in the care of his executors for five years; they were to pass to his son when he became 21. The executors, Richard Fulmerston, Walter Haddon, Walter Herendene and Robert Paynter, were to pay 50 marks a year for four years to Walter Haddon ‘for full satisfaction of 500 marks’, and 500 marks to ‘my son-in-law Walter Herendene’: both were clearly dowries. Clere’s two eldest sons had died, one in Florence, the other at Pinkie, and he was succeeded by his youngest son Edward.7
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Roger Virgoe
- 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., E150/638/5. Vis. Norf (Norf. Arch.), ii.266; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xv; H. Leonard, ‘Knights and knighthood in Tudor Eng.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 309, 312.
- 2. LP Hen. VIII, xvi, xvii, xx, xxi; CPR, 1547-8, p. 87; 1553, pp. 356, 362, 416; APC, ii. 356; Stowe 571, f. 52.
- 3. PCC 5 Thower, 25 Bucke.
- 4. Blomefield, Norf. vi. 393; C142/112/120; St.Ch.2/4/165-74, 10/50, 22/350, 32/30; PCC 5 Thower; Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 506; LP Hen. VIII, xiv; APC, i. 106.
- 5. LP Hen. VIII, xviii-xxi; APC, ii. 356, 377, 411; iv. 294, 297; S.T. Bindoff, Ket’s Rebellion (Hist. Assoc. gen. ser. xii), 12; Blomefield, iii. 239; Lansd. 103(1), ff. 1-2, ex inf. Mrs. M. Power.
- 6. CPR, 1553-4, p. 443; 1557-8, p. 193; CJ, i. 45; T.S. Willan, Muscovy Merchants of 1555, p. 88; APC, vi. 120, 139, 148; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, iii(2), 86; C142/112/120(2), 123.
- 7. C142/112/120(2); PCC 34 Wrastley.