CLIFFORD, Francis (1559-1641), of Skipton Castle, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1559, 2nd s. of Henry, 2nd Earl of Cumberland, by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of William, 3rd Lord Dacre. m. 1589, Grisold, da. of Thomas Hughes of Uxbridge, Mdx., wid. of Edward Nevill, 4th Lord Abergavenny, 2s. 2da. KB 1605. suc. bro. as 4th Earl 1605.2

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (E. and W. Ridings) 1592; sheriff, Yorks. 1600-1; jt. constable and steward, Knaresborough 1604; keeper, Carlisle castle 1605; lt. Carlisle gaol 1606; custos rot. Cumb. 1606-39, ld. lt. 1607-41; ld. lt. Northumb., Westmld., and Newcastle 1611-39; member, council in the north 1619.3


The 2nd Earl of Cumberland died in 1570, leaving the bulk of the vast Clifford estates to his eldest son George. Francis Clifford, the younger son, inherited shares of manors in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and the East Riding, to which were added on his mother’s death in 1581 land in Craven and the tithe of Kirkby Thore in Westmorland.4

As a young man, Francis collaborated in many of his elder brother’s exploits and was his constant companion. Their extravagance is illustrated by a wager in which they backed for £300 an attempt by George Gifford in 1584 to complete the return journey from England to Constantinople within three months. The Earl was clearly the dominant brother, and it was partly for his benefit that Francis sold his Derbyshire lands in 1586. In 1587 Cumberland borrowed money from him for a cards session at Newmarket, and again at Bishopsthorpe ‘to play at bowls’. Eventually, Cumberland repaid at least £1,169 to Francis, for whom he appears to have had genuine affection.5

Politically, the brothers were associated with the Cecil faction at court. Their commanding position on the northern borders entitled them to a variety of local offices, including, for the Earl, the hereditary sheriffdom of Westmorland. Francis’s wish or willingness to enter the House of Commons was doubtless sufficient to bring about his return to two Elizabethan parliaments. After the defeat of the Cecil candidates, Stanhope and Hoby, in the Yorkshire election of 1597, he was one of the gentlemen of the county who tried to secure a new election. His position as knight of the shire made him eligible to attend the subsidy committees on 24 Feb. 1585 and 22 Feb. 1587. He died 21 Jan. 1641.6

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: H.G.O.


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Whitaker, Hist. Craven (3rd ed.), 359; CP, iii. 569; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xviii. 355, 386, 396-7; Nicolson and Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. i. 289.
  • 3. CP, iii. 569; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 79; Gooder, Parl. Rep. Yorks. ii. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xcvi), 41-3; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 179.
  • 4. R. T. Spence, ‘The Cliffords, earls of Cumberland’ (London PhD thesis, 1959), 16-18.
  • 5. Spence, 23-5; G. C. Williamson, George, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, 270.
  • 6. HMC Hatfield, vii. 413-16, 418; D’Ewes, 409; Lansd. 43, anon. jnl. f. 171. A report to Gilbert, 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, about the canvass in favour of Clifford and Sir John Saville in 1604 is among the Shrewsbury mss in Lambeth Palace library.