CLIFFORD, Francis (1559-1642), of Skipton and Londesborough, Yorks., Appleby Castle, Westmld. and Cannon Row, Westminster

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1604 - 29 Oct. 1605

Family and Education

b. 1559, 2nd s. of Henry, 2nd earl of Cumberland and 2nd w. Anne, da. of William, 3rd Lord Dacre. m. 1589, Grisell (d. May 1613), da. of Thomas Hughes of Uxbridge, Mdx., wid. of Edward, 4th Bar. Bergavenny, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. d.v.p. suc. bro. as 4th earl of Cumberland 29 Oct. 1605;1 cr. KB Feb. 1606.2 d. 21 Jan. 1642.3 sig. Fra[ncis] Clifford; Cumberland.

Offices Held

J.p. Yorks. (E. and W. Ridings) 1592-d., Beverley liberty, Yorks. 1604-d., Cumb. (j.p. and custos. rot.) 1606-39, Ripon liberty, Yorks. 1607-d., Cawood liberty, Yorks. 1609-d.;4 sheriff, Yorks. 1600-1, Westmld. 1605-d.;5 commr. oyer and terminer, Northern circ. 1602-d., Midland circ. 1612-15, sewers, E. and W. Ridings 1603-d., N. Riding 1627-d., Hatfield Chase, Yorks. 1637;6 kpr. Carlisle castle, Cumb. 1605-d., Carlisle gaol 1606-d.;7 lord lt. Cumb. 1607-d., Westmld., Northumb. and Newcastle 1611-39;8 steward, honour of Knaresborough, Yorks. by 1612-d.;9 piracy, Cumbs., Northumbs. and Westmld. 1614;10 member, Council in the North 1619-d.11


The Cliffords acquired vast estates in the north, including the hereditary shrievalty of Westmorland, by a fortunate marriage in the reign of Henry III. Granted a peerage in 1299, they provided a knight of the shire for Northumberland in 1313. Clifford, ‘an honourable gentleman, and of a good, noble, sweet, and courteous nature’, was overshadowed until well into middle age by his elder brother, the 3rd earl of Cumberland, an Elizabethan sea-dog to whom he was devotedly attached.12

Clifford presided over the Yorkshire election of 1601 as sheriff, but three years later he stood as a candidate himself, whereupon lord president Sheffield circulated a letter recommending both him and Sir John Savile as knights of the shire. The latter had bested the Council in the North’s candidates in a hard-fought contest in 1597, and Sheffield chose not to offer any suggestion as to which man should take the senior seat in 1604. Being heir to an earldom, Clifford could claim precedence on social grounds, but as he had supported Savile’s opponents at the earlier election it was possible that Sir John might seek retribution. To the relief of all, on the eve of the election Savile informed the Council that he was

well contented that in the indentures Mr. Clifford should be first set down, and himself for the second, howsoever the freeholders should be affected towards him ... And upon the election, he being carried upon the freeholders’ shoulders, cried himself, ‘a Clifford’, and with that cry went to Mr. Clifford’s company, and so went they to the [York Castle] hall to have the indentures for that election sealed, still crying, ‘a Savile, a Savile’.13

Clifford did not play a prominent role in the Commons in 1604. Indeed, he is not recorded to have spoken at all. However, at the start of the session he was named to confer with the Lords about the possibility of compounding for wardship (26 Mar.), and was ordered to attend the king twice about the Buckinghamshire election dispute (28 Mar., 12 April). In addition, he was ordered to attend a conference with the Lords over James’s initial proposals for the Union (14 April).14 He was later named to the committee for the bill to restrict the construction of weirs on tidal rivers, which included a proviso exempting Yorkshire (23 June), and another for the annexation of Crown lands in a perpetual entail (4 July).15 He left no trace on the records of the second session before it was interrupted by the Gunpowder Plot, and by the time the Commons reconvened in January 1606 he had succeeded his brother as 4th earl of Cumberland.

On his death-bed the 3rd earl ‘grieved to leave his brother so weak in his estate by his own lack of providence’, begged the countess never ‘to fall to hard opinion nor suit with my brother’, and sent a ‘last request to my most gracious sovereign, that it will please His Majesty to grant unto my brother those lands in Cumberland for which I have long been a suitor’. The king not only acceded to this request, transferring the forfeited Graham lands, which carried an electoral interest at Carlisle, but he also discharged all debts owing to the Crown. However, the 3rd earl’s widow and daughter plagued Cumberland with litigation for the rest of his life. As early as 1615 he was said to be ‘sometimes beside his wits’, and for much of his later life his affairs were managed by his son, Lord Henry Clifford. He died at Skipton Castle on 21 Jan. 1642, and was buried in the family vault.16

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Simon Healy


  • 1. CP.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 157.
  • 3. CP.
  • 4. C181/1, f. 94; 181/2, ff. 24v, 79v; 181/5, ff. 143v, 164v-5.
  • 5. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 163.
  • 6. C181/1, ff. 19, 57v, 64; 181/2, f. 170; 181/3, f. 223; 181/5, f. 166.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 204.
  • 8. Ibid. 376.
  • 9. Duchy of Lancaster Office-Holders ed. R. Somerville, 155.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 215v.
  • 11. R. Reid, Council in the North, 498.
  • 12. G.C. Williamson, Lady Anne Clifford, 6, 180.
  • 13. HMC Hatfield, vii. 413-18; Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 47-8; LPL, ms 708, f. 131.
  • 14. CJ, i. 154a-b, 157a, 169b, 172a.
  • 15. Ibid. 245a-b, 252a.
  • 16. Williamson, 33, 36, 50, 51, 79, 136; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 459-61; xviii. 285; R.T. Spence, Lady Anne Clifford, 40-79.