Margaret de Clare, Baroness Badlesmere

Margaret de Clare
Baroness Badlesmere
Spouse(s) Gilbert de Umfraville
Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere
Margery de Badlesmere
Maud de Badlesmere
Elizabeth de Badlesmere
Giles de Badlesmere, 2nd Baron Badlesmere
Margaret de Badlesmere
Noble family De Clare
Father Thomas de Clare, Lord of Thomond
Mother Juliana FitzGerald of Offaly
Born c.1 April 1287
Bunratty Castle, Thomond, Ireland
Died 22 October 1333 / 3 January 1334
Convent house of the Minorite Sisters, Aldgate, London

Margaret de Clare, Baroness Badlesmere (c.1 April 1287 – 22 October 1333 / 3 January 1334) was a Norman-Irish noblewoman, suo jure heiress, and the wife of Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere.[1]

She was arrested and subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London for the duration of a year from November 1321 to November 1322, making her the first female prisoner in the Tower's history. She was jailed on account of having ordered an armed assault on Isabella of France, Queen consort of King Edward II of England. Before Margaret had instructed her archers to fire upon Isabella and her escort, she had refused the Queen admittance to Leeds Castle where her husband, Baron Badlesmere held the post of governor, but which was legally the property of Queen Isabella as part of the latter's dowry. Margaret surrendered the castle on 31 October 1321 after it was besieged by the King's forces using ballistas. Edward's capture of Leeds Castle was the catalyst which led to the Despenser War in the Welsh Marches and the north of England.

Upon her release from the Tower, Margaret entered a religious life at the convent house of the Minorite Sisters outside Aldgate. King Edward granted her a stipend to pay for her maintenance.



Bunratty Castle in Thomond, Ireland, was the birthplace of Margaret de Clare

Margaret was born at Bunratty Castle in Thomond, Ireland on or about 1 April 1287, the youngest child of Thomas de Clare, Lord of Thomond and Juliana FitzGerald of Offaly, and granddaughter of Richard de Clare, Earl of Hertford and Gloucester.

She had two brothers, Gilbert de Clare, Lord of Thomond, and Richard de Clare, 1st Lord Clare, Lord of Thomond, who was killed at the Battle of Dysert O'Dea in 1318;[2] and an elder sister, Maud, whose first husband was Robert de Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford. Margaret also had an illegitimate half-brother, Richard the Clerk.

Her father was killed in battle on 29 August 1287, when she was almost five months of age. Her mother married her second husband, Nicholas Avenel sometime afterwards, but the exact date of this marriage is not known. Between 11 December 1291 and 16 February 1292, Margaret acquired another stepfather when her mother married her third husband, Adam de Cretynges.

Margaret became co-heiress to her nephew Thomas de Clare, son of her brother Richard, by which she inherited the manors of Plashes in Standon, Hertfordshire and lands in Thomond, Limerick and Cork in 1321 upon the death of Thomas at the age of three.[3]


She married firstly before the year 1303, Gilbert de Umfraville, son of Gilbert de Umphraville, Earl of Angus, and Elizabeth Comyn. Upon their marriage, the Earl of Angus granted Gilbert and Margaret the manors of Hambleton and Market Overton; however, when Gilbert died childless prior to 1307, the manors passed to Margaret.

On an unrecorded date earlier than 30 June 1308,[4] she married secondly, Bartholomew de Badlesmere, an English soldier and court official who was afterwards created 1st Baron Badlesmere by writ of summons. He had held the post of Governor of Bristol Castle since 1307, and from then onwards proceeded to accumulate many renumerative grants and offices. Margaret's marriage to Badlesmere had been arranged by her brother-in-law, Baron Clifford; Badlesmere having been one of Clifford's retainers during the Scottish Wars in the early 1300s. Clifford was later killed at the Battle of Bannockburn, where Badlesmere also fought.

Margaret was styled as Baroness Badlesmere on 26 October 1309 (the date her husband was by writ summoned to Parliament by the title of Baron Badlesmere) and henceforth known by that title.[5]

The marriage produced four daughters, and a son and heir, Giles Badlesmere.[6] The couple's principal residences were Castle Badlesmere and Chilham Castle, both in Kent.

Badlesmere was appointed steward of King Edward II's household in 1318; a position which brought him much power and influence in the royal council. He was one of the middle party, which resented the King's favourites, the Despensers, yet also equally opposed Edward's staunch enemies such as his immensely powerful cousin Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, who in addition to having been one of the wealthiest nobles in England, was the leader of the Lords Ordainers. These men, drawn from the peerage and clergy, were the 21 signatories of the Ordinances of 1311; a series of regulations forced upon the King with the aim of restricting his administrative prerogatives, and setting up a baronial oligarchy in the realm.

Margaret was visiting Cheshunt Manor in Hertfordshire in 1319, when she was taken hostage by a group of sixty people, both men and women.[7] Her captors demanded a ransom of £100 for her release. She was held prisoner for one night before her prompt rescue the following day by the King's favourite, Hugh Despenser the Younger.[7] Hugh was married to Margaret's first cousin, Eleanor de Clare, eldest daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester and Joan of Acre (This also made Eleanor a first cousin of Edward II). The King ordered the arrest and imprisonment of 20 of Margaret's kidnappers; they all, however, were eventually pardoned.


The five children of Margaret and Baron Badlesmere:

Assault on Queen Isabella

The siege of Leeds Castle

Queen consort Isabella, whom Margaret maltreated by refusing her admittance to Leeds Castle

Margaret's husband, Baron Badlesmere was appointed Governor of the Royal Castle of Leeds in Kent in the fifth year of Edward II's reign (1312).[8] In October 1321, nine years after his assumption of the office, the queen consort Isabella went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury. She decided to interrupt her journey by stopping at Leeds Castle,[n 1] which legally belonged to her as the fortress and its demesne were Crown property and part of her dowry to be retained in widowhood.[9] Badlesmere, who by then had become disaffected with King Edward and had joined the swelling ranks of his opponents, was away at a meeting of the Contrariants[n 2] in Oxford at the time and had left Margaret in charge of the castle. Due to her strong dislike of Isabella[n 3] as well as her own belligerent and quarrelsome character,[10][n 4] Margaret refused the Queen admittance,[11] accompanied by her insolent words to Isabella's marshal, whom she met on the lowered drawbridge, that "the Queen must seek some other lodging, for I would not admit anyone within the castle without an order from my lord [Baron Badlesmere]".[12] After issuing her message, she subsequently ordered her archers to fire upon Isabella from the battlements when the Queen (having apparently ignored Margaret's communication) approached the outer barbican,[13][14] in an attempt to enter the castle by force.[15] The unexpected, lethal volley of arrows, which killed six of the royal escort, compelled Isabella to make a hasty retreat from the castle and to seek alternative accommodation for the night.[16]

When King Edward heard of the violent reception his consort was given by Margaret, he was predictably outraged and personally mustered a sizeable force of men "aged between sixteen and sixty", including at least six earls,[17] to join him in a military expedition which he promptly led against Margaret and her garrison at Leeds Castle to avenge the grievous insult delivered to the Queen by one of his subjects. Following a relentless assault of the fortress, which persisted for more than five days[n 5] and with the King's troops using ballistas, Margaret surrendered at curfew on 31 October having received a "promise of mercy" from Edward.[18] Throughout the siege, she had expected the Earl of Lancaster to arrive with his soldiery to relieve her, but this he had refused to do;[17][n 6] nor had any of the other Contrariants or the Marcher Lords[n 7] come to her assistance, which left her to defend the castle with merely her husband's nephew, Bartholomew de Burghersh, and the garrison troops.[17] Baron Badlesmere, although supportive of Margaret's conduct, had during that crucial time, sought refuge at Stoke Park, seat of the Bishop of Lincoln; however he did manage to despatch some knights from Witney to augment the garrison troops in the defence of Leeds.[11] Once King Edward had gained possession of the castle and the Badlesmere treasure within,[n 8] the seneschal, Walter Colepepper and 12 of the garrison were hanged from the battlements.[17][19][n 9] Margaret was arrested and sent as a prisoner, along with her five children and Bartholomew de Burghersh, to the Tower of London;[10][20] she therefore became the first woman imprisoned in the Tower.[21][22] On her journey to the fortress, she was insulted and jeered at by the citizens of London who, out of loyalty to Isabella, had followed her progression through the streets to vent their fury against the person who had dared maltreat their queen.[23]


The King's military victory at Leeds, accomplished with the help of six influential earls including the Earls of Pembroke and Richmond, encouraged him to reclaim and assert the prerogative powers that Lancaster and the Lords Ordainers had so long denied him.[24][n 10] The dominant baronial oligarchy broke up into factions. Many of the nobles who had previously been hostile to Edward rushed to his side to quell the insurrection of the Marcher Lords, known as the Despenser War, which had erupted in full force after the King defiantly recalled to England the two Despensers (father and son,) whom the Ordainers had compelled him to banish in August 1321.[25] The first sparks to the uprising had been ignited when, prior to his expulsion, the rapacious Hugh le Despenser the Younger had persuaded the infatuated King to grant him lands in the Welsh Marches which rightfully belonged to entrenched Marcher barons such as Roger Mortimer,[26] his uncle Roger Mortimer de Chirk, and Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, a staunch Ordainer albeit the King's brother-in-law.[n 11] They had formed a confederation and made devastating raids against Despenser holdings in Wales; and Mortimer led his men in an unsuccessful march on London. These mutinous events, in addition to other incidents which created a tense situation and called for a mobilisation of forces throughout the realm, eventually led to the Ordainers constraining the King to exile the favourites. However, subsequent to his capture of Leeds Castle and the harsh sentences he had meted out to the insubordinate Margaret de Clare and her garrison, King Edward defied the Contrariants by persuading the bishops to declare the Despensers' banishment illegal at a convocation of the clergy, and he summoned them home.[24] This act had dire consequences in addition to the Despenser War: it paved the way for the complete domination of the grasping Despensers over Edward and his kingdom, leading to Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella's 1326 Invasion of England, their assumption of power, the execution of the two Despensers, and finally, Edward's deposition.

Imprisonment in the Tower of London

Baron Badlesmere defended Margaret's bellicose actions at Leeds,[n 12] and as a result of her imprisonment, remained firmly aligned with the King's opponents; shortly afterwards he participated in the Earl of Lancaster's rebellion. Badlesmere fought in the Battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, and was captured when the battle had ended with Lancaster and the rebels having been soundly defeated by the numerically-superior royalist army. Lancaster was beheaded four days after his surrender; less than a month later on 14 April 1322, Badlesmere was attainted and hanged, drawn and quartered at Blean in the vicinity of Canterbury. His severed head was then attached to a pole placed on Burgate, one of the principal Roman gates into Canterbury's city walls.[15]

Margaret remained imprisoned in the Tower, uncertain of her fate, until 3 November 1322.[27] She was released from the Tower due to her son-in-law William de Ros's successful negotiation, on her behalf, with the King.[28] Presumably her children were also released with her, although no exact dates are given for their liberation.

The Minorite Sisters

Margaret retired to the convent house of the Minorite Sisters, outside Aldgate,[29][30] where the abbess Alice de Sherstede was personally acquainted with Queen Isabella, who took an interest in the convent's business affairs.[31] The King granted Margaret a stipend of two shillings a day for her maintenance, which was paid to her by the Sheriff of Essex. She also received a considerable proportion of her late husband's manors for her dowry.[32]

Edward demonstrated his good will toward Margaret again on 1 July 1324, by giving her "permission to go to her friends within the realm whither she will, provided that she be always ready to come to the king when summoned".[33]

Her son Giles obtained a reversal of his father's attainder in 1328, and succeeded by writ to the barony as the 2nd Baron Badlesmere. By this time Edward III had ascended the throne; however, the de facto rulers of England were Queen Isabella and her lover, Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March (father-in-law of Margaret's daughter Elizabeth), who jointly held the Office of Regent for the new king. Edward II had been deposed in January 1327 and allegedly murdered in September by Mortimer's hired assassins.[34]

Margaret died between 22 October 1333 and 3 January 1334.[29]



  1. ^ Historian Paul C. Doherty suggests that the pilgrimage was a ruse on the part of the King and Queen in order to create a casus belli. Edward would have known beforehand that Baron Badlesmere was with the Contrariants in Oxford and had left Leeds Castle in the hands of the belligerently hostile Baroness Badlesmere; therefore he had given instructions for Isabella to deliberately stop at Leeds aware she would likely be refused admittance. Using the insult against the Queen as a banner, he would then be able to gather the moderate nobles and outraged populace to his side as a means of crushing the Contrariants. [Reference: Doherty, Paul C. Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II. London: Robinson. pp.70-71 ISBN 1841198439.]
  2. ^ Contrariants was the name King Edward had given the barons who were opposed to him.
  3. ^ Margaret's dislike of Isabella allegedly had its origins in about 1317 when she had asked the Queen to use her influence on behalf of a friend who was seeking an appointment in the Exchequer Office. When Isabella refused her request, for reasons unknown, a quarrel ensued and henceforth Margaret became the Queen's enemy. [Reference: Francis Lancelot. The Queens of England and Their Times. p.183. Google Books. Retrieved 9 February 2011]
  4. ^ Margaret's paternal grandmother, Maud de Lacy, was known as the most litigious woman in the 13th century. [Reference: Linda Elizabeth Mitchell. Portraits of Medieval Women: Family, Marriage and Politics in England 1225-1350]
  5. ^ According to Edward II's biographer, Roy Martin Haines, the siege lasted 15 days. [Reference: Haines, p.132]
  6. ^ Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster was the uterine half-uncle of Queen Isabella, being the son of her maternal grandmother Blanche of Artois by the latter's second marriage to Edmund Crouchback, 1st Earl of Lancaster.
  7. ^ Margaret's daughter, Elizabeth was married to Edmund Mortimer, eldest son of the powerful Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer, the future 1st Earl of March
  8. ^ Sometime prior to the October 1321 incident, Baron Badlesmere had deposited all of his treasure and goods inside Leeds Castle for safe-keeping.(Reference: Parishes - Leeds|British History Online. Retrieved 22-11-10 [1])
  9. ^ The Calendar of Fine Rolls names the 13 executed men as Walter Colpepper, Richard Prat, Roger de Coumbe, Richard de Chidecroft, Thomas de Chidecroft, Richard Brisynge, William Colyn, Roger de Rokayle, Simon de Tyerst, Robert de Bromere, Nicholas de Bradefeld, Robert de Cheigny, and Adam le Wayte. [Reference:Calendar of Fine Rolls 1319-1327. p.76]
  10. ^ The Ordinances were repealed at the parliament held in York in May 1322.
  11. ^ In 1302, Humphrey de Bohun married Edward II's youngest sister, Elizabeth of Rhuddlan; she died in 1316.
  12. ^ Baron Badlesmere excused his wife's offensive conduct with his declaration that when he had left Margaret in charge of Leeds, he had given her strict instructions not to admit anyone inside the castle without his specific orders. (Costain, p.193) This, he had insisted, included the Queen, with the words that "the royal prerogative of the King in the case of refusal of entry should not be assumed to provide a legal right for the Queen, who was merely his wife". (Haines, p.133)


  1. ^ Costain, Thomas B. (1958). The Three Edwards. pp.193-95
  2. ^ The Complete Peerage, Vol. III, p.247.
  3. ^ Richardson, Douglas; Everingham, Kimball G. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, p. 35
  4. ^ Cokayne, G. E. The Complete Peerage, Vol. I, p.149.
  5. ^ The Complete Peerage, Vol. I, page 372.
  6. ^ The Complete Peerage, Vol. I, p.373
  7. ^ a b Cat. Pat. Rolls. 1317-1321, p.473
  8. ^ Parishes- Badlesmere|British History Online. Retrieved 8-11-10
  9. ^ Costain, Thomas B. (1958). The Three Edwards, pp. 193-95
  10. ^ a b Costain, pp.193-95
  11. ^ a b Haines, p.132
  12. ^ Strickland, Agnes (1840). Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest: With Anecdotes of the Courts: First Published From Official Records and Other Authentic Documents, Private as Well as Public. Volume II. p.201. Google Books. Retrieved 6-11-10
  13. ^ Costain, p.193
  14. ^ Poyser, Arthur T. (2009). The Tower of London. BiblioLife. pp.27-28. Google Books. Retrieved 16-11-10
  15. ^ a b Parishes - Leeds|British History Online. Retrieved 16-11-10
  16. ^ Strickland, p.201
  17. ^ a b c d Costain, p.194
  18. ^ Haines, Roy Martin (2003). King Edward II: Edward of Caernarfon, his life, his reign, and its aftermath, 1284-1330. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press. p. 132. Google Books. Retrieved 19-11-10
  19. ^ Haines, p.133
  20. ^ Ireland, William Henry (1829). England's Topographer: or A New and Complete History of the County of Kent. London: G. Virtue, Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row. p.647. Google Books. Retrieved 7-11-10
  21. ^ Wilson, Derek (1998). The Tower of London: A Thousand Years. (2nd edition). London: Allison and Busby. p.40. ISBN 0 74900-332-4
  22. ^ Poyser, pp.27-28
  23. ^ Costain, pp.194-95
  24. ^ a b Costain, p.195
  25. ^ Costain, pp.195-97
  26. ^ Costain, p.197
  27. ^ The Complete Peerage, Vol. I, p.372
  28. ^ Burke, John (1831). A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerages of England, Ireland, and Scotland, Extinct, Dormant, and in Abeyance. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley. p.23. Google Books, retrieved 17-11-10
  29. ^ a b Richardson and Everingham, p.35
  30. ^ Friaries- the Minoresses without Aldgate|British History Online. Retrieved 9-11-10 [2]
  31. ^ Rohrkasten, Jens (2004). The Mendicant Houses of Medieval London, 1221-1539. Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, Rutgers University. pp.202-03. Google Books. Retrieved 15-11-10
  32. ^ Burke's Peerage
  33. ^ Cat. Close. Rolls. 1323-1327, pp.46, 48, 120, 236
  34. ^ Costain, pp.236-37


  1. Cokayne, G. E. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct, or Dormant.
  2. Costain, Thomas B. (1958). The Three Edwards. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc.
  3. Haines, Roy Martin (2003). King Edward II: Edward of Caernarfon, his life, his reign and its aftermath, 1284-1330. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.
  4. Richardson, Douglas, Everingham, Kimball G. Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families

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