Eleanor ‘Alianore’ de CLARE (1292 – 1337)

47 Generations of Family History
Generation 22
Eleanor ‘Alianore’ de Clare
(1292 – 1337)

Granddaughter of Edward I of England / Wife of Hugh Despenser the Younger / brother of Gilbert de Clare, 8th Earl of Gloucester, 7th Earl of Hereford / daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford, 7th Earl of Gloucester, 5th Lord of Glamorgan and Princess Joan of Acre / Wife of William la Zouche, 1st Baron Zouche of Mortimer

Facts
Name: Eleanor de Clare
Birth: October 03, 1292 [1]
Place of birth: 3 October 1292 Caerphilly Castle, Glamorgan, Wales [1]

Parents
Father: Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford, 7th Earl of Gloucester, 5th Lord of Glamorgan
Mother: Joan of Acre

Spouse(s):
Hugh le Despenser the Younger (died 24th November 1326), married May 1306 at Westminster
William de la Zouche, married January or February of 1329

Children: 
By Despencer Eleanor had nine children. Edward le Despenser, their third child, is my 20th great grandfather
By Zouche Eleanor had two children

Death: 30 June 1337[1] Monmouth Castle

Titles:

(i) 1st Baroness le Despenser
(ii) Suo jure 6th Lady of Glamorgan

Heraldry: CoA Gilbert de Clare and the De Clare Family / Blazon: Or three chevronells Gules

1280px-CoA_Gilbert_de_Clare.svg

Coat of Arms of de Clare family

My Family Connection: 21st great-grandmother

Short Biography

Eleanor ‘Alianore’ de Clare was born in 1292 at Caerphilly Castle in Glamorgan, Wales. The great castle had been built by her father, Gilbert ‘the Red’ de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester. Her mother was Princess Joan of Acre. Eleanor was their eldest daughter.

Eleanor was Edward I’s eldest granddaughter, and about eighteen months younger than her brother Gilbert de Clare, 8th Earl of Gloucester. Eleanor was eight and a half years younger than her uncle Edward II.

Along with her sisters, Elizabeth de Clare and Margaret de Clare, Eleanor inherited her father’s estates after the death of her brother in 1314 [2].

After the death of Gilbert ‘the Red’, the widowed Joan married her husband’s squire Ralph de Monthermer, without her father’s consent. The king was unimpressed, having hoped to marry her to the Count of Savoy. For his part, the squire, Ralph de Monthermer, was imprisoned for a period.

At the age of 13, Eleanor was married to Hugh le Despenser the Younger. The wedding took place at Westminster Abbey in the presence of the King. Hugh was of modest means and not in line to inherit a title. His father, Hugh le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester, owned land in Midlands and Buckinghamshire.

Eleanor was a regular at court and attended Queen Isabella as a lady-in-waiting. Her uncle Edward II paid her expenses when on royal duty, but Eleanor and Hugh lived an impecunious existence until the death of her brother when the couple inherited Glamorgan and several manors in England.

With wealth upon which to finally launch his ambitions, Hugh le Despenser used Eleanor’s influence to ingratiate himself with King Edward II. There is a suggestion that Hugh and Edward became lovers and that Eleanor and Edward II were also involved in a sexual relationship [3].

Le Despenser’s favoured position with the king and his reckless greed made him many enemies. 14th century court historian Froissart wrote that le Despenser was a heretic and a sodomite, and that his penis was severed and burnt as punishment for his sins [4].

Eleanor’s fortunes changed drastically after the invasion of Isabella of France and Roger Mortimer, following which her husband Hugh le Despenser was executed. In November 1326, Eleanor was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two years.

In January 1329, Eleanor was abducted from Hanley Castle by William la Zouche, 1st Baron Zouche of Mortimer. La Zouche had been one of le Despenser’s captors. It wasn’t entirely unheard of for women of means to be captured in this way, but Eleanor would soon marry la Zouche. Whether the wedding was consented to is unclear, and the abduction may have really been an elopement.

Even more strangely, a baron called John Grey of Rotherfield also began claiming Eleanor as his wife, a claim he persisted with for more than four years. He even took his claim to the papal court but lost and finally gave up.

Eleanor outlived her second husband by just a few months and died in June 1337 at the age of forty-four. She is buried at Tewkesbury Abbey. Her burial place is fitting given that she and le Despenser were credited with transforming Tewkesbury Abbey. It is thought that the figure of a naked kneeling woman in the choir’s east window represents Eleanor [5].

Sources:

[1] Mason, E. (1984). Legends of the Beauchamps’ ancestors: the use of baronial propaganda in medieval England. Journal of medieval history, 10(1), 25-40.

[2] Davies, J. C. (1915). The Despenser War in Glamorgan. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (Third Series), 9, 21-64

[3] This translated excerpt from Froissart’s account of the execution is given, for example in: Sponsler, C. (April 2001). Burger, G.; Kruger, S. F., eds. Queering the Middle Ages. Medieval Cultures Series. University of Minnesota Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-8166-3404-0

[4] Kathryn Warner, Edward II blog spot, http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.com/2006/12/women-of-edward-iis-reign-eleanor-de.html accessed 19/7/2018

[5] Marks, Richard. Stained Glass in England During the Middle Ages. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993

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