CLARENCE, DUKES OF. The early history of this English title is identical with that of the family of Clare (q.v.), earls of Gloucester, who are sometimes called earls of Clare, of which word Clarence is a later form. The first duke of Clarence was Lionel of Antwerp (see below), third son of Edward III., who was created duke in 1362, and whose wife Elizabeth was a direct descendant of the Clares, the “Honour of Clare” being among the lands which she brought to her husband. When Lionel died without sons in 1368 the title became extinct; but in 1412 it was revived in favour of Thomas (see below), the second son of Henry IV. The third creation of a duke of Clarence took place in 1461, and was in favour of George (see below), brother of the King Edward IV. When this duke, accused by the king, was attainted and killed in 1478, his titles and estates were forfeited. There appears to have been no other creation of a duke of Clarence until 1789, when William, third son of George III., was made a peer under this title. Having merged in the crown when William became king of Great Britain and Ireland in 1830, the title of duke of Clarence was again revived in 1890 in favour of Albert Victor (1864–1892), the elder son of King Edward VII., then prince of Wales, only to become extinct for the fifth time on his death in 1892.
Lionel of Antwerp, duke of Clarence (1338–1368), third son of Edward III., was born at Antwerp on the 29th of November 1338. Betrothed when a child to Elizabeth (d. 1363), daughter and heiress of William de Burgh, 3rd earl of Ulster (d. 1332), he was married to her in 1352; but before this date he had entered nominally into possession of her great Irish inheritance. Having been named as his father’s representative in England in 1345 and again in 1346, Lionel was created earl of Ulster, and joined an expedition into France in 1355, but his chief energies were reserved for the affairs of Ireland. Appointed governor of that country, he landed at Dublin in 1361, and in November of the following year was created duke of Clarence, while his father made an abortive attempt to secure for him the crown of Scotland. His efforts to secure an effective authority over his Irish lands were only moderately successful; and after holding a parliament at Kilkenny, which passed the celebrated statute of Kilkenny in 1367, he threw up his task in disgust and returned to England. About this time a marriage was arranged between Clarence and Violante, daughter of Galeazzo Visconti, lord of Pavia (d. 1378); the enormous dowry which Galeazzo promised with his daughter being exaggerated by the rumour of the time. Journeying to fetch his bride, the duke was received in great state both in France and Italy, and was married to Violante at Milan in June 1368. Some months were then spent in festivities, during which Lionel was taken ill at Alba, where he died on the 7th of October 1368. His only child Philippa, a daughter by his first wife, married in 1368 Edmund Mortimer, 3rd earl of March (1351–1381), and through this union Clarence became the ancestor of Edward IV. The poet Chaucer was at one time a page in Lionel’s household.
Thomas, duke of Clarence (c. 1388–1421), who was nominally lieutenant of Ireland from 1401 to 1413, and was in command of the English fleet in 1405, acted in opposition to his elder brother, afterwards King Henry V., and the Beauforts during the later part of the reign of Henry IV.; and was for a short time at the head of the government, leading an unsuccessful expedition into France in 1412. When Henry V., however, became king in 1413 no serious dissensions took place between the brothers, and as a member of the royal council Clarence took part in the preparations for the French war. He was with the English king at Harfleur, but not at Agincourt, and shared in the expedition of 1417 into Normandy, during which he led the assault on Caen, and distinguished himself as a soldier in other similar undertakings. When Henry V. returned to England in 1421, the duke remained in France as his lieutenant, and was killed at Beaugé whilst rashly attacking the French and their Scottish allies on the 22nd of March 1421. He left no legitimate issue, and the title again became extinct.
George, duke of Clarence (1449–1478), younger son of Richard, duke of York, by his wife Cicely, daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st earl of Westmorland, was born in Dublin on the 21st of October 1449. Soon after his elder brother became king as Edward IV. in March 1461, he was created duke of Clarence, and his youth was no bar to his appointment as lord-lieutenant of Ireland in the following year. Having been mentioned as a possible husband for Mary, daughter of Charles the Bold, afterwards duke of Burgundy, Clarence came under the influence of Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, and in July 1469 was married at Calais to the earl’s elder daughter Isabella. With his father-in-law he then acted in a disloyal manner towards the king. Both supported the rebels in the north of England, and when their treachery was discovered Clarence was deprived of his office as lord-lieutenant and fled to France. Returning to England with Warwick in September 1470, he witnessed the restoration of Henry VI., when the crown was settled upon himself in case the male line of Henry’s family became extinct. The good understanding, however, between Warwick and his son-in-law was not lasting, and Clarence was soon secretly reconciled with Edward. The public reconciliation between the brothers took place when the king was besieging Warwick in Coventry, and Clarence then fought for the Yorkists at Barnet and Tewkesbury. After Warwick’s death in April 1471 Clarence appears to have seized the whole of the vast estates of the earl, and in March 1472 was created by right of his wife earl of Warwick and Salisbury. He was consequently greatly disturbed when he heard that his younger brother Richard, duke of Gloucester, was seeking to marry Warwick’s younger daughter Anne, and was claiming some part of Warwick’s lands. A violent quarrel between the brothers ensued, but Clarence was unable to prevent Gloucester from marrying, and in 1474 the king interfered to settle the dispute, dividing the estates between his brothers. In 1477 Clarence was again a suitor for the hand of Mary, who had just become duchess of Burgundy. Edward objected to the match, and Clarence, jealous of Gloucester’s influence, left the court. At length Edward was convinced that Clarence was aiming at his throne. The duke was thrown into prison, and in January 1478 the king unfolded the charges against his brother to the parliament. He had slandered the king; had received oaths of allegiance to himself and his heirs; had prepared for a new rebellion; and was in short incorrigible. Both Houses of Parliament passed the bill of attainder, and the sentence of death which followed was carried out on the 17th or 18th of February 1478. It is uncertain what share Gloucester had in his brother’s death; but soon after the event the rumour gained ground that Clarence had been drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. Two of the duke’s children survived their father: Margaret, countess of Salisbury (1473–1541), and Edward, earl of Warwick (1475–1499), who passed the greater part of his life in prison and was beheaded in November 1499.
On the last-named see W. Stubbs, Constitutional History, vol. iii. (Oxford, 1895); Sir J. H. Ramsay, Lancaster and York (Oxford, 1892); C. W. C. Oman, Warwick the Kingmaker (London, 1891). On the title generally see G. E. C(okayne), Complete Peerage (1887–1898).