Monday, 17 June 2013

Sir George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland

Sir George Clifford (1558-1605), 3rd Earl of Cumberland, 14th Baron Clifford of Westmoreland, Sherrif of Westmoreland, 13th Lord of the Honour of Skipton in Craven, Yorkshire, Baron Vesey, Lord Vipont, was born a few months before the accession of Elizabeth I. As a famous jousting champion and privateer, he was to become one of the most influential figures within the Elizabethan court. Below are some of the key dates in his career.

1570 - Succeeds to his father's lands and titles in at the age of 12. These included the ancestral lordship of Skipton Castle in north Yorkshire where his life is much celebrated.
1577 - Marries Lady Margaret Russel, daughter of the influential 2nd Earl of Bedford. Margaret Clifford was to become a Maid of Honour to Elizabeth I and a powerful figure in her own right.
1586 - Peer at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots.
1588 - Captains the Elizabeth Bonaventure during the Armada campaign.
1590 - Appointed Queen's Champion
1592 - Made a Knight of the Garter.
1598 - Captains the Scourge of Malice; leads the English expedition to the Caribbean which captured San Juan, Puerto Rico.
1603 - Escorts James VI of Scotland to his accession in London.
1605 - Dies in Middlesex leaving a massive fortune of £15,000 pounds to his only surviving child, the 15 year old Anne.

George Clifford
George Clifford
Margaret Clifford
Anne Clifford

In 1585 Clifford commissioned arguably the single most impressive English suite of armour ever produced.  Made by Jacob Halder in the Royal Armoury at Greenwich, it consisted of 48 individual pieces, the richly decorated set provides a complete garniture with exchangeable elements pieces to allow for flexibility in its use.

The Almain Album at the Victoria and Albert Museum includes a contemporary sketch of the armour showing many of the fine details visible on the metal itself. The text below is from the V&A website linked above:
This design is one of the more spectacular in the album. The main figure is dressed in heavy cavalry armour for use in battle. On the facing page are extra pieces for converting the armour into light cavalry or tournament use. The supplementary pieces include a grandguard to protect the left shoulder and neck during a joust, vamplates to attach to a lance to protect the hand, and horse armour including saddle steels, shaffron (face-guard) and stirrups. A locking gauntlet, to give an unbreakable grip on a sword during a tourney (mock battle) is also shown with a close helmet, a pauldron and a reinforcing breastplate, but these are shown only in oputline. The design is painted reddish brown to denote that the armour should be heat-treated to turn a deep blue. It is decorated with vertical bands of gilded etching and panes of Tudor roses and knots ornament rising up the armour.
Clifford's Greenwich garniture has been owned and displayed by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1932. There is a brief video showing many if the fine details available through the BBC online here.

Note that I do not own the copyright to any of the images included in this blog post. Please use the links provided throughout to visit the original websites from whom the images were obtained.


  1. Where did you get the image of the Earl in in his tilting armour at the top of the post? It is based off a Nicholas Hilliard miniature c. 1590 and shows some interesting diversions from the original such as the inclusion of red on the interior of the helmet, which may in fact record what the original had looked like prior to fading and discoloration. I know this is a much later than the original post but if you have any info on that image it would be very much appreciated!

    1. I am not sure of it's authenticity - you are correct that it is based on the Hilliard portrait - but it comes from the Skipton Castle website (