CLERE, Edward (1536-1606), of Blickling, Norf.
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Family and Education
b. 15 June 1536, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir John Clere† of Ormesby by Anne, da. of Sir Thomas Tyrell of Gipping, Suff. educ. ?Louvain c.1546; St. John’s, Camb. 1553; I. Temple 1555; ?LLD by 1557; adv. 1557. m. (1) settlement 16 Dec. 1554, Frances, da. of Richard Fulmerston of Thetford, 3s. 3da.; (2) Agnes, da. of Robert Crane of Chilton, Suff., wid. of John Smith of Halesworth, Suff., of Francis Clopton of Melford, Suff. and of Sir Christopher Heydon of Baconsthorpe, 1s. suc. fa. 1557. Kntd. 1578.1
J.p. Norf. 1560, rem. 1561, j.p.q. 1583; sheriff, Norf. and Suff. 1567-8, Norf. 1580-1; dep. lt. Norf. 1585; commr. musters 1596-7, sewers 1597.2
Though a younger son, Clere succeeded to an extensive patrimony on the north-east coast of Norfolk, being licensed to enter his lands on 22 Feb. 1558. In May of that year he purchased further property at Wymondham, and in 1561, on the death of his great-uncle Sir James Boleyn† he inherited Blickling, which he made his chief seat. On the death of his father-in-law (Sir) Richard Fulmerston in 1567, Clere and his wife came into possession of most of his extensive estates in and around Thetford as well as inheriting most of his personal property.3
Thus, after 1567 Clere was one of the greatest landowners in Norfolk, appearing in 1588 on Lord Burghley’s list of ‘knights of great possessions’ able to support a peerage. He was a second cousin to the Queen and to Lord Hunsdon, and brother-in-law to Walter Haddon, the master of requests. His connexion with the Duke of Norfolk through his father-in-law Fulmerston, the Duke’s servant, caused him to be among those questioned on Norfolk’s arrest in October 1569, and in September 1571 he and others were ordered to take an inventory of the Duke’s goods at Kenninghall. In 1570 he was made collector in Norfolk of the forced loan. This inevitably made him unpopular with his fellow gentry, and gave rise to probably well-founded accusations of fraud and extortion. He was also in conflict with his manorial tenants, and at loggerheads with the Thetford corporation. He had to attend upon the Privy Council for a while after the forced loan episode, but he never lost the Council’s confidence. In 1578 he entertained the Queen during her Norfolk progress, ‘worthily feasted’ her retinue, and was knighted by the Queen at Norwich. In 1583 he signed a petition on behalf of certain puritan ministers and four years later was noted by the bishop of Norwich as a ‘favourer of religion’.4
Clere’s election at Thetford to the Parliaments of 1558 and 1563 was due to the local influence of his father-in-law, Fulmerston. Clere succeeded to Fulmerston’s land in 1567 and what made him resort to Grampound for a seat in 1571 is not evident, nor is it clear who was his patron there. Possibly there was a court connexion with the 2nd Earl of Bedford. Clere’s committee work concerned the continuance of statutes (20 Mar. 1563), priests disguised as servants (1 May 1571), and tillage and the navy (25 May 1571). He spoke on the treasons bill (9 Apr. 1571), the anonymous diarist commenting, ‘Mr. Clere of Norfolk, a gentleman of great possessions, made hereupon a staggering speech: his conclusion I did not conceive’. Of another speech, again on a religious topic (11 Apr.), he wrote ‘such was my ill hap I could not understand what reason he made’. D’Ewes records Clere as speaking on the bill for Bristol, also on 11 Apr. In the discussion on Strickland’s case on 20 Apr., he defended the prerogative of the Crown.5
In 1572 Clere decided to try for the county seat, Sir Thomas Cornwallis reporting just before the election that Clere ‘leaveth no stone untouched that may further his part’, and that ‘a great number of the shire’ were ‘evil affected towards him’. Unsuccessful, he wrote a series of letters to Richard Southwell, whom he had addressed as ‘loving cousin and friend’ when canvassing support beforehand, describing his ‘found falsehood’, and contrasting Southwell’s ‘overt action in so great an assembly’ with his ‘former pretended opinion’.6
In October 1586 he and his fellow deputy lieutenant Sir William Heydon were ordered by the Privy Council to ensure that at the new election of knights of the shire ‘fit men may be chosen, known to be well affected to religion and the present estate’, and Clere wrote to his friend, Bassingbourne Gawdy, suggesting that he stand, adding that if he himself were not incapacitated by a rupture, he ‘should be willing to be with you there’. The Norfolk gentry at this time were divided. In the north of the county Clere and Sir William Heydon, after initial quarrels over the rights of Clere’s second wife to the Heydon manor of Saxlingham, had united against Nathaniel Bacon, the Knyvet and Wyndham families and others of their neighbours. Soon after the 1586 election they apparently persuaded the lord lieutenant, Hunsdon, to replace Sir Thomas Knyvet by their friend Sir Arthur Heveningham as a deputy lieutenant, and had several of their opponents turned off the commission of the peace. During the next few years Clere can generally be found on the side of Heveningham in the latter’s quarrels with the Bacon faction over such contentious matters as the organisation of county musters.7
Clere’s eldest son Edward, already in 1585 ‘in peril divers ways of imprisonment and shame’, was accused in the next reign of sheltering a seminary priest and from 1606 spent much of his life in prison. Clere therefore did his best to keep his property out of his eldest son’s hands, though he could not break the entail on the Fulmerston estate. By various settlements and by his will, made in April 1605, he divided the rest between the younger sons, Sir Francis and Robert, and his grandson Henry. Most of the land eventually reverted to Henry, who became a baronet in 1620 and died s.p. in 1622. Clere’s will contained bequests to other relatives, and arranged for the foundation of a fellowship and scholarship at St. John’s, Cambridge. Most of the personal property was left to the widow, the sole executrix, who had a life interest in Blickling. One of the two supervisors was his ‘old well tried friend’ Dru Drury. Clere died in London on 3 June 1606, and was buried at Blickling.8
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
Author: Roger Virgoe
- 1. C142/112/123; Vis. Norf. (Norf. and Norwich Arch. Soc. 1895), ii. 267-8; LP Hen. VIII, xxi(1), p. 217; Coote, Civilians, 43.
- 2. APC, xiv. 242; xxvi. 53, 388; xxvii. 274; A. H. Smith thesis, 203.
- 3. CPR, 1557-8, pp. 78, 331; 1566-9, p. 151; PCC 34 Wrastley; C142/112/120; PCC 35 Loftes, 33 Stonard.
- 4. Lansd. 14, f. 150 seq.; 104, ff. 51 seq.; N. Williams, Duke of Norfolk, 164; HMC Hatfield, i. 438; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 369, 373, 377, 381, 385, 424; APC, vii. 361, 366; viii. 71, 99, 107, 141; Add. 27960, f. 6; Smith thesis, passim; Thetford hall bk. 1578-86, pp. 86, 113; c. 1570-1622, pp. 37-8, 86; Nichols, Progresses Eliz. ii. 214; A. Peel, Seconde Parte of a Register, i. 225; Strype, Annals, iii(2), 460.
- 5. CJ, i. 70, 87, 93; Trinity, Dublin, anon. jnl., ff. 8, 12, 34; D’Ewes, 160, 175.
- 6. Plas Newydd mss, box 11/35; Add. 27960, ff. 9d.10d.
- 7. APC, xiv. 242; Add. 27960, f. 27; A. H. Smith thesis, 203-23, 303 seq.
- 8. Add. 27960, f. 26; HMC Hatfield, xvii. 531; xviii. 386-7; HMC 3rd Rep. 12; Blomefield, Norf. xi. 235; PCC 99 Stafforde; Vis. Norf. ii. 279, 303-6, 310-11, 326-7.