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Earl of Ulster (1355-1368)
Duke of Clarence (1362-1368)

Lionel was the third son of King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, born at Antwerp in Flanders on the 29th November 1338, during the course of one of his father's many continental campaigns. At the age of three he was betrothed to Elizabeth de Burgh, the sole daughter and heiress of William de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, and whilst still a child was appointed by his father as Keeper of the Realm on two separate occasions in 1345 and 1346.

He was created Earl of Ulster in 1355 prior to his joining his father in France. In 1359, he was again in France with Edward III, this time accompanied by his brothers and was a witness to the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360. Although Edward attempted to win recognition for Lionel as king of Scotland that particular notion failed to win acceptance and so it was to Ireland that Lionel was expected to direct his energies.

The English hold on Ireland had been weakening ever since the intervention of Edward Bruce in 1315, and Lionel who now held the Earldom of Ulster together with the Lordships of Connaught, Meath, Leix, and Ossory was the natural choice to reverse this recent trend. Lionel was therefore appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland in 1361, landed at Dublin and began an effort to establish his authority over Ireland. As was frequently to be the case as regards English intervention in Ireland, this proved harder than expected.

Whereas Lionel was created the Duke of Clarence on the 13th of November 1362 to encourage him in his efforts in Ireland, when it came down to it he displayed little interest in the tricky business of bringing the native Irish under his control and preferred to remain at Dublin Castle where he was free to amuse himself as best he could. After holding a parliament at Kilkenny, which passed the Statute of Kilkenny in 1367, Lionel decided that he'd had enough of Ireland and returned to England.

His first wife Elizabeth having died in 1363 he now set his sights on marrying again and decided on Violante, the daughter of Galeazzo II, the ruler of Milan. In 1368 Lionel therefore left for Italy and after brief stopovers at the courts of Charles V of France and the Duke of Burgundy, he arrived in Italy and was married to Violante in Milan on the 5th June 1368. Soon afterwards he became sick and later died at Alba Pompeia in Piedmont on the 17th October 1368. Poison was suspected but never proved. His remains were eventually returned to England and deposited in the Church of the Augustine Friars at Clare in Suffolk.

His only child was a daughter by his first wife Elizabeth de Burgh, named Philippa who in the year 1368 married Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March. This marriage was later to prove of greater consequence as after the Lancastrian Usurpation of 1399 many believed that the 'true' succession to the crown had passed through Philippa into the hands of the Mortimer family. This Mortimer claim to the throne later passed into the hands of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York who used it as the basis of his challenge to the authority of Henry VI and led to the Wars of the Roses.


Geoffrey Chaucer once served as a page in Lionel's household.


SOURCES

  • George Frederick Beltz Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
    (1861) from http://www.britannia.com/bios/royals/ladkclre.html
  • The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for CLARENCE, DUKES OF
    See http://1911encyclopedia.org/index.htm
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)

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