The Cliffords, Earls of Cumberland, 1579-1646: a study of their fortunes based on their household and estate accounts
This study traces the fortunes of the Cliffords under the last three Earls. Raised to the peerage in 1299 and created Earls in 1525, the Cliffords built up estates in Yorkshire and Westmorland until they became one of the wealthiest noble families. This wealth Was dissipated by the 3rd Earl. Drawn into heavy expenditure by extravagant living and, In particular, passion for privateering, the Earl incurred large debts. He reduced them by raising money from his estates, which suffered accordingly; yet many debts were unpaid at his death. Debts and impaired estates were the 3rd Earl's legacy to his successor. In contrast, many creditors, mainly of the gentry class, had profited by lending the Earl money at interest. During the 4th Earl's tenure, the Cliffords' fortunes recovered briefly but then steadily deteriorated. Until 1617 his tenure of the estates was uncertain for the 3rd Earl's daughters Lady Anne Clifford, disputed his right to the inheritance. His income, though sustained for twenty years by the profits of a cloth licence granted the 3rd Earl in 1601, could not pay all the 3rd Earl's debts nor big new debts incurred in raising the portion awarded Lady Anne at the settlement of the inheritance dispute. The Cliffords' financial difficulties and the depreciation of the estates which accompanied them continued until the Civil Var. When the 5th Earl died in 1643, the Cliffords' wealth and standing were much diminished. Their tenants,however, had benefited for, because of the Cliffords' need of cash, many had been able to purchase their holdings and with them their independence. With the 5th Earl's death, the male line became extinct and the estates were divided between his daughter, Elizabeth Countess of Cork, and Lady Anne Clifford.