CLIFFORD, Sir Conyers (d.1599).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

3rd s. of George Clifford of Bobbing Court, Kent by Ursula, da. of Roger Finch. m. Mary (d.1603), da. of Francis Southwell of Wymondham, Norf., wid. of Thomas Sidney of Kent and of Nicholas Gorges, 2s. 1da. Kntd. 1591.

Offices Held

Served under 2nd Earl of Essex at Rouen 1591; sergeant-major-gen. Cadiz expedition 1596; president of Connaught 1597.1


Sir Francis Vere, who shared with him command of the land forces at Cadiz, described Clifford as ‘a man of haughty stomach, and not of the greatest government or experience in martial discipline’, but he was close to Essex, whose lasting gratitude he earned by rescuing from enemy lines at Rouen the body of the Earl’s favourite brother, Walter Devereux. Brought into Parliament by Essex, Clifford is noted as sitting on one committee on 12 Mar. 1593 for the relief of maimed soldiers. In August 1599 Essex directed Clifford, in an attempt to divide Tyrone’s forces, to create a diversion by marching into Ulster from Connaught with 1,500 foot soldiers and 100 horse. Coming in ‘hot harvest weather’—and tired from the long march—to the Curlew mountains, they left the baggage and ammunition on one side while the infantry ‘made good the passage’ over a causeway. Attacked by O’Rourke’s rebels, the English held them off until their ammunition was almost gone, when they were ‘seized with panic and took to flight’. Clifford, exclaiming that he would not outlive ‘this day’s ignominy’ and ‘enraged with a consideration of the vileness of his men’, ‘brake from them in a fury and, turning head alone, alone made head to the whole troops of pursuers, in the midst of whom, after he was struck through the body with a pike, he died fighting’. O’Rourke, left in possession of the field, cut off his head and sent it to O’Donnell. Essex wrote to the Queen ‘amazed silence will best fit me till I revenge or follow’ Clifford, with whom 120 men perished. Clifford made a will, of which the sentence only survives.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: A.H.D.


  • 1. DNB; Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. lxxiv), 40; Hasted, Kent, vi. 201; C. G. Cruickshank, Elizabeth’s Army, 271-3.
  • 2. Vere, Commentaries (1657), 26; E. Laws, Little England beyond Wales, 287-8; Tenison, Eliz. England, viii. 432; xi. 143-4; D’Ewes, 499; HMC Hatfield, ix. 289, 300, 343; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 306; R. Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors, iii. 335-7; W. Devereux, Lives of Earls of Essex, ii. 53, 56, 57; PCC 49 Wallop.