CLARE, Ralph (c.1587-1670), of Caldwell and Kidderminster, Worcs. and St. James's, Westminster
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Family and Education
b. c.1587, 1st s. of Sir Francis Clare of Caldwell, and Muriel, da. of Ralph Sheldon of Beoley, Worcs.1 educ. Hart Hall, Oxf. 1597 aged 10; BA St John’s, Oxf. 1601; M. Temple 1602.2 unm.3 suc. fa. 1608;4 cr. KB 1 Feb. 1626.5 d. 21 Apr. 1670.6
Kpr. Tickenhill House and Bewdley Park, Worcs. 1608-d.;7 j.p. Worcs. by 1621-at least 1644, 1660-d.;8 dep. lt. Worcs. 1625-42, 1660-d.;9 commr. oyer and terminer, Wales and the Marches 1625-40,10 Forced Loan, Worcs. 1627;11 member, Council of the Marches of Wales 1633;12 high steward, Kidderminster 1636-d.;13 commr. charitable uses, Worcs. 1640,14 array 1642,15 raising vols. (roy.) 1642,16 safety (roy.) 1643-6, accts. (roy.) 1644,17 Sir Jacob Astley’s army, Glos., Worcs. and Warws. 1645-6,18 Poll Tax, Worcs. 1660, assessment, 1660, 1662, 1664-8, Worcester 1660, indigent roy. officers, Worcs. 1662, subsidy, Worcs. 1663.19
Gent. privy chamber, Prince Henry’s Household by 1610-12, Prince Charles’s Household 1613-25, Charles I, 1625-8, Charles II by 1664.20
The Clares first appear as Worcestershire landowners in 1530, when Gilbert Clare was bequeathed the manor of Croome d’Abitot. Clare’s father sold Croome in 1592, whereupon the manor of Caldwell, in the parish of Kidderminster, became the family’s main residence.21 In 1606 Sir Francis Clare was appointed keeper of Tickenhall Lodge and park near Bewdley, one of the occasional residences of the Council in the Marches of Wales.22 Sir Francis was probably nominated by the 1st earl of Montgomery (Sir Philip Herbert*), who in the following year procured his ‘good friend and kinsman’ a grant of the herbage of the park.23
Clare was educated at Hart Hall in Oxford, and was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1602, where he remained for at least four years.24 In 1608 he inherited the family lands, which mainly comprised the manors of Caldwell and Overwitton,25 and succeeded his father as keeper of Tickenhall Lodge. In that year lord president Eure complained that Clare had refused the Council in the Marches free occupancy of the Lodge. Clare was ordered to admit Eure but not long after the Council stopped using Tickenhill.26 By 1610 Clare had entered royal service as a gentleman of the privy chamber to Henry, prince of Wales; he subsequently served Charles I and Charles II in the same capacity. He also played a leading role in the life of Kidderminster. It may have been at his suggestion that his uncle, Sir Henry Clare of Norfolk, granted him land and shops in the town for the benefit of the local free school in 1609. Almost a half century later, he was still accepting land on behalf of the school, this time from the earl of Newport.27 When the town received a royal charter in 1636, Clare was appointed high steward for life.
Clare’s parliamentary career began in 1614, when he sat for Droitwich. He may have owed his election to his mother’s family, as the Sheldons owned salt bullaries in the borough in the sixteenth century.28 He was re-elected in 1621 after Sir Thomas Coventry, who had been appointed attorney-general, was prevented from taking his seat. On neither occasion did Clare make an impression on the parliamentary records. In 1623 he was among those sent by James I to attend the prince of Wales in Madrid.29 That same year he was granted a 31-year lease of Tickenhall and the manor of Bewdley, which was part of Prince Charles’s estates.30 The following year he sat for Bewdley as the prince’s nominee.31 He received three committee appointments, the first being for the bill to repeal parts of the sixteenth-century statute that gave the king the power to make laws for Wales (6 Mar. 1624). Three days later he was appointed to the committee for the bill to enable Prince Charles to makes leases of the duchy of Cornwall estates. On 3 Apr. he was named to attend a joint conference on recusants.32
In 1625 Clare was re-elected for Bewdley but left no trace on the Parliament’s records. At Charles I’s coronation (1 Feb. 1626) he was dubbed a knight of the Bath. Again Member for Bewdley in 1626 he was nominated to the joint conference about the defence of the kingdom (7 Mar.) and to the committee for the bill for the restitution of Carew Ralegh†, the eldest son of Sir Walter† (24 March).33 On 27 Apr. he was suspended from his position in the privy chamber and ordered to absent himself from Court, along with Sir Francis Steward*, Sir William Croft*, and David Ramsey, for speaking out against the duke of Buckingham. The offending words appear to have been uttered outside the House.34 In 1626 Clare was again elected for Bewdley, indicating that his influence there stemmed from his lease of the manor and park, rather than the nomination of the Crown. He was appointed to committees for bills concerning the estates of the earl of Devonshire (21 Apr.) and to confirm letters patents granted to the earl of Bristol (Sir John Digby*, 23 May).35
Clare might have expected to return to favour after Buckingham’s death, but in September 1628 it was reported that he had been banished from St. James’s and not long after he was replaced in the privy chamber by John Ashburnham*.36 However in May 1632 he was awarded a pension of £200 p.a.37 Despite this grant, Clare’s finances were shaky, and in 1639 he was forced to mortgage Caldwell.38 Clare contested Bewdley for the Short and Long Parliaments in 1640 but in both cases lost out to Sir Henry Herbert*, although in the later election he had the support of most of the ordinary burgesses.39 In 1642 Clare was appointed a deputy lieutenant for Worcestershire by the parliamentarians but subsequently claimed never to have served. He was also appointed to the commission of the array, and was initially equally inactive in the king’s cause, apparently because he was out of the county. In 1643 he was one of the principal opponents of (Sir) William Russell* among the Worcestershire royalists and was one of the most active members of the county’s commissioners for safety. In late 1645 he was held to ransom by mutinous royalist forces and in 1646 participated in the negotiations for the surrender of Worcester.40 Clare compounded for his estate after the war but in 1651 he was again sequestered for supporting Charles II at Worcester. The parliamentarians subsequently accepted his defence that he had been under restraint and he was discharged in 1654. He was one of the royalists imprisoned in Worcester gaol in 1655 when the Protectorate feared a general royalist uprising.41 Soon released he returned to Kidderminster, where he organized a boycott of Richard Baxter’s ministry for failing to use the Book of Common Prayer. Clare was an opponent of extemporary prayer and would not receive communion with those who would not kneel.42
Clare participated in the royalist conspiracies of 1659 and was returned to local office after the Restoration. In 1664 Charles II granted him £3,000. He was again defeated by Herbert at Bewdley in 1661, and his rumoured ambition to stand as a knight of the shire in that year was ridiculed by his fellow cavaliers, who referred to his ‘feeble knightship’ in a libel circulated in the county.43 By contrast Baxter, who believed that Clare was responsible for ejecting him from Kidderminster, retained considerable respect for him, describing him as ‘of great courtship and civility and very temperate as to diet, apparel and sports, and seldom would swear any louder than "By his troth"’.44
Clare made his will on 1 Apr. 1670 in which he bequeathed almshouses for Kidderminster and money to lend to poor tradesmen in that town and Bewdley. Two codicils were subsequently added. He died unmarried on 21 Apr. and was buried two days later in Kidderminster church.45 There is an engraving of Clare, taken from a portrait, in Nash’s Collections for the History of Worcestershire.46
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Authors: Glyn Redworth / Ben Coates
- 1. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 38.
- 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
- 3. Vis. Worcs. ed. Metcalfe, 33.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 268.
- 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 162.
- 6. T. Nash, Colls. for Hist. Worcs. ii. 53.
- 7. SO3/4, unfol. (July 1608).
- 8. C193/13/1, f. 104v ; Diary of Henry Townshend ed. J.W. Willis Bond (Worcs. Hist. Soc. 1920), ii. 184, 276.
- 9. Charles by the Grace of God King of England (1625), STC 8766; HEHL, EL 7443; SP29/11/321; SP44/35A, f. 4v
- 10. C181/3, f. 154; C181/2, f. 184v.
- 11. C193/12/2, f. 62.
- 12. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 4, p. 7.
- 13. J.R. Burton, Hist. Kidderminster, 74.
- 14. C192/1, unfol.
- 15. Northants. RO, FH133.
- 16. R.H. Silcock, ‘County Govt. in Worcs.’ (London Ph.D. thesis, 1974), p. 327.
- 17. Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 14, 219; Diary of Henry Townshend, iii. 265.
- 18. Diary of Henry Townshend, iii. 244
- 19. SR, v. 220, 273, 274, 341, 384, 468, 542, 572, 582, 586, 619.
- 20. Harl. 7009, f. 5; LC2/4/6, f. 35v; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 257; LC2/6, f. 69; SP16/2/118; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 419; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 675
- 21. VCH Worcs. iii. 170, 314; Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 38.
- 22. SO3/3, unfol. (Sept. 1606).
- 23. Lansd. 156, f. 61.
- 24. MTR, 468.
- 25. C142/341/54.
- 26. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 450; HMC 13th Rep. iv. 253; Survey of Worcs. by Thomas Habington ed. J. Amphlett (Worcs. Hist Soc. 1893-5), i. 531.
- 27. Worcs. RO, BA 2506/1 (i), (ii) and (iv).
- 28. Survey of Worcs. by Thomas Habington, ii. 307.
- 29. SP14/139/46.
- 30. Soc. Antiq. Prattinton Collection, ms IV, ii(A), p. 44; VCH Worcs. iv. 309.
- 31. DCO, ‘Prince Chas. in Spain’, f. 35.
- 32. CJ, i. 680a, 730a, 754a.
- 33. Procs. 1626, ii. 216, 356.
- 34. Birch, Chas. I, i. 97, 396, 419; CSP Ven. 1625-6, p. 416; Epistolary Curiosities ed. R. Warner, 15-17.
- 35. CD 1628, iii. 3, 558.
- 36. Birch, Chas. I, i. 396, 419
- 37. SO3/10, unfol. (May 1633).
- 38. CCAM, 77.
- 39. Short Parl. (1640) Diary of Sir Thomas Aston ed. J.D. Maltby (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xxxv), 146; CJ, ii. 21; Diary of Henry Townshend, i. 6.
- 40. Diary of Henry Townshend, i. 138; ii. 133-4.
- 41. CCAM, 1255; CCC, 1459; SP23/75, f. 109; Diary of Henry Townshend, i. 29.
- 42. R. Baxter, Reliquiae Bacterianae ed. M. Sylvester, i. 94, 157, ii. 299.
- 43. Ibid. ii. 207; Diary of Henry Townshend, i. 54, ii. 292; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 662.
- 44. Baxter, i. 94, ii. 298-9.
- 45. PROB 11/332, ff. 445v-6v; Burton, 220.
- 46. Nash, ii. facing p. 45.