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The Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
Member of the English Parliament
for Totnes
In office
Serving with
Succeeded by
In office
28 November 1672 – 24 June 1673
Preceded byIn Commission
Succeeded byThe Viscount Latimer
Treasurer of the Household
In office
Preceded byCharles Fitzhardinge, 2nd Viscount Fitzhardinge
Succeeded byThe Lord Newport
Comptroller of the Household
In office
Preceded bySir Hugh Pollard, Bt
Succeeded byThe Lord Newport
Personal details
Thomas Clifford

(1630-08-01)1 August 1630
Died17 October 1673(1673-10-17) (aged 43)
Cause of deathSuicide
SpouseElizabeth Martin
Children15, including Hugh Clifford
  • Sir Hugh Clifford
  • Mary Chudleigh

Thomas Clifford, 1st Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1 August 1630 – 17 October 1673) was an English statesman who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1672 when he was created Baron Clifford. He was one of five leading politicians who formed the Cabal ministry between 1668 and 1674 in the reign of Charles II.


Clifford was born in Ugbrooke, the son of Hugh Clifford of Chudleigh, Devon, and his wife Mary Chudleigh, daughter of Sir George Chudleigh, 1st Baronet. He was baptised on 4 August 1630 at Ugbrooke. He matriculated at Exeter College, Oxford in 1647 and entered Middle Temple in 1648.[1]

His aunt, Sabina Clifford, married Matthew Hals (or (Halse) of Kenendon. Their daughter, Anne, married Rev John Tindal and was the mother of Dr Matthew Tindal, the eminent deist and author of Christianity as Old as the Creation.

Political and public life

In April 1660, Clifford was elected Member of Parliament for Totnes in the Convention Parliament. He was re-elected MP for Totnes in 1661 for the Cavalier Parliament.[1] He distinguished himself in naval battles, and was knighted. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, Clifford served as one of four Commissioners for taking Care of Sick and Wounded Seamen and for the Care and Treatment of Prisoners of War (the others were Sir William D'Oyly, John Evelyn and Bullen Reymes).[2]

In August 1665, Clifford was named Ambassador Extraordinary to Sweden; he traveled to Denmark in October, before returning to Britain the following February.[3] He became Comptroller of the Household in 1666[4] and a member of the Privy Council. At the end of the Dutch war in 1669 he intrigued against the peace treaty, preferring the French interests.[5]

He was one of the five Counsellors who formed the Cabal, each of whom pursued their own interests. Clifford was known as 'the Bribe Master General'. King Charles II entrusted for safekeeping to Clifford, his favorite aide, the British state papers of the 1670 Treaty of Dover, which "led to war between England and the Netherlands and might have ended British parliamentary rule and the Church of England".[6]

Clifford was created the first Baron Clifford of Chudleigh on 22 April 1672 for his suggestion that the King supply himself with money by stopping, for one year, all payments out of the Exchequer. He was Lord High Treasurer from 28 November 1672 to June 1673, when, as a Roman Catholic, he found himself unable to comply with the Test Act and resigned.[7]

He died possibly by his own hand[7] (perhaps "strangled with his cravatt upon the bed-tester") a few months after his retirement.

Marriage and children

Arms of Clifford: Checky or and azure, a fesse gules[8]

He married Elizabeth Martin, who died in 1709. She was the daughter of Richard (William) Martin of Lindridge House, Devon.

  • They had fifteen children, eight of which were daughters:
  1. Elizabeth, born before 1655, died as infant.
  2. Elizabeth, born 1655, died 1677, married in 1673 Henry Carew, 2nd Baronet Carew of Haccombe. They had no issue (?).
  3. Mary, born 1658, died 9 October 1715, married in 1673 Sir Simon Leach of Cadeleigh. They had no issue (?).
  4. Amy, born 1661, died 1693, married in October 1681 John Courtenay (d.1724) of Molland, Devon. They had numerous issue, as the mural monument in Molland Church attests. No male grandsons resulted and Molland descended via their daughter Mary who married William Paston of Horton Court, Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire.
  5. Anne, born 1662, died 1678.
  6. Rhoda, born 1665, died 1689.
  7. Isabel Clifford, born between 1665 and 1669, died as infant.
  8. Catherine Clifford, born 1670, died 1708.

And their sons were:

  1. Thomas, born before 1652, died as infant.
  2. Thomas, born before 1652, died as infant.
  3. Thomas, born on 3 December 1652, died in 1671 in Florence, Italy.
  4. George, born between 1653 and 1662, died as infant
  5. Hugh, 2nd Baron Clifford of Chudleigh (1663–1730)
  6. Simon, born 1666, died ?, acceded in 1686.
  7. Charles, born 1671, baptized on 24 June 1671, died on 4 July 1691, buried in Ugbrooke.


3 Annotations

First Reading

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Per L&M Companion:-

1st. Baron Clifford (1630-73). One of the ablest and boldest politicians of his day a strong supporter of royal power and the Catholic interest and a violent enemy of the Dutch. M.P. for Totnes1660, 1661-72; a Privy Counselor from 1666; created baron 1672. The principal offices he held were those of Comptroller, then Treasurer of the Household 1666-72; Treasury Commissioner 1667-72 and Lord Treasurer 1672-3; he was also a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber 1660-73, a Fishery Commissioner from 1664, a sub-commissioner of the Sick and Wounded and a Commissioner for Prizes 1664-7. He served ion the fleet in the Second Dutch War and had a large part in precipitating the war of 1672-4. Pepys remarks more than once on his ability and his astonishing rise to power. He resigned after the Test Act in 1673, being received into the Catholic church at about that time. His death shortly after was said (probably wrongly) to have been suicide.


Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Thomas Clifford, born at Ugbrooke, Devon, August 1st, 1630, and educated at Exeter College, Oxford. He attended Charles II. in exile, and represented Totnes in the Convention Parliament and in that of 1661. He was knighted as a reward for the delivery of several speeches on behalf of the royal prerogative. After having distinguished himself at sea and acting as Envoy Extraordinary to the courts of Denmark and Sweden, he was, on November 8th, 1666, made Comptroller of the Household, and on December 5th he was sworn of the Privy Council. In 1672 he was made Secretary of State, on April 22nd created Baron Clifford, and in November raised to the post of Lord High Treasurer, which he held till June, 1673. Died September, 1673, in the forty-fourth year of his age.
--- Wheatley. Diary, 1904.

Bill  •  Link

CLIFFORD, THOMAS, first Baron Clifford Of Chudleigh (1630-1673), of Ugbrooke, Devonshire; a concealed Romanist entered Exeter College, Oxford, 1647, and the Middle Temple, 1648; travelled; M.P., Totnes, 1660-72; joined court party, 1663; a commissioner for the care of the sick and wounded, 1664; a trustee for the Duke of Monmouth, 1665; knighted; a confidant of Arlington; envoy to Denmark, 1665; served at sea, 1665-6; comptroller (1666), and treasurer (1668) of the household; cognisant of Charles II's wishes to establish Roman Catholicism in England, 1669; intrigued in France against the triple alliance, 1669; privy to secret clauses of treaty of Dover, December, 1670; granted estates by Charles II, 1671; acting secretary of state, 1672; advised the suspension of exchequer payments, and the Declaration of Indulgence, 1672; created Baron Clifford, 1672; lord high treasurer, 1672; resigned under the Test Act, 1673.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome, 1903

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.