Ratcliffe, Thomas

, Earl of Sussex, a statesman of the sixteenth century, was the eldest son of Henry Ratcliffe, the second earl of Sussex, by Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Thomas Howard, second duke of Norfolk. His first public service was in an honourable embassy to the emperor Charles the Fifth, to treat of the projected marriage of Queen Mary to Philip, which he afterwards ratified with the latter in Spain. Upon his return he was appointed lord deputy of Ireland, and chief justice of the forests north of Trent. The order of the garter, and the office of captain of the pensioners, were likewise conferred on him in that reign, a little before the conclusion of which he succeeded to his father’s honours. Elizabeth continued him for a while in the post of lord deputy, and recalled him to assume that of the president of the North, a situation rendered infinitely difficult by the delicacy of her affairs with Scotland, and the rebellious spirit of the border counties. The latter, however, was subdued by his prudence and bravery in 1569; and the assiduity and acuteness with which he studied the former, will appear from his own pen. The unfortunate affair of the duke of Norfolk, to whom he was most firmly attached, fell out in the course | of that year, and would have ended happily and honourably if the duke had followed his advice. That nobleman’s last request was, that his best george, chain, and gafter, might be given to my lord of Sussex. He was the prime negociator in those two famous treaties of marriage with the archduke Charles and the duke of Alenson, Elizabeth’s real intentions in which have been so frequently the subject of historical disquisition. In 1572, he retired from the severer labours of the public service, in which he had wasted his health, to the honourable office of lord chamberlain, and the duties of a cabinet minister; and died at his house in Bermondsey, June 9, 1583, leaving little to his heirs but the bright example of a character truly noble. The earl of Sussex was twice married; first, to Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, by whom he had two sons, Henry and Thomas, who died young; secondly, to Frances, daughter of sir William Sydney, afterwards the celebrated foundress of Sydney-Sussex college in Cambridge; by whom having no children, he was succeeded by Henry, his next brother.

This great man’s conduct,” says Mr. Lodge, “united all the splendid qualities of those eminent persons who jointly rendered Elizabeth’s court an object of admiration to Europe, and was perfectly free from their faults. Wise and loyal as Burghley, without his blind attachment to the monarch; vigilant as Walsingham, but disdaining his low cunning; magnificent as Leicester, but incapable of hypocrisy; and brave as Ralegh, with the piety of a primitive Christian; he seemed above the common objects of human ambition, and wanted, if the expression may be allowed, those dark shades of character which make nien the 1 heroes of history. Hence it is, probably, that our writers have bestowed so little attention on this admirable person, who is but slightly mentioned in most historical collections, unless with regard to his disputes with Leicester, whom he hated almost to a fault.” Mr. Lodge justly esteems himself peculiarly fortunate in having been the instrument of disclosing the earl of Sussex’s letters to the public. They form a very valuable part of the “Historical Illustrations,” and, a small number excepted, are the only ones to be met with in print. These letters display both his integrity and ability in a very striking light, and are written in a clear and manly style. Four of them are particularly curious two to the queen, onthe treaty of marriage with the archduke of | Austria; one to sir William Cecil, on the state of parties in Scotland; and one to her Majesty, concerning the duke of Alen$on. The letter on the affairs of Scotland is considered by Mr. Lodge as an inestimable curiosity. Farther light will be thrown on the earl of Sussex’s character, by transcribing the manly language in which he complains that his services were neglected, and declares his purpose of retiring to private life. It is in a letter to sir William Cecil. “I was firste a Lieuten‘te; I was after little better than a Marshal; I had then nothing left to me but to direct hanging matters (in the meane tyme all was disposed that was w th in my comission), and nowe I ame offered to be made a Shreif’s Bayly to deliver over possessions. Blame me not, good Mr. Secretarie, though my pen utter somewhat of that swell in my stomake, for I see I ame kepte but for a brome, and when I have done my office to be throwen out of the dore. I ame the first nobel man hathe been thus used. Trewe service deserveth honor and credite, and not reproche and open defaming; but, seeing the one is ever delivered to me in the stede of the other, I must leave to serve, or lose my honor; w^h, being continewed so long in my howse, I wolde be lothe shoolde take blemishe wth me. These matters I knowe procede not from lacke of good and honorable meaning in the Q,’ ma 1 towards me, nor from lacke of dewte’ and trewthe in me towards her, which grevethe me the more and, therefore, seing I shall be still a camelyon, and yelde no other shewe then as it shall please others to give the couller, I will content my self to live a private lyfe. God send her Mate others that meane as well as I have done; and so I comitt you to th* Almightie.” From the next letter it appears that the queen had too much wisdom to part with so faithful a counsellor and servant. The earl of Sussex had a high regard and esteem for Lord Burghley. In one of his letters, dated June 28, 1580, he expresses himself, to that great statesman, in the following terms: “The trevve fere of God w^h yo r actyons have alwayes shewed to be in yo r harte, the grete and deepe care wch you have always had for the honor and salfty of the Q‘. Ma*’s most worthy p’son; the co‘tinual troubell w ch yqu have of long tyme taken for the benefyting of the com’on-welthe and the upryght course wich ye have alwaye’s taken, respectying the mattr and not the p’son, in all causes (wch be the necessary trusts of him that ferethe God trewly, s’rveth his Soverayne faythfully, | and lovethe his countrey clerely) have tyed me to yo r L. in that knotte w cli no worldly fraylty can break; and, therfor, I wyll never forbere to runne any fortune that may s’rve you, and further you' godly actyons. And so, my good L. forberyng to entrobell you w th words, I end; and wysh unto you as to my self, and better, yf I may.1


Lodge’s Illustrations. Biog. Brit, new edi*. art. Robert Dubley, p. 465.