Sadler, Sir Ralph

, an eminent English statesman, was born in 1507, at Hackney, in Middlesex. He was the son of Henry Sadler, who, though a gentleman by birth, and possessed of a fair inheritance, seems to have been steward or surveyor to the proprietor of the manor of Gillney, near Great Hadham, in Essex. Ralph in early life gained a situation in the family of Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex, and by him was introduced to the notice of Henry VIII. who took him into his service, but at what time is not very clear. He was employed in the great work of dissolving the religious houses, and had his full share of the spoil. In 1537, he commenced a long course of diplomatic services, byan embassy to Scotland, whose monarch was then absent in France. The objects of his mission were to greet the queen dowager, to strengthen the English interests in the councils of regency which then governed Scotland, and to discover the probable consequences of the intimate union of Scotland with France. Having collected such information as he could procure on these topics, he returned in the beginning of the following year, but went again to Scotland soon after, ostensibly to | maintain a good correspondence between the two crowns, but really, as appears from his state-papers, to detach the king of Scotland from the councils of cardinal Beaton, who was at the head of the party most in the interest of France. He was instructed also to direct the king’s attention to the overgrown possessions of the church as a source of revenue, and to persuade him to imitate his uncle Henry VHIth’s conduct to the see of Rome, and to make common cause with England against France. In all this, however, he appears to have failed, or at least to have left Scotland without having materially succeeded in any part of his. mission.

In the same year, 1540, he lost his patron Cromwell, who was beheaded; but he retained his favour with Henry, and in 1541 was again sent to Scotland, to detach the king from the pope and the. popish clergy, and to press upon him the propriety of a personal meeting with Henry. This however the king of Scotland appears to have evaded with considerable address, and died the following year of a broken heart, in consequence of hearing of the fatal battle of Solway. The crown was now left to James V.’s infant daughter Mary; and sir Ralph Sadler’s next employment was to lend his aid to the match, projected by Henry VIII. between his son Edward and the young queen. But this ended so unsuccessfully, that Sadler was obliged to return to England in Dee 1543, and Henry declared war against Scotland. In the mean time he was so satisfied with Sadler’s services, even in this last negociation, that he included him, by the title of sir Ralph Sad ley r, knight, among the twelve persons whom he named as a privy-council to the sixteen nobles to whom, in his will, he bequeathed the care of his son, and of the kingdom. When this will was set aside by the protector duke of Somerset, and it became necessary to reconcile the king’s executors and privy-counsellors, by wealth and honours, sir Ralph Sadler received a confirmation of all the church-lands formerly assigned to him by Henry, with splendid additions.

When the war with Scotland was renewed, sir Ralph so distinguished himself at the battle of Pinkie, that he was on the field raised to the degree of knight banneret; but we hear nothing more of him during the reign of Edward VI. except that in a grant, dated the 4th of that king’s reign, he is termed master of the great wardrobe. In Mary’s reigo, although he appears to have been in her | favour, he retired to his estate at Hackney, and resigned the office of knight of the hamper,;-.nich had been conferred on him by Henry VIII. On the accession of Elizab^th, he again appeared at court, was called to the privy council, and retained to his death a great portion of the esteem of that princess. He was a member of her first parliament, as one of the knights of the shire for the county of Hertford, and continued to be a representative of the people during the greater part, if not the whole, of her reign. When queen Elizabeth thought proper to favour the cause of the reformation in Scotland, and to support the nobility who were for it against Mary, sir Ralph Sadler was her principal agent, and so negotiated as to prepare the way for Elizabeth’s great influence in the affairs of Scotland. He was also concerned in the subsequent measures which led to the death of queen Mary, and was appointed her keeper in the castle of Tutbury; but such was Elizabeth’s jealousy of this unfortunate princess, that even Sadler’s watchfulness became liable to her suspicions, and on one occasion, a very heavy complaint was made against him, that he had permitted Mary to accompany him to some distance from the castle of Tutbury, to enjoy the sport of hawking. Sir Ralph had been hitherto so subservient to his royal mistress, in all her measures, and perhaps in some which he could not altogether approve, that this complaint gave him great uneasiness, and he answered it rather by an expostulation than an apology. He admitted that he had sent for his hawks and falconers to divert " the miserable life‘- which he passed at Tutbury, and that he had been unable to resist the solicitation of the prisoner, to permit her to see a sport in which she greatly delighted. But he adds; that this was under the strictest precautions for security of her person; and he declares to the secretary Cecil, that rather than continue a charge which subjected him to such misconstruction, were it not more for fear of offending the queen than dread of the punishment, he would abandon his present charge on coitdition of surrendering himself prisoner to the Tower for all the days of his life, and concludes that he is so weary of this life, that death itself would make him more happy. Elizabeth so far complied with his intimation as to commit Mary to a new keeper, but she did not withdraw her confidence from sir Ralph in other matters, and after the execution of Mary, employed him to go to the court of | James VI. to dissuade him from entertaining thoughts of a war with England on his mother’s account, to which there was reason to think he might have been excited. In this sir Ralph had little difficulty in succeeding, partly from James’s love of ease, and partly from the prospect he had of succeeding peaceably to the throne of England. This was the last time sir Ralph Sadler was employed in the public service, for soon after his return from Scotland, he died at his lordship of Standon, March 30, 1587, in the eightieth year of his age, and was buried in the church of Standon, where his monument was decorated with the king of Scotland’s standard, which he took in the battle of Musselburgh. He left behind him twenty-two manors, several parsonages, and other great portions of land, in the several counties of Hertford, Gloucester, Warwick, Buckingham, and Worcester. He married Margaret Mitchell, a laundress in the family of his first patron, Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex, in the life-time, though in the absence, of her husband, Matthew Barre, a tradesman in London, presumed to be dead at that time, and he afterwards procured an act of parliament, 37 Henry VIII. for the legitimation of the children by her, who were three sons, and four daughters; Anne, married to sir George Horsey of Digswell, knight; Mary, to Thomas Bollys aliter Bowles Wallington, esq. Jane, toEdward Baesh, of Stanstead, esq. (which three gentlemen appear to have been sheriffs of the county of Hertford, 14, 18, and 13 Eliz.); and Dorothy, to Edward EIryngton of Berstall, in the county of Bucks, esq. The sons were, Thomas, Edward, and Henry. Thomas succeeded to Standon, was sheriff of the county 29 and 37 Eliz. was knighted, and entertained king James there two nights on his way to Scotland. He had issue, Ralph and Gertrude married to Walter the first lord Aston of the kingdom of Scotland; Ralph, his son, dying without issue, was succeeded in his lordship of Standon and other estates in the county of Hertford, by Walter, the second lord Aston, eldest surviving son of his sister Gertrude lady Aston. The burying-place of the family is in tire chancel of the church at Standon. Against the south wall is a monument for sir Ralph Sadler, with the effigies of himself in armour, and of his three sons and four daughters,’ and three inscriptions, in Latin verse, in English verse, and in English prose against the north wall i& another for sir Thomas, with the effigies of himself in | armour, his lady, son and daughter, and an epitaph in Ertglish prose. There are also several inscriptions for various persons of the Aston family.

The transactions of sir Ralph Sadler’s most memorable embassies are recorded in “Letters and Negociations of Sir Ralph Sadler,” &c. printed at Edinburgh, 1720, 8vo, from Mss. in the advocates’ library; but a more complete collective was recently published of his “State papers and Letters,” from Mss. in the possession of Arthur Clifford, esq. a descendant, 1809, in 2 vols. 4to, with a life by Walter Scott, esq. to which we are principally indebted for the preceding account. From this valuable and interesting publication the character of sir Ralph Sadler will be estimated according to the views the reader has been accustomed to take of the measures of the reigns in which he lived; and on this account his character will probably be more highly esteemed in England than in Scotland. That he should have preserved the favour of four such discordant sovereigns as Henry, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, is extraordinary, but not a solitary instance. 1


Life by Walter Scott, esq. &c. Brit. Crit. vol. XXXVII.