Sir Richard Radcliffe

RADCLIFFE or RATCLIFFE, Sir RICHARD (d. 1485), adviser of Richard III, was a younger son of Sir Thomas Radcliffe. The latter’s father was younger son of the Clitheroe branch of the Radcliffes of Radcliffe Tower, Lancashire, and himself became lord of Derwentwater and Keswick, through his marriage, about 1417, to the daughter and heiress of John de Derwentwater (Whitaker, Hist. of Whalley, p. 415; Nicholson and Burn, ii. 78). Richard’s mother was Margaret, daughter of Sir William Parr [q. v.] of Kendal, grandfather of Queen Catherine Parr. The family pedigree makes him the second son of his parents, and his brother Edward, who ultimately succeeded to the Derwentwater estates, the third (ib.; Surtees, i. 32). There must, however, be some mistake here, for Radcliffe’s son stated in parliament in 1495 that his father had two elder brothers, both of whom were living in that year (Rot. Parl. vi. 492).

His maternal grandfather’s connection with the court as comptroller of the household to Edward IV will no doubt explain the origin of Radcliffe’s intimacy with Richard of Gloucester. He and his uncle, John Parr, were knighted by the king on the field of Tewkesbury, and Gloucester made him a knight-banneret during the siege of Berwick in August 1482 (Paston Letters, iii. 9; Davies, p. 48). Next year, Gloucester, just before he seized the crown, sent Radcliffe to summon his Yorkshire friends to his assistance. Leaving London shortly after 11 June 1483, he presented the Protector’s letters to the magistrates of York on the 15th, and by the 24th he had reached Pontefract on his way south with a force estimated at five thousand men. On that day Earl Rivers, Sir Richard Grey, son of the queen-dowager, Sir Thomas Vaughan, and Sir Richard Haute were brought to Pontefract from their different northern prisons and executed there on the 25th by Radcliffe, acting under Gloucester’s orders. According to the well-informed Croyland chronicler (p. 567) they were allowed no form of trial, though the statement of Rous (p. 213) that the Earl of Northumberland was their principal judge may imply a formal sentence by a commission. Radcliffe did not find Richard ungrateful. He was made a knight of the Garter, knight of the body to the king (10 Aug. 1484), and high sheriff of Westmoreland for life (Davies). Besides the lucrative stewardship of Wakefield, estates to the annual value of over 650l. were conferred upon him. These grants were only exceeded in amount by those made to the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Northumberland, and Lord Stanley (ib.; Ramsay, ii. 534). Radcliffe and William Catesby [q. v.], who did not benefit, however, anything like so largely, were reputed Richard’s most confidential counsellors, ‘quorum sententiis vix unquam rex ipse ausus fuit resistere;’ and this found popular expression in the satirical couplet which cost its author, William Collingbourne, so dear:

The catte, the ratte, and Lovell our dogge
Rulyth all Englande under a hogge.

The ‘hogge’ was an allusion to Richard’s cognisance, the white boar (Croyl. Cont. p. 572; Fabyan, p. 672).

The ‘catte’ and the ‘ratte’ did not hesitate to tell their master to his face in the spring of 1485 that he must publicly disavow his idea of marrying his niece, Elizabeth of York, or even the Yorkshiremen whose loyalty he owed to his late wife, Ann Neville, would think that he had removed her to make way for an incestuous marriage. They produced twelve doctors of theology to testify that the pope had no power of dispensation where the relationship was so close. Their opposition, to which Richard yielded, was perhaps a little too ardent to be wholly disinterested, and they were generally thought to have entertained a fear that if Elizabeth became queen she would some day take revenge upon them for the death of her uncle Rivers and her half-brother, Richard Grey. Shortly after this (22 April), as head of a commission to treat with Scotland, Radcliffe received a safe-conduct from King James, but may have been prevented from going by the news of Richmond’s contemplated invasion (Fœdera, xii. 266). At any rate, he fought at Bosworth Field on 21 Aug., and was there slain, some said while attempting to escape (Croyl. Cont. p. 574). He was attainted in Henry VII’s first parliament, but the attainder was removed on the petition of his son Richard in 1495 (Rot. Parl. vi. 276, 492).

Radcliffe is said by Davies (p. 148) to have married Agnes Scrope, daughter of John, lord Scrope (d. 1498) of Bolton in Wensleydale, and widow of Christopher Boynton of Sedbury in the parish of Gilling, near Richmond (Whitaker, Richmondshire, i. 77). The only child given to him in Nicolson and Burn’s pedigree is the son mentioned above, who appears to have died without male issue. But a correspondent of ‘Notes and Queries’ (1st ser. x. 164) asserts, without quoting his authority, that ‘Radcliffe’s daughter Joan married Henry Grubb of North Mimms, Hertfordshire, and was heiress to her brother, Sir John (?) Radcliffe.’

[Rotuli Parliamentorum; Rymer’s Fœdera, orig. ed.; Cont. of the Croyland Chronicle, ed. Fulman, Oxford, 1684; Fabyan’s Chronicle, ed. Ellis; Rous’s Historia Regum Angliæ, ed. Hearne, 1745; Polydore Vergil, ed. for Camden Soc.; More’s Richard III, ed. Lumby; Davies’s Extracts from the Municipal Records of York; Whitaker’s Richmondshire and Whalley, 3rd ed.; Surtees’s Hist. of Durham; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. x. 475; Gairdner’s Richard III; Ramsay’s Lancaster and York.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 47
Radcliffe, Richard by James Tait

Leave a Reply