Sir Ralph SADLER

Born: ABT 1507, Hackney, Middlesex, England

Died: 30 Mar 1587, Standon, Hertfordshire, England

Father: Henry SADLER

Mother: ¿?

Married: Margaret MITCHELL (dau. of William Mitchell and Margaret Cromwell) ABT 1533, Stockwell, Surrey, England


1. Thomas SADLER (b. 1534 - d. 5 Jan 1606) (m.1 Ursula Sharington - m.2 Gertrude Markham)

2. Edward SADLER (b. 1537 - d. 4 Apr 1584) (m. Anne Lee)

3. Henry SADLER (b. 1539 - d. 17 Mar 1618) (m.1 Dorothy Gilbert - m.2 Ursula Gyll)

4. Anne SADLER (d. 1576) (m. George Horsey)

5. Mary SADLER (m. Thomas Bowles)

6. Dorothy SADLER (d. ABT 1578) (m. Edward Elrington)

7. Jane SADLER (d. ABT 1587) (m. Edward Baesh)

Diplomatist and statesman, was born in 1507, son of a steward or minor official in the service of the Marquis of Dorset and of Sir Edward Belknap. While still young, Ralph was taken into the household of Thomas Cromwell, later Henry VIII's great minister and Earl of Essex. Probably in 1536 Sadler was made a gentleman of the King's privy chamber, and he at once made so good an impression on the King that Henry VIII sent him in 1537 on a most delicate and important mission to Scotland, to try to find out how much truth there was in the complaints made by bis sister, Margaret, the Queen-Dowager, against her third husband, Lord Methven, and to investigate the relations between the King of Scotland and the French.

Margaret Mitchell (called Ellen or Helen by the Oxford DNB) had married first one Ralph ( or Matthew) Barré, a London tradesman who abandoned her and their two children. Some accounts say that she worked as a laundress in the household of Thomas Cromwell, but as he may have been a distant kinsman, she may simply have been a dependent. In any case, it was there that she met Sir Ralph Sadler. Since Barré had gone abroad and was presumed dead, she married Sadler around 1533. When her first husband turned up, inconveniently alive, it required a private act of Parliament in 1546 to legitimize her children by Sadler.

Sir Ralph Sadler travelled through Yorkshire in Jan 1537 on his way to Scotland. The North of England was still horrified after the events of the Pilgrimage of the Grace. He arrived at his lodgings in Darlington at about 6pm on 27 Jan. No sooner had he climbed the stairs to his room than 40 people "assembled in the strete afore my chamber wyndows, with clubbs and bats, and they came running out of all quarters of the strete and stood together on a plompe (a rise in the ground), whisperinge". Menaced by such behaviour, Sir Ralph called on his host who warned him that these men were beyond the control of the town elders, and one rash move would have 1,000 armed men on the street. Eventually the rowdy crowd was persuaded that Sir Ralph was not in town to visit some new terror upon them, and they returned to their homes. Sir Ralph wrote: "The people here be very fickle and, methinketh, in a marvellous strange case and perplexity, for they stare and look for things, and fayne would have they cannot tell what".

He succeeded in helping Margaret, and alter a visit to James V, who was in France, he improved Anglo-Scottish relations. Until bis death, Sadler was to be the foremost expert in English political lile on the Scots.

So pleased was Henry VIII with Sadler's work that in 1540 he sent him again to Scotland to try to separate the King from the advice and policies of Cardinal Beaton, who was wedded to a Franco-Scottish alliance. Sadler was to advise James V to take to himself the wealth of the Scottish church, as Henry had done in England. The mission was a failure, but Sadler had done bis best. Henry was so satisfied with Sadler's work that in 1540 he made him one of bis two secretaries. He was also knighted and made a privy councillor and he entered parliament as Member for Hertford (1541).

After the battle of Solway Moss, which was immediately followed by the death of James V, Sadler was sent to Scotland again. He was specially charged to arrange a marriage alliance between the new Queen, the baby Mary, and Henry's son, Edward, Prince of Wales, in arder to prevent any recovery of influence by the Cardinal Beaton, who had been imprisoned by the Protestant regent, Arran. The treaty was made, one clause of which provided that the Queen should be brought up in Scotland under the care of 'an honourable knight and lady of England'. Henry proposed that Sadler and his wife should undertake this charge, but Sadler succeeded in avoiding this task. Party feelings broke out again in Scotland, and at one point Sadler's house in Edinburgh was besieged by the mob, and he narrowly escaped death from a musket bullet as he was walking in the garden. Sadler retired to Tantallon Castle (1543), an episode which Sir Walter Scott commemorated in Marmion, Canto V. Sadler soon returned to England, but all bis work was undone when war between England and Scotland broke out (1543). Sadler accompanied the Earl of Hertford on his campaign as treasurer to the army, an office which he filled again in the 1545 campaign.

Owing to his frequent absences on diplomatic missions, Sadler was not able to carry out bis duties as Secretary of State and he was replaced by Paget (1543), but he himself was given the post of Master of the Great Wardrobe. When Henry died in 1547, he left Sadler a legacy of 200 gold marks and appointed him a member of the council to which the government of the country was entrusted during Edward VI's minority. When Somerset ser out for the Pinkie campaign (1547), Sadler again went with him as High Treasurer of the Army. After the battle, in recognition of bis outstanding services during the fighting, Sadler was raised to the rank of Knight-banneret, a dignity which Holinshed calls 'above a knight and next to a baron'. Sadler was present when Bishop Gardiner was arrested (1548) and he was also with the force which put clown Ket's rebellion (1549). He was one of the Privy Councillors who signed the device of King Edward VI. During Mary's reign Sadler remained in retirement at his home at Standon, near Ware in Hertfordshire.

In Elizabeth's reign Sadler, as a sound Protestant, became one of Cecil's most trusted servants. He was sent once more to Scotland with secret orders to arrange an alliance with the Protestant party. When hostilities broke out at Leith, he was at the camp and had a chief share in making the treaty of Leith (1560). In 1568 he was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a highly lucrative office. When Mary, Queen of Scots, fled to England, Sadler, very much against his will, was one of the commissioners appointed to meet the Scotch commissioners to deal with the problem of the Scots' Queen. He it was who made the precis of the Casket Letters for Cecil. He it was also who was sent to arrest the Duke of Norfolk at the time of the Rising of the Northern Earls. And Sadler it was who twice found himself warder over the Queen of Scots, at Sheffield in 1572 and at Wingfield in 1584. He hated these appointments and never ceased applying for release, but before it came he had had to transfer the Queen from Wingfield to Tutbury. He was relieved in 1585 and replaced by Sir Amyas Paulet. The next year, after the Babington Plot, Sadler was one of the commission which condemned Mary to death.

Sadler was a man of much importance in his own day. He was loyal, courageous and shrewd; his abilities were indeed greater than the offices which he held suggest. Everybody trusted him and he was well rewarded by the sovereigns whom he served. When he died on 30 Mar 1587, he was said to be the richest commoner in England. He had sat in eight parliaments; he was a privy councillor under three sovereigns for close on fifty years; he knew more about Scotland than any other Englishman; he was a brave soldier; he was also 'a most exquisite writer' (Lloyd, State of Worthies), and his state papers are now invaluable historical sources. He was a little man, devoted to field sports, especially to hawking.

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