Ratcliffe, Sir Richard

(d. 1485)
   In 1483, when RICHARD III usurped his nephew’s throne and thereby reopened the civil wars, Sir Richard Ratcliffe (or Radcliffe) became one of the new king’s most trusted advisors.
   Born into a Lancashire GENTRY family of Yorkist allegiance, Ratcliffe fought at the Battle of TEWKESBURY in 1471 and was knighted on the field by EDWARD IV. Some time during the 1470s, Ratcliffe entered the service of the king’s brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester, whom he accompanied on the Scottish campaign of 1482. In June 1483, Gloucester sent Ratcliffe into the north to raise forces to support the duke’s forthcoming seizure of EDWARD V’s Crown. Having collected almost 5,000 men from Gloucester’s loyal northern following, Ratcliffe stopped at Pontefract Castle, where, on about 25 June, he carried out the duke’s orders to execute Anthony WOODVILLE, Earl Rivers, and Sir Richard Grey, the brother and son, respectively, of Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE. For this service, Gloucester, now king as Richard III, made Ratcliffe a Knight of the Garter (a prestigious order of chivalry), a knight of the body (a close personal servant), and sheriff of Westmorland for life. Ratcliffe also received several other lucrative offices and lands worth £650 a year, a sum exceeded only by the land grants made to John HOWARD, duke of Norfolk; Henry PERCY, fourth earl of Northumberland; and Thomas STANLEY, Lord Stanley, all noblemen whose support was vital to the new regime.
   Along with William CATESBY and Francis LOVELL, Lord Lovell, Ratcliffe became widely known as a member of Richard’s inner circle of advisors. A popular satirical couplet of the time declared that “The cat [Catesby], the rat [Ratcliffe], and Lovell our dog [Lovell’s emblem], / Rule all England under a hog [referring to Richard III’s white boar emblem].” In March 1485, after the death of Queen Anne NEVILLE, Ratcliffe and Catesby told the king that he must publicly disavow any intention of marrying ELIZABETH OFYORK, Edward IV’s eldest daughter.They argued that the marriage would alienate even the king’s loyal northerners and would give substance to the rumor that he had murdered his wife to have his niece. Ratcliffe died the following August fighting for Richard III at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD. Ratcliffe’s lands were confiscated by HENRY VII, although the act of ATTAINDER passed against him in the first PARLIAMENT of the new reign was reversed in 1495 at his son’s request.
   Further Reading: Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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