Ralph Sadler

Ralph Sadler

The Right Honourable Sir Ralph Sadler, PC, Knight banneret, (1507 – 30 March 1587) was an English statesman of the 16th century, and served as a Secretary of State for King Henry VIII.

Sadler was born in Hackney, Middlesex, the elder son of Henry Sadler. The second son, John Sadler, was the ancestor of Hamnet Sadler, the friend after whom William Shakespeare named his only son, Hamnet, and may also have been influenced to name his play Hamlet.

Sir Ralph's father was originally from Warwickshire, but later settled in Hackney. He was a minor official in the service of the Marquess of Dorset and Sir Edward Belknap.

At a young age, Ralph Sadler was taken into the household of Thomas Cromwell. Around 1536, he was made a gentleman of the King's privy chamber, and was soon sent to Scotland to investigate complaints made by Margaret Tudor (the King's sister) against her third husband, Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven, and to improve Anglo-Scottish relations. He succeeded in both respects.

The King was pleased with Sadler's work, and sent him again to Scotland, this time to discourage the King of Scotland, (James V), from accepting Cardinal Beaton's proposed Franco-Scottish alliance. Sadler failed in that respect, but the King was nonetheless impressed with his work. In 1540, he became one of the Two Secretaries of State, was knighted, made a privy councillor, and began sitting in Parliament as member for Hertford.

After the Battle of Solway Moss, Sadler was sent to Scotland again, this time to arrange a marriage between the infant Mary, Queen of Scots and Edward, Prince of Wales; he was again successful. All of his work in solidifying Anglo-Scottish relations, however, was for naught because war broke out in 1543.

He accompanied the Earl of Hertford on his campaign as treasurer of the army, then filled that position again in 1545. Sadler had been replaced by William Paget as Secretary of State, owing to his frequent absences on diplomatic missions, but was appointed Master of the Great Wardrobe. When Henry VIII died in 1547, he had already appointed Sadler onto the council of regency that would rule England during Edward VI's minority.

Sadler again accompanied Lord Hertford, this time at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh as High Treasurer of the Army. In recognition of his services during the fighting, Sadler was made a knight banneret (baronet), a position "above a knight and next to a baron". Sadler was present when Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, was arrested, and he also accompanied the force that put down Robert Kett's Norfolk Rebellion. He was one of the signatories of Edward's Will, but remained in retirement during Queen Mary's reign.

During Elizabeth's reign, however, Sadler became one of Lord Burghley's most trusted advisors. He was sent to Scotland to arrange an alliance with the Scottish Protestants; when fighting broke out at Leith, he was one of the architects of the Treaty of Leith. In 1568 he was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and when Mary, Queen of Scots fled to England, Sadler was unwillingly appointed to meet with the Scottish commissioners regarding that problem. He was sent to arrest the Duke of Norfolk during the Rising of the Northern Earls, and was unwillingly appointed gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots. After the Babington Plot, Sadler was also on the council that sentenced Mary to death. Sadler died in 1587 at Standon, Hertfordshire.

Sadler is one of the few Renaissance statesmen for whom we have extant Parliamentary orations, including a speech on succession in 1563 and one on subsidy in 1566. Copies of these orations appear in a three volume 19th c. publication, which includes a biography by Walter Scott.


*"Burke's Landed Gentry", 1937 edition, Irish supplement, p. 2673, col. 2 (SADLEIR, late of Castletown)
*Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
*Sadler Papers. 1809. Intro. Walter Scott
* Humphrey Drummond "Our Man in Scotland", Frewin, London 1970; ISBN 09 096510 8

External links

* [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/subjectView.asp?ID=P25138 National Register of Archives, holdings indexed as relating to Sir Ralph Sadler ]

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