HOPTON, Sir Ralph (1509/10-71), of Witham, Som.
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Family and Education
b. 1509/10, s. of one Hopton by Agnes Haines. m. bef. 1545, Dorothy, da. of Sir Christopher Willoughby of Parham, Suff. s.p.3
Servant, household of Cromwell by 1538, knight marshal, the Household 26 Aug. 1542-11 May 1556, Dec. 1558-60, jt. (with Robert Hopton†) knight marshal 1560-d.; surveyor, ct. augmentations, Som. July 1551-4, Exchequer 1554-d.; j.p.q. Som. 1558/59-d.4
Ralph Hopton’s parentage is obscure. Although he was closely related to Sir Arthur Hopton, the fact that his heir-at-law was his mother’s brother suggests that he was kinsman only of the half-blood. He first appears in 1538 as a servant of Cromwell, one of the gentlemen ‘most meet to be daily waiters upon my said lord’, and in June 1539 he acted as Cromwell’s agent in a land transaction. Like so many of the minister’s servants he passed into the royal household and administration: in 1542 he was made knight marshal and two years later he served with the army in France, where he was knighted by the King.5
In 1539 Hopton had obtained a lease of the dissolved friary at Witham with its lands (which he purchased outright in 1544), and during the next decade he bought other monastic estates in Somerset. As knight marshal he helped to suppress the western rebellion in 1549, and it was he who delivered the letters from Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, and William Herbert I to the Council in London declaring their support for the Earl of Warwick against the Protector Somerset. Following the coup d’état the command of the Tower, with particular responsibility for the prisoners there, was entrusted to him until 19 Mar. 1552, after the execution of Somerset, and a grant of lands made to Hopton two months later, ostensibly for services against the western rebels, was doubtless also meant to reward his support for the new regime.6
It is tempting to attribute Hopton’s return to the Parliament of March 1553 to court favour rather than to local standing, although his re-election six months later cannot be so explained. As a Protestant he probably sympathized with the device to alter the succession but nothing has come to light about his part in the crisis following the death of Edward VI. On 23 Aug. 1553 Mary ordered Hopton to bring to court his patent of office as marshal, but this he seems to have retained, although for a time he may have been relieved of his official duties, and in the following October he sued out a general pardon. In the first Parliament of the reign he was one of the Members who opposed the initial measures for the reunion with Rome, and after the dissolution he was drawn into the conspiracy against the Spanish marriage. On its betrayal he was arrested but not brought to trial. Although not re-elected in 1554, he was a year later, probably once more for Somerset, the return for which is lost. In the House he joined many other west-country gentlemen in voting against a government measure. His surrender of his patent as knight marshal in May 1556, amid the aftermath of the Dudley conspiracy, must be regarded as a belated penalty and precaution by the crown against an irreconcilable Protestant.7
On the accession of Elizabeth, Hopton was restored to his office, which from 20 May 1560 he shared with his kinsman Robert Hopton, and his appointment to the Somerset bench gave him a new sphere of local activity. He died without issue on 14 Dec. 1571. At the ensuing inquisition post mortem his heir-at-law was found to be his uncle William Haines, aged 83 years and more, but in 1557 he had settled all his lands, on the death of his wife, on his niece Rachel Hall, whom he seems to have brought up, and Rachel’s heirs male if she married a Hopton. By his will, made a week before his death, he made numerous small bequests to kinsmen, servants and charity, and left the residue to his wife, the sole executrix, who proved the will on 15 Feb. 1572.8
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Roger Virgoe
- 1. C219/282/5.
- 2. Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
- 3. Aged 41 in 1551, Foxe, Acts and Mons. vi. 191, C142/162/140; LP Hen. VIII, xix-xx; Collins, Peerage (1812), vi. 610.
- 4. M. L. Robertson, ‘Cromwell’s servants’ (Univ. California Los Angeles Ph.D. thesis, 1975), 501; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xviii; The Gen. n.s. xxx. 21; APC, vii. 25; E315/223, f. 181.
- 5. Blore, Rutland, 133; C142/162/140; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xix; HMC Wells, ii. 251.
- 6. LP Hen. VIII, xv, xix-xxi; APC, ii. 356, 406; iii. 501; Troubles conn. with Prayer Bk. of 1549 (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxxvii), 122; CPR, 1550-3, p. 299.
- 7. APC, iv. 329; v. 203, 236, 2