EURE, Ralph (1558-1617), of Ingleby and Malton, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Sept. 1558, 1st s. of William, 2nd Lord Eure, by Margaret, da. of Sir Edward Dymocke† of Scrivelsby, Lincs. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1568; G. Inn 1575, ancient 1604; travelled abroad (France, Italy) 1582-3. m. (1) by 1578, Mary, da. of Sir John Dawney of Sessay, Yorks. 1s.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Spencer of Althorp, Northants., wid. of Sir George Carey, 2nd Baron Hunsdon. suc. fa. as 3rd Lord Eure 12 Feb. 1594.
J.p. Yorks. (N. Riding) from c.1583, sheriff 1593-4; j.p. co. Dur. c.1593; member, council in the north Aug. 1594-d., v.-president 1600; warden of middle march Sept. 1595-8; custos rot. Northumb. 1596; commr. for border causes 1597; ambassador extraordinary to the King of Denmark and the Emperor 1602; president, council in the marches of Wales 1607-17.1
The Eures were a border family, well known in Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire. Eure’s grandmother was one of the Bowes of Streatlam, and his father was captain of Berwick castle, where Eure himself was born. By the autumn of 1583 he was ready to return from Italy to his father, ‘whose old years desire rest and ease of pain’. He came back through Paris whence the ambassador, Sir Edward Stafford, commended him to Walsingham ‘as his manifold virtues deserve’ and to the Queen.
Sound alike in religion and character, the good impression he gave in his youth endured all his life. Many years later, commenting on Burghley’s opinion of Eure, the bishop of Durham said he was glad that ‘you do so well and honourably approve his service to her Majesty, and do conceive of him, as he is indeed, a forward nobleman of many good parts’. Thomas, Lord Burghley once declared him to be so honest that he would dare to pawn his credit and his plate for him, and his life was spent in strenuous public service. The study of his career gives the impression of a loyal and upright character, and an agreeable manner. His brother Sir William, was brought a prisoner to London in January 1601, following upon a meeting with the King of Scots. Eure successfully pleaded for his release
though I durst not hazard misinterpretation from the Queen, whose favour I hold dearer than life, had I not satisfied myself of his innocency of capital crimes. [Sir William was] a young plant of a loyal, faithful, and serviceable house, [his faults] rather the sparks of youth than wilful disobedience ... If my poor service might ransom my brother’s faults I would draw my aged joints to more nimble courses, and creep in [the Queen’s] service to my last breath.2
Though heir to a title, Eure was still a plain esquire when, fresh from his travels on the Continent, he was returned to Parliament for Yorkshire in 1584. He sat on the subsidy committee, 24 Feb. 1585. In the Armada year he was named as fit to lead a hundred horse, and the following year he was appointed to accompany the Earl of Lincoln on his journey to Scotland on the occasion of the marriage of King James to Anne of Denmark. He served on a commission, in 1593, to inquire into untenanted castles and houses. His father, grandfather, and great grandfather having all been wardens of the middle march, he must already have been familiar with the problems of border administration when he was given the post in succession to Sir John Forster. A few months after he took up his appointment Eure was visited by the lord president, and John Ferne, secretary to the council in the north, reported to Burghley on the lamentable state of the middle march: no religion, no justice, no horses and no supplies. Eure claimed that his authority was weakened by ‘want of love in my neighbours and obedience in my country’. Instead of supporting him, Lord Scrope, warden of the adjacent western march, tried to embroil him with Burghley. If only temporary, this trouble was not inconsiderable, for Eure wrote to Burghley on 2 Mar. 1597:
I crave to satisfy you by my presence if I may be admitted there to answer, and wish to receive judicial punishment agreeable to my fault, if I have so far offended.3
Lawlessness on the borders was partly due to uncertainty as to what the law was. Eure, himself a lawyer, collected and codified the more important penal laws
to strengthen and justify the authority of the warden and wipe away the mutinous and offensive complaints and actions of those within the march.
In sending his collection to Burghley to place before the Privy Council he aroused the resentment of those who profited by the disorders, and he suffered from ‘false malicious slanders’ to such an extent that he begged leave to go to see the Queen to explain his case in person. He made a number of constructive efforts to enforce the law, but the resources at his disposal were pitifully inadequate. He wrote to Burghley:
I have laboured to my power, true service to my God and Queen, justice equally to all, severely towards the stiffnecked disobedient to her Majesty and her laws, not emulating any or factious with any, neither desirous of strife ... and find few fast to the best aid of service.
After three years he asked to be relieved of the post and for someone more fit to be appointed, ‘able to repair ... enormities daily growing’. Early in March 1598 Eure left the north for London but the quarrels of the marches pursued him. Walking in the streets on 13 May, he and his brother Sir William were assaulted by several of the Widdrington family who resented Eure’s efforts to enforce law and order in the north, and both were wounded, Sir William desperately.4
When he was chosen principal commissioner for the embassy to Bremen, to treat with the King of Denmark and Princes of the Empire, Eure pleaded poverty. He estimated that he would need between £2-3,000 whereas at home he was unable to raise £100: and this although Thomas, Lord Burghley commented at the time that he was ‘of the best living of any baron here’, which, he added, showed how impoverished the northern nobles were. Cecil was a great help to Eure, who frequently wrote to him about money, and as frequently apologized for doing so. The commissioners sailed from Margate on 10 Sept. 1602 and were still in Bremen when the Queen died.5
In 1605 Eure twice wrote to Salisbury to excuse his absence from his service at court, once on account of an ague. In November 1606 he was forced to request absence from Parliament because of the stone and sciatica. Appointed president of the council in the marches of Wales, he met with resistance from the gentlemen of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire against even a limited jurisdiction of the court. Eure’s opponents kept up a clamour for some years, with actions agai