RAGLAND, Sir Thomas, of Carnllwyd, Glam. Roughton Holme, Norf. and Walworth, Surr.
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Family and Education
1st s. of Sir John Ragland of Carnllwyd. m. by 1551 Ann, da. of Sir Roger Woodhouse of Kimberley, Norf., wid. of Christopher Coningsby of Wallington, Norf., more than one ch. suc. fa. bef 1550.1
J.p. Norf. from 1550.2
Ragland’s father was a soldier who received his knighthood at Tournai in 1513 and was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Although in 1520 he ranked as a knight of Worcestershire, and in 1524 was granted a manor of the Duke of Buckingham near Brecon, Sir John Ragland resided at Carnllwyd in the vale of Glamorgan, and was also constable of Kenvig castle. His appearance, in a list of 1531, as a principal debtor to the late abbot of Glastonbury cannot but appear prophetic.3
Of his son Thomas—to be distinguished from an elder Thomas, Sir John’s brother, who by marrying Margaret Carne of Cowbridge became brother-in-law to Sir Edward Carne†, the diplomat—nothing has been discovered before the reign of Edward VI, but it is probable that he followed his father’s profession and, like him, received a knighthood, the date and occasion of which are unknown, in the field. Hailing from the Herberts’ country, and springing from a family which shared its origin with those magnates, he may have followed William Herbert in campaigns at home or abroad and thus have earned support when he came to enter Parliament. His marriage with Ann Coningsby also perhaps resulted from connexions formed in military service, for her first husband had been killed in action at Musselburgh in 1547, and his uncle Humphrey, a gentleman pensioner, had fought in both France and Scotland. The alliance gave Ragland an affiliation with Norfolk, for his wife was a Woodhouse of Kimberley and her first husband, part of whose property she obtained after his death along with the wardship of her three young daughters, had inherited Wallington in that county from his father, William Coningsby the judge and MP. The marriage presumably took place between July 1548 when Ann, still a widow, secured the wardship, and December 1550 when Ragland was made a j.p. of his new county.4
Almost everything we know about Ragland’s career from that point reflects discredit upon him. His wife’s stipulation, in the will which she made in December 1562, ‘that Sir Thomas Ragland shall not by any ways or means take any benefit or advantage of this will’ (save only, it may be inferred, the ‘ring with an emerald’ she bequeathed him), is revealing alike in its content and tone. That her daughters’ inheritance needed safeguarding from their stepfather is all too apparent. His many lawsuits appear to be those of a man out to get whatever he could from anybody. Only a year or two before Ann Ragland’s death Caius College had begun a Chancery suit against her and her husband for detention of evidence relating to one of its landed endowments; since the college was pursuing the case some ten years later against him alone, it was probably he who was at the bottom of the affair. A case in the court of requests relating to the year 1563 shows that he then had a house at Walworth, Surrey, in addition to his Norfolk home at Roughton.5
It was shortly after his wife made her will (proved 18 Feb. 1563) that Ragland got himself returned to Parliament and she was probably dead before he took his seat. Membership was something which, so far as the evidence goes, no other Ragland ever achieved; but the distinction, like the motive behind it, may have been less enviable than it appears. The Parliament in which he sat had two sessions, in 1563 and 1566. Before the second, in November 1565, he obtained from Chancery a protection until the following 10 Feb., and when this expired he had it renewed until 30 Nov. 1566. Both the terminal date of the first protection, which was three days after the date to which, when it was obtained, Parliament stood prorogued, and the issue of the second, which in the event overlapped the second session by two months, suggest that the two timetables were connected, and that the immunity from suits at law, including actions for debt, which the protections conferred was designed to be extended by parliamentary privilege, as in the upshot it was until 2 Jan. 1567, the day of dissolution. If Ragland’s Membership was thus to serve his pecuniary turn in 1566, he may well have sought it from the outset, at least in part, for this purpose.6
That, whatever his motives, he had achieved their aim he can scarcely have owed to anyone but the 1st Earl of Pembroke. Ragland is not known to have possessed property in Wiltshire, while the John Ragland, perhaps his great-uncle, who had been assessed at Bishopstone for the benevolence of 1545 at 23s.4d.and whose goods Sir Thomas seized—at the cost of a Star Chamber action—after his death would have represented, even if he had survived, only meagre and distant support. Ragland’s fellow-member at Malmesbury in 1563, Edward Poole, could count on the help of the powerful Stumpe family, but no link between Ragland and either Poole or Stumpe has been traced. Ragland’s election there in 1563 thus appears to reflect an interest on the part of the 1st Earl of Pembroke similar to that which the 2nd Earl was to show when at the next two elections Nicholas Snell was returned.