Sir Thomas Ratcliffe, Earl of Sussex

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Ratcliffe, Sir Thomas, Earl of Sussex, several times Deputy or LordLieutenant of Ireland between 1556 and 1564, one of Elizabeth's lieutenants in the Irish wars, was born in 1526. At the instance of Shane O'Neill, he made several expeditions against the Scots in Ulster and the Isles, rousing their animosity, without effecting their subjugation. In July 1561, collecting all the troops in the Pale, he marched into Tyrone against Shane O'Neill himself. He occupied Armagh, but was artfully delayed by negotiations, and ultimately suffered a disastrous defeat. He wrote to Cecil: "The fame of the English army, so hardly gotten, is now vanished, and I wrecked and dishonoured by the vileness of other men's deeds." Leaving a garrison at Armagh, he returned with the disspirited remnant of his forces into the Pale. He then sent Shane O'Neill a safe conduct to negotiate in person in London, at the same time writing to the Queen that he had unsuccessfully endeavoured to have him assassinated. After Shane's return from England, Sussex endeavoured to entice him to Dublin to visit his sister, with whose beauty the chief had been smitten. He was, however, too wary, and Sussex told Elizabeth that she must either use force once more, or be prepared to see "all Ireland under Shane's dominion." The Queen sent over supplies in 1563; the Lord-Lieutenant once more marched against his adversary, and an ineffective three weeks' campaign ensued in the neighbourhood of Newry and Armagh. Sussex threw the blame of failure on others, writing in a letter to Cecil: "I have been commanded to the field, and I have not one penny of money; I must lead forth an army, and have no commission; I must continue in the field, and see not how I shall be victualled; I must fortify, and have no working tools." In May 1564, "having failed alike to beat Shane O'Neill in the field, or to get him satisfactorily murdered," Sussex was recalled, leaving the government of Ireland in the hands of Sir Nicholas Arnold. He died in London, 9th July 1583. He is described as "a goodly gentleman, of a brave, noble nature, and constant to his friends and servants."

Sources

52. Burke, Sir Bernard: Dormant, Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct Peerages. London, 1866.

134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O'Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

140. Froude, James A.: History of England, from the Fall of Wolsey to the death of Elizabeth. 12 vols. London, 1862-'70.

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.

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