Sir Ralph Sadleir was a truly remarkable man. Born in 1507, he lived in the Tudor Age – a time of great change and much danger, especially for those men who held positions of power in the Government of the day.
Ralph’s father worked for Henry VIII and he was a key man at many important events. He was responsible for making all of the arrangements for Henry’s trip to meet the king of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Both kings tried to outdo each other in their show of wealth and splendour and neither wanted to be seen lacking in their ability to display kingship glory and glamour at its best.
Understanding that patronage was the key to early success, Ralph’s father placed him in the household of Sir Thomas Cromwell, another key adviser to King Henry. Cromwell rose to the powerful position of Chief Minister on the demise of Sir Thomas Wolsey and took on the guardianship of Ralph.
Ralph learnt Latin and Greek, became fluent in French and devoted himself to learning about the affairs of state and the art of diplomacy. In addition, he was a remarkable horseman and an exceedingly skilled exponent of the art of falconry; All of these things were also loved by the Henry and Ralph quickly came to the attention of the king.
In 1536 Ralph left the employment of Cromwell and became one of the King’s trusted advisors. He joined the king to face the Scots in battle in 1537 and, following the English army’s success, Ralph was given other important jobs to do. He was knighted in 1543 and gained further promotions to eventually become the king’s Principal Private Secretary.
Ralph’s London home was Sutton House, now in the upkeep of the National Trust. Built in an ‘H’ shape, this house was grand, but not grand enough to upset the king. Ralph had learnt a good lesson from watching the downfall of Cardinal Wolsey after he had rivalled the king by building Hampton Court.
In 1533 Sir Ralph married Helen (Ellen) Mitchell whose first husband was missing, believed dead, in Ireland. Ellen was a niece of Thomas Cromwell. They had five children.
On Edward’s death, however, England was to suffer under the strict rule of Mary I. Ralph realised the danger he, and others, were in and rather than cling to his positions of power he retired to live quietly in Standon with his wife and family. During this time he would often ride to Hatfield House where Princess Elizabeth was living. He coached her in diplomacy and spent many hours discussing the art of rule.