Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex

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Thomas Radclyffe, Earl of Sussex, c. 1560-65 Thomas Radclyffe Earl of Sussex.jpg
Thomas Radclyffe, Earl of Sussex, c. 1560–65
Arms of Sir Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex, KG Coat of arms of Sir Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex, KG.png
Arms of Sir Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex, KG

Thomas Radclyffe (or Ratclyffe), 3rd Earl of Sussex KG (c. 1525 9 June 1583), was Lord Deputy of Ireland during the Tudor period of English history, and a leading courtier during the reign of Elizabeth I.

The Lord Deputy was the representative of the monarch and head of the Irish executive under English rule, during the Lordship of Ireland and then the Kingdom of Ireland. He deputised prior to 1523 for the Viceroy of Ireland. The plural form is "Lords Deputy".

Elizabeth I of England Queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until 24 March 1603

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.



He was the eldest son of Henry Radclyffe, 2nd Earl of Sussex, and his first wife Elizabeth Howard. His maternal grandparents were Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and his second wife, Agnes Tilney.

Henry Radclyffe, 2nd Earl of Sussex English Earl

Henry Radclyffe, 2nd Earl of Sussex, KG was a son of Robert Radclyffe, 1st Earl of Sussex and his wife Elizabeth Stafford, Countess of Sussex.

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk British noble

Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, styled Earl of Surrey from 1483 to 1485 and again from 1489 to 1514, was an English nobleman and politician. He was the eldest son of John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, by his first wife, Catharina de Moleyns. The Duke was the grandfather of both Queen Anne Boleyn and Queen Catherine Howard and the great grandfather of Queen Elizabeth I. He served four monarchs as a soldier and statesman.

His maternal uncles included, among others, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Lord Edmund Howard (father of Queen Catherine Howard, Edward Howard, William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, and Lord Thomas Howard). His aunt, Elizabeth Boleyn, was the mother of Queen Anne Boleyn.

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk English politician

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk was a prominent English politician of the Tudor era. He was an uncle of two of the wives of King Henry VIII, namely Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, both of whom were beheaded, and played a major role in the machinations affecting these royal marriages. After falling from favour in 1546, he was stripped of the dukedom and imprisoned in the Tower of London, avoiding execution when Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547.

Lord Edmund Howard 16th-century English nobleman

Lord Edmund Howard was the third son of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, and his first wife, Elizabeth Tilney. His sister, Elizabeth, was the mother of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, and he was the father of the king's fifth wife, Catherine Howard. His first cousin, Margery Wentworth, was the mother of Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour.

Catherine Howard Fifth wife of Henry VIII of England

Catherine Howard was Queen of England from 1540 until 1541, as the fifth wife of Henry VIII. Catherine was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard and Joyce Culpeper. Through her father, Catherine was a cousin to Anne Boleyn and niece to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, who was a prominent politician at Henry's court and found a place for her at the household of Henry's fourth wife Anne of Cleves, where she caught the king's interest. She married him on 28 July 1540, at Oatlands Palace, in Surrey, almost immediately after the annulment of his marriage to Anne was arranged.

Early life

He was born about 1525, and after his father's succession to the earldom in 1542 was styled Viscount Fitzwalter. After serving in the army abroad, he was employed in 1551 to negotiate a marriage between King Edward VI of England and a daughter of Henry II of France. Radclyffe's prominence in the kingdom was shown by his inclusion among the signatories to the letters patent of 16 June 1553 settling the crown on Lady Jane Grey as Edward's successor; but he nevertheless won favour with Queen Mary, who employed him in arranging her marriage with Philip II of Spain, and who created him Baron Fitzwalter in August 1553. [1]

Edward VI of England 16th-century Tudor King of England

Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. Edward was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, and England's first monarch to be raised as a Protestant. During his reign, the realm was governed by a regency council because he never reached maturity. The council was first led by his uncle Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1547–1549), and then by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick (1550–1553), who from 1551 was Duke of Northumberland.

Henry II of France 16th-century King of France

Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis III, Duke of Brittany, in 1536. Henry was the tenth king from the House of Valois, the third from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the second from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

Letters patent type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order

Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch, president, or other head of state, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation. Letters patent can be used for the creation of corporations or government offices, or for the granting of city status or a coat of arms. Letters patent are issued for the appointment of representatives of the Crown, such as governors and governors-general of Commonwealth realms, as well as appointing a Royal Commission. In the United Kingdom they are also issued for the creation of peers of the realm. A particular form of letters patent has evolved into the modern patent granting exclusive rights in an invention. In this case it is essential that the written grant should be in the form of a public document so other inventors can consult it to avoid infringement and also to understand how to "practice" the invention, i.e., put it into practical use. In the Holy Roman Empire, Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary, imperial patent was also the highest form of generally binding legal regulations, e. g. Patent of Toleration, Serfdom Patent etc.

Sussex in Ireland

Returning to England from a mission to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in April 1556, Fitzwalter was appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland. The prevailing anarchy in Ireland, a country which, nominally subject to the English Crown, was torn by feuds among its practically independent native chieftains, made the task of the lord deputy a difficult one; the difficulty was increased by the ignorance of English statesmen concerning Ireland and Irish conditions, and by their incapacity to devise any consistent and thoroughgoing policy for bringing the island under an orderly system of administration. [1]

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor 16th-century Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor from 1519, King of Spain from 1516, and Prince of the Habsburg Netherlands as Duke of Burgundy from 1506. Head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over the Low Countries and Austria, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long-lasting Spanish and short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V, spanning over nearly 4 million square kilometres, was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the sun never sets".

Fitzwalter effected Queen Mary's policy for Ireland: the reversal of the partial attempts that had been made during the short reign of Edward VI to promote Protestantism there, the "plantation" by English settlers in the midlands and the shiring of King's County and Queen's County in 1556, named after Mary and her husband Philip. [2] But before Fitzwalter could attend to such matters he had to make an expedition into Ulster, which was being kept in a constant state of disturbance by the Highland Scots from Kintyre and the Islands who were making settlements along the Antrim coast in the district of the "Glynnes" (now known as the Glens of Antrim), and by the efforts of Shane O'Neill to dominate more territory in Ulster. Brutal methods were deployed, as Sussex sent the earl of Ormond, Sir Nicholas Bagenal and other captains to Rathlin Island on 3 September 1557. They stayed for three days and hunted down the occupants of the island, and it was noted that the killed 'as many as they might come by or get out of caves, both man, woman, child and beasts'. [3]

Mary I of England Queen of England and Ireland

Mary I, also known as Mary Tudor, was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death. She is best known for her aggressive attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. The executions that marked her pursuit of the restoration of Roman Catholicism in England and Ireland led to her denunciation as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant opponents.

Protestantism Division within Christianity, originating from the Reformation in the 16th century against the Roman Catholic Church, that rejects the Roman Catholic doctrines of papal supremacy and sacraments

Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than by both faith and good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

Philip II of Spain King of Spain and King of England by marriage to Mary I

Philip II of Spain was King of Castile and Aragon (1556–98), King of Portugal, King of Naples and Sicily, and jure uxoris King of England and Ireland. He was also Duke of Milan. From 1555 he was lord of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands.

Having defeated O'Neill and his allies, the MacDonnells, the lord deputy, who by the death of his father in February 1557 became Earl of Sussex, returned to Dublin, where he summoned a parliament in June of that year. Statutes were passed declaring the legitimacy of Mary I of England as Queen of the Kingdom of Ireland, reviving the laws for the suppression of heresy and forbidding the immigration of Scots. Having carried this legislation, Sussex endeavoured to give forcible effect to it, first by taking the field against Donough O'Conor, whom he failed to capture, and afterwards against Shane O'Neill, whose lands in Tyrone he ravaged (causing artificial famine by the burning of crops and killing of livestock), restoring to their nominal rights the Earl of Tyrone and his reputed son Matthew O'Neill, Baron of Dungannon. In June of the following year Sussex turned his attention to the west, where the head of the O'Brien clan had ousted his nephew Conor O'Brien, Earl of Thomond, from his possessions, and refused to pay allegiance to the Crown; he forced Limerick to open its gates to him, restored Thomond, and proclaimed The O'Brien a traitor. In the autumn of 1558 the continued inroads of the Scottish islanders in the Antrim glens called for drastic treatment by the lord deputy. Sussex laid waste Kintyre and some of the southern Hebridean isles, and landing at Carrickfergus he fired and plundered the settlements of the Scots on the Antrim coast before returning to Dublin for Christmas. [1]

Far from being reluctant to employ scorched earth tactics because of the high civilian mortality that it wrought (as has been claimed elsewhere), the government forces resorted to land and crop-burning repeatedly during the mid-Tudor and early Elizabethan years, and did so precisely because it promised to wreak the most havoc, and kill the most people. Once in Ulster's Gaelic heartland Sussex's army moved freely about, burning at will. Presumably because he could not linger in the province for as long as he would have liked, the earl prioritised the fastest route to a lasting impact: famine. Hence his ordering the slaughter of 4,000 captured cows in Tyrone. As early as 1558 large parts of the country were destroyed by war, whole areas depopulated. According to Archbishop Dowdall, it was possible to ride 30 miles across much of central and southern Ulster without seeing any sign of life. Famine stalked the province.

David Edwards, Age of Atrocity: Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland, 2010. [4]

In the metropolis the news reached him of the queen's death. Crossing to England, he took part in the ceremonial of Queen Elizabeth's coronation in January 1559; and in the following July he returned to Ireland with a fresh commission, now as lord lieutenant, from the new queen, whose policy required him to come to terms if possible with the troublesome leaders of the O'Neills and the MacDonnells. Shane O'Neill refused to meet Sussex without security for his safety, and having established his power in Ulster he demanded terms of peace which Elizabeth was unwilling to grant. Sussex failed in his efforts to bring Shane to submission, either by open warfare or by subterfuge.

He was preparing for a fresh attempt when he was superseded by Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare, who was commissioned by Elizabeth to open negotiations with O'Neill, the result of which was that the latter repaired to London and made formal submission to the queen. Shane's conduct on his return to Ireland was no less rebellious than before, and energetic measures against him became more imperative than ever. Having obtained Elizabeth's sanction, Sussex conducted a campaign in the summer of 1563 with Armagh as his temporary headquarters; but except for some indecisive skirmishing and the seizure of many of O'Neill's cattle, the operations led to no result and left O'Neill with his power little diminished. His continued failure to effect a purpose for the accomplishment of which he possessed inadequate resources led Sussex to pray for his recall from Ireland; and his wish was granted in May 1564. His government of Ireland had not however, been wholly without fruit. [1]

Sussex the politician

Sussex was the first representative of the English Crown who enforced authority to any considerable extent beyond the limits of the Pale; the policy of planting English settlers in Offaly and Leix was carried out by him in 1562 with a certain measure of success; and although he fell far short of establishing English rule throughout any large part of Ireland, he made its influence felt in remote parts of the island, such as Thomond and the Glynnes of Antrim, where the independence of the native septs had hitherto been subjected not even to nominal interference. His letters from Ireland display a just conception of the problems with which he was confronted, and of the methods by which their solution should be undertaken; and his failure was due, not to lack of statesmanship or of executive capacity on his own part, but to the insufficiency of the resources placed at his command and want of insight and persistence on the part of Elizabeth and her ministers. He also had to contend with the hostility of certain highly placed officials in the Dublin administration, led by John Parker, the Master of the Rolls in Ireland. Parker, a strong Protestant and English by birth, accused Sussex of having Roman Catholic sympathies, a charge to which Sussex was clearly vulnerable in light of his loyal service to Queen Mary in her efforts to stamp out heresy in Ireland. [1]

Sussex as courtier

On his return to England, Sussex, who before leaving Ireland had to endure the indignity of an inquiry into his administration instigated by his enemies and led by John Parker, threw himself into opposition to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, especially in regard to the suggested marriage between Leicester and the queen. He does not appear to have incurred Elizabeth's displeasure, for in 1566 and the following year she employed him in negotiations for bringing about a different matrimonial alliance which he warmly supported, the proposal that she should bestow her hand on the Archduke Charles. When this project failed, Sussex returned from Vienna to London in March 1568, and in July he was appointed Lord President of the North, a position which threw on him the responsibility of dealing with the rebellion of the Northern Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland in the following year. The weakness of the force at his disposal rendered necessary at the outset a caution which engendered some suspicion of his loyalty; and this suspicion was increased by the counsel of moderation which he urged upon the queen; but in 1570 he laid waste the border, invaded Scotland, and raided the country round Dumfries, reducing the rebel leaders to complete submission. In July 1572 Sussex became Lord Chamberlain, and he was henceforth in frequent attendance on Queen Elizabeth, both in her progresses through the country and at court, until his death. [1]


Frances Sydney The Countess of Sussex c. 1570-75 Frances Sydney Countess of Sussex.jpg
Frances Sydney The Countess of Sussex c. 1570–75

He married twice: first to Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton; and secondly to Frances, daughter of Sir William Sidney of Penshurst. His second wife was the foundress of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, which she endowed by her will, and whose name commemorates the father and the husband of the countess. The earl left no children, and at his death his titles passed to his brother Henry. [1]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Chisholm 1911.
  2. Since 1922 Queen's County is known as County Laois, and King's County as County Offaly, based on earlier Gaelic names.
  3. David Edwards, Campaign journals of the Elizabethan Irish Wars (Dublin, 20154), pp 8-9
  4. Edwards 2010, p. 74.


  • Edwards, David (2010). Age of Atrocity: Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland. Four Courts Press. ISBN   184682267X.


Political offices
Preceded by
The Marquess of Northampton
Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners
Succeeded by
The Lord Hunsdon
Preceded by
Sir Anthony St Leger
Lord Deputy of Ireland
Succeeded by
Lords Justices
Preceded by
Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk
Succeeded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk
Title next held by
The Lord Hunsdon
Preceded by
Lords Justices
Lord Deputy of Ireland
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Sidney
as lord deputy
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
Preceded by
The Lord Howard of Effingham
Lord Chamberlain
Succeeded by
The Lord Hunsdon
Legal offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Sussex
Justice in Eyre
south of the Trent

Succeeded by
The Earl of Bedford
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Henry Radclyffe
Earl of Sussex
Succeeded by
Henry Radclyffe
Baron FitzWalter
(writ in acceleration)