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Ralph Sheldon (1537–1613) of Beoley and Weston: cloaked in conformity?

  • Hilary L. Turner (a1)


On two occasions, in 1580–1 and 1587, the Worcestershire gentleman Ralph Sheldon of Beoley and Weston (1537–1613) undertook to attend services in his parish church. This article seeks to make sense of these occasions of ‘conformity’, in the context of the situation and choices facing Catholics in Protestant England. It argues that Ralph consciously rejected the Jesuit message about non-attendance at the state church, a view he never abandoned. Never described by his contemporaries as ‘papistically affected’, let alone as an ‘obstinate recusant’, his later reputation as such is mistaken. By exploring the evidence relating to these occasions of official conformity, it is possible to see how he managed the challenge of being a Catholic living within the law. He could be regarded, and treated, as an obedient subject. He might thus be viewed as a church papist. However, since occasional conformity must itself also suggest recusancy, a more nuanced understanding of his position requires a reconsideration of some of the evidence.



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An early version of this paper was read at the Tudor Stuart Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London in February 2017. I should like to acknowledge the helpful comments of many readers.



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1 London, The National Archives (hereafter TNA), PROB 11/121/345.

2 Barnard, E. A. B., The Sheldons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1936 ).

3 Trimble, W. R., The Catholic laity in Elizabethan England, 1558–1603 (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1964), 105–06. Sheldon was passed over by Bossy, John, The English Catholic Community, 1570–1850 (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1975 ) and by Pritchard, Arnold, Catholic Loyalism in Elizabethan England (London: Scolar Press, 1979 ).

4 Minney, T. B., ‘The Sheldons of Beoley’, Worcestershire Recusant 5 (May 1965): 117 ; Morey, A., Catholic Subjects of Queen Elizabeth (London: Allen and Unwin, 1978 ).

5 Davidson, Alan, ‘Catholics and Bodley’, Bodleian Library Record 7 (1972), 252257 .

6 Crosignani, Ginevra, McCoog, Thomas M., Questier, Michael eds. Recusancy and conformity in early modern England: manuscript and printed sources in translation (Rome: Jesuit Historical Institute, 2010), 116n.

7 Gill-Smith, K., ‘E. A. B. Barnard MA FSA FRHist, A Freeman of Evesham’, Vale of Evesham Historical Society, Research Papers I (1967): 4753 .

8 Accessed 20 June 2019. See also the brief biographical note in ‘Two Lists of supposed adherents of Mary Queen of Scots, 1574 and 1582’, ed. John Bannerman Wainewright, Miscellany viii, Catholic Record Society, 13 (1913) (hereafter ‘Two Lists’): 86-142 at 98-99.

9 Davidson, Alan, ‘The Recusancy of Ralph Sheldon’, Worcester Recusant 12 (December 1968): 17 , more strongly with Thorpe, S. M. in ‘Ralph Sheldon’, in Hasler, P. W. ed., House of Commons 1558-1603 3 vols. (London, H.M.S.O., 1981): 3 .

10 Haigh, Christopher, English reformations: religion, politics, and society under the Tudors (Oxford: Clarendon Press: 1993 ); Walsham, Alexandra, Church Papists: Catholicism, Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early Modern England (Farnham: Ashgate, 1993), 2 , which misidentifies Ralph Sheldon with the Norfolk-London merchant family of Shelton.

11 Memorials of Fr Augustine Baker OSB, eds. Dom Justin McCann and Dom Hugh Connolly, Catholic Record Society 33 (London: 1933): 74.

12 Questier, Michael, ‘What Happened to English Catholicism after the English Reformation?’, History, 85 (2000), 2847 at p. 36.

13 Bindoff, S.T., House of Commons 1509-1558 (London, 1982), 306-08.

14 Register of Admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, ed. H.A.C. Sturgess, 3 vols. (London:1949) (1): 22, 1556; Thorpe and Davidson, ‘Ralph Sheldon’.

15 Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII, 21 vols, ed. J.S. Brewer, J Gardiner and R. H. Brodie (London 1862-1910), 13(1) no. 822; Bateson, M., ed. ‘A Collection of Original Letters from the Bishops to the Privy Council, 1564’, Camden Miscellany IX, Camden Society NS liii (1895): 6 .

16 Minney claims that Mass was celebrated there by Mr Brock: Minney, Sheldons, 4. Brock was buried there in 1570 but was not the parish priest. Beoley Parish Registers. Church of England Clergy Database [ Accessed 3 July 2019] gives Richard Whittington or Weston (CCEd Person ID: 83169); Richard Malbon (d.1561) (CCEd Person ID: 66546); Humphrey More (d.1576) (CCEd Person ID: 28271) and William Aldwell (CCEd Record ID: 247550). The chapel was constructed and furnished with four impressive tombs around 1600. Nash, Treadway, Collections for a History of Worcestershire, 2 vols (London: 1781): 1, 66.

17 TNA, SP 12/63, f.1; Dudley marriage, Bindoff, House of Commons, 608–11.

18 Elton, G. R., The Parliament of England, 1559–1581 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 129 , 296.

19 Briefly mentioned in Manning, Roger B., Village Revolts: social protest and popular disturbances in England, 1509-1640 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 67 .

20 ‘Two Lists’, 98-9; Sheldon is not named in the second. That he acted as Mary’s courier in February 1570 is a modern misreading of CSPD Addenda 1566-1579, no. 95, 236, TNA SP 15/17 f.223r-v. The document reads ‘Skeldoun’, Mary’s servitor. John Nichol’s The Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, ed. Elizabeth Goldring et al, 5 vols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) 2: 349 n.629, 358.

21 Acts of the Privy Council (hereafter APC), 45 vols, ed. J.R. Dasent (London: HMSO, 1890-1964) 12: 166.

22 APC 12: 156.

23 Lambeth Palace, Carte Antique A IV no. 183, printed in Gilbert, C.D., ‘Catholics in the diocese of Worcester 1580-81,’ Midland Catholic History 1 (1991): 1927 .

24 APC 12: 254-55.

25 APC 12: 301-02.

26 Lake, Peter, ‘A tale of two Episcopal surveys: the strange fate of Edmund Grindal and Cuthbert Mayne revisited’, TRHS, 6th series 18 (2008): 129162 .

27 TNA, SP 12/118/11; printed as ‘Diocesan Returns of Recusants for England and Wales 1577’, ed. Rev Patrick Ryan SJ, Miscellanea xii, Catholic Record Society 22 (London: 1921): 1–108, at 63–66 (hereafter Ryan ed., ‘Diocesan Returns’); Whitgift’s apology, TNA, SP 12/118 f.21-21v

28 Statutes of the Realm, 13 Eliz, caps 1, 2, 3, 5, 8.

29 Hall’s confession, TNA, SP 12/164, f.141-141v, named his hosts: John Talbot of Grafton, Sir John Throckmorton, the Windsors, the Ardens. British Library, London (hereafter BL) MS Cotton Caligula C VIII f. 204r - 206v. Hall was not a former Bordesley monk, as Minney claims. Minney, Sheldons, 4.

30 Knox, Thomas Francis, ed. The First and Second Diaries of the English College, Douay (London: 1878), 308, 317.

31 Duffy, Eamon, Reformation Divided: Catholics, Protestants and the Conversion of England (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 168202 .

32 TNA, SP 12/133, f.24v.

33 Geoffrey de C. Parmiter, Elizabethan Popish Recusancy, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research Special Supplement 11 (1976), 105-8.

34 Letters and Memorials of Father Robert Persons, ed. L. Hicks, Catholic Record Society 39 (London: 1942): 49–50, 58.

35 ‘Domesticall Difficulties’, ed. J. H. Pollen, Miscellanea II, Catholic Record Society 2 (London: 1906) (hereafter ‘Domestical Difficulties’) 179-80, ‘Autobiography’, ibid., 28.

36 ‘Notes on Mission’, ed. J. H. Pollen, Catholic Record Society 4 (London: 1906), 3–5, ‘Sheldon is fallen and do ye ken why/oves et boves et pecora campi’; E. S. Donno, Harington’s Metamorphosis of Ajax (London: RKP, 1962), 239.

37 TNA, SP 12/144, ff. 137-142. Partly printed by Miola, Robert ed. Early Modern Catholicism: an anthology of primary sources (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 7175 ; and printed in full in Crosignani, McCoog and Questier eds., Recusancy and conformity, see note 1, 116-129. Another copy was found by the torturer Topcliffe: Questier, M. C., Conversion, Politics and religion in England, 1580–1625 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1996), 50 .

38 ‘Domesticall Difficulties’, 179-180; ‘Notes’, Catholic Record Society, 4 (London: 1906), 3-5.

39 Lake, Peter and Questier, MichaelPuritans, Papists and the “Public Sphere” in Early Modern England: the Edmund Campion Affair’, Journal of Modern History 72 (September 2000): 587627 esp. 603-08; Crosignani, McCoog and Questier eds., Recusancy and conformity, xxiii, 143; Rose, Elliott, Cases of Conscience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 74 ; Holmes, Peter, Resistance and Compromise (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 90-4; Walsham, Church Papists, 51.

40 It is unclear why the editor of ‘Two Lists’ concluded that Sheldon was ‘an intimate friend of Fr Persons.’

41 Stafford Record Office, D603-K-1-6-34.

42 Kilroy, Gerard, Edmund Campion: A Scholarly Life (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), 67-8; Simpson, Richard, Edmund Campion, A Biography (Leominster: Gracewing Reprint, 2010), 178 .

43 APC 12: 134.

44 A. C. Southern, Elizabethan Recusant Prose (London, 1950), 149–150, 480–81.

45 Warwickshire County Record Office (hereafter WaCRO), CR 2632, passim; Bodl Ms Tanner 115, f. 58; Ms Tanner 283, f. 6.

46 She made no similar request for her imprisoned brother, Thomas.

47 Her uncle was Clement Throckmorton and his son Job, Warwickshire JPs. For relationships, Marshall, Peter and Scott, Geoffrey, eds. Catholic Gentry in English Society: the Throckmortons of Coughton from Reformation to Emancipation (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), 270 .

48 The Marian priest John Felton, not to be confused with the Felton who nailed the bull Regnans to the door of to St Paul’s: his confession in 1582 is at TNA, SP 12/156/29. Nevertheless, a visit from Campion to Beoley, Kilroy, Scholarly Life, 192, unsubstantiated, seems unlikely.

49 McCoog, Thomas, The Society of Jesus in Ireland, Scotland and England ‘Our way of proceeding’ (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 143–45; Kilroy, Scholarly Life, 170; ‘Domesticall Difficulties’, 177-8.

50 CSPD 1581-90, p. 1, no.5; TNA SP 12/147, ff.7-7v.

51 APC 13: 42.

52 Trimble, Catholic Laity, 105–06; Minney, Sheldons, 4-5; Morey, Catholic Subjects, 140, 142-3.

53 Parry, Glynn, ‘Catholicism and Tyranny in Shakespeare’s Warwickshire’ in Smuts, R Malcolm ed. The Oxford Handbook of the Age of Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 121138 .

54 Bossy, John, Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair (London: Yale University Press, 1991), 2833 .

55 Enis, Cathryn C., ‘Edward Arden and the Dudley earls of Warwick and Leicester, c. 1572–1583’, British Catholic History 33(2) (2016): 170210 .

56 TNA, SP 12/164 f.78.

57 TNA, SP 12/167, f. 93-4.

58 The British Library, Lansdowne Ms, 43, f. 171.

59 Russell’s interrogatories, TNA, STAC 5/R12/34; Sheldon’s answers, TNA STAC 5/R41/32.

60 Enis, C.C., ‘The Dudleys, Sir Christopher Hatton and the Justices of Elizabethan Warwickshire’, Midland History 39 (1): 135 .

61 CSPD 1581–1590, p. 369, no. 35; TNA SP 12/195 f.58. Morley, John O., “The Origins of the Morleys in England and their Early Appearance in Wales,” in Annals of Genealogical Research 9 (1) (2013): 161 .

62 WaCRO, CR 2632, f.74; APC 15: 137, 23 June 1587.

63 Alan Davidson, ‘The Recusancy of Ralph Sheldon’, Worcestershire Recusant 12 (December 1968): 1–7. His otherwise full and accurate transcription omitted this paragraph. He could not date the episode exactly.

64 Statutes, 29 Eliz I c.6; Cockburn, J. S., A History of English Assizes from 1558–1714 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 204 .

65 Payment of 2s 6d to their ‘cryers’ CR 2632, ff. 96, 97; Cockburn, Assizes, 265–66.

66 Cockburn, Assizes, 208-09, 211.

67 McClendon, M., The Quiet Reformation: Magistrates and the emergence of Protestantism in Tudor Norwich (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 238–9.

68 Cockburn, Assizes, 204–08.

69 J. Strype, Annals of the Reformation, 3 vols. (London: 1725-28 edition), 3(ii), 455, item no 24.

70 TNA, E 401/1842-48; E 372/432-35, summarized in Recusants in the Exchequer Pipe Rolls 1581–1592, eds. H. Bowler and Timothy J. McCann, Catholic Record Society 71 (London: 1986), 152.

71 McDermott, James, England and the Spanish Armada: the necessary quarrel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 244–47; Young, Francis, ‘The Bishop’s Prison at Ely as a Prison for Recusants 1577–1597’, British Catholic History 32(2) October 2014: 195216 .

72 The Names of those Persons who subscribed towards the defence of this county at the time of the Spanish Armada 1588 and the amounts each contributed, ed. T. C. Noble (London, 1886), 66–7.

73 Entered on the pell rolls, TNA, E 401/1842-48 and on the Pipe Rolls. These were levied retrospectively for the year September 1586-October 1587, in full for 1587-88 and 1588-89 but recorded as a debt in 1589-90. TNA, E 372/ 432–35; printed in Recusants in the Exchequer Pipe Rolls, Bowler and Mc Cann eds. Catholic Record Society 71 (London: 1986).

74 TNA, E 401/1847.

75 Name absent from both originals and edited volumes, Recusant Roll no. 1 1592–1593, ed. M.M.C. Calthrop, Catholic Record Society 18 (London:1916); Recusant Roll 2, 1593–94, ed. Hugh Bowler, Catholic Record Society 57 (London:1965); Recusant Roll No. 3 (1594–1595), and No. 4 (1595–1596), ed. Hugh Bowler, Catholic Record Society 61 (London:1970).

76 TNA, SP 12/250, f.1v.

77 CSPD 1591–1594, p. 545, no. 92; TNA SP 12/249 ff.152-154v, 16 August 1594. Where calendaring of repetitive confessions has significantly diminished and even omitted important content both printed and original reference are given.

78 Clarke, Dorothy M., ‘Conformity Certificates among the King’s Bench Records’, Recusant History 14 (1977/78): 5363 ; no relevant item is filed in TNA, KB 145/13/32. Burke, Vincent, ‘Submissions of Conformity by Elizabethan Recusants in Worcestershire’, Worcestershire Recusant 21 (1973): 17 , found no surviving Worcester diocesan records for this period. Questier, Conversion, suggests a degree of flexibility in procedural acknowledgement of conformity, 102–05,108–110.

79 Statutes of the Realm, 29 Eliz cap 6, clause 6.

80 Patricia Hyde and Alan Davidson, ‘Thomas Combes’, in Hasler ed. Commons, 1: 634–5; S.M. Thorpe, ‘Robert Walter’, in Hasler ed. Commons, 3: 576.

81 APC 20: 242-3, January; APC 21: 187; APC 22: 56, 63, 263; Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive, ER 2/22, 5 October 1591. Friendship with both men was ongoing till their death; the latter made Sheldon his executor.

82 Hammer, P., The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: the Political Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585–1597 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999 ).

83 F. Edwards, Plots and Plotters (Dublin: 2002); Devlin, C., Hamlet’s Divinity and other essays (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1963 ), ‘The Earl and the Alchemist, 74–114; Dominic Green, The Double Life of Dr Lopez (London: Century, 2003).

84 CSPD 1591-1594, p. 531, no. 41; TNA SP 12/249 f.70.

85 Edwards, Plotters, 236–252; Alford, S., The Watchers (London: Allen Lane, 2012), 303–09.

86 The episode was played down by Barnard, The Sheldons, 35, ignored by Minney, Sheldons, and misrepresented in Thorpe and Davidson, ‘Ralph Sheldon’.

87 CSPD 1591-94, p. 554, nos. 1, 2, TNA SP 12/250 f.1r-1v, 3r-3v; Calendar of the Cecil Papers in Hatfield House (hereafter Cecil Papers), 13 vols (HMSO: London, 1883-1976), 4: 618-19.

88 Edwards, Plotters, 240.

89 The misinformation emanated from the plotter Young. In the same document he described Richard first as the nephew of Anglesey Williams and then as Richard’s uncle, CSPD 1591-1594, p. 531, no. 41, TNA SP 12/249 f.70, 30 July 1594. The link to Sheldon was cited by M. A. S. Hume, Treason and Plot: struggles for Catholic supremacy in the last years of Elizabeth (London 1901), 153–161, at 154; it was repeated in ‘Two Lists’ 98–9. He was not a priest, as Donno, Harington, 239, n.193, quoted by Kilroy, G., Edmund Campion Memory and Transcription (Farnham: Ashgate, 2005), 92 .

90 Williams was correctly identified by A. Davidson, ‘Edward Williams of Oxford: a Sheldon servant’, Worcestershire Recusant, 25 (June 1975): 2-4. Edward Williams, though never described as Sheldon’s nephew, himself said he was servant to his uncle Sheldon, reported by Young in CSPD 1591–1594, p. 545, no. 92, TNA SP 12/249 f.152-154v, Aug. 16, 1594 and CSPD 1591–1594, p. 540, no. 64, TNA SP 12/249 f.108-108v, 12 Aug. 1594 and CSPD 1591–94, p. 540, no. 65, TNA SP 12/249, f. 110r-111r, 12 August 1594.

91 CSPD 1591-94, p.544, no. 87; TNA, SP 12/249, f. 145r-146r. Phrases omitted in the calendar are in italic type. The calendared version incorrectly reads ‘Sheldon’s daughter going to mass’. Interrogators included the earl of Essex, Lord Cobham, William Waad, Francis Bacon and Sir Michael Blount, lieutenant of the Tower acting on behalf of the privy council; Edward Coke annotated some of the interviews.

92 Williams had described the circumstances between 1588 and 1591 when four daughters remained unmarried. The proposed alliance with the Thimelbys, unknown from other sources, is not an impossibility. It was perhaps abandoned when the bridegroom’s father found himself interned, sometime in 1589. Briefly released, he was quickly returned to custody: APC 20: 6–7.

93 CSPD 1591-94, p. 554, no. 1, TNA SP 12/250, f.1.

94 APC 18: 415; APC 24: 221, 224, 399; Lambeth Palace, London, MS 2008, f.49, MS 3470, ff. 135, 137, 138. He was never a knight.

95 CSPD 1591–94, p.554, no.2, TNA SP 12/250, f.2-2v. The name could be Oglethorpe, as before.

96 They can be identified from their uncle’s will, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, The Hive, Worcester, as Reynold Williams, 1597/168.

97 Reignold Williams listed in 1577, Ryan, Diocesan Returns, 66; as conforming by 1586, CSPD 1581-90, p. 332, no.11, TNA SP 12/190, f. 28; in Sheldon accounts, WaCRO, CR 2632, ff. 120,184.

98 WaCRO, CR 2632, ff. 45, 120. He was possibly also in receipt of a Spanish pension, Loomie, A. J., The Spanish Elizabethans, English exiles at the court of Philip II (London: Burns & Oates, 1963), 263 , no. 151.

99 CSPD 1591–1594, p.531, no. 41, TNA SP 12/249 f. 70.

100 WaCRO, CR 2632, ff. 7, 8, 16, 22, 26, 50-1, 56, 68, 70, 78, 81.

101 Lists and Indexes, 295, no. 473, 26 June 1587; ‘the presentation of Thomas Whitnell to the benefice is cancelled.’

102 Anstruther, Geoffrey, The Seminary Priests 1558–1800, 4 vols (Bognor Regis: [Arundel Press], 1967 ; and Great Wakering: Mayhew-McCrimmon 1975-77), 1: 36-8; Birmingham Archives and Heritage MS 3061/Acc 1901–003/167418, 167784; WaCRO CR 2632, ff. 61, 90. Ralph’s cousin Jane of the Broadway Sheldons married Barnabas Bishop of Brailes, William’s brother.

103 CSPD 1591–94, p. 290, no. 76, TNA SP 12/243, no.76, ff.211-216r, transcribed Michael Hodgetts in Worcestershire Recusant 5 (May 1965):18-30, continued in Ibid, 6 (December 1968), 7-20. The section where Sheldon might have been listed is now missing.

104 ODNB; Cecil Papers, 18: 34–35, 111, not Hugh Hall priest of the 1583 inquiries who died c.1597.

105 CSPD 1591-1594, p.531, no. 41, TNA SP 12/249 f. 70. The council knew it was not convenient for him to come to England until early in October.

106 CSPD 1591–94, p. 550, no.113, not calendared, see TNA SP 12/249, f.194-195r at f.194v.

107 CSPD 1591–1594, p. 555, no 7; TNA, SP 12/250 f.8.

108 CSPD 1591–1594, p. 545, no. 92; TNA SP 12/249 f.152-154v.

109 Cecil Papers, 4:618-19, Hatfield House CP 28/45. Edward was Ralph’s heir, aged 24 or so.

110 The phrases ‘by his own admission’ and ‘those he named to Lord Cobham’ make clear that there had already been at least one, and possibly two, other interviews, no longer extant, on matters other than those in the previous inquiries. Hatfield House CP 28/45. Cobham was known to maintain an intelligence network through Catholic refugees in the Low Countries, Patrick H. Martin, Elizabethan Espionage: plotters and spies in the struggle between Catholicism and the Crown (McFarland and Company: Jefferson, North Carolina, 2016), 181.

111 T. F. Knox, ed. Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen (London: 1882), 343–45. At least three copies were known to the council, all in different hands, CSPD 1591–1594, p. 291, nos. 80, 81, 82, TNA, SP 12/243, f. 221-226v.

112 Hughes, P. L. and Larkin, J. F., eds., Tudor Proclamations 3 vols (New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1969), 4: 8693 , discussed in Walsham, Church Papists, 68-70.

113 Oxfordshire Wills 118.113 [ Accessed 23 June 2019]; C 2/JasI/S22/55.

114 Quite how the phrase ‘the token of the King of Armies’ should be interpreted is debatable; it might not refer to a person but be taken, literally, to mean an image, a sign by which a person might be recognized, a suggestion for which I thank Professor Michael Questier.

115 Cecil Papers, 4:618–19

116 CSPD 1591–1594, p. 555, no 7, TNA, SP 12/250 f.8.

117 Two are traditionally identified as the brother-in-law and the stepson (b.1563) of the Blessed Margaret Clitherow. Anstruther, Priests, 1:81, II, 64, tends to overlook some of the relevant material presented here.

118 BL, Lansdowne MS, 68, no. 69, f. 157r.

119 The recording clerk, thoroughly confused, also mentioned a second man of this name as a lawyer, but not, he thought, a resident Oxford citizen: Ryan, Diocesan Returns, 98–9. Lincoln’s Inn registers record a student of this name in 1556, Records of the honourable society of Lincoln’s Inn, Admissions, 1420-1893, 2 vols (London: 1896) 1: 62.

120 CSPD 1591–1594, p. 409, no. 8; TNA SP 12/247, f. 13. No William Clitherow matriculated at Oxford.

121 T. M. McCoog, ‘Harmony Disrupted: Robert Parson SJ, William Crichton SJ and the Question of Queen Elizabeth’s Successor, 1581-1603’, Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu 145 (January-June 2004), 149-220; BL, Ms Lansdowne 68, no. 70, f. 161r.

122 CSPD 1591–94, p. 33–34, no. 136, TNA SP 12/238, f. 203v; Calendar of State Papers Scotland 1589-93 (hereafter CSP Scotland) no. 578, p. 531–33; CSP Scotland 1589–93, no. 586, p.539–40. Shipmaster Blake thought Mr Poley had taken him back to Antwerp, CSPD 1591–1594, p. 409, no. 8; TNA SP 12/247, f. 13 (reference to Poley is omitted from the calendar). It is unclear whether he is also the Clitherow who engaged in long-term covert correspondence with London merchants, reporting on military and Jesuit affairs from 1586 until at least 1591, CSP Scotland 1585-86, p. 643–45, no. 734; CSP Scotland 1586-88, p. 30; CSP Foreign Jan-July 1589, 224–5, TNA SP 77/5/ 19A, 67B, f. 72r, 73; SP 84/41, f. 359v.

123 Such an alliance would be in line with Sheldon’s support in 1603 for his nephew Francis Plowden, whose father Edmund had argued in support of Mary Queen of Scots’ claim to the English throne: Geoffrey de C. Parmiter, Edmund Plowden, An Elizabethan Lawyer, Catholic Record Society Monograph Series (London: 1987), 4. Which Clitherow composed a treatise in support of the Queen of Scots is unclear, CSPD 1598-1601, pp. 456, 460, but cf. BL, Lansdowne 68, f.160v.

124 Hammer, Polarisation, 158–59.

125 He should be distinguished from another Clitherow, Steward of the College of Reims, sufficiently important for the spy Charles Sledd to filch his letters in 1580, Miscellanea, ed. Clare Talbot, Catholic Record Society 53 (London: 1961): 204, 239–40, 245, who was priested in 1582, Knox ed. Diaries, 188.

126 Cecil Papers, 4:618–19.

127 Devlin, Hamlet’s Divinity, 97; R. B. Wernham ed, List and analysis of state papers: foreign series: Elizabeth I; preserved in the Public Record Office, 7 vols (London: HMSO, 1964–2000), 4: nos.638–39.

128 Ibid., p. 374.

129 Ibid., p. 375.

130 Wernham, Lists, 1, nos. 638, 681–2, nos. 638, 641.

131 Thorpe, ‘Robert Walter’; epitaph in Bodleian Library, Oxford, Ms Wood E.1, f. 108v-109.

132 TNA, PROB 11/86/266.

133 Turner, H. L., No Mean Prospect: Ralph Sheldon’s Tapestry Maps (Oxford: Plotwood, 2010 ); Idem, ‘Glimpses of a Gallery: the maps and ‘paynted pictures’ of Robert Hare’, Bodleian Library Record 26 (1) (April 2013), 102–112.

134 Davidson and Thorpe, ‘Ralph Sheldon.’

135 Tierney, M. A., Dodd’s Church History of England (Westmead: Gregg International Publishers, 1971 ), iv, xlvi-vii, TNA, SP 14/3/f. 29r; Edwards, Francis, The Succession, Bye and Main Plots of 1601–1603 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006 ).

136 Cecil Papers, 15: 344. Markham’s sister was married to Sheldon’s heir.

137 Cecil Papers, 15: 60, Cecil Mss CP 99/13; Cecil Papers, 12: 221, 11 July 1602.

138 CSPD 1603–1610, 26, summary; TNA, SP 14/3, f.4 1 August 1603, from Skilts.

139 Cecil Papers, 20: 303.

140 CSPD 1603–1610, p. 28, 6 August 1603; TNA, SP 14/3 f.22-22v. Dated 3 August in document. Martin, Patrick H., Elizabethan Espionage: plotters and spies in the struggle between Catholicism and the Crown (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Co., 2016), 230–32.

141 Martin, Espionage, 230–32.

142 Cecil Papers, 18:34–36. His reference is not easy to interpret. Contemporary sources describe a Jesuit Lyster using the alias Butler, and a seminary priest Butler using the alias Lyster, Anstruther, Priests, 1: 59–60, Catholic Encyclopaedia. Minney took this as evidence that Sheldon had re-joined the Church, Sheldons, 5.

143 TNA, E 126/1 Easter 4 Jas, 15 May [1606] f. 41.

144 TNA, WARD 7/51/91 and CP 25/2/386/10JasIMic Double Counties show the lands were not sold as Thorpe and Davidson, ‘Ralph Sheldon’.

145 Walsham, Church Papists, 68–70.

146 His name was omitted from a socially conscious report on recusancy in Worcester diocese in 1596, Cecil Papers, 6: 255–272, 17 July; abbreviated as printed in Talbot ed. ‘Miscellanea’, 127–28.

147 For Abberton, Beoley, Broadway and Shrawley, A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J. W. Willis-Bund (London: St Catherine’s Press, 1924), 7, 19, 43, 341; For Barcheston, A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred, ed. L F Salzman (London: University of London, 1949), 10; for Ditchford Frary, now in the parish of Stretton on Fosse, Birmingham Archives and Heritage, Ms 3061/Acc1901-003/167885; For Stretton on Fosse, A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 5, Kington Hundred, ed. L. F. Salzman (London: University of London, 1949), 157; for Tredington, A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 3, ed. William Page and J. W. Willis-Bund (London: St Catherine’s Press, 1913), 550; For Whichford: TNA, C 78/110/11.

148 At Beoley TNA, WARD 7/51/91; Deddington: TNA C 2/Eliz/A8/55; Flyford Flavell: TNA, C 66.1516, mm 32-42 at 41–42; Steeple Barton, TNA STAC 8/162/6, sheet 31, 23 Nov 2 Jas.; TNA C 2/Jas1/S12/32 1604;Whichford: TNA, C 78/110/11.

149 Jane, baptized in November 1567, Beoley Parish Registers; her marriage had been concluded before 1587, WaCRO CR 2632, f.202.

150 Hammer, P., ‘An Elizabethan spy who came in from the cold: the return of Anthony Standen to England in 1593Historical Research 65 (1992): 276295 , at 290–91.

151 Nelson, Alan H., Monstrous Adversary; The Life of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2003), 337 .

152 Staffordshire Record Office, D641/4/J/4/1/3(b).

153 The Catholic sympathizer Sir Thomas Lake, clerk of the Signet and close to king James, TNA, SP 14/70, f.151; Henry Maynard, former Burghley secretary (d.1610), with whom he was sufficiently familiar to borrow money, WaCRO CR 2632, f.127.

154 Richard Eades, Dean of Worcester (d.1604), author of an epitaph on Ralph’s father’s tomb at Beoley.

155 Anthony Blencowe, Dean of Chichester and Provost of Oriel College; the Catholic Thomas Allen, Principal of Gloucester Hall, Oxford. Both received bequests in Sheldon’s will.

156 To whom Ralph had acknowledged recognizances: TNA, E 126/1 Easter 4 Jas, 31 May 1606 f. 49.

157 Nancy Briggs, ‘William Lord Petre 1575-1637’, Essex Recusant 10 (2 August 1968): 51-64.

158 Donno, Harington, 239–40.

159 TNA, C 2/Eliz/T10/3.

160 APC 32: 251.

161 Barnard, Sheldons.

* An early version of this paper was read at the Tudor Stuart Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, London in February 2017. I should like to acknowledge the helpful comments of many readers.


Ralph Sheldon (1537–1613) of Beoley and Weston: cloaked in conformity?

  • Hilary L. Turner (a1)


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