Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Neville, Ralph de
NEVILLE, RALPH, de, fourth Baron Neville of Raby (1291?–1367), was the second son and eventual heir of Ralph Neville, third baron (d. 1331), by his first wife, Euphemia, daughter and heiress of Sir John de Clavering of Warkworth, in Northumberland, and Clavering, in western Essex. His grandfather, Robert de Neville, who died during his father's lifetime [see Neville, Robert de, d. 1282], made one of those fortunate marriages which became traditional with this family, acquiring the lordship of Middleham, in Wensleydale, with the side valley of Coverdale, and the patronage of the abbey of Coverham, by his marriage with Mary, the heiress of the FitzRanulphs. His father, who, like his grandfather, bore none the best of reputations, did not die until 18 April 1331. Robert, the elder son, called the ‘Peacock of the North,’ whose monument may still be seen in Brancepeth Church, had been slain in a border fray by the Earl of Douglas in 1318; and his brother Ralph, who now became the heir of the Neville name, was carried off captive, but after a time was ransomed (Swallow, p. 11).
Before his father's death Neville had served the king both on the Scottish borders and at court, where he was seneschal of the household (Dugdale, i. 292; Fœdera, iv. 256, 448). In June 1329 he had been joined with the chancellor to treat with Philip VI of France for marriages between the two royal houses (ib. iv. 392); and he had entered into an undertaking to serve Henry, lord Percy (d. 1352) [q. v.], for life in peace and war, with twenty men at arms against all men except the king (Dugdale, u.s., who gives the full terms). He tried to induce the prior and convent of Durham, to whom he had to do fealty for his Raby lands, to recognise the curious claim which his father had first made to the monks' hospitality on St. Cuthbert's day (4 Sept.) (cf. Dugdale, Baronage, i. 293; Letters from Northern Registers, p. 394).
Neville was a man of energy, and King Edward kept him constantly employed. Scottish relations were then very critical, and Neville and Lord Percy, the only magnate of the north country whose power equalled his own, spent most of their time on the northern border. In 1334 they were made joint wardens of the marches, and were frequently entrusted with important negotiations. Neville was also governor of the castle of Bamborough, and warden of all the forests north of the Trent (Dugdale, i. 294; Swallow, p. 14; Fœdera, vols. iv.–v.). The Lanercost chronicler (p. 293) insinuates that he and Percy did less than their duty during the Scottish invasion of 1337. Neville took part in the subsequent siege of Dunbar (ib. p. 295). It was only at rare intervals that he could be spared from the north. Froissart is no doubt in error in bringing him to the siege of Tournay in 1340, but the truce with Scotland at the close of 1342 permitted his services to be used in the peace negotiations with France promoted by Pope Clement VI in the following year (Froissart, iii. 312, ed. Lettenhove; cf. Fœdera, v. 213; Dugdale). When the king was badly in want of money (1338), Neville advanced him wool from his Yorkshire estates, and in return for this and other services was granted various privileges. In October 1333 he was given the custody of the temporalities of the bishopric of Durham during its vacancy, and twelve years later the wardship of two-thirds of the lands of Bishop Kellawe, who had died in 1316 (Registrum Palatinum Dunelmense, iv. 175, 340).
When David Bruce invaded England in 1346, Ralph and his eldest son, John, joined William de la Zouch, archbishop of York, at Richmond on 14 Oct., and, marching northwards by Barnard Castle and Auckland, shared three days later in the victory at the Red Hills to the west of Durham, near an old cross already, it would seem, known as Neville's Cross. This success saved the city of Durham, and made David Bruce a captive. Neville fought in the van, and the Lanercost writer now praises him as ‘vir verax et validus, audax et astutus et multum metuendus’ (Chron. de Lanercost, pp. 347, 350; Galfrid le Baker, p. 87). A sword is still shown at Brancepeth Castle which is averred to be that used by Ralph at Neville's Cross or Durham, as the battle was at first often called (Swallow, pp. 16–17). With Gilbert Umfreville, earl of Angus, he pursued the flying Scots across the border, took Roxburgh on terms, and harried the southern counties of Scotland (Chron. de Lanercost, p. 352). Tradition represents that he erected Neville's Cross on the Brancepeth road, half a mile out of Durham, in commemoration of the victory. The old cross was soon altered or entirely replaced by a more splendid one, which was destroyed in 1589, after the fall of the elder branch of Neville, and only the stump now remains; but a detailed description of it was printed in 1674 from an old Durham Roll by Davies in his ‘Rites and Monuments’ (Swallow, p. 16). The king rewarded Neville's services with a grant of 100l. and a license to endow two priests in the church of Sheriff-Hutton to pray for the souls of himself and his family (Dugdale). Towards the end of his life (1364) he endowed three priests in the hospital founded by his family at Well, near Bedale, not far from Middleham, for the same object (ib.)
The imprisonment of David Bruce made the Scots much less dangerous to England; but there was still plenty of work on the borders, and the rest of Neville's life was almost entirely spent there as warden of the marches, peace commissioner, and for a time (1355) governor of Berwick. The protracted negotiations for the liberation of David Bruce also occupied him (ib.) Froissart mentions one or two visits to France, but with the exception of that of 1359, when he accompanied the king into Champagne, these are a little doubtful (ib.; Froissart, v. 365, vi. 221, 224, ed. Lettenhove). He died on 5 Aug. 1367, and, having presented a very rich vestment to St. Cuthbert, was allowed to be buried in the south aisle of Durham Cathedral, being the first layman to whom that favour was granted (Wills and Inventories, Surtees Soc., i. 26). The body was ‘brought to the churchyard in a chariot drawn by seven horses, and then carried upon the shoulders of knights into the church.’ His tomb, terribly mutilated by the Scottish prisoners confined in the cathedral in 1650, still stands in the second bay from the transept.
Neville greatly increased the prestige of his family, and his descendants were very prosperous. He married Alice, daughter of Sir Hugh Audley, who, surviving him, married Ralph, baron of Greystock (d. 1417), in Cumberland, and, dying in 1374, was buried by the side of her first husband. They had five sons: (1) John, fifth baron Neville [q. v.]; (2) Robert, like his elder brother, a distinguished soldier in the French wars (Froissart, ed. Lettenhove, xxii. 289); (3) Ralph, the founder of the family of the Nevilles of Thornton Bridge, on the Swale, near Boroughbridge, called Ralph Neville of Condell (Cundall); (4) Alexander [q. v.], archbishop of York; (5) Sir William (d. 1389?) [q. v.] Their four daughters were: (1) Margaret, married, first (1342), William, who next year became Lord Ros of Hamlake (i.e. Helmsley, in the North Riding), and secondly, he dying in 1352, Henry Percy, first earl of Northumberland [q. v.]; (2) Catherine, married Lord Dacre of Gillsland; (3) Eleanor, who married Geoffrey le Scrope, and afterwards became a nun in the Minories, London (Wills and Inventories, i. 39); (4) Euphemia, who married, first, Reginald de Lucy; secondly, Robert Clifford, lord of Westmorland, who died before 1354; and, thirdly, Sir Walter de Heslarton (near New Malton). She died in 1394 or 1395. Surtees (iv. 159) adds a sixth son, Thomas, ‘bishop-elect of Ely,’ but this seems likely to be an error.[Rotuli Parliamentorum; Calendarium Genealogicum, published by the Record Commission; Rymer's Fœdera, original and Record editions; Robert de Avesbury, Adam de Murimuth, Walsingham, Letters from Northern Registers and Registrum Palatinum Dunelmense in the Rolls Ser.; Chronicon de Lanercost, Maitland Club ed.; Galfrid le Baker, ed. Maunde Thompson; Froissart, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove; Surtees's Hist. of Durham, vol. iv.; Longman's Hist. of Edward III; Dugdale's Baronage; Nicolas's Historic Peerage, ed. Courthope; Segar's Baronagium Genealogicum, ed. Edmondson; Selby's Genealogist, iii. 107, &c.; Foster's Yorkshire Pedigrees.]