Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rawson, John

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RAWSON, JOHN, Viscount Clontarff (1470?–1547), born about 1470, was descended from an ancient family seated at Water Fryston in Yorkshire; his father, Richard Rawson, was from 1478 to 1483, senior warden of the Mercers' Company, and in 1476 served as alderman in London, subsequently becoming sheriff. His mother, Isabella Craford, died in 1497, and was buried with her husband at St. Mary Magdalene's, Old Fish Street. A brother Richard was chaplain to Henry VIII and archdeacon of Essex, and died in 1543.

John was the eldest son, and in 1492 was made free of the Mercers' Company; before September 1497 he joined the knights of St. John, whose headquarters were then at Rhodes. In 1510 he was employed on some mission to Rome connected with the order; on his way he was entertained in great state at Venice by the doge (Cal. Venetian State Papers, vol. ii. No. 64). In 1511 he was appointed prior of Kilmainham, an office which carried with it the headship of the order in Ireland and a seat in the Irish house of peers; at the same time he was sworn of the Irish privy council. He also held the preceptories of Quenington, Gloucestershire, and Swinfield.

In 1517 Rawson was made treasurer of Ireland, but in the following year was summoned to the defence of Rhodes, then besieged by the Turks. In 1519 he obtained a license from the king to go abroad for three years; but apparently he did not leave England, for his license was revoked, and he was compelled to return to Ireland in July 1520 with Surrey (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. iii. No. 2889). He remained in Ireland until March 1522, and then seems to have made his way to Rhodes, as his name appears at the head of the list of English knights reviewed there by Villiers de L'Isle Adam in that year (Vertot, Hist. of the Knights of Malta, 1728, vol. i. App. p. 154). Rhodes surrendered on 20 Dec., and Rawson returned to Ireland, being reappointed treasurer in the same year. In 1525 he again received a license to travel abroad for three years, and in June 1527 was with L'Isle Adam at Corneto in Italy; in the same month he was appointed turcopolier or commander of the turcopoles or light infantry of the order, an office which carried with it the headship of the English ‘langue’ and care of the coast defences of Malta and Rhodes. But in the following year Henry VIII, who needed Rawson's services in the administration of Ireland, secured his reappointment as prior of Kilmainham, and again made him treasurer of Ireland. Rawson took an active part in the work of the Irish privy council; he was ‘an able man and the chief supporter of the government’ (Bagwell); he maintained an establishment second only to that of the lord deputy. In 1532 he took part in the proceedings against Sir William Skeffington [q. v.], and in 1534 was one of the few who remained loyal during Kildare's rebellion [see Fitzgerald, Gerald, ninth Earl of Kildare]; during its course his property was plundered by the insurgents, and he was present at the surrender of Rosse Castle. In 1535 Brabazon recommended him to Cromwell for the lord-chancellorship of Ireland, but the suggestion was not carried out. In 1540 he was one of those who made depositions against lord-deputy Grey, who was accused of openly supporting the Geraldines [see Grey, Lord Leonard]. Meanwhile Henry had resolved to dissolve the order of St. John; after prolonged negotiations Rawson surrendered the priory of Kilmainham, and received in return a pension of five hundred marks, and on 22 Nov. 1541 was created Viscount Clontarff for life. But his health was broken; in 1538 he was described as old and impotent, and after some years of illness he died in 1547, when Oswald Massingberd was appointed by the grand master to succeed him as titular prior of Kilmainham (Whitworth Porter, Knights of St. John, pp. 733–4). The peerages, without giving any authority, state that he lived till 1560, but no mention of him has been found during this period, and his age makes it improbable.

Clontarff left some natural children; a daughter Catherine married Rowland, son of Patrick White, baron of the Irish exchequer, and the Sir John Rawson who frequently occurs in the Irish records during Elizabeth's reign may have been a son. Several of Rawson's letters to Wolsey and others are in the state papers.

[State Papers, Henry VIII, passim; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, ed. Brewer and Gairdner, passim; Materials for the Hist. of the Reign of Henry VII (Rolls Ser.), i. 401, 610; Cal. Carew MSS. and Book of Howth, passim; Lascelles's Liber Munerum Hib.; Morrin's Calendar of Patent Rolls, Ireland; Testamenta Eboracensia (Surtees Soc.), pt. iv.; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl.; Archdall's Mon. Hibernicum, 1786, pp. 244–6, 796; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, vol. i. passim; Abbé Vertot's Hist. of the Knights of Malta, 1728, tom. i. App. p. 154; Whitworth Porter's Knights of St. John pp. 345, 727, 733–4; Gent. Mag. 1856, ii. 179–186; Burke's, Lodge's, and G. E. C.'s Peerages.]

A. F. P.