Fitzwilliam, Ralph (DNB00)

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FITZWILLIAM, RALPH (1256?–1316), baron, was the son of William Fitzralph of Grimthorpe in Yorkshire, and of his wife Joan, daughter of Thomas de Greystock (Dugdale, Baronage, i. 740). He was probably born in 1256, as he is described in 24 Edward I as forty years old and more (Calendarium Genealogicum, p. 515). In 1277 he served on behalf of his uncle, William de Greystock, in the Welsh war, and again on his own account in 1282, and in 1287 against the same enemy (Parl. Writs, i. 615). In 1291 he was first summoned to serve against the Scots, and in 1295 was first summoned to parliament. In July 1297 he was appointed captain of the royal garrisons in Northumberland (Stevenson, Doc. Scotland, ii. 195), and for his services against the Scots thanked in November, in which month he was also appointed one of the captains of the Scottish marches. In 1298 he was put at the head of the troops levied in Yorkshire. He was constantly serving against Scotland and in parliament. In 1300 he was at the siege of Carlaverock. In 1301 he signed as 'lord of Grimthorpe' the letter of the barons at the Lincoln parliament to the pope. He was also employed as a representative of the East Riding before the exchequer in 1300, and as the king's agent empowered to 'use all friendly ways' to exact a purveyance of grain from the Yorkshire monasteries in 1302. In 1304 he was commissioned with John de Barton to act as a justice to execute the statute of 'trailbaston' in Yorkshire (Hemingburgh, ii. 235); but in the commissions of 'trailbaston' in 1305 his name does not appear (Fœdera, i. 970). In the reign of Edward II he attached himself to the baronial opposition. In 1309 he was appointed a justice to receive in Northumberland complaints of prises taken contrary to the statute of Stamford. In 1313 he was among the adherents of Thomas of Lancaster who received a pardon for their complicity in the death of Gaveston (ib. ii. 231). In the same year he was made 'custos' of Cumberland, and in 1314 one of the justices of oyer and terminer in Cumberland and Westmoreland for the trial of offenders indicted before the conservators of the peace. In January 1315 the magnates of the north appointed him one of the wardens of the marches. The king ratified their choice, and nominated him captain and warden of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and of all Northumberland. In March 1315 he was also made captain and warden of Carlisle and of the adjoining marches. In June 1316 he was appointed one of the wardens to defend Yorkshire against the Scots. The last writ addressed to him as a commissioner of array was on 15 Sept. 1316. He died soon after, apparently about November, certainly before February 1317, and is said to have been buried in Nesham Priory, Durham (Dugdale).

Fitzwilliam inherited and acquired very considerable estates in Northumberland, Yorkshire, and Cumberland (Cal. Inq. Post Mortem, i. 282). In 1296 he was declared nearest heir to Gilbert Fitzwilliam (Cal. Geneal. p. 515). In 1303 he got one-fourth of the manors in Northumberland belonging to John Yeland (ib. p. 646). In 1306 he succeeded to the estates of his cousin John de Greystock (ib. p. 713), for the repose of whose soul he founded a chantry at Tynemouth.

Fitzwilliam married, about 1282, Marjory, daughter and coheiress of Hugh of Bolebec and widow of Nicholas Corbet. She died before 1303. His eldest son William died before him. He was succeeded by his second son Robert, who died before the end of 1317 (Cal. Inq. Post Mortem, i. 282). The estates then went to Ralph, the son of Robert, who assumed the name of Greystock. The barony remained in the family until 1487, when it passed through females to the Dacres of the north (Dugdale, ii. 24).

[Parl. Writs, i. 615–16, vol. ii. pt. iii. pp. 880–1; Rymer's Fœdera, vols. i. and ii. Record ed.; Calendarium Genealogicum; Stevenson's Documents illustrative of the History of Scotland, vol. ii.; Calendarium Inquisitionum Post Mortem, vol. i.; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 740; Foss's Judges of England, iii. 89–91; Biographica Juridica, p. 272.]

T. F. T.