Ralph Boteler was the youngest surviving son of Sir Thomas Boteler, de jure 4th Baron of Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire and Alice Beauchamp (d. 1443), daughter of Sir John Beauchamp of Powick, Worcestershire.
His paternal grandparents were Sir William le Boteler, 2nd Baron Boteler and co-heiress Joan de Sudeley, daughter of John de Sudeley, 2nd Baron Sudeley.
Boteler was a military commander and member of the King’s Household under both Henry V and Henry VI. In 1418, Boteler was part of the retinue of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (son of Henry IV) on the occasion of Henry V’s visit to Troyes. He was present for the signing of the Treaty of Troyes which agreed that after the death of Charles VI of France, his heirs male would inherit the throne of France. The treaty also required that Henry espouse the Princess Katherine of Valois, a younger daughter of Charles VI and sister to Isabella of Valois, the second queen to Richard II of England. In 1420-21, Boteler was awarded grants of land in France most likely for his service to the King. After the signing of the treaty, Boteler was part of the attack against the Dauphin of France to keep him from trying to reclaim his right to the succession.
Dugdale quotes, “he was retained by indenture to serve the King in his wars of France with twenty men-at-arms and sixty archers on horseback.” (Dent)
Again, “In the beginning of the following reign, he had liscence to travel beyond the sea; was again in the wars of France and of the retinue of John, Duke of Bedford (brother of Henry V).” (Dent)
The Duke of Bedford was named Protector of the Realm and carried on the wars of France. Dent states that after the fall of Joan of Arc, Boteler rejoined Bedford at Rouen and was present for her burning at the stake.
He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1420. He was captain of Arques and Crotoy in 1423 and took muster in Calais in 1425. In 1441, Boteler became Lord Chamberlain of the King’s household. The following year, Boteler was made Treasurer of the King’s Exchequer. He was then sent as an ambassador with Richard, Duke of York, to negotiate a treaty with France. He served as Lord High Treasurer of England from 1443 to 1446. In 1447, he was associated with John, Viscount Beaumont in the Governorship of the “Isle of Jersey, Garnesey, Serke, and Erme” with the priories-alien and all their possessions in those islands; to hold during the minority of Anne, daughter and heiress of Henry Beauchamp, 1st Duke of Warwick (husband to Lady Cecily Neville, sister to Lady Alice, great-grandmother of Queen Katherine Parr). The employment was short as the young heiress died in 1449. Boteler then joined commission with James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire, in the Governorship of the town, marches, and castle of Calais.
In 1458, Boteler was acknowledged for his great service done to King Henry V and Henry VI in France and Normandy. Upon the fall of Henry VI, things drastically turned. Boteler excused himself from Parliament due to his age. He then devoted himself to the re-construction of Sudeley Castle.The original Castle was built during King Stephen’s reign. His His capture of several French ships added to his wealth which he spent on restoring the Castle. Tradition says that the Portmare Tower was where Boteler held a French Admiral who he had taken prisoner. Boteler received ransom from the King adding more to his considerable wealth.
Boteler was a huge benefactor to the churches. He erected St. Mary’s Chapel and aided the parishioners of Winchcombe to restore their Parish Church.In May 1455, Boteler took up arms again for the King at the first Battle of St. Alban’s. The First Battle of St Albans, fought on 22 May 1455 at St Albans, 22 miles (35 km) north of London, traditionally marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses. Richard, Duke of York (husband to Lady Cecily Neville and father to Edward IV and Richard III) and his ally, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (Warwick, the Kingmaker, uncle to Elizabeth Parr, grandmother of Queen Katherine), defeated the Lancastrians under Edmund, Duke of Somerset, who was killed. York captured Henry VI.
When Edward IV took the throne, things turned for the bad for Boteler. Boteler was forced to give up Sudeley Castle — Edward was depriving the Lancastrians of their lands, etc. leaving some of them in poverty while the Yorks’ flourished with the new grants that had been transferred from the Lancastrians to them. Records show Boteler reluctantly handing over the Castle. It states that he confirmed the Castle over to Richard, Earl of Rivers; William, Earl of Pembroke; Antony Wydville; Lord Scales; William Hastings; Lord Hastings; Thomas Bonyfaunt, Dean of the Chapel Royal; Thomas Vaughan; and Richard Fowler. With this went the inheritance of his heirs as well.
When the Lancastrian party rose again in 1470, there was hope that Sudeley would be restored to Boteler, but the House of York refused. The Castle was handed over to the Earl of Rivers and the others named above, but it was not meant to stay with them. Instead, Edward IV granted the Castle to his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III). It would remain Crown property until a grant to Thomas, Lord Seymour, the husband of Queen Katherine Parr, widow of King Henry VIII, in 1547 by his nephew King Edward VI (son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, wife 3). Shortly after Sudeley was taken from Lord Seymour, the Castle would temporarily pass to the late Queen’s brother, Marquess of Northampton (Sir William Parr) until the accession of Queen Mary I.
Lord SudeleyThe Boteler’s elevation to the aristocracy arose from the second marriage of Ralph’s grandfather, William le Botiler of Wem, de jure 2nd Baron Boteler, to the co-heiress of John de Sudeley, de jure 2nd Baron Sudeley, Joan de Sudeley. In 1367, Thomas Boteler became co-heir to his uncle, John de Sudeley, de jure 3rd Baron Sudeley. This eventually led to his father succeeding to the title of Lord of Sudeley. The title passed to both of Ralph’s elder brothers, John (5th Baron Sudeley) who died unmarried and childless in 1410 and William (6th Baron Sudeley), who despite being married, also died childless seven years later. William’s widow, Alice, was appointed governess of Henry VI in 1424. On 10 September 1441, Ralph Boteler was created by a new writ and letters patent, Baron of Sudeley by King Henry VI. With the title he was granted an annuity of 100 marks to himself and his heirs for the better support of his dignity, to be received out of the farm of the county of Lincoln.
Ralph inherited Sudeley Castle from his mother; he started rebuilding in 1442. Unfortunately he failed to gain royal permission to crenellate it and had to seek Henry VI’s pardon. Boteler was a supporter of the House of Lancaster during the War of the Roses. In 1469, Boteler was forced to sell Sudeley to King Edward IV due to his support for the Lancastrian cause. Sudeley became Royal property.
Marriage and Family
Lord Sudeley married twice. Before 6 July 1419, he married commercial wealth, in the person of Elizabeth Norbury, widow of John Hende (d. 1418), late Mayor of London, and daughter of John Norbury. They had two sons, Ralph and Thomas, Knt. She died 28 August 1462, and in the following year he married Alice (d. 1474), daughter of John, Baron Deyncourt, and widow of William, Baron Lovel of Titchmarsh, Northamptonshire, who survived him. They had no issue.
Sudeley’s only surviving son from his first marriage, Thomas, predeceased him, also without a male heir. Thomas’ widow Eleanor was the Lady Eleanor Boteler (known as the Holy Harlot) whose alleged pre-contract of marriage to Edward IV of England was claimed to have invalidated Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, and so legitimized the usurpation of Richard III of England. Lady Eleanor describes herself as “lately the wife of Thomas Boteler, knight, now deceased.”
- Douglas Richardson. Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition, 2011. pg 230-32.
- John Ashdown-Hill, “Eleanor The Secret Queen“, The History Press, 2009, pg 50 ISBN 978-0-7524-5669-0
- John Ashdown-Hill, “Eleanor The Secret Queen“, The History Press, 2009. pg 52 ISBN 978-0-7524-5669-0
- Sudeley Castle Online: History Timeline URL: http://www.sudeleycastle.co.uk/history
- John Ashdown-Hill, “Eleanor The Secret Queen“, The History Press, 2009. pg 51 ISBN 978-0-7524-5669-0
- Emma Dent. ”Annals of Winchcombe and Sudeley,” J. Murray, 1877.
- John Ashdown-Hill, “Eleanor The Secret Queen”, The History Press, 2009. pg 140
Eleanor Talbot Butler was not known as the Holy Harlot.