HORSEY, Ralph (d.1612), of Clifton Maybank, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

1st s. of George Horsey by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of Sir Ralph Sadler. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1577. m. Edith (d.1628), da. of William Mohun, 5s. 3da. suc. fa. 1588 and cos. (Sir) John Horsey 1589. Kntd. 1591.

Offices Held

J.p. Dorset from c.1591, q. 1593, sheriff 1591-2, dep. lt. 1593, 1596; freeman, Poole 1596.


Twice elected knight of the shire, the first time before he had come into his estates, Horsey is mentioned by name only once in the surviving records of his Parliaments, on 11 Nov. 1586, when he was added to the committee which was to petition the Queen to execute Mary Queen of Scots. By virtue of his position as knight for Dorset he was also eligible to attend committees concerning the subsidy (22 Feb. 1587), enclosures (5 Nov. 1597), the poor law (5, 22 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.).1

His father died in debt and Horsey himself was ‘the best housekeeper in Dorsetshire’. ‘Oh Sir’, wrote one correspondent, ‘you keep hawks, and hounds and hunting horses ... spending £500 to catch hares and partridges that might be taken with five pounds’. In 1597 he began to sell his estates, conveying to Anthony Ashley an estate formerly belonging to Cranborne priory, which by 1601 was in the hands of Robert Cecil. In negotiations with the Cecils Horsey employed his ‘very loving friend’ Michael Hickes, through whose influence, it may be, the Horseys gained several valuable Dorset wardships.

In 1593 Horsey was among the guests at the famous supper party in George Trenchard’s house that led to the accusations of atheism against Ralegh. He was an active county official for many years and was at one time suggested as lord lieutenant of Dorset. During the Armada period he served as a captain of lancers in the force which was sent to London, and attended at court for a week or more; he helped to suppress recusancy; and during the last few years of Elizabeth’s reign he was employed in recruiting troops for Ireland. On occasion he championed local interests against government demands, as, for example, in 1596, when he and the other two deputy lieutenants wrote to oppose further money contributions being required from Dorset ports: it may be significant that in the same year Poole elected him a freeman.

In 1606 Horsey settled his estates on trustees including Edward Phelips, Thomas Freake and Richard Swayne. He died 11 Nov. 1612 and was buried at Melcombe. The heir was his son John, aged about 26 at his father’s death.2

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, iv. 427-9; Roberts thesis; Vis. Dorset, ed. Colby and Rylands, 3; APC, xxiv. 40; D’Ewes, 399, 409, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561.
  • 2. G. B. Harrison, Willobie His Avisa, 220; Som. and Dorset N. and Q. vi. 346-7; C142/334/67.