RAGON, Reynold (c.1355-c.1428), of East Haddon, Northants. and Backnoe, Beds.
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Family and Education
Commr. to suppress the insurgents of 1381, Beds. Mar., Dec. 1382; of array Apr. 1385, Apr. 1386, Mar. 1392, Dec. 1399, Sept., Nov. 1403; inquiry Oct. 1390 (champerty, conspiracies, maintenances); kiddles June 1398.
J.p. Beds. 15 July 1389-June 1390, 12 Nov. 1397-Feb. 1407.2
Sheriff, Beds. and Bucks. 1 Dec. 1396-3 Nov. 1397, 29 Nov. 1402-5 Nov. 1403.
Escheator, Beds. and Bucks. 16 Nov. 1397-26 Nov. 1399.
On the death of his father, in February 1377, the subject of this biography, who was then already of age, succeeded to a sizeable estate comprising the four principal manors of East Haddon, Sudbury in Eaton Socon, Backnoe in Thurleigh and Ragons in Maulden (Bedfordshire), together with extensive farmland and other appurtenances.3 The late Sir John Ragon had been a dominant figure in Bedfordshire, which he represented in no less than seven Parliaments, as well as sitting on the bench and serving on numerous royal commissions. Such was his influence in the county that in 1373 he was able, as sheriff, to contrive his own return to the House of Commons—an electoral malpractice which probably owed something to his powerful patron, Reynold, 2nd Lord Grey of Ruthin. For at least 17 years Sir John held office as steward of the Grey household, and it was clearly through this connexion that his son and heir was retained by Lord Reynold (after whom he seems to have been named). When giving evidence much later, in 1408, on behalf of the 3rd Lord Grey in his celebrated dispute with Edward, Lord Hastings, over their respective right to bear the arms of the earls of Pembroke, Reynold Ragon recalled that he had always ‘lived apart from his lord upon his own lands’, although his memory certainly played him false when he claimed to have been ‘only 20’ when his first patron died in 1388.4 Ragon’s attachment to the house of Grey stands out as a particularly striking and consistent feature of his career. We are told that he served on certain unspecified campaigns with Reynold, the 3rd Lord; and he was frequently employed by the latter as a trustee. Moreover, he and Lord Grey often acted together in this capacity for members of their circle, most notably the two Sir Gerard Braybrookes* and Sir John Trailly†. They also became involved in other transactions, as, for example, in December 1391, when they offered a joint bond in £400 to Lord Reynold’s kinswoman, Elizabeth Grey, lady of Stoke d’Abernon in Surrey. It was probably through Trailly that our Member was called upon to witness deeds for Harrold priory, a house much patronized by his friend’s family, although Lord Grey later became a benefactor, too. Over the years Ragon had dealings with many other local landowners, including John Styuecle*, who made him a trustee of the manor of Staughton in Bedfordshire.5
Ragon’s position as a rentier, no less than his longstanding association with the Greys made him a leading figure in the Bedfordshire community. According to his own rough estimate, he could rely upon a net income of about 40 marks p.a., although the tax assessments of 1412 (which themselves represent a considerable undervaluation of property) record that his estates produced well over £50 a year.6 Part of these revenues came from the manor of Bourn in Cambridgeshire, which he may have acquired by marriage. His wife belonged to the influential Wydeville family, and in this way Ragon was further able to consolidate his position in Northamptonshire, a county regularly represented in the House of Commons both by his father-in-law, John Wydeville, and his brother-in-law, Thomas. The latter chose Ragon to act as his attorney in England shortly before setting out on Richard II’s Irish expedition of 1399, and he subsequently became a trustee of most of the Ragon estates, which, in due course, he held to the use of his widowed sister and her two sons.7 Ragon was already well advanced in years when Thomas’s younger brother, Richard, rose to prominence in the service of Henry V, so it cannot be said that he owed any of his administrative appointments to the Wydeville connexion. He may, indeed, still have been unmarried when he received his first royal commission, which involved him in the suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt in Bedfordshire. Over the next few years he became more closely involved in local government, being returned to Parliament, sitting on the local bench and, eventually, in 1396, serving for the first of his two terms as sheriff. His reappearance on the Bedfordshire commission of the peace in November 1397, together with his appointment as escheator at the same time, suggests that he was held in some regard by the court party, which had by then succeeded in eliminating its enemies. Unlike his friend, Sir Roger Beauchamp* (another patron of Harrold priory, for whom he acted as an attorney in 1394), or his father-in-law, who was removed from local office at the end of the reign, he had no known dealings with the King’s opponents, the Lords Appellant, yet in common with Beauchamp he felt it expedient to sue out a royal pardon in the summer of 1398.8 His reasons for doing so can hardly have been political, although his attachment to the Court was not so strong as to prevent him from retaining his seat on the bench when Henry IV seized the throne in the following year.
Ragon finally retired from public life in about 1407, having by then discharged a second term as sheriff; but, as we have already seen, he came forward a few months later to testify before the court of chivalry in support of Lord Grey, whose livery he continued to wear. He was still alive in November 1423, when he and his wife conveyed the manor of Bourn to their elder son, John, as part of a settlement made upon the latter’s marriage to Thomas Langport’s daughter, Margaret. Ragon’s death probably occurred in, or shortly before, March 1428, as it was then that his widow confirmed her brother, Thomas Wydeville, and his co-feoffees in possession of that part of the Ragon estates which had been settled upon her for life. John Ragon died soon after representing Bedfordshire in the Parliament of 1437, and since he left no issue he was succeeded by his younger brother, Thomas.9 Long before her own death the widowed Elizabeth Ragon apparently drew up a will in which she made provision for the payment of the not inconsiderable debts left both by her husband and her elder son; and her executors were later accused of refusing to meet some of these outstanding obligations. It is now impossible to discover if these allegations were, in fact, true, because nothing seems to be known about Elizabeth after 1440, when she recognized her younger son’s title to the family estates. She had by then inherited a substantial share of the property left by her wealthy brother, Thomas, so her finances cannot have been too straitened.10
Ref Volumes: 1386-1421
Variants: Ragone, Ragonn, Ragoun.
- 1. C1/19/293; CP25(1)30/96/5; CIPM, xiv. no. 336; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 55, 59. Ragon’s wife, Elizabeth, is mistakenly described by G. Baker (Northants. i. 163) as being the sister and heir of Thomas Wydeville, nephew to Richard, Earl Rivers (d.1469), when in fact her brother was the earl’s uncle (CP, xi. 16-22).
- 2. It is evident from a writ of supersedeas of Feb. 1388 that Ragon should already by then have received a commission of the peace (CCR, 1385-9, pp. 466-7).
- 3. CIPM, xiv. no. 336; CFR, viii. 399; CCR, 1374-7, p. 498.
- 4. Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxix. 80-81; R.I. Jack, ‘Greys of Ruthin’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1961), 164-5, 327; Grey. v. Hastings, 22.
- 5. Jack, 164-5, 327; CPR, 1388-92, p. 514; 1405-8, p. 85; CCR, 1389-92, p. 533; 1399-1402, pp. 174, 445-7; CAD, iii. B3892; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xvii. 145-6, 153-4; Hunts. Feet of Fines (Cambridge Antiq. Soc. xxxvii), 93; Beds. RO, DD L463, 604, TW543, 555.
- 6. Jack, 164-5; Feudal Aids, vi. 397, 409, 497.
- 7. CP25(1)30/96/5; CPR, 1396-9, p. 577; CCR, 1441-7, p. 58.
- 8. C67/30 m. 13; CPR, 1391-6, p. 506.
- 9. CP25(1)30/96/5; Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. xxix. 81; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 55, 58; Grey v. Hastings, 22.
- 10. C1/19/293; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 373-4, 375; CCR, 1441-7, pp. 54, 56, 58-59, 61-63.