WARCOPPE, Ralph (1545-1605), of English, Oxon.

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

b. 1545, 1st s. of Cuthbert Warcoppe by Anne Symonds (d.1571) of Hatfield, Herts. educ. St. Paul’s sch.; Peterhouse, Camb. Mich. 1559; Christ Church, Oxf. 1563, BA 1565. m. Katherine, da. of William Marsham, alderman of London, s.p. suc. fa. 8 Oct. 1557.1

Offices Held

Commr. musters, Oxon. 1580, to search for papists 1581; j.p. Oxon. from 1579, dep. lt. 1596.2


Warcoppe was christened in the church of St. Antholin, London, his father being a mercer and merchant of the staple as well as an Oxfordshire landowner. Both parents were protestants. His mother befriended John Jewel in his flight from Oxford in 1554 and Laurence Humphrey when sequestered for nonconformity in 1565; his father, probably implicated in the Dudley plot, fled to Frankfurt in the autumn of 1556 with his wife and ten children, and was a leader of the more conservative section of the English community there, until his death in October 1557.3

It is likely that the family resettled at English under the protection of Sir Francis Knollys, a fellow-exile and a near neighbour in Oxfordshire. Warcoppe embarked upon an extensive education, enjoying at Christ Church an exhibition from St. Paul’s school which was reserved for mercers’ children; but the religious convictions of his family and the experience of foreign countries, which was forced upon him at an early age, remained the main influences in his upbringing. By the time his mother died, Warcoppe had resumed his travels, and in her will she anticipated that he might be unable to act as executor through absence from the realm. In 1571 he published a translation of a work by the French reformer Augustin Marlorat. Anthony Wood had heard that Warcoppe wrote and translated other things and described him as the ‘most accomplished gentleman of the age he lived in and master of several languages’. A manuscript which is almost certainly Warcoppe’s commonplace book survives in the Bodleian (its attribution to Cuthbert Warcoppe is clearly wrong), containing copies of accounts of the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots, of a spy’s description of Spain, of notes on the Netherlands written from a protestant viewpoint, and of Lambarde’s Archeion, written in 1591 but not printed till 1635. From this commonplace book it seems that Warcoppe had access to important state papers. He was probably much employed by Sir Francis and (Sir) William Knollys, but evidence exists only for his work against papists in Oxfordshire. In 1581 he was instructed with Sir Henry Neville I to search Lady Stonor’s house, where the press used to print Campion’s Decem Rationes was discovered; he conducted to London the prisoners taken at Stonor and was later employed on several similar tasks.

Warcoppe was not a great landowner, and in 1585 Walsingham gained him exemption from nomination for the shrievalty because of his ‘recent losses’. Yet in 1601 he was chosen knight of the shire, clearly at the instance of Sir William Knollys, who had nominated him as deputy lieutenant five years before and was himself returned as senior knight. He was appointed to committees on the penal laws (2 Nov.), the order of business (3 Nov.), monopolies (23 Nov.) and the clerk of the market (2 Dec.). In 1601 John Chamberlain and Dudley Carleton were hopeful that Warcoppe was about to be appointed ambassador to France, and it may be that he refused such an appointment because of illness.4

In July 1605 Warcoppe made his will, so that he could forget worldly things and prepare his heart ‘unto the heavenly Jerusalem’ to which he was persuaded that his election was ‘made sure’. He left a saddle to Knollys in acknowledgement of ‘love and favour ever borne’ to him; money ‘toward a stock for the setting of the poor to work’; and to his nephew, William Kingsmill of New College, all his books ‘such as are either Greek or Latin treating either of history, natural or moral philosophy, rhetoric or poetry’. Others who benefited were poor scholars of divinity at Oxford and Warcoppe’s ‘well-beloved friends’, Nicholas Bond, president of Magdalen, and Thomas Holland, regius professor of divinity. His executor was to be Ralph Warcoppe, his nephew and heir, and the overseers included his godson, Edmund Dunch. The will was proved on 1 Oct. 1605. William Kingsmill and several other scholars of New College printed a book of verses in memory of Warcoppe, ‘the most complete esquire of his time’, and dedicated it to Knollys.5

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. E150/823/3; Vis. Oxon. (Harl. Soc. v), 163; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 4), v. 258.
  • 2. APC, xii. 17; xiii. 233; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 297.
  • 3. P. M. Briers, Hist. Nuffield, 121-6; Harl. Soc. Reg. viii. 5; C. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 321; PCC 44 Chaynay.
  • 4. M. F. J. McDonnell, St. Paul’s Sch. 116; PCC 44 Holney; Wood, Ath. Ox. (ed. Bliss), i. 754; Bodl. Engl. Hist. b. 117; APC, xiii. 154, 177, 264; xvi. 214; xix. 277, 321; CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 152; 1601-3, p. 112; HMC Bath, ii. 27; D’Ewes, 623, 624, 649, 663; Chamberlain Letters ed. McClure, i. 127; W. Kingsmill, Encomion R. Warcoppi.
  • 5. PCC 71 Hayes; Encomion.