Ryves, Thomas (c1578 ENG - )

Ryves, Thomas

Ryves, Thomas


Father: John Ryves
Mother: Elizabeth Mervyn

Birth: 1583, Little Lancton, County Dorset, England
Birth Source: Knights Of The Realm & Commonwealth Index & Worthies of England

Death: ‎2 January 1651
Death Source: Numerous

Spouse1: Elizabeth Waldram


From Reliques of the Rives:
Sir Thomas Ryves, the eleventh and last child of John Ryves of Damory Court, was elected to Winchester College at the age of 11 and was admitted in 1590 as "of Blandford" (Kirby). Foster records him as "fourth son of John Ryves of Damory Court, Dorset (apparently an error for 'eighth son,' the rank given him by his father in his will and that given him by Hutchins); fellow of New College, 1598; B. C. L., 7 Feb. 1604/5; D. C. L., 21 June 1610; an advocate Doctor's Commons, 161 1 ; a Master in Chancery about 1618 and a judge of the faculties and prerogative court in Ireland; advocate general to Charles I; knighted 19 March 1644; d. 2 Jan. 1651/2; buried in St. Clement Danes. See Ath., iii, 304; Cootes, Civilians, 70; Gent. Mag., 83, ii, 22-23." Besides his studies pursued at Winchester and Oxford, "he studied the law in the best universities in France" (post).

He was apparently the first of the family to reside in Ireland, being followed thither by his brothers, Sir William and James. On October 20, 1612, upon the recommendation of Sir Arthur Chichester, Viceroy of Ireland, King James I granted to Dr. Ryves, "Professor of the Civil Laws, for his learning and sufficiency," the reversion of the prerogative office for the probate of wills (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 1612, page 295). The appointment of Dr. Ryves provoked something of a storm but there rallied to his support his powerful patron and kinsman, Sir John Davys, Attorney General of Ireland who, in a letter dated 20 Dec. 161 5, to Sir Thomas Lake, principal secretary of King James I, wrote of Dr. Thomas Ryves as follows:
I am entreated by Mr. Doctor Ryves who is my wife's neere kinsman and who well deserves the love of his friends to write somewhat unto you touching a business which doth concerne his whole estate in this kingdome. . . . Your Honor (as he tells me) procured his Majesties letter for a graunt to bee made to him in Reversion of the office of the faculties and of the prerogative court in this kingdome and I uppon that letter did draw the letters patent whereby that office was granted in Reversion unto him. He expected the fall of this Reversion divers yeares and while he stood in expectation of that poore fortune heer he lost the opportunity of a better preferment in England. I speak it of mine owne knowledge. Now, Sir, this office being fallen unto him by the death of one Dr. Doyn an Irish Doctor of the Law against whom no exception was taken (that ever I heard of) while he had that office, some of our great prelates heer, doo protest against Doctor Reeves as able a man even by their own confession as any Doctor that held the place heer before him and whose patent hath the same form ... as those granted to his predecessors in that place alledginge that they do not conceave that it was or is his majesties pleasure that Doctor Rives should have power over the whole clergy of this kingdome in granting or examining of all faculties and dispensations .... This authority hath been executed from tyme to tyme by his Majesties special commissers all learned in the canon law, yet few of them so well qualified as this gentleman who was bred in Winchester and New Colledge in Oxford and hath studied the law in the best universities in France and hath withall extraordinary abilities of witt, elocution and all manner of learning, whereof hee made good demonstration in the last parliament heer, where he did his majestie very good service so as hee hath approved himself every way worthy of that recommendation which you gave him when you obtayned this place for him.

You may therefore, Sir, been pleased not to suffer your owne plant (which is likely to prosper so well) to bee supplanted so long as he behaveth him self well and worthily in his place and I leave it withall to your honour's consideration whether in reason of state and for the manifestation of his majesties distinct prerogative in this case it bee not more meet that his majestie do reserve this power to bee committed from tyme to tyme to some special person of meaner rank than an Archbishop whose survivors will still expect the same concession to bee granted unto them. . . .
Thus deserving pardon for my boldness I present my humble service to your honor and remayne
Your honours to bee commanded
Jo Davys
20 December 1615

To the R(ight) Honourable Sir Thomas Lake, knight, his Majesties principall Secretarie att the Court give thease.
(Endorsed) From Sir John Davyes concerning the opposition made by the Bishops in Ireland to doctor Rives concerning his office of the faculties.

Evidently the grant to him of the office was deferred for a time for he is found petitioning King Charles I in 1625 for the place alleging that "my present place in your Highness's service is not sufficient for the maintenance of my necessary charge owing to the decay of practice in the ecclesiastical courts" (Cat. State Papers, Ireland, 1625, page 18).

He was the author of numerous published works in Latin, amongst them one in 1624 in defense of the English manner of governing Ireland which was entitled, Regiminis Anglicani in Hibernia Defensio. . . . Autore Tho. Ryves, Juris Consulto, Regis Advocato. Another, a volume of 298 pages in Latin was published in 1640 en titled, Historiae Navalis Medice, Libre Tres, Autore Tho. Rives, Regis in Anglia Advocato.

Fuller in his Worthies of England, i, 460, has this notice of him:
Ryves, Sir Thomas, doctor of the laws, was born at Little Lancton in this county (Dorset); bred in New College in Oxford; a general scholar in all polite learning, a most pure Latinist (no hair hanging at the nib of his pen) ; witness his most critical book of "Sea Battles," a subject peculiar, I think, to his endeavors therein. He was at last made the King's Advocate and indeed he formerly had been advocate to the king of heaven, and his poor ministers, in his book entitled, "The Vicar's Plea" wherein much law learning, and reason, and equity, is shewn in their behalf ; a grievance oftener complained of than heard, oftener heard than pitied, and oftener pitied than redressed; so unequal is the contest betwixt a poor vicar's plea, and a wealthy im propriator's purse. He was a man of valour as well as of much learning; and gave good evidence thereof (though well stricken in years) in our late wars (Great Civil War). He died in his native county about the year 1652.

Sir Thomas Ryves of whom there is an extended notice in the Dictionary of National Biography, married Elizabeth Waldram of co. Leicester, perhaps a sister of the second wife of his brother, Sir William.

In 1660 she made a petition as "Dame Elizabeth, relict of Sir Thomas Ryves" in which it was set forth how "her husband was Advocate General to King James I and attended Charles I even to his murder with such fidelity that on the treaty in the Isle of Wight the king requested permission for him with a few others to come to him. Being violently enforced to take his most dismal and sorrowful last long leave of His Majesty he was so utterly broken hearted that he languished and died leaving her in a most distressed condition." She added that the late king owed her husband many hundred pounds and gave him many gracious promises which, she might have continued, was not a fate peculiar to her husband (Col. State Papers, 1660). A like petition was presented by her to King Charles II in 1668 for a share in the plate lottery "designed for suffering subjects," representing that her husband was Advocate General of the late king, served him in the wars, and died broken-hearted (Cal. State Papers, 1668).

She made her will as "Dame Elizabeth Ryves of the parish of St. Andrewes, Holbourne, widow, the Relict of Sir Thomas Ryves, knight, doctor of lawes and Advocate General to his majestie King Charles the first of ever blessed memory" (P. C. C. 10 Bunce), which was dated 20 October 1672 and proved 10 January 1673 Dut which contains no mention of the county of Dorset or of any legatees of the name of Ryves, forasmuch as she had no issue by Sir Thomas Ryves.

To supplement the biographical information provided by Childs in Reliques, the following provides additional detail:

In September 1612, Sir John Davies, who was to become Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, took Thomas to Ireland with him and, in October of that year, procured him the position of Judge of the Faculties and the Prerogative Court in Ireland. He is said to have done King James I 'good service' during the parliament of 1613, which was made notable by the struggle between John Davies and Sir John Everard for the 'speakership'. Thomas wrote an account of this struggle which seems to have assisted the King's position.

In 1617, upon the death of Sir Daniel Donne, Thomas was appointed to the office of Judge of Faculties. However, bishops (including James Ussher) objected to this appointment on the basis that they felt that a prelate should hold this office. Sir Thomas defended his claim to this appointment in a letter to Sir Thomas Lake. Thomas' dispute with Ussher was at times unseemly - Ussher wrote to the Lord Keeper Williams and the Lord Treasurer a letter commenting on the Thomas' conduct "Your Lordships had need watch this man's fingers, whenever you trust him with drawing up of any orders or letters that do concern his own particular; for otherwise you may chance to find him as nimble in putting tricks upon yourselves for his own advantage as now he is putting on me".

David Rothe, the Bishop of Ossory published Analecta Sacra in about 1617 which was an attack on James I's plantation schemes and contained an appeal for union among Irishmen. Rothe was a leading Catholic churchman and attacked the English regime as being oppressive and intolerant. Much to the King's satisfaction, Thomas replied robustly to the accusations within Analecta saying that the inhabitants of Ireland lived together in harmony and without any discrimination on national grounds. Thomas did however concede that some of the Irish wished to provoke a Civil War, as did some of the English. To the charge that the English persecuted Catholics, he replied that they took justified action against disloyalty, and that Rothe's brand of Catholicism was disloyal as he both defended the papal deposing power and condemned the Oath of Allegiance. Thomas went on to say that 'as long as there were people in Ireland who held such poisonous views, it was incorrect to claim that the Island lacked snakes'!

Thomas resigned the position as Judge of Faculties in 1621 which was then given to the Archbishop of Dublin.

With his career in Ireland being effectively over, Thomas returned to England and practiced in the Admiralty Court. In April 1623 he was involved with the attorney-general in the prosecution of Sir Henry Mervyn and Sir William St John on charges of piracy in the Admiralty Court. This case never went to full trial, apparently due to Lord Treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield) failing to provide the necessary funds for such trial.

In July 1623, Thomas was ordered to assist Arthur, Lord Chichester, in his attempt to negotiate peace with the Palatinate - although this proved to be fruitless. In the same year he was also appointed King's Advocate.

When Charles I ascended to the throne in 1625, Thomas's career continued to prosper and he was sworn as a Master of Requests Extraordinary in 1626. During 1626 he vigorously opposed a bill brought to enable clergy to be tried under Common Law as opposed to ecclesiatical court on the grounds that the bill would permit clergymen to be tried by laymen. In 1634 he was placed on a commission to visit the schools and the churches in the diocese of Canterbury, being made a judge of Dover and subsequently, in 1636, the Cinq Ports.

At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642, Thomas relinquished his posts to joining the King's forces in which, despite his advanced years, he fought valiantly, being wounded on several occasions. He was knighted by Charles I on 19 March 1644 and was employed in September 1644 to negotiate with parliament on the King's behalf.

It would seem that at around this time, Sir Thomas had his portrait painted by Sir Peter Lely (who had arrived in London in 1643). In 1831, the portrait which had been hanging in Bryanston Hall, Dorset but had been sold by Sir Thomas' heir-in-law, was put up for private sale in Liverpool. In 1834 it was again offered for sale by auction by its then owner, a Mr J Ford, at The Auction Mart, St Anne's Street Manchester. Where this portrait went and where it may be now is unknown. Apparently, no engravings were made of it.

A full list of his writings is:
  1. 'The Poore Vicar's Plea', London 1620, 4to; dealing with the Irish Clergy's claims to tithes, notwithstanding impropriations;
  2. 'Regiminis Anglicani in Hibernia Defenso adversus Analecten', London 1624, 4to; seeking to distance James 1 from charges of tyranny and oppression in Ireland, of debasing the coin and retaining the freedom of speech in parliament. It also maintains the merit of Royal supremacy against the Pope with an eloquent vindication of Chichester's administration;
  3. 'Imperatoris Justiniani Defensio adversus Alemannum', London 1626, 12mo;
  4. 'Historia Navalis', London 1629, 8vo; a study of ancient maritime vessels from Noah to the 6th Century;
  5. 'Historia Navalis Antigua', London 1633, 8vo; a study of ancient maritime vessels to the time of the Roman Empire;
  6. 'Historia Navalis Medai', London 1640, 8vo; continues the study of ancient maritime vessels to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Sir Thomas died of 2nd January 1651 and was buried at Clement Danes Church, London on the 5th of that month.

Research notes

There are discrepancies between various sources as to the year of Thomas's death. The consensus is that he died in 1651 although some sources give the year as being 1652.


Childs, James Rives. Reliques of the Rives, p9
Knights Of The Realm & Commonwealth Index, compiled by Colin J Parry
Anglorum Speculum or Worthies of England, George Sandys, 1684, p. 176
Fuller's Worthies
Kirby's Winchester Scholars
Lascalle's Liber. Mun. Hib.
Laud's Works
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) , 2004
Gentleman's Magazine
Register of University of Oxford
Ussher, Letters, ed. Parr, 1686, p. 335
Life of Archbishop Ussher - James Ussher, Charles Richard Elrington, 1847
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 13 December 1834
The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010