Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kettell, Ralph

KETTELL, RALPH (1563–1643), third president of Trinity College, Oxford, born in 1563, was the third son of John Kettell, gentleman, of King's Langley, Hertfordshire. He was nominated to a scholarship at Trinity College, Oxford, in 1578 by Lady Elizabeth Paulet of Tittenhanger, the widow of Sir Thomas Pope, knt., founder of the college; and was elected fellow in 1583. One of his contemporaries and friends was Sir Edward Hoby [q. v.] The Christopher Kettell who became a commoner of the college in 1583, and the George Kettell who became a commoner in 1588, were Ralph's younger brothers, and John Kettell of King's Langley, whose family bible is in the college library, was his elder brother (King's Langley reg.) Ralph Kettell graduated B.A. 1682, M.A. 1586, B.D. 1594, and D.D. 1597, and, after filling various college offices, was elected president in 1598-9, on the death of Dr. Yeldard. Among those who as young men were under his care while he was either tutor or president were Archbishop Sheldon, Bishops Glemham, Lucy, Ironside, and Skinner, Sir John Denham, James Harrington, Ludlow, Ireton. George and Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, William, earl of Craven, and Sir Henry Blount. Many documents drawn up in his very curious and marked handwriting remain in the college archives. He exercised great vigilance in dealing with the college estates and college discipline, rebuilt the college hall, and added attics or 'cocklofts ' to the old Durham College quadrangle, of which the east side still remains. About 1620 he built for the use of commoners, on the site of 'Perilous Hall,' the fine stone house in Broad Street which is still known as Kettell Hall.

Kettell was one of the older heads of houses who, without being inclined to the 'factious in religion,' disliked Laud's high-handed reforms. He was a 'right church of England man;' saved the old paintings in die college chapel from the puritan commissioner, Lord Say and Sele; lectured on the Thirty-nine Articles, and talked of roodlofts, wafers, and the old rites which he could just remember. Outside Oxford Kettell held the rectory of Garsington, which was attached to his office of president, and was private chaplain to Sir Francis Walsingham's widow and to Bishop Bilson of Winchester. Aubrey, who was admitted a commoner of Trinity in 1642, and knew Kettell in his old age, narrates many anecdotes of his eccentricities, and quotes specimens of his quaint remarks. Aubrey also mentions his secret charity to poor scholars, and his contemptuous treatment of the strange visitors whom the civil wars brought to the university. His death, in Aubrey's opinion, was hastened by 'the dissoluteness of the time.' He died about 17 July 1643, and was buried at Garsington on 5 Aug.

Kettell's portrait, preserved at Trinity, is a mere daub, but agrees fairly with Aubrey's description of him as 'a very tall well-grown man, with a fresh ruddy complexion; he was soon white; his gowne, and surplice, and hood being on, he had a terrible gigantique aspect, with his sharp gray eies. The ordinary gowne he wore was of russet cloth.' He does not seem to have published anything. A large book of manuscript pieces in his handwriting, given by President Bathurst to Wood (now Bodleian Library MSS. Wood, f. 21), probably contains nothing original. Aubrey states that 'he had two wives, if not three, hut no child,' and tlint his second wife was the widow of Edward Villiers of Hothorpe, Northamptonshire, whose daughter Elizabeth married George Bathurst, and was the mother of Ralph Bathurst [q. v.], president of Trinity College, Oxford; but there are probably some inaccuracies here. His wife was buried at Garsington in 1623-4, and an infant daughter in 1606; one, 'Mrs. Barbara Villiers, widow,' was the wife of his brother John Kettell.

[Registers and other documents in the archives of Trinity College, Oxford; notes in Warton's Lives of Pope and Bathurst; Life by John Aubrey, printed in Bodleian Letters, ii. 417; Pope's Life of Seth Ward; information from King's Langley and Garsington parish registers, kindly communicated by the Rev. A. B. Strettell, vicar, and the Rev. David Thomas, rector; Clark's University Register, vol. ii. pts. ii. and iii.]

H. E. D. B.