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Royal Naval Biography/Rokeby, Henry Ralph


The family of Rokeby, Rokesby, or Rooksby, as variously spelt in the uncertain orthography of former times, is of very high antiquity. It derives its name from a lordship in the north riding of Yorkshire, where it flourished in feudal splendour and hospitality for many ages. In the days of chivalry and border warfare, it was much distinguished; and many of its members appear, during that period, to have received the honor of knighthood. In 1408, Sir Thomas, or, as some writers term him, Ralph Rokeby, being then sheriff of his native county, routed and slew Percy, Earl of Northumberland, at the battle of Bramham-moor. That powerful and restless chieftain, exasperated at the death of his son, Hotspur, had taken arras against Henry IV., and to his defeat that monarch was in a great degree indebted for the security of his throne. The civil war which wasted the patrimony of so many old houses, was particularly disastrous to that of Rokeby. Adhering with hereditary loyalty to the crown, it ardently supported the royal cause, and its fortunes decayed with it. The antique mansion, with the ample domain attached thereto, which had continued in the male line from the reign of the Conqueror, fell a sacrifice to the fines, confiscations, and other exactions levied by the successful party, and at length was altogether alienated.

The Rev. Langham Rokeby, of Arthingworth, in Northamptonshire, a place acquired by the marriage of one of his ancestors with an heiress of the Langhams, of Cottesbrooke, about the end of the 17th century, is now the representative of this ancient race, and the subject of the following short sketch is the second son of that worthy divine.

Mr. Henry Ralph Rokeby entered into the royal navy as midshipman on board the Royal George, first rate, Captain (afterwards Admiral) John Child Purvis, towards the conclusion of the French Revolutionary war, in 1801. He next served in the Prince of Wales 98, bearing the flag of Sir Robert Calder, and was present at the capture of two line-of-battle ships, forming part of the combined fleets of France and Spain, July 22d, 1805. We afterwards find him in the Endymion frigate, Captain the Hon. Thomas Bladen Capel, attached to the squadron employed against Constantinople, under Sir John T. Duckworth, in 1807. He passed his examination for lieutenant in July 1808; obtained a commission on the 27th of Jan. 1809; and subsequently served under Captains Pulteney Malcolm, in the Donegal and Royal Oak 74’s; John Sprat Rainier, in the Norge 74; Sir Michael Seymour, in the Hannibal, of similar force; the present Sir George Martin, in the different ships bearing his flag while commander-in-chief on the Lisbon station; and Captain Nathaniel Day Cochrane, in the Orontes frigate.