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SANDWICH, RALPH de (d. 1308?), judge, was probably brother of Henry de Sandwich [q. v.], bishop of London. He was a knight, lord of lands in Ham and Eynsham, and patron of the church of Waldesham, all in Kent. During the reign of Henry III he was appointed keeper of the wardrobe. In 1264 he withdrew from the king and joined the confederate barons (Annals of Worcester, sub an.), and on 7 May 1265 Simon de Montfort—Thomas de Cantelupe [q. v.] the chancellor, being otherwise occupied—committed the great seal to Sandwich, with the proviso that for the issue of precepts he should obtain the concurrence of Peter de Montfort and two others, though he could seal writs independently of them. It was then noted that it was an unheard-of innovation that the great seal should be in lay hands (Wykes, sub an.; Foss, iii. 150). On the death of the bishop of London in 1273, Sandwich received the custody of the temporalities of the see. In 1274 he and his wife were summoned to attend the coronation of Edward I (Madox, History of the Exchequer, i. 71). He received the custody of the castle of Arundel in 1277, the Lord Richard being a minor, and from that year until 1282 was escheator south of the Trent with the title of ‘senescallus regis’ (Abbrev. Rot. Orig. i. 21). His name appears along with the names of the judges that were present at the proffer of homage by Alexander III [q. v.] of Scotland in the parliament at Westminster on 26 Oct. 1278 (Fœdera, i. 563), and in 1281 and 1299 he was sent with other judges to carry messages from the king to the archbishop of Canterbury concerning proceedings in convocation (ib. pp. 598, 914). In 1284 he was acting as a justice in Kent in conjunction with Stephen de Penecester (Penshurst), the warden of the Cinque ports (Registrum J. Peckham, iii. 1077).

When, on 5 June 1285 (the date 14 Edw. I, i.e. 1286, in Liber Albus, i. 16, should apparently be corrected to 13 Edw. I, comp. ib. p. 17, and Liber Custumarum, i. 292), the king took the mayoralty and liberties of London into his own hand, he appointed Sandwich, whom he made constable of the Tower, to be warden of the city, charging him to govern it according to the customs and liberties of the citizens. He was succeeded as warden by John Breton in February 1286, was again appointed warden on 20 July 1287, and again apparently succeeded by Breton in February 1288, when he was also removed from the constableship of the Tower (ib.) He was, however, reinstated in both offices in 1290, but was not warden after 1295. The years in which these changes were made are difficult to ascertain owing to differences in computation in the lists of mayors and wardens, and because, even when not holding the wardenship, Sandwich would, as constable of the Tower, act in some matters in conjunction with the warden, and he is therefore in one list (ib. pp. 241–2) stated to have been warden from the 14th to 21 Edw. I. (1285–6–1292–3). As warden he appears to have acted with impartiality and regard for the liberties of the city. One of his regulations, committing the custody of certain of the gates to the men of certain wards, who were to furnish guards provided with two pieces of defensive armour, led to the definition of the city's ward system (Loftie, London, pp. 68–71).

In Michaelmas term (1289) a fine was levied before him, but it is doubtful whether he ever filled the office of a judge at Westminster. Probably during the period, and certainly later, he was a justice for gaol delivery at Newgate (Liber Albus, i. 406). As constable of the Tower he joined with the warden, John Breton (they are both styled wardens in the account of the meeting, Liber Custumarum, i. 72–6) in persuading the Londoners in 1296 to obey the king's precept that they should furnish men for the defence of the south coast, and the proceedings afford an example of the moderation with which both acted in their dealings with the city (Loftie, u.s. p. 70). In that year also he received for custody in the Tower the earls of Ross, Atholl, Menteith, and other Scottish lords taken at Dunbar (Fœdera, i. 841). When the royal treasury at Westminster was robbed in 1303, he was appointed along with Roger le Brabazon [q. v.], chief justice of the king's bench, and other judges, to make inquisition into the affair in Middlesex and Surrey (ib. p. 960). He was one of the commission of judges that tried and condemned William Wallace on 23 Aug. 1305 (Annales London. pp. 139–40), and in September 1306 he judged and condemned Simon Fraser and two others (ib. p. 148). On the accession of Edward II he was confirmed in the constableship of the Tower, and on 8 Feb. 1308 was summoned, with his wife, to attend the coronation. He doubtless died soon afterwards; in the following May John de Crumbwell appears as constable of the Tower (Fœdera, ii. 45).

[Foss's Judges, iii. 150–1; Reg. J. Peckham, Arch. Cant. iii. 1005, 1077; Ann. Wigorn. and Wykes, ap. Ann. Monast. iv. 168, 450; Liber Albus, i. 17, 401, 406, and Liber Cust. i. 71–6, 186, 241–2, 292–3, 336, ap. Mun. Gildh. London., Ann. Londin. ap. Chr. Edw. I and Edw. II, i. 132, 139, 148 (these three Rolls Ser.); Abbrev. Rot. Orig. i. 21 (Record publ.); Madox's Hist. of Excheq. i. 71, 270; Rymer's Fœdera, i. 563, 598, 841, 914, 956, 960, ii. 31, 45 (Record ed.); Hasted's Kent, ii. 529; Loftie's London, pp. 67–71, 82, 101 (Historic Towns Ser.); Sharpe's London and the Kingdom, i. 122, 126.]

W. H.