English martyr, born 1550 at Rodesley, near Longford, Derbyshire; died at Tyburn, 1 December, 1581. In 1568 Sir William Petre nominated him to one of the eight fellowships which he had founded at Exeter College, Oxford, probably acting under the influence of the martyr's uncle, John Woodward, who from 1556 to 1566 had been rector of Ingatestone, Essex, where Sir William lived. There Blessed Ralph took the degree of M.A., 2 July, 1574, and was accounted "an acute philosopher, and an excellent Grecian and Hebrician". In 1575 he fled abroad and went to the English College at Douai, where 23 March, 1577, he was ordainedpriest by the Bishop of Cambrai. On 2 August, 1577, he left for Rome, where he stayed at the English College nearly three years, becoming leader of the movement, which placed it under the supervision of the Jesuits. On 18 April, 1580, he set out for England, a member of a party of fourteen; at Milan they were guests of St. Charles for eight days, and Blessed Ralph preached before him. On 9 November, 1580, he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea, where he converted many fellow prisoners,
and on 4 December was transferred to the Tower, where he was severely
racked, 15 December, and afterwards laid out in the snow. The next day
he was racked again, after which second torture he "lay for five days
and nights without any food or speaking to anybody. All which time he lay, as he thought in a sleep, before our Saviour on the Cross. After which time he came to himself, not finding any distemper in his joints by the extremity of the torture." After a year's imprisonment he was brought to trial, on an absurd charge of treasonable
conspiracy, in Westminster Hall 20 November, 1581, and being found
guilty was taken back to the Tower, whence he was drawn to Tyburn on a
hurdle shared by Blessed Alexander Briant. He suffered very bravely, his last words being, Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, esto mihi Jesus!