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Who Was Reuben Ragland?
Early Earls and Druids
In 1670, Evan Ragland from Somerset -- the ancestor of all American Raglands -- arrived in Virginia. He -- 14 years old -- and his cousin John Davis had been abducted ("shanghaied") from the dock of the port town of Watchet in Somerset -- a crude but common practice at the time. The Raglands lived in Stogumber and St. Decuman's parish near Watchet, and the boys had taken a stroll on the dock.
They were thrown on a ship that took them under harsh conditions to Virginia. Evan was sold as an indentured laborer (serf) to Stephen Pettus, owner of a plantation along the Chickahominy River in New Kent County. After five to seven years, due to his superior education, Evan was able to buy his freedom. He married Susannah Pettus, his former master's daughter, inherited the 500-acre plantation and acquired wealth.
Very few among the old Virginia families are as well documented as the Raglands who can look back on a genealogy of more than seven centuries. Reuben Fenton Ragland, born in 1818 in Owingsville, Bath, Kentucky, was a direct descendant of the legendary Evan who in turn was a direct descendant and member of the highest Welsh nobility with close ties to Tudor royalty. Reuben's grandfather Gideon was a grandson of the involuntary immigrant Evan Ragland.
One of the early ancestors, William ap Jenkin (1327-1377) was the only child of "Jenkin the Apple Tree", a clerk to the Lord of Abergavenny at Llanvapley. William married the daughter and heir of Vychan ap Howel, a descendant of the early Welsh kings of Monmouth and Glamorgan. Upon Vychan's death, William inherited his title and property as Lord of Cerf-Y-Ddwy-Gwlyd, his coat of arms and his family name, Herbert (Hir-Bert in Welsh, meaning "very tall").
The Ragland name first surfaced in the 12th century when Walter Bloet was granted Rhaglan or Raghelan (1254) -- meaning probably in Welsh rhag 'fore' and glan 'bank', hence 'rampart', or, in another interpretation meaning 'border' -- a place in the lordship of Usk in southern Wales. His descendant, Elizabeth Bloet, married Sir James Berkeley who became lord of Raglan in 1399. Shortly after his death, Elizabeth "the lady of Raggeland" took as her second husband William ap Thomas Herbert, "a member of a minor Welsh gentry family."
In 1418, William ap Thomas was knighted by King Henry V and in 1432, he acquired Raglan Castle (Castell Rhaglan in Welsh) from his stepson James, Lord Berkeley, for 1000 marks (almost £667). Sir William ap Thomas fought with King Henry V in France, becoming known as Y marchog glas o Went, the Blue Knight of Gwent. In the 1430s, he enlarged and modernized the castle which became a huge fortress. In 1418, Sir William's nephew, a ten-year old boy, Robert ap Jevan whose father had died early, and two more of his siblings, came to live at Raglan Castle. Robert was the first family member to take the Raglan/Ragland name (both versions used indiscriminately).
Sir William ap Thomas was a Welsh nationalist and a hero, a military genius admired and praised by the bards as the knight who would free Wales from the English yoke. Neither Sir William ap Thomas nor his son, Sir William Herbert, Viceroy in Wales during the War of the Roses, would fight to regain Welsh independence. Quite to the contrary, they helped to integrate Wales with England. One might speculate that the campaigns in France convinced both knights of the need for England and Wales to be united in the struggle with Normans and other Gauls.
Sir William Herbert added a palatial double-courtyard mansion to the moated Yellow Tower with its double drawbridge. He also served in France and became rich by trading and importing Gascony wine. King Edward IV made Sir William Baron Herbert of Raglan. In 1462 "the young Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII, was placed in the custody of Sir William and his wife, and was brought up at Raglan Castle." In 1465, Raglan became an independent lordship "with a weekly market and a fair, held twice a year."
'Not farre from thence, a famous castle fine That Raggland hight, stands moted almost round.... The stately tower, that looks ore pond and poole, The fountaine trim, that runs both day and night, Doth yeeld in showe, a rare and noble sight.' (15th century poem)
In 1468, King Edward elevated William Herbert to the rank of Earl of Pembroke. "The remarkable feature of the honour was that Earl William had become one of the first members of the Welsh gentry to enter the ranks of the English peerage."
Already then, poets praised Raglan's exceptional size and beauty:
"Hundred rooms filled with festive care, its hundred towers, parlours and doors, its hundred heaped-up fires of long-dried fuel, its hundred chimneys for men of high degree..." (Dafydd Llwyd, 15th c.)
The Earl of Pembroke's son, William Herbert, himself named Earl of Huntingdon, married Mary Woodville, sister of the future queen. In 1502, Sir Walter Herbert, Earl William's brother, entertained his sister-in-law, the wife of King Henry VII, at Raglan.
"Mae Rhaglan yn fwy o ddatganiad o gyfoeth nac o bresenoldeb milwrol bygythiol" -- "Raglan is more a statement of wealth than an intimidating military presence" (CADW:Castell Rhaglan)
In 1492, Elizabeth Herbert, granddaughter of the Earl of Pembroke and owner of Raglan Castle, married Sir Charles Somerset, a son of Henry Beaufort, 3rd duke of Somerset. In 1504, Sir Charles became Baron Herbert of Raglan, Chepstow and Gower, and later Earl of Worcester. His grandson William, 3rd Earl of Worcester, made Raglan Castle "an Elizabethan great house; he also laid out fabulous Renaissance gardens to enhance his sumptuous home." Thomas Churchyard (1587) mentioned him "Earle Worster living nowe, Who buildeth up, the house of Raggland throwe."
The famous library of Raglan Castle was established by William Herbert, the first Earl of Pembroke, who was a great supporter of Welsh literature and chaired the solemn gathering of Eisteddfod, an all-Welsh competition of bards. The library contained a collection of manuscripts of Welsh bards and the druidic religion in new Welsh language which were excerpted by Llywelin Sion, a bard from Glamorgan, about 1560. The library was subsequently destroyed by Cromwell but the Horae Pembrochianae, the Pembroke Hours survived, an exceptionally beautiful illuminated manuscript of the Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary, written about 1440 for William Herbert, and now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
During the English Civil War, the castle resisted a thirty weeks' siege by Lord Fairfax's troops, and when it finally fell, Parliament tried to destroy what is considered Britain's "finest late medieval fortress." The Duke of Somerset, however, was allowed to leave the castle with his armed men in full dress, music playing. Joshua Sprigge (1647), Fairfax's chaplain, commented on Somerset's tenacity "The two Garrisons of Ragland and Pendennis, like winter fruit, hung on."
Cromwell's technicians worked for months to undermine the tower. After the castle's furnishings had been dispersed and the roof timbers sold it was in too bad a state to be rebuilt. The ruin of Raglan castle is now a tourist attraction and venue of an annual summer art festival. (Above quotes in italics from John R. Kenyon: Ragland Castle. CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments. Cardiff 1994)
Raglans and Raglands
William, Earl of Huntingdon left no male heirs. That is why his daughter Elizabeth passed Raglan Castle to the Somersets. However, Robert ap Jevan's line continued, and his great-grandson "Sir John Ragland, Knight," "(Ragland John,1570, son of Sir Thomas Ragland, Knight," mentioned in the Cardiff records, vol. II, ch.IV)) is again mentioned 1596 in the Cardiff records vol.IV, ch.III when his daughter Joan married "Thomas, son of William Bawdrippe, Esq., Knight." John Ragland was born in 1545 at Llys-y-Fronydd, Wales.
His father "Raglan Thomas 1558 gent of Lyswurney aged 45 years", according to the Cardiff records, had moved from the old family home at Llys-y-Fronydd across the Bristol Channel to Somerset, England, to escape danger from pirates. Sir John married Alice Kingsonn at St. Decuman's Parish, Somerset, in about 1564, and died there about 1605.
(When moving from Wales to England, the Raglans definitively adopted the English spelling by adding the letter -d- to their name, whereas the name of the castle retained the Welsh spelling)
Sir John's great-grandson was the famous Evan Ragland who was kidnapped. Had the boy remained in England there is little doubt that he would have carried the title of Sir Evan Ragland, Knight, had he been the eldest son -- which he wasn't, being the fourth son of Thomas Ragland and Jane Morgan.
There were also other Raglans living in Glamorgan, for instance at Llantwit-Major where they built several houses.
"About 1440, a new family came to Llantwit Major, the Raglans or Raglands. Robert Raglan built a house which is now the Old White Hart public house, making it the oldest continually inhabited house in the town. Then about 1465, Raglan built a new house, which in time was used by the church as a presbytery, and which in 1874 was extended and became the village school, now the "Old School" used by community groups.
The Old Swan Inn on the other side of the square is another Raglan house. There is a tradition that this pub was at one time a mint. This dates from the Civil War when the owner, Edward Maddocks, struck brass tokens for his workers. The Old Swan was was also a popular inn for American visitors before the 1939-45 war when St. Donats Castle was owned by William Randolph Hearst."(http://www.theoasthouse.net/llantwithistory.htm)
At Llancarvan a John Raglan acquired by marriage Carniiwyd Manor in the 12th century. The local Raglans, considered rich and influential, also built the Raglan Chapel in early Norman style, as part of St. Cadoc's church.
Some time before Evan Ragland was taken to Virginia, his distant relative William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, had become Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household and, as such, "furthered the exploration and colonization of America" so vigorously "that the Rappahannock river in Virginia was renamed Pembroke in his honour" (1619). Unfortunately, his family ties to William Herbert (whom Shakespeare dedicated his first folio) did not help Evan Ragland at all.
He never returned to Britain, perhaps because of the traumatic experience of his first and only voyage. But his son John, born about 1690 in St. Peter's Parish, New Kent Co., Virginia, visited Britain and married in about 1715/16 Anne Beaufort. They returned to Virginia and had 8 children. It is an interesting fact that Raglands/Herberts and Beauforts married twice two centuries apart: if Anne Beaufort was a Somerset -- which is very likely -- John and Anne had been distant relatives.
John Ragland was a planter and land speculator in Hanover Co., Virginia. He owned 1600 acres, recorded in the Registrar's Office in Richmond, VA. His plantation home was Ripping Hall in Hanover County on the Mechumps Creek, sometimes also called 'Rippon Hall' which burnt in the 1820s but was rebuilt.
Incidentally, the 19th century Lord Raglan to whom the eponymous sleeve is ascribed, was Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, the youngest of the Duke of Beaufort's 11 children. He was the Duke of Wellington's military secretary during the Napoleonic wars, lost his right arm during the battle of Waterloo, and was Field Marshal and British Commander in chief during the Crimean war. For his merits Queen Victoria revived the title of the old manor by creating him Baron Raglan of Raglan in 1852. (His tailor invented the raglan sleeve to cover the baronet's missing right shoulder; it was quickly copied by other tailors and remained in fashion for many decades)
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