Starkey, Ralph (d 1628), archivist, was the second but eldest surviving son of John Starkey (d 1613?) of Darley Hall, Cheshire, by his wife Alice (d 1620), daughter of Ralph Dutton. His family was distantly related to that of Thomas Starkey [q.v.] . On his father's death, about 1613, Ralph is said to have been defrauded of his estates by his younger brother Henry (d 1653), who destroyed their father's will (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1623–5, p. 313), and Ralph became a merchant in London. His energies were, however, chiefly devoted to the collection and transcription of state papers and other manuscripts. Before 1619 he had acquired many important and confidential papers that had formerly belonged to William Davison [q.v.] , Queen Elizabeth's secretary of state. The government obviously had reason for keeping these papers secret, and on 10 Aug. 1619 a warrant was issued to Sir Thomas Wilson authorising him to search Starkey's house and seize all Davison's papers. This was done on the 14th, and Wilson delivered to the government a sack of papers containing forty-five parcels (Harl. MS. 286, f. 286). Starkey died in October 1628 at his residence in Bloomsbury. He married Winifred, daughter of Richard Poynter of Whitchurch, Shropshire, and had issue one son and two daughters. D'Ewes describes him as ‘an ignorant, mercenary, indigent man. … He had gathered together many old deeds and some old manuscripts and coins. But he had great plenty of new written collections and divers original letters of great moment, and other autographs of later time, besides divers old parchments and other particulars’ (Autobigr. i. 391–2). There was some competition for the purchase of these documents, and finally D'Ewes secured the best part for 140l., to be paid in five years (ib. pp. 392–3, 399). The agreement made on 22 Oct. 1628 between Arthur Barnardiston, Sir Simonds D'Ewes [q.v.] , Ambrose Scudamore, and Nicholas Bragge is in Harleian MS. 97, art. 14. D'Ewes's grandson sold them to Sir Robert Harley, and they are now in the Harleian collection in the British Museum.

The following are the more important: collections relative to the laws, customs, and constitution of England in Harleian MSS. 88, 90, 168, 169, 250; collections and lists of papers relative to British history in Harleian MSS. 286, 298, 352, 353. Of these, vol. 286 contains many valuable letters from Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, Sir Philip Sidney, and Sir Francis Walsingham; and vol. 353 is an equally important collection of state papers relating to the reign of Edward VI, which are not included among those calendared in the various calendars of state papers. Harleian MS. 253 is a volume devoted to ships and shipbuilding in the time of Elizabeth; No. 90 in the same collection comprises the ‘contents’ of the patent rolls of Edward III, and No. 81 the acts of the privy council, 20–24 Henry VI. Another work of Starkey relating to the privy council is a transcript of the council's letter-book for 1547–8; the original is lost, and Starkey's transcript is printed as an appendix to the second volume of the ‘Acts of the Privy Council,’ ed. Dasent.
Starkey was an author as well as a transcriber and collector. A poem entitled ‘Infortunio,’ consisting of 581 stanzas, said to be written in imitation of Edmund Spenser, is extant in Harleian MS. 558. A treatise on the ‘Privilege and Practice of the High Court of Parliament’ is extant in Harleian MS. 37, and a collection made by Starkey of the pedigrees of the Starkey family formerly belonged to William Radclyffe, rouge croix.

Sources

Harl. MSS. 306 art. 22, 506 arts. 44, 104, 112, 2012 art. 13; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent, vol. ii. pref. pp. x–xii; Ormerod's Cheshire, ii. 103–4.

A. F. P.

Original date of publication: 1897