Sir Ralph Ellerker is a Yorkshire gentryman who appears in the first half of Season Three of The Tudors. He becomes one of the prominent Captainss of the Pilgrimage of Grace, although he seems more cautious than John Constable or the movement's leader, Robert Aske. Ellerker narrowly escapes with his life by signing a self-condemning confession after the rebellion is crushed by Royal forces, but remains wracked with guilt and grief over the death of his friends and countrymen and his abandonment of them.
Role in the SeriesEdit
Ellerker joins his fellow gentrymen in leading the Pilgrimage when it first rises in 3.01- being, like most of the Northerners, a devoted Catholic who harbors strong resentment against King Henry's Protestant First Minister, Thomas Cromwell, for looting and shutting down the Yorkshire monasteries and abbeys. Ellerker advocates more cautious action to Aske, unlike the more hot-headed Constable; nonetheless, he is delighted when Lord Thomas Darcy hands them Pontifract Castle without resistance. Ellerker is later sent with Constable to put their petition to the King, but when they arrive in 3.02 he is visibly intimidated by the splendor of Henry's court; the two Captains are browbeaten and reprimanded by the King, who refuses to concede to their terms and will only offer a general pardon if all the rebels lay down their arms. While Ellerker is suitably unnerved, Constable simply becomes more angry with the King. Henry soon changes his mind, mindful of the size of the rebellion, and pretends to be willing to address the Northerner's grievances, communicating with the leaders through his ally Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. While Constable and Darcy are suspicious, Aske and Ellerker are pleased and order most of the rebels to disperse; Aske is later called to speak with the King, which Ellerker takes as another sign of good news.
Unfortunately, some of the rebels grow restive again when their demands are not immediately met, and John Constable begins rallying them again in Aske's absence. By the time Aske returns to Pontifract in 3.03, Ellerker and Darcy apologetically inform him the rebels are determined to march again, risking the fragile peace he has made with King Henry. News soon comes to Pontifract of the rebels' crushing defeat by Royalist troops, and Constable's capture; Brandon soon arrives to take Darcy, Ellerker and Aske into custody, and once they reach London all three are placed in The Tower.
Ellerker is brought to trial in chains before the Solicitor-General Sir Richard Riche in 3.04; he has visibly suffered a breakdown in his prison, his face lined with fear, defeat and grief. Apparently, Ellerker managed to convince the court that he was coerced in fear of his life to join the Pilgrimage, so he is allowed to live and return to his former station as long as he signs an oath which confesses his crimes and promises he will inform on any other rebels in Yorkshire. Ashamed of his abandonment of the cause and horrified by the reprisals currently being carried out in the North against unarmed civilians, Ellerker nonetheless signs the document and is released, a broken man.Sir Ralph Ellerker is seen one final time in episode 4.04, when King Henry and his entourage make a progress of the North to present the King's fifth wife, Katherine Howard. Having replaced Darcy as the warden of Pontifract Castle, Ellerker is visibly apprehensive when the King first arrives; however, having been greeted by loyal and cheering crowds throughout the North, Henry greets Ellerker warmly and asserts his intention to forgive the Northerners. Relieved, Ellerker welcomes them all, then greets the Duke of Suffolk. He notices Charles' wistful expression when they enter the hall of Pontifract, and apologizes, knowing the halls may bring back bad memories for Charles; Charles shrugs it off, asking how the Northerners cope without their Catholic traditions and monasteries. Ellerker remarks privately to him that a few are still harboring resentment, but most have been appeased by the death of Cromwell, though they are uncertain whether the King intends to return to the old ways or promote further reform of the Church. Charles agrees with this uncertainty, telling Ellerker "it is not easy to read the King's mind, Sir Ralph."
Ellerker is not seen again after this episode, though historically he was a commander at the Siege of Boulogne and died in battle.