Ralph Fitz-Stephen was the High Sheriff of Glouchestershire, England and received the feudal Barony of Wapley.
Some Descendants OF THE Fitz Stepben Famile IN ENGLAND AND NEW ENGLAND.
BY C. ELLIS STEVENS, LL.D., D.C.L. F.S.A. (EDINBURGH)
KNIGHT COMNANDER OF THE ORDER OF CHRIST OF PORTUGAL.
PRIVATELY PRINTED 1904
RALPH FITZ STEPHEN, Baron of Wapley by feudal tenure, great grandson of Airard Fitz Stephen, was High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1171, the eighteenth year of the reign of King Henry II, conjointly with his brother William Fitz Stephen.2 Through him the family seem first to have become residents of this shire, with which they remained connected for so many generations. A clue to the cause of settlement in the county may be found in the fact that he became treasurer of the great Abbey of Malmesbury in Gloucestershire, not far from the time that the historian William of Malmesbury was resident there. He had charge as a layman of the feudal relations of the Abbey, and the administration of its estates.3 Speaking of the Norman changes in the government of Saxon times, Gardiner says,"The local chiefs gave way to the King's representatives. One local officer indeed grew into increased activity. This was the officer who in each shire had always been especially the King's officer, the shirereeve, or sheriff, who looked after the interests of the King, while the ealdorman or earl represented the separate being of the shire. Under William the Conqueror earls ceased to be appointed save where they had distinct military duties. Under his successors earldoms gradually sank into merely honorary dignities. But the sheriff was in the Norman reigns the busiest of all officers".4 The office was of such power as to be held only by persons of rank, high in the King's favor, and differed essentially from that of the same name in modern times. In matters of administration its responsibilities necessitated that the sheriff be at the head of a body of knights and armed retainers.
Ralph Fitz Stephen was possessed of landed estates in Gloucestershire. In the latter part of the reign
of Henry II, he received the feudal barony of Wapley, of which Codrington was the chief seat, and
shortly after 1189, he bestowed the manor upon the Abbey of Stanley in Wiltshire, its income to be
devoted to payment for masses for the repose of the soul of the late King.1 This Norman baron died
1190, in the first year of the reign of Richard Coeur de Lion, having married (???) de Berkeley, of
Berkeley Castle, co. Gloucester,2 near Eastington, by whom he had a son,
FITZ RALPH FITZ STEPHEN, who was one of the Crusaders who went from England to the Holy Land probably in the third Crusade, under Richard Coeur de Lion, 1190,3 leaving a son;