WILLIAM HERLE AND THE OFFICE OF RHAGLAW IN ELIZABETHAN CARDIGANSHIRE THE political life of Cardiganshire in the 1570s was enlivened by the dispute between certain of the gentry and William Herle over the 'raglershippe'. Herle, a gentleman from the town of Montgomery,1 sought to promote his fortune in London; the August of 1565 saw him applying, with two others, for a monopoly of glass- making,2 while in the same year he took part in a piratical attack on a Dutch ship friendly to England. The aid of influential friends enabled Herle to escape the statutory penalty.3 These good connections failed five years later when the Privy Council ordered, on 13 November 1570, that he be held incommunicado. Herle was still imprisoned in the following January for he complained at the time to the Lord Keeper about his unhappy condition in the Marshalsea.4 However, he was sufficiently adept to undertake the odious position of prison spy during the spring of 1571. Two men, suspected of conspiracy, had been arrested at Dover and Herle, at Burghley's behest, spied upon and even incriminated Charles Bailly, one of the accused. The Tower was Herle's prison in 1572, where he was involved with Edmund Mather and Kenelm Berney in a plot against Burghley, but Herle eventually betrayed his co-plotters.5 This devious career did not enrich Herle, for on 14 May 1572, he wrote to Burghley, imploring money to relieve his poverty, brought on, so he claimed, by zeal in the queen's service.6 Burghley eventually sent him as an agent to the Low Countries, from where he returned, towards the end of May 1573, with a letter from the Prince of Orange. 7 But the quest for wealth had not abated and Herle was granted on 30 November 1573 a lease on the office of rhaglaw for Cardiganshire.8 The rhaglaw was originally the representative of the lord in a commote, but the Conquest diminished his duties to the collection of rents and the supervision of his subordinates in the administration of justice. His subordinates were firstly the reeve or prepositus, an English innovation, and secondly the rhingyll, who had survived the Conquest.9 Dr. R. A. Griffiths' account of the rhaglaw in later mediaeval Cardiganshire shows that even in the early years one rhaglaw served a number of commotes, as in the period 1277-80 when the same rhaglaw officiated in Genau'r Glyn, Perfedd and Creuddyn, while in 1298-1300 Genau'r Glyn, Gwynionydd Uwch-cerdyn and Mefenydd each had a rhaglaw, but Perfedd, Creuddyn, Caerwedros, Mabwynion and Anhuniog had as resident officers only a reeve and a beadle. Three years later a rhaglaw was appointed to every commote in Cardiganshire, but the multiplicity of officers at commotal level tended to lower the prestige of the rhaglaw- ship, and the situation was reversed to that of one rhaglaw for a number