Ufford (D'Ufford, de Ufford, Offord), Ralph (d. 1346), justiciar of Ireland, was son of Robert Ufford and his wife Cecily, daughter of Robert de Valoines; he was also a grandson of Robert of Ufford (qv). In February 1336, probably as part of the retinue of his elder brother, Robert Ufford, earl of Suffolk, a close companion of the king and instrumental in the palace coup in 1330, he was rewarded for his service in Scotland. He served with the king overseas (1340), and in September 1342 he was raised to the estate of a knight banneret and granted an annual pension from the English exchequer worth £200 till he could be provided with a suitable grant of land. It was his marriage (a. June 1343) to Matilda (Maud) of Lancaster, countess of Ulster, the daughter of Henry (d. 1345), earl of Lancaster, the widow of William de Burgh (qv), earl of Ulster, and the mother of Elizabeth de Burgh (qv), heiress of Ulster and wife of Lionel (qv), the king's third son, that brought him into the royal circle and diminished his reliance on his brother's connections. That year (1343) he again served with Edward III in France, contracting to bring a sizeable force. He was appointed justiciar of Ireland 10 February 1344 and took up that office on 14 July, the day after he landed with his wife and retinue at Dublin.
His instructions on arriving in Ireland were fairly standard: he was to investigate the inadequacy and corruption among officials of the king in the lordship, he was to enquire into the propriety of grants in Ireland made at Dublin or Westminster, he had to deal with the unprofitibility of the lordship, and, unusually, he was to conduct a general quo warranto inquiry into the abuses of franchises and liberties. Having obtained the justiciarship on distinctly advantageous terms in comparison with many of his predecessors – his relative social standing, his Irish connections through his wife, the support he received from cadet branches of the de Burghs and his alliance with Walter de Bermingham (qv), Fulk de la Freigne (qv) and Thomas Butler, the uncle of the heir to the earldom of Ormond – and possessing a particularly large retinue, he was in an ideal position to effect the changes to the government of Ireland so long desired by Westminster. His first act was to march to Cork, where he took inquisitions into the conduct of Maurice fitz Thomas FitzGerald (qv), earl of Desmond, and removed officials from the local administration. Returning to Dublin, he instituted a thorough overhaul of personnel within the administration; those seen to be ineffectual or more than usually corrupt were removed, or, in extreme cases, like that of Ellis de Ashbourn (qv), clapped in chains and their goods declared forfeit. He replaced many officials within the exchequer and the judiciary with his own nominees; Robert Embleton (qv) and Hugh de Burgh were established in the exchequer, and Godfrey Folejambe put on the justiciar's bench. In September 1344 he campaigned against the Irish of Leinster, and early in the following year turned his attention to Ulster, where his wife's interests lay, and which had been in chaos ever since the murder of the earl of Ulster (1333). His initial expedition met with a military setback, but he persevered and was active in the earldom from February to June 1345. He removed the administration's traditional support from Énrí O'Neill of Clann Aodha Buidhe, to Aodh O'Neill. Having summoned Desmond and a number of other magnates to Dublin the previous April to extract oaths of loyalty, he moved against the recalcitrant le Poers of Waterford, and had those convicted of disorder hanged, drawn, and quartered, an extreme punishment normally reserved for treason. During the summer Desmond went into open rebellion, and Ufford raised an enormous army (by Irish standards) and progressed through Munster collecting indictments against the earl. In October he captured Castle Island, Desmond's stronghold, had the earl's leading supporters hanged, drawn, and quartered and his seneschal drawn, hanged, decapitated, his intestines burned, his body quartered, and his limbs sent to various parts of Ireland to serve as a warning for any putative rebels. Fitz Thomas, however, escaped and went into hiding. Meanwhile the young earl of Kildare was arrested and shackled, and in November his earldom's status as a liberty was removed. The remainder of Ufford's tenure was spent in Dublin and after a prolonged illness he died 9 April 1346 at Kilmainham. He was buried at Campsey Priory, Suffolk. His marriage to Maud produced one daughter. After his death his widow took religious vows at Campsey to join the Order of St Clare; she died 5 May 1377 and was buried beside her second husband.
Ufford's short justiciarship has been seen by at least one historian as the sternest enforcement of authority at the expense of resident lords since King John (qv) stayed in Ireland in 1210. Certainly his abrasive and authoritarian approach all but pushed Desmond into rebellion and provoked the Dublin annalist into streams of uncharacteristic vitriol. Despite this rebellion and acres of unfavourable comment, his time in office at first glance appears to have been successful; revenues improved dramatically, royal authority would not be lightly questioned, and local administration underwent greater supervision. However, these policies could not be sustained in the long term without similar resources being devoted to his successors, including the large and expensive retinue with which he had been provided. The vacuum of power in Munster could not be filled by the administration, and eventually Desmond was forgiven and reinstated; so too was the relatively innocent earl of Kildare, whose only crime had been his less than wholehearted support for the justiciar.