Ratcliffe was from relatively modest Cumberland family but his grandfather had a position in the household of Edward IV, and this presumably led to his own service to the Crown.
He fought at Tewkesbury and was Knighted for this service.
He then spent much of his career in the North of England and was with Richard, Duke of Gloucester on the Scottish campaign of 1480-2.
During the succession crisis of 1483 Ratcliffe commanded the northern troops requested by Gloucester for support against a possible Woodville coup, but which were in the end not needed. During the movement southwards, Ratcliffe was present at the execution of Anthony Earl Rivers.
During his short reign Richard trusted Ratcliffe’s judgement, usually took his advice and lavished him with financial rewards. One piece of advice attributed to Ratcliffe and which Richard seems to have heeded, was not even to think about marrying his niece, Elizabeth of York after the death of Queen Anne.
Ratcliffe fought on Richard III’s side at Bosworth and was killed.