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The Tudor Society

29 October – “Strike, man, strike” – The end of Sir Walter Ralegh

On this day in history, 29th October 1618, in the reign of King James I, Elizabethan courtier, explorer, author and soldier, Sir Walter Ralegh (Raleigh, Rawley, Ralagh, Rawleigh) was executed in the Old Palace Yard at Westminster Palace.

Ralegh had led an eventful life. He'd been a favourite of Elizabeth I - except when he secretly married her lady, Bess Throckmorton - but had been imprisoned in the Tower of London on several occasions, he'd been accused of atheism at one point, had sailed to America and tried to establish a colony, he was knighted for his service in Ireland, and he was a poet too!

Find out all about Sir Walter Ralegh's colourful life in today's talk.

Also on this day in history:

  • 1532 – Henry VIII accompanied Francis I to the border between English Calais and France to bid farewell to him.
  • 1586 – Four days after a commission had found Mary, Queen of Scots guilty of conspiring to assassinate Elizabeth I, Parliament met to discuss Mary’s fate. They decided that they should petition the Queen for Mary’s execution.
  • 1605 – Death of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, courtier and naval commander, at the duchy house, near the Savoy in London. He was buried in the family vault in Holy Trinity Church, Skipton, near Skipton Castle. Clifford was Elizabeth I's second champion. He commanded a ship in the Anglo-Spanish War, and is known for capturing Fort San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1598. Elizabeth I nicknamed him her “rogue”.

There are 4 comments Go To Comment

  1. M /

    Wow, thanks for the info! I didn’t know half of that. I appreciate it. Michelle t

  2. R /

    Sir Walter Raleigh, one of my favourite Tudor gentlemen. For me he was the true explorer and anthropologist. His history of the world was the work of the true genius and genuine research and knowledge and considered to be a work of a true intellectual.

    His rooms in the Tower were very luxurious. He had his own personal chief and his tailor and butler were allowed to wait on him. His wife and children joined him and they had to add a second floor with two more large rooms to allow for additional family members. His very large oak arm chair is on view as is his bed and recently a very old wall painting was found but this predates him by 150 years. In the upper chamber they found plaster hiding another painting from his time. It looks like something from the Book of Revelations. It was a travesty of justice, it is a widely debated issue and historians cannot agree on his guilt or not. Raleigh tried to speak with James in 1603_but was excluded from seeing him. James of course wanted to settle things in Ireland which he did in 1607 and make a peace treaty with Spain and Raleigh had objections. It is unlikely that he was a traitor and although he was accused of joining some conspiracy, he always denied any connection to this. James had everyone found guilty held on the scaffold, then one by one told their death had been delayed, removed to the chapel and then they were spared. It was all very dramatic. In 1616 after nearly thirteen years in captivity Raleigh was given permission for the described voyage but his aggression against the Spanish Governor in peace time was the last straw. Our hero was allowed to return home and met his doom on this day 1618. I feel it was a travesty and the action during the voyage caused his death because they put peace with Spain at risk.

    If you can find a pipe, Walter, old man, have a smoke on me.

    Anna de Beer is the expert on Walter Raleigh and has also written a biography on his wife, Bess Throgmorton. There are portraits of them both at Coughton Court and the guide managed to grab Stephen for half an hour telling him the entire story. The Gunpowder Plot also has a big part in Coughton Hall. There is a reconstruction of his head there as well but not from his skull. I can imagine Bess taking the head out at dinner and relaying his tale to her guests.

    Walter and Bess Raleigh rest in peace.

    1. < / Post Author

      Ralegh is one of those historical characters that just appeals to me. He had such a full life, so interesting, and he and Bess obviously had a happy marriage. I too feel it was a travesty and a very sad end to an extraordinary man.

      1. R /

        Hi Claire, yes very much agree. There is a funny tale told about Walter Raleigh and I would love to have seen this if it’s true. He had some kind of rivalry with Essex and he was Captain of the Queens Guard. Essex had some kind of fancy golden uniform armour made for himself and Walter impressed ordered it for the entire guard. Essex was not amused. The Queen found it funny though. 😂😂

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29 October – “Strike, man, strike” – The end of Sir Walter Ralegh