The Ridolfi plot

On May 16 1568 the catholic regnant Scottish queen Mary Stuart arrived in England. She had been deposed, marginalised  and effectively disowned by the protestant establishment in Scotland, where her young son James VI, aged 13 in 1569, was now a minority king. Mary was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret, and therefore had … Continue reading The Ridolfi plot

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Re-imagining Elizabethan London

I have lived in London most of my life, and one of the pleasures for me in researching and writing The Favourite, an exploration of the relationship between Elizabeth I and Walter Ralegh, is that so much of their story is also a London story. Or, more accurately, London is always there in the background, … Continue reading Re-imagining Elizabethan London

Sir Walter Ralegh and the Babington plot

I was not, truth be told, expecting to write much, if at all, about the world of espionage when I first set out to research The Favourite, my recent book about the relationship between Elizabeth I and Ralegh. After all, Ralegh’s protestant credentials in the fight against imperial Spain would appear, at first sight, unimpeachable. … Continue reading Sir Walter Ralegh and the Babington plot

The Babington plot: the capture and execution of the conspirators

On Tuesday 20th September 1586, seven Catholic men were bound to hurdles in the Tower of London – one of them, a priest named John Ballard, on a single sled, the others two-a-piece – and then dragged westward on their final slow journey through the city’s autumnal streets to a hastily erected scaffold in the … Continue reading The Babington plot: the capture and execution of the conspirators

What’s in a name? Walter Ralegh vs Walter Raleigh

One of the questions I get asked most about Sir Walter Ralegh, somewhat to my surprise, is the correct spelling of his name. The reason is that 'Raleigh', the spelling in widest circulation – and not only on the internet – is rarely used by anyone who has ever written about him in any depth. … Continue reading What’s in a name? Walter Ralegh vs Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Ralegh’s final voyage to El Dorado

Despite the great and humiliating failure of his 1595 voyage of exploration and conquest to El Dorado, the legendary golden city at the head of the Orinoco River in what is now Venezuela, Ralegh never abandoned his faith in his vision. He may, perhaps, have privately doubted the existence of the golden city; he never … Continue reading Sir Walter Ralegh’s final voyage to El Dorado

Sir Walter Ralegh writing to his wife on the death of their son

I have blogged here about Ralegh's disastrous return to El Dorado in 1617-18. Aside from the failure to find gold – a failure that Ralegh must have known might at best find him returned to the Tower of London when he returned home, and at worst cost him his head – he lost his young … Continue reading Sir Walter Ralegh writing to his wife on the death of their son