History Today column: In search of lost time

If we think of time at all, it is as a dimension: something we travel through, an abstract and universal measure against which we mark our progress, and against which we are judged – from minute to minute, from hour to hour, from day to day, from birth to death. It dominates our lives; and … Continue reading History Today column: In search of lost time

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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

Sir Walter Ralegh on war and faith

It is a little-known fact about Ralegh that, when he was 14 or so, he went to fight for the Hugenot cause in the French Wars of Religion as part of a small group of West Country men under the leadership of his cousin, Henry Champernowne. Insofar as we might tend to perceive Ralegh as … Continue reading Sir Walter Ralegh on war and faith

Sir Walter Ralegh on Henry VIII

Ralegh waited until Elizabeth was long dead before he committed his thoughts on her father to paper. This brutal analysis of Henry VIII's moral and political shortcomings comes from the Preface to Ralegh's History of the World,written during his imprisonment in the Tower of London and published in 1614. If all the pictures and patterns … Continue reading Sir Walter Ralegh on Henry VIII

State terror in Elizabethan Ireland

Returning from court to military service in Ireland in early 1581, Walter Ralegh wrote to Sir Francis Walsingham boasting of his half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert's reputation in the province. ‘I never heard nor read of any man more feared than he is among the Irish nation,’ he said. This might seem like characteristic hyperbole, arising … Continue reading State terror in Elizabethan Ireland

An exchange of poems between Sir Walter Ralegh and Elizabeth I

This exchange probably dates from 1587, around the time Ralegh's influence of power had reached its high-water mark. I don't propose to blog at length about the poems – I have said what I have to say about them in The Favourite and, for the most part, they speak for themselves. I would say, though, … Continue reading An exchange of poems between Sir Walter Ralegh and Elizabeth I