Britannia Biographies: Sir Walter Raleigh Part 3

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Biography of Sir Walter Raleigh by Christopher Smith
S I R      W A L T E R
 R A L E I G H
Part 3: An Irish Command

The Duc D'AlenconFrom his first unsuccessful expedition, Raleigh returned to London, in 1580, and the expensive, quarrelsome life of a young man on the outskirts of power. Along with Sir Thomas Parrot, Walter was called before the Council for an affray and sent to Fleet Prison to cool his heels for six days. He was subsequently sent to the Marshalsea Prison for a fight on a tennis court. Walter soon became embroiled with the rich and dangerous Earl of Oxford, the premiere peer of England and a catholic convert. He later took part in negotiations with the Duc of Alencon, the brother of King Henry III of France - the 'Frog' - who was to have married Queen Elizabeth, but was recalled to France.

Walter was then sent to Ireland as a captain commanding a hundred men. The English presence in Ireland, at this time, was largely restricted to a tiny area within the Pale around Dublin, though there were a few Englishmen in the chartered towns of the southern and western coasts. It was a cruel period of barbarities, reported by Edmund Spencer in his 'Faerie Queene'. Sirs Humphrey Sidney and Humphrey Gilbert burnt villages and massacred the population. Even Raleigh, with his troops, systematically slaughtered three hundred Italian and Spanish mercenaries who had been sent to Ireland by the Pope and the King of Spain but surrendered to Lord Grey of Wilton, his superior officer. Elsewhere, Walter conducted himself bravely, rescuing a comrade who fell from a horse during an ambush.

Raleigh sought the comforts of home life and sexual pleasure with a local woman named Alice Goold who, in time, bore him a daughter. However, though he did not forget his clandestine family - Alice was left money in his will, even though she had already died of the plague in Kingston - Walter soon became bored with Ireland: commanding gaol birds and other miserable creatures. He wrote to Leicester and Walsingham hoping for an introduction at Court. Walter Raleigh, an up and coming young man, was ready to thrust himself to centre stage.

Part 4: The Queen's Favourite    Copyright ©1999, LLC