SIR WALTER RALEGH: His Family and Private Life by A. L. Rowse
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SIR WALTER RALEGH: His Family and Private Life

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This fascinating volume by the witty and scholarly author of The England of Elizabeth I, etc., combines a personal study of the amazing Sir Walter Ralegh, ""the most difficult of all Elizabethans to get right"", with a biography of the equally amazing family into which he married, the Throckmortons. Much has been written on Ralegh, but of his private life little was known until recently, when the diary of his brother-in-law, Sir Arthur Throckmorton, was discovered -- in a woodshed. The diary, covering the years from 1576 to Arthur's death in 1626, nine years after Ralegh's execution, pictures in vivid detail the life of a country gentleman in roaring Tudor days, when a new world was unrolling, domestic life changing from the rigorous to the comfortable, and when dissent in religion or politics might mean death. Against this background Ralegh towers, brilliant, self-seeking, a poet with ""the most original scientific brain in the country"", a liar -- and a genius. The diary throws new life on the ""missing centrepiece"" of Ralegh's life, his marriage to Throckmorton's sister Elizabeth, whom he had seduced, and the hitherto unknown birth of their first child, to whom Essex, Ralegh's future enemy, stood godfather. Ralegh was the Queen's favorite, Bess Throckmorton her maid of honor, but when Elizabeth learned of the marriage she sent them both to the Tower. The rest of Ralegh's life was spent trying to regain former favor, intriguing with the Cecils, struggling to keep his estate, Sherborne, voyaging for gold, which he failed to find, and falling foul of James I, who, again imprisoned him for years in the Tower and finally beheaded him. Illumined with wit and documented from the author's own vast knowledge of his subject, this astonishing volume is a unique addition to Elizabethan records and a must for all students and historians with a basic knowledge of the period. Unfledged amateurs of Tudor history may find themselves floundering in it.

Publisher: Harper