This title is a study in vanity and ambition, madness and resignation.
Sir Walter Ralegh was one of the greatest courtiers of his day, Elizabeth’s favourite, dashing, brilliant, wily and powerful. This book takes as its subject his extraordinary last months, during the summer of 1618 when, his last voyage a failure and under great suspicion from James I, he was escorted back to London by Sir Lewis Stucley. It tells the tragi-comic story of this journey, from Plymouth to the scaffold, of Ralegh’s grotesque behaviour along the way, of the web of deceit and counter-treachery woven between him and his reviled and much misunderstood betrayer “Judas” Stucley, and of their travelling companion the French physician and double agent Dr Manourie.
Around this last journey will be linked the other players in the drama: Bess, Ralegh’s handsome, resourceful and distracted wife; Carew, their 13-year-old son; and Samuel King, privateering captain and link with past glories. On countless occasions Ralegh has the opportunity to escape, and refuses it; then, when he at last opts for freedom (in a false beard), he finds himself betrayed again.