Raleigh – Tudor Adventurer
(The Elizabethan Series, Book 3)
By Tony Riches
Publication Date: 1st May 2022
Publisher: Preseli Press
Page Length: 332 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tudor adventurer, courtier, explorer and poet, Sir Walter Raleigh has been called the last true Elizabethan.
He didn’t dance or joust, didn’t come from a noble family, or marry into one. So how did an impoverished law student become a favourite of the queen, and Captain of the Guard?
The story which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy follows Walter Raleigh from his first days at the Elizabethan Court to the end of the Tudor dynasty.
Sir Francis Walsingham gestured to me to sit, and returned to studying his papers. I’d never been inside Westminster Palace before, and was surprised at the plainness of his office. His desk was empty except for an inkstand and the papers in front of him. The tapestries on the walls were faded relics from another age.
His trimmed beard was tinged with grey and he dressed in black with an outdated figure-of-eight ruff. I noted the hem of his sleeve was frayed and repaired. It seemed impossible such an influential and powerful man might be short of money, and I guessed that, unlike me, he had no concern for what he wore.
His terse note summoning me to see him offered no clue as to the reason. I expected to finally account to the queen’s principal secretary for the ruin of the Falcon. I had no idea what the punishment might be, but was so deep in debt a fine would be of little consequence.
‘It seems you’ve been making quite a nuisance of yourself since your return, Master Raleigh.’
His softly spoken voice sounded more sinister than if he’d shouted and, for once, I hesitated to spring to my own defence. I’d been restless since landing at Plymouth, fallen in with the wrong company and turned to drink to forget the burden of guilt.
‘Nothing to say?’ Sir Francis raised an eyebrow. ‘I was told you are something of a poet.’
‘I’ve been unwell, sir, after contracting a fever at sea.’
He looked through his papers. ‘There is the matter of oranges, stolen from a Spanish merchant ship in Dartmouth.’
‘I swear I had no part in that, sir.’
‘The Privy Council believes you did, but I’m sure the Spanish can spare a few oranges.’
I smiled at his understatement, beginning to like him, despite my dire situation. Some members of the impoverished Falcon crew had taken the Spanish merchant ship one moonless night. They sailed her to Torbay, and sold her valuable cargo of ripe fruit before the alarm was raised.
Sir Francis turned his papers to the next page. ‘You were summoned again to the Privy Council, and sent to the Fleet prison for a week for fighting with Sir Thomas Perrot.’ His eyes narrowed. ‘You know Her Majesty’s views on duelling?’
‘It wasn’t a duel, sir. Thomas Perrot was also sentenced to the Fleet, so the Privy Council understood the fault was not entirely mine. He offended me, and I demanded his apology.’
‘Sir Thomas Perrot is well known for his ability to give offence. If I were to demand an apology from every man who offended me, I would be busy indeed.’ He read the next page and looked up at me. ‘You were then committed to Marshalsea prison for fighting in the street and wounding a man named Edward Wingfield.’ He frowned. ‘You were released from the Fleet on a good conduct bond from the Privy Council.’
My hand formed a fist at the memory. ‘I was set upon by Perrot’s friends, who lay in wait to ambush me as I walked here in Westminster. I believed they intended to murder me, sir.’
‘This was the third time you’ve been before the Privy Council in as many months.’ Sir Francis leaned forwards in his chair, fixing me with his intense stare. ‘What are we to do with you, Master Raleigh?’
I had no answer for him and sat in dejected silence, waiting to hear my punishment. I cursed my bad luck. Things could not be much worse. My reputation was destroyed, and I’d come to the Privy Council’s notice once too often, through no fault of my own.
Sir Francis smiled, for the first time. ‘You are fortunate that I see some of your redeeming qualities. You are the only commander who refused to abandon Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s expedition. I also hear you’ve proved a natural leader, and an able ship’s captain.’
My conscience urged me to point out that half of my crew failed to return, but I recalled that Simon Fernandez was Sir Francis Walsingham’s man. We’d formed an unexpected bond, and he would have given the queen’s spymaster a colourful account of my part in our voyage.
Sir Francis didn’t wait for my answer. ‘The Spanish believe Ireland is our Achilles heel and are plotting another revolt. We’re sending reinforcements, and you will have a Crown commission of the rank of captain, and an opportunity to redeem yourself.’
It sounded like an order, but my mind filled with the possibilities of a new adventure. My brother had been knighted for his service in Ireland. I could become one of Walsingham’s men, part of his network of trusted informers, put my past behind me and win my longed-for place at court.
‘I would be honoured, sir.’
He nodded. ‘A hundred men have been mustered here in London. You will take them to Cork, and report to the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Lord Grey of Wilton.’ He spoke as if I had no choice, leaving me wondering whether this was my punishment, or a test.
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Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the lives of the Tudors. He also runs the popular ‘Stories of the Tudors’ podcast, and posts book reviews, author interviews and guest posts at his blog, The Writing Desk.
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