22nd February 1604.
Between 1584 and 1610 there were four main plots by Catholics against the English throne. Two of these were The Bye and Main Plots, also known as the ‘Treason of the Priests’.
Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury suspected Lord Cobham and his brother Rev Sir George Brook and Walter Raleigh in the Bye Plot, when priests William Watson and William Clark planned to kidnap King James I (VI).
In the ‘Main Plot’ Lord Cobham, Raleigh and others, backed by Spain, attempted to put Arabella Stuart,(Bess of Hardwick’s granddaughter) and the King’s cousin, on the throne.
As a result James was forced to issue an edict Today in 1604 ordering all Jesuits, Seminaries and other Catholic priests to leave the Country, by the 19th March.
In 1603 when James VI of Scotland came to the English throne, Walter Raleigh and others were in prison. He was previously disgraced for marrying Queen Elizabeth’s Maid of Honour without permission; when James became king, Raleigh’s days with his Catholic sympathies, were numbered.
At his trial in 1603, Sir Edward Coke addressed him, ‘You are the absolutist traitor that ever was’. To which Raleigh responded, ‘Your phrases will not prove it, Mr Attorney’. Raleigh it appeared won every round but Coke the verdict.
Of the conspirators the only lay person executed was Rev Sir George Brook in Castle Yard Winchester on 5th December 1603 for High Treason. He had been imprisoned in the Tower and in his confession laid bare all the plots. His application to his brother-in-law Robert Cecil fell on deaf ears.
Raleigh was convicted then reprieved, languished in the Tower of London until 1616 to be eventually executed two years’ later.
Raleigh’s name lives on in the capital of North Carolina.
In 2001, Raleigh’s statue, by William Macmillan, was removed from the spot of the Old Privy Garden outside the Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall, where it had stood since 1959.
It was relocated in the grounds of Royal Naval College, Greenwich where tradition says ‘he laid his cloak over a plashy place’ for Elizabeth I.
One idea had been to relocate it to Budleigh Salterton his birthplace where in 1870 Sir John Millais set his classic painting ‘The Boyhood of Raleigh’.