As part of the Leeds Lit Fest 2019.
29th October 2018 marked four hundred years to the day since one of the most charismatic and controversial figures in English history was executed in Old Palace Yard, Westminster.
Sir Walter Ralegh was an adventurer, a poet and a writer. A man who loved maps, words and silk stockings as much as he could successfully steer a fleet of ships; his social quick wittedness and charm propelled him to become one of the most successful in the Tudor court. It wasn’t long before Ralegh was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth; one of the trusted few permitted to enter The Privy Chamber, the sacred place where she would take refuge from all others. The Queen did not just trust Sir Walter, she depended on him, exploiting his particular set of skills in war and peace, in England and far away shores. So how could a man once considered favourite find himself consigned to the Tower by her successor? Should his legacy be fame or infamy? In this history that unfolds with all the pace of contemporary drama, historian Anna Beer seeks to uncover the truth about this problematic national hero who in his own lifetime polarised opinion, and whose legacy remains profoundly controversial to this day.
Anna Beer is a cultural historian and one of the leading experts on the life and works of Sir Walter Ralegh. She has written biographies of Milton and Lady Bess Ralegh, and Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music, which is also published by Oneworld. She is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford.