The Favourite: Sir Walter Ralegh in Elizabeth l’s Court
Lyons’ account of Ralegh, a “self-seeking, self-publicizing butterfly”, his early life and meteoric rise to become Elizabeth’s favourite also offers a detailed insight into Tudor politics and court life. Lyons explores Ralegh’s fatal attraction to power, albeit constantly undermined by self-doubt, and examines “the personal and political compulsions” that drew the archetypal courtier, made famous by the legendary episode of the cloak, to the Virgin Queen during the darkest years of her reign. Lyons attempts to throw light on the complexity of this attraction – driven, he argues, by much more than just money, sex and power – and tries to pierce the myths surrounding both figures. He emphasises Elizabeth’s own struggle for personal liberty and her horror of confinement: she faced a “very modern dilemma” of trying to continue with the routine of daily life “while living with the terror of an unspecific but real threat”. Lyons also pieces together the minute complexity of the multiple plots and convincingly presents circumstantial evidence, at least, of Ralegh’s intimate involvement in the intelligence network spanning England, France and Spain. Culminating at the height of Ralegh’s power in 1587, this book offers an intriguing and perceptive understanding of a relationship that continues to fascinate down the centuries.