Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ralegh, Walter (1586-1646)

RALEGH or RALEIGH, WALTER (1586–1646), divine, born in 1586, was second son of Sir Walter Ralegh's elder brother, Sir Carew Ralegh, knt., of Downton, Wiltshire. His mother was Dorothy, relict of Sir John Thynne, knt., of Longleat, Wiltshire, and daughter of Sir William Wroughton, knt., of Broadheighton, Wiltshire [see under Ralegh, Sir Walter]. He was educated at Winchester and at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he matriculated as commoner on 5 Nov. 1602. He graduated B.A. in 1605 and M.A. in 1608. ‘He was admired for his disputations in the schools, even when he was an undergraduate’ (Patrick, Reliquiæ Raleighanæ). He took holy orders, and in 1618 became chaplain to William Herbert, third earl of Pembroke [q. v.] In 1620 he was presented by his patron to the rectory of Chedzoy, near Bridgwater, Somerset; in the following year he received the rectory of Wilton St. Mary, Wiltshire. Between 1620 and 1623 he married Maria, daughter of Sir Ralph Gibbs. About 1630 he was chosen a chaplain-in-ordinary to Charles I, who admired his preaching. In 1632 he was made rector of Elingdon or Wroughton, and in 1635 of Street, Somerset. In 1634 he was minor prebendary of Combe in Wells Cathedral, and received besides the rectory of Street-cum-Walton, Wiltshire. In 1636 he was created D.D. In 1637 he became dean and rector of St. Buryan, Cornwall, and in 1641 he was chosen to succeed Dr. George Warburton as dean of Wells.

A staunch royalist and a member of Lord Falkland's circle, Ralegh suffered grievously during the civil war. While he was attending the king, his rectory-house at Chedzoy was plundered by the parliamentarians, his property stolen, his cattle driven away, and his wife and children expelled from their home. Mrs. Ralegh took refuge at Downton, where she was joined by her husband. But in the western counties fortune was for some time favourable to the king, and Ralegh was enabled to return to Chedzoy. He continued to live there in safety until the defeat of George Goring, lord Goring [q. v.], at Langport in 1645. Ralegh then fled to Bridgwater, and on the fall of that town (21 July 1645) surrendered to the parliamentarians. From Bridgwater he was sent a prisoner to Chedzoy, but on account of his weakness he was allowed to live in free custody in his own house. The departure of Fairfax and Cromwell was for him the beginning of new troubles. One Henry Jeanes, being anxious, it is said, to secure the rectory for himself, carried off the dean to Ilchester, and there had him lodged in the county gaol. From Ilchester the prisoner was removed to Banwell, and thence to the deanery, Wells, where he was entrusted to the care of David Barrett, a shoemaker. By this person he was rudely dealt with, and at last mortally wounded in a scuffle. According to Simon Patrick, Ralegh was murdered while attempting to screen from Barrett's impudent curiosity a letter that he had written to his wife (cf. Walker, Sufferings of the Clergy; Angliæ Ruina, 1647). He died on 10 Oct. 1646, and was buried in the choir of Wells Cathedral, before the dean's stall. No inscription marks his grave. Raleigh's eldest son George attempted to bring Barrett to justice. A priest-vicar of Wells named Standish was arrested for having permitted the burial of the dean in the cathedral, and ‘was kept in custody to the hour of his death’ (Patrick).

Ralegh's papers were preserved in the family, and thirteen of his sermons were given by his widow to Simon Patrick (1626–1707) [q. v.], then dean of Peterborough, who published them in 1679, with a biographical notice, and a Latin poem written in praise of Ralegh by a Cambridge admirer, who is probably Patrick himself. The volume is entitled ‘Reliquiæ Raleighanæ, being Discourses and Sermons on several subjects, by the Reverend Dr. Walter Raleigh.’ The editor praises Ralegh's quickness of wit, ready elocution, and mental powers, but says that he ‘was led to imitate too far a very eminent man,’ whose name is not given. Among Ralegh's friends were Lucius Cary, second viscount Falkland [q. v.], Henry Hammond [q. v.], William Chillingworth [q. v.], and Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon [q. v.]

In 1719 Laurence Howell [q. v.] published ‘Certain Queries proposed by Roman Catholicks, and answered by Dr. Walter Raleigh,’ with an account of Ralegh copied from Patrick. Of a tract on the millennium which Ralegh is said to have written, no trace remains.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon., ed. Bliss, iii. 197; Hoare's Wiltshire, Hundred of Downton, pp. 35, 37; Raleigh Pedigree, privately printed from the records of the College of Arms; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Addit. MSS. 15669–70.]

E. C. M.