and only by slow degrees was it collected at Flores, in the Azores, where it was determined to lie in wait for the Spanish treasure ships from the West Indies. But Essex had intelligence that it was doubtful if they would come at all, and that, if they did, they would take a more southerly route. He therefore resolved to wait for them at Fayal, and sailed thither, giving Ralegh orders to follow as soon as his ships had watered. Ralegh, following in haste, arrived at the rendezvous before Essex, and seeing that the inhabitants were putting the town in a state of defence, he landed and took it without waiting for Essex, who, on coming in, was exceedingly angry to find that he had been anticipated. He accused Ralegh of having disobeyed the instructions, by landing ‘without the general's presence or order.’ Ralegh appealed to the actual words, that ‘no captain of any ship or company … shall land anywhere without directions from the general or some other principal commander,’ he being, he maintained, ‘a principal commander, named by the queen as commander of the whole fleet in succession to Essex and Howard.’ Common sense justified Ralegh's action, and Essex was obliged to waive the point, though several of his friends are said to have incited him to bring Ralegh to a court-martial (ib. i. 242). The quarrel was healed for the time by the intervention of Howard, and the fleet kept at sea till the middle of October, making some valuable prizes and destroying many others. On its return the troops were distributed in the western garrisons, and Ralegh, in conjunction with Lord Thomas Howard and Lord Mountjoy, was occupied in preparations for the defence of the coast against any possible attempts on the part of Spain.
During the years immediately following, his time was, for the most part, divided between the court and the west country, with an occasional visit to Ireland. In 1597 he was chosen member of parliament for Dorset, and in 1601 for Cornwall. In the last parliament he defended monopolies, which were attacked with much heat in a debate of 19 Nov. 1601. He is reported to have blushed when a fellow-member spoke of the iniquity of a monopoly of playing-cards, and he elaborately explained his relations with the monopoly of tin, which he owned as lord warden of the stannaries, but he said nothing of his equally valuable monopoly of sweet wines (D'Ewes, Journals of Parliaments, p. 645). In July 1600, after the news of the battle of Nieuport, he, jointly with Lord Cobham, with whom he was now first intimately associated, was sent to Ostend with a gracious message from the queen to Lord Grey [see Brooke, Henry, eighth Lord Cobham; Grey, Thomas, fifteenth Lord Grey of Wilton]. In the following September he was appointed governor of Jersey, and at once repaired to the island, where he instituted a public registry of title-deeds, which is still an important feature of the insular land system, and he practically created the trade in fish between Jersey and Newfoundland (Pegot-Ogier, Iles de la Manche, p. 326; Falle, Jersey, ed. Durell, p. 397; Prowse, Hist. of Newfoundland, pp. 52, 76). But the old quarrel with Essex was still smouldering. In season and out of season, Essex and his partisans, especially Sir Christopher Blount [q. v.], were loud in their denunciations of Ralegh. Essex, writing to the queen on 25 June 1599, accused him of ‘wishing the ill-success of your majesty's most important action, the decay of your greatest strength, and the destruction of your faithfullest servants’ (Edwards, i. 254), and at the last he asserted that it was to counteract Ralegh's plots that he had come over from Ireland, and ‘pretended that he took arms principally to save himself from Cobham and Ralegh, who, he gave out, should have murdered him in his house’ (Cecil to Sir George Carew, ib. i. 255). It was untruthfully alleged that Ralegh had placed an ambuscade to shoot Essex as he passed on his way from Ireland to the lords of the council in London. Blount, pretending to seek a means of retaliating, shot four times at Ralegh; he had already vainly suggested to Sir Ferdinando Gorges that Ralegh's removal would do Essex good service (Oldys, p. 333).
Ralegh was not disposed to submit meekly to this active hostility. At an uncertain date—probably in 1601—he wrote of Essex to Cecil: ‘If you take it for a good counsel to relent towards this tyrant, you will repent it when it shall be too late. His malice is fixed, and will not evaporate by any your mild courses. … For after revenges, fear them not; for your own father was esteemed to be the contriver of Norfolk's ruin, yet his son followeth your father's son and loveth him’ (cf. St. John, ii. 38; and Devereux, Lives of the Devereux, ii. 177). When Essex was brought out for execution, Ralegh was present, but withdrew on hearing it murmured that he was there to feast his eyes on his enemy's sufferings. Blount afterwards admitted that neither he nor Essex had really believed that Ralegh had plotted against the earl's life; ‘it was,’ he said, ‘a word cast out to colour other matters;’ and on the scaffold he entreated pardon of Ralegh, who was again present, possibly in his official capacity