as captain of the guard. His attitude towards Essex and his party seems to have led Sir Amyas Preston to send him, in 1602, a challenge, which he accepted. He arranged his papers and affairs as a precautionary measure, entailing the Sherborne estate on his son Walter; but for some unexplained reason the duel did not take place. About the same date he began negotiations for the sale of much of his Irish property to Richard Boyle, first earl of Cork; the transaction was not completed until 1604, after Ralegh's attainder, when Boyle secured all the Irish estates (cf. Lismore Papers, ed. Grosart, 1st ser. iv. 258; 2nd ser. ii. 38–49, 157–9, iii. 59–62, v. passim).
Meantime political intrigues centred round the king of Scots. For at least two years before the death of the queen, James was systematically informed that Ralegh was opposed to his claims, and was ready to proceed to any extremities to prevent his accession to the throne. The letters were written by Lord Henry Howard (afterwards Earl of Northampton) [q. v.], probably with the knowledge, if not the approval, of Cecil. The result, at any rate, was that James crossed the border with a strong prepossession against Ralegh; and when Ralegh, who had been in the west, hastened to meet him, he was received with marked discourtesy. A fortnight later he was deprived of his post of captain of the guard; he was persuaded or compelled to resign the wardenship of the stannaries and the governorship of Jersey; his lucrative patent of wine licenses was suspended as a monopoly; and he was ordered, ‘with unseemly haste,’ to leave Durham House in the Strand. Such measures were a sure presage of his downfall; but he still remained at court in occasional attendance on the king, hoping, it may be, to overcome the prejudice and win the royal favour. On or about 14 July he was summoned before the lords of the council, who examined him as to any knowledge he might have of the plot ‘to surprise the king's person’ [see Watson, William], or of any plot contrived between Lord Cobham and Count Aremberg, the Spanish agent in London. Of Watson's plot he most probably was entirely ignorant. With Cobham he was still on friendly terms, and Cobham had taken from his house a book by one Snagge, contesting James's title. Ralegh had once borrowed the work from Lord Burghley's library. Moreover he knew that Cobham had been in correspondence with Aremberg. This he denied before the council, but he afterwards admitted it, and his prevarication, joined to his known intercourse with Cobham and his reasonable causes for discontent, appeared so suspicious that on 17 July he was sent a prisoner to the Tower. ‘Unable to endure his misfortunes,’ he attempted to commit suicide (Edwards, i. 375).
During the following months he was repeatedly examined by the lords of the council, and on 17 Nov. was brought to trial at Winchester before a special commission, which included among its members Lord Thomas Howard, now earl of Suffolk, Sir Charles Blount, now earl of Devonshire [q. v.], Lord Henry Howard, the newly created Lord Cecil, Sir John Popham [q. v.], lord chief justice, and several others. Of these, only Suffolk could be considered friendly. Nothing was proved in a manner which would satisfy a modern judge or a modern jury; but the imputation of guilt attached at the time to every prisoner committed by the lords of the council for trial on a charge of treason, unless any convincing proof of his innocence were forthcoming. This Ralegh could not produce. He knew something of Cobham's incriminating correspondence, and to know of or suspect the existence or even the conception of a traitorous plot without revealing it was to be particeps criminis. The jury without hesitation brought in a verdict of guilty—guilty of compassing the death of the king, ‘the old fox and his cubs;’ of endeavouring to set Arabella Stuart on the throne; of receiving bribes from the court of Spain; of seeking to deliver the country into the hands of its enemy. Sentence was pronounced by Popham, but the commissioners undertook to petition the king to qualify the rigour of the punishment. The trial is a landmark in English constitutional history. The harsh principles then in repute among lawyers were enunciated by the judges with unprecedented distinctness, and as a consequence a reaction steadily set in from that moment in favour of the rights of individuals against the state (Gardiner, i. 138).
Two days before Ralegh's trial, Watson, George Brooke, and four others were tried and condemned; a week later, Cobham and Grey. Ralegh was ordered to be executed on 11 Dec., and, in full expectation of death, he wrote a touching letter of farewell to his wife. This was published in 1644 with a few other small pieces in a volume entitled ‘To-day a Man, To-morrow None,’ in the ‘Arraignment’ of 1648, and in the ‘Remaines’ of 1651 (cf. Edwards, ii. 284). But on 10 Dec. Ralegh, with Cobham and Grey, was reprieved; on the 16th the three were sent up to London and committed to the Tower. All Ralegh's offices were vacated