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Walter Raleigh (priest)

Walter Raleigh or Ralegh (1586–1646) was an English divine, Dean of Wells from 1641. He died after a violent attack, a prisoner in his own deanery.


  • Life 1
  • Death 2
  • Works 3
  • Family 4
  • References 5


Raleigh was the second son of Sir Walter Raleigh's elder brother, Sir Carew Raleigh, of Downton, Wiltshire. His mother was Dorothy, widow of Sir John Thynne, of Longleat, Wiltshire, and daughter of Sir William Wroughton, of Broadheighton, Wiltshire. He was educated at Winchester School and at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he matriculated as commoner on 5 November 1602. He graduated B.A. in 1605 and M.A. in 1608.[1]

Raleigh took holy orders, and in 1618 became chaplain to


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i  
  2. ^ cf. John Walker, Sufferings of the Clergy; Angliæ Ruina, 1647
  3. ^ Patrick
  4. ^ Muriel C. McClendon; Joseph P. Ward; Michael MacDonald (1999). Protestant identities: religion, society, and self-fashioning in post-Reformation England. Stanford University Press. pp. 170–2.  


Between 1620 and 1623 Raleigh married Maria, daughter of Sir Ralph Gibbs. During the civil war she took refuge at Downton, where she was joined by her husband.[1]


In 1719 Laurence Howell published Certain Queries proposed by Roman Catholicks, and answered by Dr. Walter Raleigh, with an account of Raleigh copied from Patrick. Of a tract on the millennium which Raleigh is said to have written, no trace remains.[1]

Raleigh's papers were preserved in the family, and thirteen of his sermons were given by his widow to Simon Patrick, who published them in 1679, with a biographical notice, and a Latin poem written in praise of Raleigh 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 Raleigh'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.[1]


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 kept in custody.[1][3] The handling of these matters in the Sufferings of the Clergy by John Walker, half a century later, has been used to illustrated the methods and problems of Walker's historiography.[4]

Raleigh was harshly dealt with, and mortally wounded in a scuffle. According to Simon Patrick, Raleigh was murdered while attempting to screen from Barrett's curiosity a letter that he had written to his wife.[2] He died on 10 October 1646, and was buried in the choir of Wells Cathedral, before the dean's stall.[1]


The departure of Fairfax and Cromwell was for Raleigh 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 then to the deanery, Wells, where he was entrusted to the care of David Barrett, a shoemaker.[1]

Among Raleigh's friends were Langport in 1645. Raleigh then fled to Bridgwater, and on the fall of the 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.[1]


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