Bag which held Sir Walter Raleigh’s head is found in loft

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

A red velvet bag which was used to carry Sir Walter Raleigh’s head after he was executed has been found in a loft.

The Devon-born explorer who brought potatoes and tobacco to Europe was executed in 1618 to appease the Spanish after he broke a peace treaty.

After he was decapitated at the Tower of London his head was stored in a red velvet bag, which was thought to have been lost. But it is now believed that the bag has been found at West Horsley Place.

An historian recently visited the stately home and saw an old red velvet bag that had been found in the attic space when it was cleared for emergency repairs.

The bag has now been sent for further analysis, but it is likely it could be the long-lost bag that contained Sir Walter’s head. Peter Pearce, Director of the Mary Roxburghe Trust, said: “In 1665, Carew Raleigh sold the estate to Sir Edward Nicholas, First Secretary to Charles I and Charles II.

‘It is known that some of the contents were included in the sale – including a collection of family portraits which remained part of the estate until the early 20th century. But, to date, we have been unable to find any further reference to the red bag. It was widely presumed that the bag had been buried with Sir Walter’s head in 1660.”

Sir Walter, from Devon, had been a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, who allowed him to explore and colonise, knighting him in 1585.

But Raleigh was looked on less favourably by her predecessor King James I, after being linked to a plot against him, so, despite being responsible for cigarettes and potatoes, Sir Walter was executed.

He was executed under his rule at aged 65.

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