Penned in a secretarial hand on the Isle of Wight, August 15, 1580, the 14-line text references his preparations to travel to Ireland to help crush the Desmond rebellion in Munster. Raleigh signed the letter W Rawley.
It was during the suppression of the uprising in Kerry that Raleigh and his men discovered, among the possessions of the dead, a collection of secret letters between the ringleaders. Ordered to return to London to present his findings at court, he quickly established himself as a leading light at Elizabeth I’s court.
He received 40,000 acres (approximately 0.2% of Ireland) on the seizure and distribution of land following the revolt, including the coastal town of Youghal.
Raleigh’s signature is extremely rare and this example appears to be the earliest known. It predates his ‘earliest surviving letter’, one written to William Cecil, Baron Burghley, lord treasurer, from Cork in February 1581.
Estimated at £15,000-20,000, it took £22,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) at Lyon & Turnbull.