Sir Lewis Stukley (died 1620) was an English gentleman and vice-admiral of Devonshire. He was guardian of Thomas Rolfe, and a main opponent of Sir Walter Raleigh in his last days. Stukley's reputation is equivocal; popular opinion at the time idealised Ralegh, and to the public he was Sir "Judas" Stukley.
He was the eldest son of John Stucley of Affeton in Devon, and Frances St Leger, daughter of John St Leger, through whom he was related to leading families of the west of England. His grandfather Lewis (1530?–1581) was younger brother of Thomas Stucley.
The younger Lewis was knighted by James I of England when on his way to London in 1603, and was an appointed guardian of Thomas Rolfe, the toddling son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe in March of 1617.
The Raleigh arrest
Stukley purchased the office of vice-admiral in 1618, and very soon became embroiled in high politics. In June 1618 he left London with verbal orders from the king to deal with the imminent difficulty with Sir Walter Raleigh, when he arrived at Plymouth on his return from the 1617 Orinoco expedition. As had been recognised by a royal proclamation of 9 June, Raleigh had broken the peace treaty between England and Spain. There was intense diplomatic embarrassment for King James in the situation; Stukley may have understood the king's intention to be that Raleigh should flee the country, but in any case his approach was relaxed for a number of weeks.
Stukley had a public notary board Raleigh's ship the Destiny in port. Then on the basis of a letter from the Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham, dated 12 June, Stukley had the written authority to arrest Raleigh. He met Raleigh at Ashburton, and accompanied him back to Plymouth. While Stukley was waiting for further orders, Raleigh attempted to escape to France; but returned to his arrest. Stukley sold off the Destiny's cargo of tobacco.
Stukley had been told to make the journey easy for Raleigh, and show respect for his poor health. Setting off in earnest from the Plymouth area, from John Drake's house some way to the east and joining the Fosse Way near Musbury, on 25 July, Stukley's party escorted Raleigh. The events that followed were later much discussed. Raleigh traveled with his wife and son. One of Stukley's entourage was a French physician, Guillaume Manoury. They went via Sherborne, met Sir John Digby, and stayed with Edward Parham at Poyntington. They reached Salisbury on the 27th, haste now prompted by an official reproach.
At Salisbury the journey halted for a time. Manoury connived at a sickness Raleigh alleged, and Raleigh used the break in the journey to prepare some defense. The king was there, on a summer progress, and Raleigh used several devices to play for time, composing a state paper in justification of his expedition. At this point Stukley refused a bribe which Raleigh offered him. On 1 August they moved on.
With Raleigh in London
By the time the party reached Andover, Stukley was aware that Raleigh intended to escape, and kept a better guard on him. He also countered Raleigh's attempts to corrupt him with duplicity, pretending to be swayed. In London on 7 August, Raleigh was for a short time a prisoner at large, lodging at his wife's house in Broad Street; he used the excuse of illness to argue for this lenient treatment, and was granted five days to regain his health. A chance contact in a Brentford inn with a French official gave him hope.
Raleigh attempted an escape down the River Thames, on 9 August; it was with the help of Stukley, who intended to betray him. The plot to ensnare Raleigh involved William Herbert, who had accompanied the Raleigh expedition, and others, as well as Stukley. Raleigh with a party including Stukley took a wherry at night from Towers Stairs; they got past Woolwich, but around Gallions Reach were overhauled by a larger wherry, carrying Herbert. They returned to Greenwich, and Stukley arrested Raleigh once more in the name of the king.
Raleigh's end and Stukley's disgrace
After the attempt, Raleigh was placed in the Tower of London. He was executed on 29 October, on the old high treason charged related to the 1603 Main Plot; more recent testimony was not legally employed. On the scaffold Raleigh made his last speech, making a point of naming Stukley (to say he was forgiven).
Stukley had given hostile, but not necessarily false, evidence against Raleigh. A public furore arose. It appeared that Stukley, wrongly said to be Raleigh's cousin, was appointed his warden not only as the vice-admiral of Devonshire, but as having an old grudge against Raleigh dating from 1584, when Raleigh deceived his father, John, then a volunteer in Sir Richard Grenville's Virginia voyage. It was alleged, and officially denied, that Stukley wished to let Raleigh escape in order to gain credit for rearresting him.
The Earl of Nottingham threatened to cudgel Stukley. The king said "On my soul, if I should hang all that speak ill of thee, all the trees in the country would not suffice".
Ralegh had an effective posthumous advocate in Robert Tounson, who had attended his last days. While saying on the scaffold that he forgave everyone, having taken the sacrament for the last time, Ralegh still called Stukley perfidious. Stukley put together a defence of his own actions, for which Leonell Sharpe may have been the writer.
There were in fact two published documents in which Stukley put his side of the argument, an Apology, and the Petition of 26 November. There was also an official defence of the king's proceedings, the Declaration, written by Francis Bacon, possibly with Henry Yelverton and Robert Naunton. The Apology having failed, Stukley issued the Petition in effect asking for official backing; which was published in the Declaration of 27 November, the printers having been up all night.
Aftermath and death
John Chamberlain[disambiguation needed] wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton at the end of 1618, reporting Stukley's reputation as a betrayer, and reporting the "Judas" epithet. In January 1619 Stukley and his son were charged with clipping coin, on slender evidence from a servant who had formerly been employed as a spy on Raleigh. The coins were £500 in gold, a payment for his expenses in dealing with Raleigh, and regarded as blood money as reported by Thomas Lorkyn writing to Sir Thomas Puckering in early 1619 (N.S.). It has been suggested by Baldwin Maxwell that the character of Septimius in The False One was a contemporary reference to Stukley; though this hypothesis has been regarded as unprovable.
Stukley married Frances, eldest daughter of Anthony Monck of Potheridge in Devon, and sister of Sir Thomas, the father of George Monck. By her he had issue. From the point of view of Stukley's reputation, it mattered whether Raleigh was part of his extended family: this was widely accepted, but it has been pointed out that it may depend on Sir Richard Grenville's use of "cousin" to Raleigh, when they were not related.
- Also Stucley, Stukely, Stukeley.
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- Mark Nicholls; Penry Williams (31 March 2011). Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 299–300. ISBN 978-1-4411-1209-5. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
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- Lisa Jardine and Alan Stewart, Hostage to Fortune: The troubled life of Francis Bacon 1561–1626 (1998), p. 424.
- T. N. Brushfield, Raleghana pt. VII, in Report and Transactions - The Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art vol. 37 (1905) p. 285; archive.org.
- Rowse, p. 320.
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- s:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events/Sir "Judas" Stukeley by Sabine Baring-Gould
- Devon Perspectives page