Jacobean secretary: the political career of Sir Ralph Winwood (1563-1617)

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Sir Ralph Winwood was a Jacobean politician who served the crown in several major capacities. Educated at Oxford, he was the English diplomatic agent at Paris and The Hague for fifteen years before his appointment as principal Secretary of State in 1614. His short tenure in office could not be described as successful, except in a personal sense, for although the post enabled him to die wealthy and well-respected, he made no concerted effort to stay the erosion of early Stuart government. Proud, arrogant, and conceited are terms which aptly characterize the man; but his sincere protestantism and hatred of Spain more clearly reflected the temper of his age than the vacillations of James I.

Except for a brief article in the Dictionary of National Biography little of consequence has been written about Winwood's life. This study attempts to focus on his political career, particularly between 1612 and 1617, and to analyze Winwood's role in the development of early seventeenth-century English government and administration.