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Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh

The English statesman Sir Walter Raleigh (ca. 1552-1618) was also a soldier, courtier, explorer and exponent of overseas expansion, man of letters, and victim of Stuart mistrust and Spanish hatred.

Born into a prominent Protestant Devonshire family, Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh) spent time at Oriel College, Oxford, before leaving to join the Huguenot army in the French religious war in 1569. Five years in France saw him safely through two major battles and the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day. By 1576 he was in London as a lodger (not a law student) at the Middle Temple and saw his verses, prefixed to George Gascoigne's Steele Glas, in print. His favorite poetic theme, the impermanence of all earthly things, was popular with other Renaissance poets. However, Raleigh's verse differs from theirs: for their richly decorated quality and smoothly musical rhythms, he substituted a colloquial diction and a simplicity and directness of statement that prefigured the work of John Donne and the other metaphysical poets.

After 2 years in obscurity Raleigh accompanied his half brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on a voyage ostensibly in search of a Northwest Passage to the Orient but which quickly degenerated into a privateering foray against the Spanish. On their return in 1579, Raleigh and Gilbert faced the displeasure of the Privy Council. Raleigh's subsequent conduct did little to placate the Council: he engaged in several altercations and was imprisoned twice in 6 months for disturbing the peace. Once out of jail, and at the head of a company of infantry, he sailed to serve in the Irish wars.

In Ireland, Raleigh spent less than 2 years on campaign. He helped condemn one of the leaders of the rebellion, bombed a Spanish-Italian garrison into surrender, and then oversaw their massacre. After some minor but well-fought engagements, he was appointed a temporary administrator of Munster. Not satisfied, he criticized his superiors and by the end of 1581 had been sent back to London with dispatches for the Council, £20 for his expenses, and a reputation as an expert on Irish affairs.

Progress at Court

Extravagant in dress and in conduct (whether or not he spread his costly cloak over a puddle for Elizabeth to step on, his contemporaries believed him capable of the gesture), handsome, and superbly self-confident, Raleigh at first rose rapidly at court. His opinion on Ireland was sought and apparently taken by Elizabeth; when he obtained a new commission for service there, the Queen kept him home as an adviser. He received more concrete tokens of royal favor as well: a house in London, two estates in Oxford, and, most lucrative, the monopolies for the sale of wine licenses and the export of broadcloth all came from Elizabeth in 1583-1584.

Raleigh was knighted in 1584 and the next year became warden of the stannaries (or mines) in Devon and Cornwall, lord lieutenant of Cornwall, and vice admiral of the West (Devon and Cornwall). Although he was hated for his arrogance at Westminster, in Devon and Cornwall his reforms of the mining codes and his association with local privateering ventures made him very popular; he sat for Devonshire in the Parliaments of 1584 and 1586.

In 1586 Raleigh succeeded Sir Christopher Hatton (newly made lord chancellor) as captain of the Queen's Guard—his highest office at court.

Overseas Ventures

The patent under which Gilbert had led his expedition of 1578 had authorized him not merely to explore but to claim unknown lands (in the Queen's name, of course) and to exploit them as he saw fit. By 1582 Gilbert had organized a company to settle English Catholics in the Americas. Although forbidden by Elizabeth to accompany his half brother, Raleigh invested money and a ship of his own design in the venture. After Gilbert's death on the return from Newfoundland, Raleigh was given a charter to "occupy and enjoy" new lands. A preliminary expedition sailed as soon as Raleigh had his charter, reached the Carolina shore of America, and claimed the land for the court-bound empire builder.

At the same time, Raleigh sought to entice Elizabeth into a more active role in his proposed colonizing venture: not only did he name the new territory Virginia (after the Virgin Queen) but he sponsored Richard Hakluyt's Discourse of Western Planting and brought this great imperialistic treatise to Elizabeth's attention. Although unconvinced, she gave a ship and some funds; Raleigh remained at court and devoted his energies to financing the scheme. The first settlers were conveyed by Raleigh's cousin Sir Richard Grenville. Quarrels, lack of discipline, and hostile Indians led the colonists to return to England aboard Francis Drake's 1586 squadron, bringing with them potatoes and tobacco, both hitherto unknown in Europe.

John White led a second expedition the next year. The coming of the Armada delayed sending supplies for more than 2 years. When the relief ships reached the colony in 1591, it had vanished. Raleigh sent other expeditions to the Virginia coast but failed to establish a permanent settlement there; his charter was revoked by James I in 1603.

Retirement from Court

Raleigh played a minor role in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. He organized the Devon militia and was a member of Elizabeth's War Council but did not participate in the naval battle. When he returned to court, he clashed with Elizabeth's new favorite, Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. After the Privy Council halted an incipient duel between them, Raleigh left for Ireland, where he cultivated his estates and the friendship of his neighbor, the poet Edmund Spenser, whom he introduced to Elizabeth in 1590.

The next year Raleigh was to have gone to sea in search of the Spanish plate fleet, but again Elizabeth refused permission. Grenville, who went in his stead, was trapped by Spanish galleons, and Raleigh raised a new fleet to avenge his cousin. At sea finally, he was immediately summoned back by Elizabeth. Upon his tardy return he was imprisoned in the Tower, for the Queen had discovered his alliance with Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of her own maids of honor. (Raleigh later married Elizabeth Throgmorton.) After the return of an enormously wealthy prize taken by Raleigh's sailors, and after Elizabeth took an inordinate share of the profits, she permitted the Raleighs to go to their estate of Sherborne in Dorset.

Forbidden access to the court, Raleigh devoted time to study and speculation about the nature of matter and the universe. During this time he sat in Parliament, joined the Society of Antiquaries, assisted Hakluyt in preparing his Voyages, and joined Ben Jonson and Shakespeare at the Mermaid Tavern in London.

By the end of 1594 Raleigh had regained enough of Elizabeth's favor to obtain her consent for a prospecting expedition to Guiana (Venezuela). From this he brought back many samples of gold ore and a belief in the existence of a rich gold mine.

In 1596 Raleigh and his rival Essex led a brilliantly successful raid on Cadiz, and he seemed to have finally placated Elizabeth. He was readmitted to court, continued to serve in Parliament, was given a monopoly over playing cards, held more naval commands, and became governor of the island of Jersey, where he proved again to be an excellent administrator. With Essex's execution for treason, Raleigh's place as favorite seemed secure. But the Queen herself was near death, and Raleigh's enemies lost no time in poisoning the mind of James Stuart, her heir apparent and successor, against him.

His Imprisonment

Upon James I's accession, Raleigh was dismissed as captain of the guard, warden of the stanneries, and governor of Jersey. His monopolies were suspended, and he was evicted from his London house. Soon after, he was implicated (falsely) in a plot against James and, upon being committed to the Tower, tried to commit suicide. A farcical trial before a special commission at Winchester at the end of 1603 resulted in a death sentence, followed by a reprieve and imprisonment in the Tower for 13 years.

James stripped Raleigh of all his offices and even took Sherborne on a technicality to give to his own favorite, Robert Carr. The remainder of his property was restored, and Raleigh was well treated: his family joined him in a large apartment in the Bloody Tower; his books were brought as well. Raleigh attracted the sympathy and friendship of James's eldest son, Henry, who sought his advice on matters of shipbuilding and naval defense. Raleigh dedicated his monumental History of the World, written during this period of imprisonment, to the prince. Henry protested Raleigh's continued incarceration but died before he could effect his release.

Last Voyage

From 1610 on, Raleigh, aware of James's need for money, sought permission to lead another search for the gold mine of his earlier Guiana voyage and at last got his way. Freed early in 1616, he invested most of his remaining funds in the projected voyage. The expedition, which sailed in June of the following year, was a disastrous failure. No treasure and no mine were found, and Raleigh's men violated James's strict instructions to avoid fighting with Spanish colonists in the area. Still worse, during the battle with the Spaniards, Raleigh's older son, Walter, was killed.

Upon his empty-handed return Raleigh was rearrested; James and Sarmiento, the Spanish ambassador, wished him tried on a charge of piracy, but as he was already under a sentence of death, a new trial was not possible. His execution would have to proceed from the charge of treason of 1603. James agreed to this course, and Raleigh was beheaded on Oct. 29, 1618.

Further Reading

Raleigh's History of the World, first published in 1614, has been reissued many times. A Report of the Truth of the Fight about the Isles of Acores (1591) and The Discovery of … the Empire of Guiana (1596) are published in Works of Sir Walter Ralegh (8 vols., 1829), which also contains works published posthumously. The standard edition of Raleigh's poetry is The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh, edited by Agnes M. C. Latham (1929).

There is no completely satisfactory biography of Raleigh. Edward Edwards, The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh Based on Contemporary Documents … Together with His Letters (2 vols., 1868), lacks much material that is now available. Among the most useful works are Edward Thompson, Sir Walter Ralegh: The Last of the Elizabethans (1935), and Willard M. Wallace, Sir Walter Raleigh (1959). Raleigh's role in natural philosophy and his connection with Thomas Hariot are treated in Robert Kargon, Atomism in England (1966). His contact with Christopher Marlowe is explored at length in M. C. Bradbrook, The School of Night: A Study in the Literary Relationships of Sir Walter Relegh (1936), and in Ernest Albert Strathmann, Sir Walter Raleigh: A Study in Elizabethan Skepticism (1951). A. L. Rowse's The England of Elizabeth: The Structure of Society (1950) and The Expansion of Elizabethan England (1955) provide a valuable general view of the period. □

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Raleigh, Walter

Walter Raleigh

Born: c. 1552
Devonshire, England
Died: October 29, 1618
London, England

English explorer, statesman, and courtier

The English statesman Sir Walter Raleigh was also a soldier, explorer, and a man of letters (a distinguished writer). As a champion of overseas expansion into the New World, Raleigh was a victim of mistrust and Spanish hatred.

Early life

Born into a wealthy family, Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh) was the son of a farmer who earned a great deal of money in shipping ventures. Through his father, Raleigh gained an interest in seafaring. Raleigh spent time at Oriel College, Oxford, England, before leaving to join the Huguenot (Protestant) army in the French religious war in 1569. Five years in France saw him safely through two major battles and the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day, where beginning August 24, 1572, more than seventy thousand French protestants were killed. By 1576 he was in London as a lodger at the Middle Temple and saw his poems in print. His favorite poetic theme, the temporary state of all earthly things, was popular with other poets of the Renaissance, a time of great cultural change led by the works of great artists and writers.

After two years in obscurity, Raleigh accompanied his half brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on a voyage apparently in search of a Northwest Passage to the Orient (Eastern Asia). The voyage quickly developed into a privateering mission against the Spanish, where Raleigh hired out his ship to attack the Spanish. On their return in 1579, Raleigh and Gilbert faced the displeasure of the Privy Council, the advisors to the King. Raleigh's behavior did little to please the council, and he was imprisoned twice in six months for disturbing the peace. Once out of jail, and at the head of a company of soldiers, he sailed to serve in the Irish wars.

Progress at court

Extravagant in dress and behavior, handsome, and superbly self-confident, Raleigh rose rapidly at court, which consisted of the royal family and its advisors. His opinion of Ireland was accepted by Queen Elizabeth (15581603), and she kept him home as an adviser. He received royal favor as well, including a house in London and two estates in Oxford.

Raleigh was knighted (given the honorary distinction of knighthood) in 1584 and the next year became the chief officer of the stannaries (or mines) in Devon and Cornwall, lord lieutenant of Cornwall, and vice admiral of the West. Although he was hated for his arrogance, his reforms (improvements) of the mining codes made him very popular. He sat for Devonshire in the Parliaments (meetings of the governing body of England) of 1584 and 1586 and then went on to succeed Sir Christopher Hatton as captain of the Queen's Guardhis highest office at court.

Overseas

By 1582 Humphrey Gilbert had organized a company to settle English Catholics in the Americas. Although forbidden by Elizabeth to accompany his half brother, Raleigh invested money and a ship of his own design to the mission. After Gilbert's death on the return from Newfoundland, a region that is now a province of eastern Canada, Raleigh was given a charter (authority from the queen) to "occupy and enjoy" new lands. Raleigh sailed as soon as he had his charter and reached the Carolina shore of America, claiming the land for himself.

At the same time, Raleigh sought to persuade Elizabeth into a more active role in his proposed colonizing venture, which would settle lands newly discovered in America. Although unconvinced, she reluctantly gave a ship and some funds. Raleigh remained at court and devoted his energies to financing the operation. The first settlers were transported by Raleigh's cousin Sir Richard Grenville (15421591). Fights, lack of discipline, and hostile Indians led the colonists to return to England with Francis Drake (c.15431596) in 1586, bringing with them potatoes and tobaccotwo things unknown in Europe until that time.

John White (died c.1593) led a second expedition the next year. The coming of the Spanish Armada (a large fleet of warships) delayed the sending of supplies for more than two years. When the relief ships reached the colony in 1591, it had vanished. Raleigh sent other expeditions to the Virginia coast but failed to establish a permanent settlement there. His charter would eventually be withdrawn by James I (15661625) in 1603.

Retirement from court

In 1591 Raleigh was to have gone to sea in search of the Spanish fleet, but Elizabeth refused permission. Instead, Grenville was sent and soon trapped by Spanish forces. Raleigh raised a new fleet to avenge his cousin. Upon his return Raleigh was imprisoned for a short time in the Tower of London because the queen had discovered his relationship with Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of her own maids of honor. (Raleigh later married Elizabeth Throgmorton.)

In 1596 Raleigh and his court rival, Robert Devereux (15661601), led a brilliantly successful raid on Cadiz, Spain, and he seemed to have finally satisfied Elizabeth. He was readmitted to court, continued to serve in Parliament, held more naval commands, and became governor of the island of Jersey. With Devereux 's execution for treason (crimes against one's country), Raleigh's place as Elizabeth's favorite seemed secure. But the queen herself was near death, and Raleigh's enemies lost no time in poisoning the mind of James Stuart (15661625), her successor, against him.

His imprisonment

After James I took the throne, Raleigh was dismissed from his posts and forced out of his London house. Soon after, he was falsely connected to a plot against the king and was once again sentenced to the Tower, where he attempted to kill himself. Raleigh was sentenced to death, a sentence that would later be dropped. He was imprisoned for thirteen years.

Raleigh attracted the sympathy and friendship of James's eldest son, Henry, who sought his advice on matters of shipbuilding and naval defense. Raleigh dedicated his monumental "History of the World," written during this period of imprisonment, to the prince. Henry protested Raleigh's continued imprisonment but died before he could effect his release.

Last voyage

Freed early in 1616, Raleigh invested most of his remaining funds in the projected voyage to search for gold mines in South America. The expedition, which sailed in June of the following year, was a disastrous failure. No treasure or mines were found, and Raleigh's men violated James's strict instructions to avoid fighting with Spanish colonists in the area. Still worse, during the battle with the Spaniards, Raleigh's eldest son, Walter, was killed.

Upon his return Raleigh was arrested once again. James and Sarmiento, the Spanish ambassador, wanted him tried on a charge of piracy, but since he was already under a sentence of death, a new trial was not possible. His execution would have to proceed from the charge of treason of 1603. James agreed to this course, and Raleigh was beheaded on October 29, 1618.

For More Information

Irwin, Margaret. That Great Lucifer; a Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960.

Kargon, Robert. Atomism in England. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1966.

Korman, Susan. Walter Raleigh: English Explorer and Author. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001.

Wallace, Willard M. Sir Walter Raleigh. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959.

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Raleigh, Sir Walter

Sir Walter Raleigh (both: rŏl´ē, răl´ē), 1554?–1618, English soldier, explorer, courtier, and man of letters.

Early Life

As a youth Raleigh served (1569) as a volunteer in the Huguenot army in France. In 1572 he was listed as an undergraduate at Oxford, where he may have studied before going to France, and his name appears in the registry of the Middle Temple in 1575. In 1578, Raleigh and his brother Carew joined their half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert in outfitting a heavily armed fleet, ostensibly for a "voyage of discovery." Storms and desertions soon ended the project. In 1580, Raleigh served in Ireland, suppressing the rebels in Munster.

Courtier, Poet, and Adventurer

When he returned to England in 1581, Raleigh immediately went to court and soon became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. Whether he placed his cloak in the mud for Queen Elizabeth I or not, it seems fairly certain that his personal charm had much to do with his friendship with her. As an important courtier he was granted (1583) a wine monopoly, was knighted (1585), and was given vast estates in Ireland. Made warden of the stanneries (the tin mines of Cornwall and Devon) in 1585, Raleigh exhibited a genuine talent for administration, but he had already alienated too many important people to achieve real political power. He was appointed captain of the queen's guard in 1587, an office significant because it required constant attendance on Elizabeth.

Raleigh conceived and organized the colonizing expeditions to America that ended tragically with the "lost colony" expeditions on Roanoke Island, N.C. He was later named a member of the commission for the defense against Spain, but it is doubtful that he participated in the naval operations against the Spanish Armada (1588). Probably because of his conflict with Robert Devereux, 2d earl of Essex, Elizabeth's new favorite, Raleigh left court in 1589. At Kilcolman Castle, Ireland, he became a close friend of Edmund Spenser, whose Faerie Queene, begun under the aegis of Sir Philip Sidney, was continued under Raleigh's patronage.

After the queen's quarrel with Essex over the earl's marriage, Raleigh returned to prominence at court and was granted (1592) an estate at Sherborne. Later that year he set out on a privateering expedition, but he was recalled by Elizabeth and imprisoned in the Tower of London when she learned of his secret marriage to Elizabeth Throckmorton, a maid of honor at court. Late in 1592, Raleigh's expedition returned to England with a richly loaded Portuguese carrack. Disputes broke out over the division of the spoils, and Raleigh was released to quell the disturbance, thereby winning his freedom.

Barred from the court, Raleigh sat in Parliament. He achieved great notoriety for his connection with the poetic group known as the "school of night." Led by Thomas Harriot and including Christopher Marlowe and George Chapman, the group's skeptical attitude and critical interpretation of Scripture won them a reputation for atheism.

In 1595, Raleigh embarked on an expedition with the adventurer-scholar Laurence Kemys to find the fabled city of El Dorado. They penetrated 300 mi (480 km) up the Orinoco River into the interior of Guiana, bringing home specimens containing gold. Raleigh published his Discovery of Guiana the following year. In 1596 he commanded a squadron in the English expedition against Cádiz.

Downfall

Raleigh was made governor of Jersey in 1600, but his fortunes ebbed when he drifted apart from his former ally Robert Cecil (later earl of Salisbury) in the political tempest over Essex's treason and death. He met his downfall upon the accession (1603) of James I, who had been convinced by Raleigh's enemies that Raleigh was opposed to his succession. Many of Raleigh's offices and monopolies were taken away, and, on somewhat insufficient evidence, he was found guilty of intrigues with Spain against England and of participation in a plot to kill the king and enthrone Arabella Stuart. Saved from the block by a reprieve, Raleigh settled down in the Tower and devoted himself to literature and science. There he began his incomplete History of the World.

Raleigh was released in 1616 to make another voyage to the Orinoco in search of gold, but he was warned not to molest Spanish possessions or ships on pain of his life. The expedition failed, but Laurence Kemys captured a Spanish town. Raleigh returned to England, where the Spanish ambassador demanded his punishment. Failing in an attempt to escape to France, he was executed under the original sentence of treason passed many years before.

Bibliography

Raleigh was the author of a number of political essays and philosophical treatises, and of a body of poetry that was highly praised by his contemporaries. See his poems, ed. by A. Latham (1951). See also biographies by A. L. Rowse (1962, repr. 1975), S. J. Greenblatt (1973), R. Lacey (1974), and R. Trevelyan (2004); M. C. Bradbrook, The School of Night (1936, repr. 1965); J. Racin, Sir Walter Raleigh as Historian (1974).

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"Raleigh, Sir Walter." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Raleigh, Sir Walter (1552–1618)

Raleigh, Sir Walter (15521618)

Explorer and historian who helped to establish the first English settlement in North America, helping England to stake its future claim to colonies on the continent. He was the son of a country squire who owned an estate in Devonshire near Plymouth, a harbor on the English Channel. Although he was sent to Oxford for university studies, he left a short time later and then enlisted with a company of English infantry fighting alongside the French Huguenots (Protestants) on the continent of Europe. Historians know little of his career as a soldier, however.

By 1575 Raleigh was living in London but keeping family ties in Devon, which was becoming a center of English efforts to explore and colonize the New World. He joined his half brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on an expedition against the Spanish. This voyage ended in failure, however, and Raleigh made efforts to secure an appointment at the court of Elizabeth I. In 1579, he helped to put down a rebellion in Ireland, where he dealt ruthlessly with Irish Catholics and ordered a massacre of several hundred enemy mercenaries. For his service he was rewarded with towns and estates in County Munster, where he promoted English settlement in Ireland as a way of keeping the rebellious island under English control.

Raleigh returned to England in 1581 and received lucrative patents, or licenses, from the queen. He was granted a knighthood in 1584 and in the next year became a warden of productive tin mines in western England. After Elizabeth granted him forty thousand acres in Ireland, Raleigh brought in English farmers and introduced cultivation of tobacco and the potato. Seeking to establish lucrative settlements in North America, he promoted an expedition to Newfoundland in 1583 and in 1584 a voyage that reached the Atlantic coast of North Carolina. He became a member of Parliament in the same year, and in 1585 sent out a company of settlers under the leadership of Sir Richard Grenville. This group settled on Roanoke Island, but the small colony soon ran afoul of the surrounding Indian tribes and abandoned their homes. As an individual, Raleigh was unable to sustain an entire colonial enterprise on his own, and the effort to colonize Virginia would pass to a jointstock company that was able to raise money for the venture from several wealthy investors.

On returning to Ireland, Raleigh again took up the cause of English settlement on the island, and became acquainted with the poet Edmund Spenser, whom he helped to win a royal pension and to publish the first three books of his epic poem The Faerie Queene. He was losing favor at Elizabeth's court, however, and was prevented several times from taking part in expeditions against the Spanish. On returning from one aborted voyage, he was arrested and thrown into the Tower of London for seducing and secretly marrying Elizabeth Throgmorton, one of the queen's maids. Raleigh retired from the royal court and, finding himself short of money, voyaged to South America in 1594 in search of the legendary gold mines of El Dorado. Failing in this purpose, he returned to England, where he published an account of his voyage, The Discovery of Guiana. He returned to the queen's favor after an expedition against the Spanish port of Cadiz in 1596. When the Earl of Essex, the queen's favorite, brought Raleigh along on a voyage to the Azores, the two men quarreled. After returning to England, Essex was accused of conspiring against Elizabeth and was executed under Raleigh's supervision.

Raleigh was appointed governor of the island of Jersey in 1600. But the death of Elizabeth in 1603 and the accession of King James I proved disastrous, as Raleigh found himself out of favor for his political and religious views and had already been forced to sell his Irish estates in order to raise money. He was accused of conspiracy against the king, arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death. He languished in the Tower of London for thirteen years, working on a History of the World, as well as essays and poetry that earned him a reputation

as one of England's finest writers. In 1616 he proposed to the king that he undertake another voyage to South America in search of gold. Although the king was warned by the Spanish that Spain already had valid claims on this territory, James was in need of funds and released Raleigh from prison. The expedition set out in March 1617, but clashed with a Spanish settlement along the Orinoco River in Guiana. Raleigh sailed home, where he was arrested again. The king made good his promise to execute Raleigh should his expedition fail or find itself trespassing on the claims of Spain, and the sentence was finally carried out on October 29, 1618.

See Also: Elizabeth I; exploration; Spenser, Edmund

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Ralegh, Sir Walter

Ralegh, Sir Walter (c.1554–1618). Ralegh's spectacular career was broken by the mistrust of James I. Of Devon gentry stock, Ralegh was half-brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, with whom in 1578 he shared a short expedition at the expense of the Spaniards. He spent 1580–1 in Ireland and on his return rose rapidly in court favour under the patronage of Leicester. Knighted in 1584 and returned to Parliament, he became warden of the stannaries, captain of the queen's guard, lord-lieutenant of Cornwall, and was granted vast estates in Ireland. His attempts to promote the colonization of Virginia ended in failure, though they introduced tobacco and potatoes into England. He did not take part in the naval action against the Armada in 1588 but was greatly employed in the land operations. But as the star of Essex rose at court, Ralegh's began to wane and he fell into disgrace with the queen after an affair with one of her maids of honour, Elizabeth Throckmorton, despite their subsequent marriage. In 1595 he led an expedition to the Orinoco in search of gold and in 1596 took part in the attack on Cadiz. His prospects were further undermined by the correspondence which Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, established with James VI of Scotland, which succeeded in discrediting Ralegh. As soon as James succeeded in 1603, Ralegh was stripped of all his offices, was tried for treason, condemned to death, and imprisoned in the Tower. Not until 1617 could he obtain release to lead a second Orinoco expedition, which proved a disaster. He brought back no gold and his son was killed. James then had him executed on the original charge. During his long years in the Tower, Ralegh wrote his History of the World, brooding much on time and vicissitudes. It has grand passages and became popular, but Ralegh only reached 130 bc and as a work of history it was old-fashioned before it appeared. John Aubrey included Ralegh in his Brief Lives. Ralegh's ‘graceful presence was no mean recommendation’ to Queen Elizabeth, who liked ‘proper men’. Ralegh was a ‘tall, handsome and bold man, but damnable proud … he spake broad Devonshire to his dying day.’

J. A. Cannon

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Raleigh, Sir Walter

Raleigh, Sir Walter (1552–1618) English soldier, explorer, and writer. A favourite courtier of Elizabeth I, he organized expeditions to North America, including the failed attempt to found a colony in Virginia (now North Carolina). He fought in France and against Spain and sat in Parliament. On James I's ascension to the throne, he was imprisoned (1603–16) for treason, writing his History of the World. He was released in order to lead an expedition to Guiana in search of the gold of El Dorado but was betrayed to the Spanish. At Spanish insistence, Raleigh returned to prison and was executed for treason.

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