The directory «Plots»
Sir Walter Raleigh or Ralegh, was a famed English writer, poet, courtier and explorer. Born to a protestant family in Devon, little is known for certain of his early life, though he spent some time in Ireland, in Killuagh castle, Clonmellon county Westmeath, taking part in the suppression of rebellions and becoming a landlord there. He rose rapidly in Queen Elizabeth I's favour, being knighted in 1585, and was involved in the early English colonisation of the New World in Virginia under a royal patent. In 1591 he secretly married one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, for which he and his wife were sent to the Tower of London. After his release they retired to his estate at Sherborne, Dorset.
In 1594 he heard of a "golden city" in South America and sailed to find it, publishing an exaggerated account of his experiences in a book that contributed to the legend of El Dorado. After Elizabeth died in 1603, Raleigh was again imprisoned in the Tower, this time for alleged treason against King James who was not favourably disposed toward him. However in 1616 he was released in order to conduct a second expedition in search of El Dorado. This was unsuccessful and the Spanish outpost at San Thomé was ransacked by men under his command. After his return to England he was arrested and after a show trial, mainly to appease the Spanish, he was beheaded at Westminster.
Raleigh was born in the year 1552, the exact month is unknown, in the house of Hayes Barton, in the village of East Budleigh, not far from Budleigh Salterton in Devon, England. He was a half brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and also had a full brother named Carew Raleigh. Raleigh's family was strongly Protestant in religious orientation and experienced a number of near-escapes during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I of England. In the most notable of these, Raleigh's father had to hide in a tower to avoid being killed. Thus, during his childhood, Raleigh developed a hatred of Catholicism, proving himself quick to express it after the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558.
In 1568 or 1572, he was registered as an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford, but does not seem to have taken up residence, and in 1575 he was registered at the Middle Temple. His life between these two dates is uncertain but from a reference in his History of the World he seems to have served with the French Huguenots at the battle of Jarnac, 13 March 1569. At his trial in 1603 he stated that he had never studied law.
Between 1579 and 1583, Raleigh took part in the suppression of the Desmond Rebellions. He was present at the siege of Smerwick, where he oversaw the slaughter of some 700 Italian soldiers after they had surrendered unconditionally. Upon the seizure and distribution of land following the attainders arising from the rebellion, Raleigh received 40,000 acres (160 km²), including the coastal walled towns of Youghal and Lismore. This made him one of the principal landowners in Munster, but he enjoyed limited success in inducing English tenants to settle on his estates.
During his seventeen years as an Irish landlord, frequently domiciling at Killulagh Castle, Clonmellon, county Westmeath, Raleigh made the town of Youghal his occasional home, where he was mayor from 1588 to 1589. He is credited with having planted the first potatoes in Ireland, but it is far more likely that the plant arrived in Ireland through trade with the Spanish. His town mansion, Myrtle Grove, is assumed to be the setting for the story that his servant doused him with a bucket of water after seeing clouds of smoke coming from Raleigh's pipe, in the belief he had been set alight. But this story is also told of other places related to Raleigh: the Virginia Ash inn in Henstridge near Sherborne, Sherborne Castle, and South Wraxall Manor in Wiltshire, home of Raleigh's friend, Sir Walter Long.
Amongst Raleigh's acquaintances in Munster was another Englishman who had been granted land there, the poet Edmund Spenser. In the 1590s, he and Raleigh travelled together from Ireland to the court at London, where Spenser presented part of his allegorical poem, the Faerie Queene, to Elizabeth I.
Raleigh's management of his Irish estates ran into difficulties, which contributed to a decline in his fortunes. In 1602, he sold the lands to Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. Boyle subsequently prospered under kings James I and Charles I, such that following Raleigh's death, Raleigh family members approached Boyle for compensation on the basis that Raleigh had struck an improvident bargain.
Raleigh's plan for colonization in the "Colony and Dominion of Virginia" (which included the present-day states of North Carolina and Virginia) in North America ended in failure at Roanoke Island, but paved the way for subsequent colonies. His voyages were funded primarily by himself and his friends, never providing the steady stream of revenue necessary to start and maintain a colony in America. (Subsequent colonization attempts in the early 17th century were made under the joint-stock Virginia Company which was able to pull together the capital necessary to create successful colonies.)
In 1587, Raleigh attempted a second expedition again establishing a settlement on Roanoke Island. This time, a more diversified group of settlers was sent, including some entire families, under the governance of John White. After a short while in America, White was recalled to England in order to find more supplies for the colony. He was unable to return the following year as planned, however, because the Queen had ordered that all vessels remain at port in case they were needed to fight the Spanish Armada. It was not until 1591 that the supply vessel arrived at the colony, 4 years later, only to find that all colonists had disappeared. The only clue to their fate was the word "CROATOAN" and letters "CRO" carved into separate tree trunks, suggesting the possibility that they were either massacred, absorbed or taken away by Croatoans or perhaps another native tribe. Other speculation includes their being swept away or lost at sea during the stormy weather of 1588 (credited with aiding in the defeat of the Spanish Armada). However, it is worth noting that a hurricane prevented John White and the crew of the supply vessel from actually visiting Croatoan to investigate the disappearance, and no further attempts at contact were recorded for some years. Whatever the fate of the settlers, the settlement is now remembered as the "Lost Colony of Roanoke Island".
In December 1581 Raleigh came back to England from Ireland with despatches as his company had been disbanded. He took part in Court life and became a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. The various colourful stories told about him at this period are unlikely to be literally true. In 1592, Raleigh was given many rewards by the Queen, including Durham House in the Strand and the estate of Sherborne, Dorset. He was appointed Captain of the Guard, and as Lord Warden of the Stannaries of Devon and Cornwall. Raleigh was knighted in 1585. However, he had not been given any of the great offices of state. In the Armada year of 1588 he was employed as Vice Admiral of Devon, looking after the coastal defenses and military levies.
In 1591, Raleigh was secretly married to Elizabeth ("Bess") Throckmorton (or Throgmorton). She was one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, eleven years his junior, and was pregnant at the time of their marriage. She gave birth to a son, believed to be named "Damerei", who was given to a wet nurse at Durham House; the infant does not seem to have survived, and Bess resumed her duties. The following year, the unauthorized marriage was discovered and the Queen ordered Raleigh imprisoned and Bess dismissed from court. He was released from prison to divide the spoils from a captured Spanish ship, the Madre de Dios ("Mother of God").
It would be several years before Raleigh returned to favour. The couple remained devoted to each other. During Raleigh's absences, Bess proved a capable manager of the family's fortunes and reputation. They had two more sons, Walter (known as Wat) and Carew.
Raleigh retired to his estate at Sherborne where he built a new house, completed in 1594, known then as Sherborne Lodge but is now extended and known as Sherborne (new) Castle. He made friends with the local gentry, such as Sir Ralph Horsey of Clifton Maybank and Charles Thynne of Longleat. During this period at a dinner party at Horsey's, there was a heated discussion about religion which later gave rise to charges of atheism against Raleigh. He was elected to Parliament, speaking on religious and naval matters.
In 1594 he came into possession of a Spanish account of a great golden city at the headwaters of the Caroní River, and a year later he explored what is now eastern Venezuela in search of "Manoa," the legendary city in question. Once back in England, he published "The Discovery of Guiana" an account of his voyage which made exaggerated claims as to what had been discovered. The book can be seen as a contribution to the El Dorado legend. Although Venezuela has gold deposits, there is no evidence Raleigh found any mines. He is sometimes said to have discovered Angel Falls, but these claims are considered "far-fetched".
Raleigh took part in the capture of Cadiz in 1596, where he was wounded. He also participated in a voyage to the Azores in 1597.
From 1600 to 1603, Raleigh was the Governor of the Channel Island of Jersey, and he was responsible for modernizing the defences of the island. He named the new fortress protecting the approaches to Saint Helier Fort Isabella Bellissima, or Elizabeth Castle.
Though royal favour with Queen Elizabeth I had been restored by this time, it did not last. Elizabeth died in 1603, and Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London on 19 July. Later that year, on 17 November, Raleigh was tried in the converted Great Hall of Winchester Castle for treason due to his supposed involvement in the Main Plot against King James. Raleigh conducted his defence with great skill, which may, in part, explain why King James spared his life, despite the guilty verdict. He was left to languish in the Tower of London until 1616. While imprisoned, he wrote many treatises and the first volume of The Historie of the World, about the ancient history of Greece and Rome. His son Carew was conceived and born while Raleigh was legally 'dead' and imprisoned in the Tower of London (1604).
In 1616, Sir Walter was released from the Tower of London in order to conduct a second expedition to Venezuela in search of El Dorado. In the course of the expedition, Raleigh's men, under the command of Lawrence Keymis, sacked the Spanish outpost of San Thome on the Orinoco. During the initial attack on the settlement, Raleigh's son Walter was struck by a bullet and killed. On Raleigh's return to England, the outraged Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, the Spanish ambassador, demanded that King James reinstate Raleigh's death sentence. The ambassador's demand was granted.
Raleigh was beheaded at Whitehall on 29 October 1618. "Let us dispatch," he asked his executioner. "At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear." After he was allowed to see the axe that would behead him, he mused: "This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries". According to many biographers, Sir Walter's final words (as he lay ready for the axe to fall) were: "Strike a match man, strike!"
The corpse was to be buried in the local church in Beddington, Surrey, the home of Lady Raleigh. "The Lords," she wrote, "have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits". After Raleigh's execution, his head was embalmed and presented to his wife. She carried it with her in a velvet bag until she decided she didn't like the smell. She died twenty-nine years later and it was returned to Raleigh's tomb at St Margaret's. Raleigh's body was finally laid to rest in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, where his tomb may still be visited today.
Gibraltar, 1988, Sir Walter Raleigh
Great Britain, 1973, Sir Walter Raleigh
Guyana, 1934, Sir Walter Raleigh and his son
Jersey, 1976, Sir Water Raleigh and Map of Virginia
Jersey, 1980, Sir Water Raleigh
Jersey, 1992, Sir Water Raleigh and Columbus
Nicaragua, 1973, Walter Ralegh
St. Helena Island, 2005, Walter Raleigh, «The Ark Royal»
Virgin Islands, 1974, Walter Releigh