Raleigh, Sir Walter

Raleigh, Sir Walter
born 1554?, Hayes Barton, near Budleigh Salterton, Devon, Eng.
died Oct. 29, 1618, London

English adventurer and favourite of Elizabeth I.

He joined his half brother Humphrey Gilbert on a piratical expedition against the Spanish (1578) then fought against the Irish rebels in Munster (1580). His outspoken views on English policy in Ireland caught the attention of Elizabeth I, who made him her favourite at court. In 1584 he sent an expedition to explore the coast north of Florida, which he named Virginia, and to establish an unsuccessful colony at Roanoke Island. He was knighted by Elizabeth in 1585. Out of favour at court from с 1592, he led an unsuccessful expedition up the Orinoco River in search of gold, which he described in The Discoverie of Guiana (1596). When Elizabeth died (1603), he was accused of plotting to depose James I and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Released in 1616, he led another unsuccessful expedition to search for gold in Guyana. When his men burned a Spanish settlement, he was rearrested by James and executed, at the demand of the Spanish ambassador, under Raleigh's original sentence for treason.

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▪ English explorer
Raleigh also spelled  Ralegh 
born 1554?, Hayes Barton, near Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England
died October 29, 1618, London
 English adventurer and writer, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, who knighted him in 1585. Accused of treason by Elizabeth's successor, James I, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and eventually put to death.

      Raleigh was a younger son of Walter Raleigh (d. 1581) of Fardell in Devon, by his third wife, Katherine Gilbert (née Champernowne). In 1569 he fought on the Huguenot (French Protestant) side in the Wars of Religion in France, and he is known later to have been at Oriel College, Oxford (1572), and at the Middle Temple law college (1575). In 1580 he fought against the Irish rebels in Munster, and his outspoken criticism of the way English policy was being implemented in Ireland brought him to the attention of Queen Elizabeth. By 1582 he had become the monarch's favourite, and he began to acquire lucrative monopolies, properties, and influential positions. His Irish service was rewarded by vast estates in Munster. In 1583 the queen secured him a lease of part of Durham House in the Strand, London, where he had a monopoly of wine licenses (1583) and of the export of broadcloth (1585); and he became warden of the stannaries (the Cornish tin mines), lieutenant of Cornwall, and vice admiral of Devon and Cornwall and frequently sat as a member of Parliament. In 1587, two years after he had been knighted, Raleigh became captain of the queen's guard. His last appointment under the crown was as governor of Jersey (one of the Channel Islands) in 1600.

      In 1592 Raleigh acquired the manor of Sherborne in Dorset. He wanted to settle and found a family. His marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, possibly as early as 1588, had been kept a secret from the jealous queen. In 1592 the birth of a son betrayed him, and he and his wife were both imprisoned in the Tower of London. Raleigh bought his release with profits from a privateering voyage in which he had invested, but he never regained his ascendancy at court. The child did not survive; a second son, Walter, was born in 1593 and a third son, Carew, in 1604 or 1605.

      Although Raleigh was the queen's favourite, he was not popular. His pride and extravagant spending were notorious, and he was attacked for unorthodox thought. A Jesuit pamphlet in 1592 accused him of keeping a “School of Atheism,” but he was not an atheist in the modern sense. He was a bold talker, interested in skeptical philosophy, and a serious student of mathematics as an aid to navigation. He also studied chemistry and compounded medical formulas. The old idea that Shakespeare satirized Raleigh's circle under the name of the "School of Night" is now entirely discredited.

      Raleigh's breach with the queen widened his personal sphere of action. Between 1584 and 1589 he had tried to establish a colony (Lost Colony) near Roanoke Island (in present North Carolina), which he named Virginia, but he never set foot there himself. In 1595 he led an expedition to what is now Venezuela, in South America, sailing up the Orinoco River in the heart of Spain's colonial empire. He described the expedition in his book The Discoverie of Guiana (1596). Spanish documents and stories told by Indians had convinced him of the existence of Eldorado (El Dorado), the ruler of Manoa, a supposedly fabulous city of gold in the interior of South America. He did locate some gold mines, but no one supported his project for colonizing the area. In 1596 he went with Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of Essex (Essex, Robert Devereux, 2nd earl of, Viscount Hereford, Lord Ferrers, Lord Bourchier), on an unsuccessful expedition to the Spanish city of Cádiz, and he was Essex's rear admiral on the Islands voyage in 1597, an expedition to the Azores.

      Raleigh's aggressive policies toward Spain did not recommend him to the pacific King James I (reigned 1603–25). His enemies worked to bring about his ruin, and in 1603 he and others were accused of plotting to dethrone the king. Raleigh was convicted on the written evidence of Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham, and, after a last-minute reprieve from the death sentence, was consigned to the Tower. He fought to save Sherborne, which he had conveyed in trust for his son, but a clerical error invalidated the deed. In 1616 he was released but not pardoned. He still hoped to exploit the wealth of Venezuela, arguing that the country had been ceded to England by its native chiefs in 1595. With the king's permission, he financed and led a second expedition there, promising to open a gold mine without offending Spain. A severe fever prevented his leading his men upriver. His lieutenant, Lawrence Kemys, burned a Spanish settlement but found no gold. Raleigh's son Walter died in the action. King James invoked the suspended sentence of 1603, and in 1618, after writing a spirited defense of his acts, Raleigh was executed.

 Popular feeling had been on Raleigh's side ever since 1603. After 1618 his occasional writings were collected and published, often with little discrimination. The authenticity of some minor works attributed to him is still unsure. Some 560 lines of verse in his hand are preserved. They address the queen as Cynthia and complain of her unkindness, probably with reference to his imprisonment of 1592. His best-known prose works in addition to The Discoverie of Guiana are A Report of the Truth of the Fight About the Iles of Açores This Last Sommer (1591; generally known as The Last Fight of the Revenge) and The History of the World (1614). The last work, undertaken in the Tower, proceeds from the Creation to the 2nd century BC. History is shown as a record of God's Providence, a doctrine that pleased contemporaries and counteracted the charge of atheism. King James was meant to note the many warnings that the injustice of kings is always punished.

      Raleigh survives as an interesting and enigmatic personality rather than as a force in history. He can be presented either as a hero or as a scoundrel. His vaulting imagination, which could envisage both North and South America as English territory, was supported by considerable practical ability and a persuasive pen, but some discrepancy between the vision and the deed made him less effective than his gifts had promised.

Agnes M.C. Latham

Additional Reading

Editions include The Works of Sir Walter Ralegh, 8 vol. (1829); The Discoverie…of Guiana, ed. by V.T. Harlow (1928); The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh, ed. by Agnes Latham, 2nd ed. (1951); The History of the World, ed. by C.A. Patrides (1971), representative selections; and T.N. Brushfield, A Bibliography of Sir Walter Raleigh, 2nd ed. (1908).

William Oldys, The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh (1736, reprinted 1829), was the first reputable biography; Edward Edwards, Life, 2 vol. (1868), is well-documented and includes a large collection of letters. William Stebbing, Sir Walter Ralegh, 2nd ed. (1899), is a most valuable study. Other useful works are Philip Ahier, The Governorship of Sir Walter Ralegh in Jersey, 1600–1603 (1971), a learned biographical study; and Robert Lacey, Sir Walter Ralegh (1974), a well-balanced, general account. A solid, more-recent biography is Raleigh Trevelyan, Sir Walter Raleigh (2002).

▪ Scottish essayist
in full  Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh 
born , Sept. 5, 1861, London
died May 13, 1922, Oxford

      Scottish man of letters and critic who was a prominent figure at the University of Oxford in his time.

      He held the chair of modern literature at Liverpool (1889–1900) and of English at Glasgow and was appointed Oxford's first professor of English literature in 1904. Raleigh was a brilliant and stimulating talker and lecturer and became the centre of the Oxford English school, which had not been established until 1894. His books (Style, 1897; Wordsworth, 1903; Shakespeare, 1907; Six Essays on Johnson, 1910) are the essays not of an exact scholar but of an urbane critic, sensitive without eccentricity, impressionistic and intuitive, synthetic rather than analytic. He was knighted in 1911.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Raleigh,Sir Walter — Raleigh or Ra·legh (rôʹlē, räʹ ), Sir Walter. 1552? 1618. English courtier, navigator, colonizer, and writer. A favorite of Elizabeth I, he campaigned in Ireland and Cádiz, explored Guiana, colonized Virginia, and introduced tobacco and the… …   Universalium

  • RALEIGH, Sir Walter — (c. 1552 1618) The consummate courtier, Sir Walter Raleigh was the epitome of the Renais­sance man, being a skilled poet, an overseas explorer, a military adventurer, and an effective parliamentarian. After devoting his early years to military… …   Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary

  • Raleigh, Sir Walter Alexander — (1861 1922)    Born in London, the son of a Congregationalist minister, his education was split between London and Edinburgh and he graduated B.A. from University College, London, in 1881. Although appointed the first professor of English… …   British and Irish poets

  • Raleigh, Sir Walter — (1552? 1618)    Explorer, statesman, admiral, historian, and poet, s. of Walter R., of Fardel, Devonshire, was b. at Hayes Barton in that county. In 1568 he was sent to Oxf., where he greatly distinguished himself. In the next year he began his… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • RALEIGH, SIR WALTER —    courtier, soldier, and man of letters, born near Budleigh, in E. Devon, of ancient family; entered as student at Oxford, but at 17 joined a small volunteer force in aid of the Protestants in France; in 1580 distinguished himself in suppressing …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Raleigh, Sir Walter — (¿1554?, Hayes Barton, cerca de Budleigh Salterton, Devon, Inglaterra–29 oct. 1618, Londres). Aventurero inglés y favorito de Isabel I. Se unió a su medio hermano Humphrey Gilbert en una expedición de piratería contra los españoles (1578) y luego …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Sir Walter Raleigh (essay) — Sir Walter Raleigh is an essay by Henry David Thoreau that has been reconstructed from notes he wrote for an 1843 lecture and drafts of an article he was preparing for The Dial .It was first published in 1950, in a collection of Thoreau’s… …   Wikipedia

  • Ralegh (Raleigh), Sir Walter — (1552 1618)    The military and naval commander and adventurer was born near Budleigh Salterton, South Devon. In 1569 he fought on the Huguenot side in the Wars of Religion in France and was later at Oriel College, Oxford (1572), and at the… …   British and Irish poets

  • Sir Walter Ralegh — noun English courtier (a favorite of Elizabeth I) who tried to colonize Virginia; introduced potatoes and tobacco to England (1552 1618) • Syn: ↑Raleigh, ↑Walter Raleigh, ↑Sir Walter Raleigh, ↑Ralegh, ↑Walter Ralegh • Instance Hypernyms:… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Sir Walter Raleigh — (* 1552 oder 1554 in Hayes Barton, Devonshire; † 29. Oktober 1618 in London) war ein englischer Seefahrer, Entdecker und Schriftsteller sowie Günstling der englischen Königin Elizabeth I. Sein Nachname findet sich auch in den Schreibweisen Rawley …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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