Born in 1552
Died in Whitehall, London
Died on 29th of October 1618
Born 1552 Hayes Barton. Died 1618 - English courtier, navigator & poet
Walter Raleigh, or Ralegh, was born sometime in 1552 and died 29th October 1618. He was an English navigator, adventurer, courtier to Elizabeth I, author and poet. He was born into a well connected gentry family at Hayes Barton in Devon and attended Oxford University for a brief time. He fought with the Huguenots in France and registered with the Middle Temple Inn of Court in London as a barrister. In 1578 Raleigh sailed for North America with explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert, his half brother, in an attempt to find 'territories not possessed by any Christian princes'. The expedition was gruelling and Raleigh reached the Cape Verde Islands in his ship, The Falcon, after losing many men on board. He returned to England in 1579. After various stints in prison for feisty behaviour amongst adversaries such as the Earl of Oxford and later the Earl of Essex, Raleigh was ordered to Ireland to help suppress an uprising and fight Spanish and Italian mercenaries sent there by the Pope. He received extensive estates in Munster for his efforts. Upon his return to England he began ingratiating himself upon Queen Elizabeth I who adored him and bestowed many riches and properties upon him. In 1585 she knighted him for his plans to found a colony in the Americas which he had already called Virginia, in her honour. He sponsored the first English colony in America on Roanoke Island - now North Carolina. The colony failed and another attempt at colonisation also failed in 1587. Raleigh has been credited with bringing potatoes and tobacco back to Britain and planting the first potatoes in Ireland, although both of these were already known via the Spanish. However, Raleigh did help to make smoking fashionable at court. He became an MP for Devonshire in 1585 and was appointed Vice Admiral of the West, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall and Lord Warden of the Stanneries (the mining towns of Dartmoor). He also managed to uncover the Babington Plot to put Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne, and was even appointed Captain of the Guard. In the Armada year of 1588 he was employed as Vice Admiral of Devon, responsible for looking after the coastal defences, and he contributed much to the English victory. However, he fell out of favour with the Queen in 1592 when she discovered his secret marriage to Elizabeth "Bess" Throckmorton, one of her ladies-in-waiting. In a jealous rage, she imprisoned Raleigh and Bess in the Tower of London. Upon his release and in order to regain favour with the Queen, Raleigh captured the spoils of a captured Spanish ship the, Madre de Dios, for Queen Elizabeth. However, Raleigh and Bess remained devoted to each other and had 2 children, Walter and Carew. In 1593 Raleigh was elected a burgess of Mitchell in Cornwall, and retired to his estate at Sherborne, and built what is now known as the new Sherborne Castle. Raleigh then set his sites on finding the fabled land of El-Dorado and in 1595 set sail for South America in an attempt to find it and capture the Spanish settlements there. Upon his return to England he wrote The Discovery of the Large, Rich and Beautiful Empire of Guyana'. However, despite defeating the Spanish Armada, the threat from Spain had not diminished, and Raleigh and his rival Essex were ordered to attack Cadiz in 1596, where Raleigh was badly injured. He also participated in a fairly fruitless voyage to the Azores in 1597. James VI of Scotland, Elizabeth I's successor, disliked Raleigh and in 1603 he was accused of plotting against the king and sentenced to death. This was reduced to life imprisonment and Raleigh spent the next 12 years in the Tower of London again, where he wrote the first volume of his 'History of the World', published in 1614. In 1616 Raleigh was released to lead a second expedition to search for El-Dorado, a project for which Raleigh had to pour all his personal wealth into. This expedition was also a failure, and Raleigh also defied the King's instructions by attacking the Spanish. On his return to England, the death sentence was reinstated and Raleigh was executed on 29th October 1618 at Whitehall. His body is buried in the Chancel of St Margaret's church , abutting Westminster Abbey.
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