Sir Walter Raleigh

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Related to Walter Ralegh: Francis Drake, Humphrey Gilbert

Raleigh or Ralegh, Sir Walter

(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 GilbertGilbert, Sir Humphrey,
1537?–1583, English soldier, navigator, and explorer; half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh. Knighted (1570) for his service in the campaigns in Ireland, he later (1572) served in the Netherlands.
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 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 IslandRoanoke Island,
12 mi (19 km) long and 3 mi (4.8 km) wide, NE N.C., off the Atlantic coast between Croatan (W) and Roanoke (E) sounds in the Outer Banks. Manteo is the chief town, and tourism and fishing are the principal industries.
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, 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 EssexEssex, Robert Devereux, 2d earl of
, 1567–1601, English courtier and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. Succeeding to the earldom on the death (1576) of his father, he came under the guardianship of Lord Burghley and
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, Elizabeth's new favorite, Raleigh left court in 1589. At Kilcolman Castle, Ireland, he became a close friend of Edmund SpenserSpenser, Edmund,
1552?–1599, English poet, b. London. He was the friend of men eminent in literature and at court, including Gabriel Harvey, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Robert Sidney, earl of Leicester.
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, 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 HarriotHarriot, Thomas
, 1560–1621, English mathematician and astronomer. He was tutor to Sir Walter Raleigh, who sent him in 1585 to Virginia as surveyor with Sir Richard Grenville.
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 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 DoradoEl Dorado
[Span.,=the gilded man], legendary country of the Golden Man sought by adventurers in South America. The legend supposedly originated in a custom of the Chibcha people of Colombia who each year anointed a chieftain and rolled him in gold, which he then ceremonially
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. 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).

Raleigh, Sir Walter

drops his cloak over a puddle to save Queen Elizabeth from wetting her feet. [Br. Lit.: Scott Kenilworth in Magill I, 469]
References in periodicals archive ?
Sir Walter Ralegh was in his ascendancy at the time as well; he was 34 in 1588.
Sir Walter Ralegh married Bess in secret, which led to her banishment from court; Bess Ralegh, pictured as a young woman in 1591, was brave and resourceful during an unforgiving age
Advice to a Son: Precepts of Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Ralegh, Francis Osborne (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1962).
Tarbox's Sir Walter Ralegh and His Colony in America (1884); Irvin Anthony's Ralegh and His World (1934); and Ernest A.
wrote Sir Walter Ralegh [most recently spelled Raleigh], in The Discovery of the Large, Rich and Beautiful Empire of Guiana, 1596.
For example, he interprets poems by Walter Ralegh and Robert Sidney that allude to the Marian shrine at Walsingham as "reaction(s) to the loss of a specifically Catholic, Mariological dimension in English post-Reformation life" (135), even though Ralegh's distress is occasioned by his rejection by Elizabeth I, and Sidney's by his longing for his absent wife.
A promotional document written by Richard Hakluyt the younger for Gilbert's half-brother Walter Ralegh borrowed various ideas from Gilbert too.
1997: Sir Walter Ralegh, The Discoverie of the Large, Rich and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana.
In her prologue, Armstrong sets the scene for her investigation by examining some of the more influential sixteenth-century discourses on America; she assesses how translations of French and Spanish travel narratives and the texts of Elizabethan explorers and commentators, such as Richard Hakluyt, Walter Ralegh, Martin Frobisher, Thomas Harriot, and John Davis, shaped perceptions of America, which in turn helped to establish the pattern of exploration and settlement.
One examines the discourses that surround the works and promotions of Richard Hakluyt, the second explores what Sir Walter Ralegh read and how the works of this period were consumed, while the final one works to reconsider John Smith.