Sir Walter Raleigh: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Sir Walter Raleigh.

  • Walter Raleigh was an English aristocrat, writer and explorer. He is best known for establishing an early colony in the New World and for bringing tobacco back to England.
  • Raleigh is also known for his chivalry. On one occasion he is said to have put his cloak on the ground so that the Queen Elizabeth I did not have to step in muddy puddles.

  • He was born in Devon in about 1553, although little is known about his early life. Because he fought well in Ireland, Queen Elizabeth I trusted him with the colonizing of America.

Sir Walter Raleigh

  • In 1580, Raleigh helped to stop a rebellion by the Irish, making him more popular with Queen Elizabeth. He was given a knighthood, making him Sir Walter Raleigh, and became rich and powerful.
  • In 1587, he sent an expedition of colonists to Roanoke in present day North Carolina. The group mysteriously disappeared and to this day nobody knows what happened to them.
  • Although Sir Walter Raleigh did not play a very large role in repelling the Spanish Armada of 1588 (particularly when compared to the role played by Sir Francis Drake), he was a member of Elizabeth I’s war council, and worked hard to recruit troops and improve coastal defences.
  • In 1591, the Queen was upset because Raleigh married one of her servant girls. However, she forgave him when one of his expeditions to Spain resulted in the capture of a large treasure trove.
  • Walter Raleigh made two trips to South America in search of El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. Instead of gold, he found tobacco and potatoes.
  • King James I distrusted Raleigh and sentenced him to life imprisonment in the Tower of London and later, to death. While there, he wrote a book about Ancient Rome and Greece.
  • Sir Walter Raleigh was executed in London in October, 1618. His head was given to his wife who apparently kept it in a velvet bag until she died almost 30 years later.
  • The state capital of North Carolina was named after him, in 1792.
  • He has been portrayed in films and plays by Vincent Price, Richard Todd and Andy Griffith.

What next? Discover more Tudor facts by visiting our Tudor resources page.

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