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Sir Walter Raleigh is one of the most notable explorers favored by Queen Elizabeth I. Despite his high reputation, he was arrested and imprisoned and was soon executed through beheading.
See the fact file below for more information on Walter Raleigh or alternatively, you can download our 32-page Walter Raleigh worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Walter Raleigh, an English explorer, writer, and soldier, was believed to have been born around 1552 or 1554 in Hayes Barton, East Budleigh in Devon, England.
- Raised by a prominent family, his parents, Walter Raleigh and Catherine Champernowne were said to be both in their second marriages.
- His father was a farmer and a seafarer who generated most of his income from his shipping ventures.
- Walter Raleigh was the youngest among five siblings.
- Carew Raleigh was his full brother while John Gilbert, Humphrey Gilbert, and Adrian Gilbert, were his half brothers.
- His family was well-acquainted and believed to be a junior branch of the family of de Raleigh.
- Catherine Champernowne’s aunt, Kat Ashley, was the governess of Elizabeth I when she was still a princess.
- Walter Raleigh and his brothers were introduced by Kat Ashley to the court.
- His brothers Humphrey Gilbert and Adrian Gilbert were both known explorers and members of the Parliament.
- His family is a highly devoted Protestant.
- During the time of Catholic Mary I, Protestants were persecuted so his family had to do a number of escapes.
- Due to this, Walter Raleigh had developed hatred towards Roman Catholicism ever since he was a child.
- In 1569, the 17-year old Walter Raleigh left for France and fought with the Huguenots during the French Wars of Religion.
- Walter Raleigh studied at Oriel College, Oxford but left and never finished his degree.
- He pursued and finished his studies at the Inns of Court in London.
- It was said that he was admitted in the Middle Temple, one of the Inns Court which caters barristers, but as stated by Walter Raleigh, he never studied law.
Walter Raleigh, The Queen’s Favorite
- In 1578, Walter Raleigh joined his brother, Humphrey Gilbert on a voyage in North America to look for the Northwest Passage.
- In 1580, he caught the attention of Queen Elizabeth I, when he went to Ireland to fearlessly help in an uprising in Munster.
- Being handsome and confident, he made an excellent impression when the queen invited him to the court.
- Walter Raleigh became the queen’s favorite showering him with privileges including royal commissions, grants, titles, and positions which allowed him to receive a large amount of money.
- Due to this, he was despised by others.
- One legendary story states that Walter Raleigh even threw his cloak across a puddle for the queen to walk over so she could avoid getting her feet wet.
- He was knighted in 1585 and also became a member of the Parliament wherein he received expansive properties in Ireland.
- In 1587, he was made as “Captain of the Queen’s Guard” with another favorite, the 2nd Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux.
- The queen was also said to be really fond of Walter Raleigh’s poetry too.
- During this period, he wrote most of his poems which were designed to flatter the queen, and among these were his “Cynthia” poems.
Walter Raleigh’s Expeditions
- Walter Raleigh was authorized by Queen Elizabeth I to explore and colonize remote territories with no Christian inhabitants.
- He went on various expeditions and when he was able to gain power at court, wanted to create English colonies in North America against the Spanish colonial policy.
- However, as the favorite, Walter Raleigh was forbidden to go overseas because the queen wanted to keep him close to her.
- He organized an expedition in April 1584 and sent Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlow to North America to establish his first English colony in Roanoke Island.
- He named it Virginia after Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen.
- He sent out his men to make a colony in Roanoke Island but due to some quarrels and aggressive natives, the colonists were forced to return to England.
- In their return, they brought tobacco which they presented at the queen’s court and called it “brown gold”.
- Weeks later, Sir Richard Grenville came to Roanoke Island together with some colonists and brought some supplies.
- Fifteen men were left to Roanoke to ensure the claim of England to the land and Grenville returned to England with the others.
- In 1587, more men were sent by Raleigh under John White’s leadership.
- However, upon reaching Roanoke Island, the men who were left by Grenville were nowhere to be found and believed to have died.
- John White returned to England in August 1587 but when he went back to Roanoke Island in 1590, the colony was already gone.
- In February 1595, Walter Raleigh and his men began their expedition in search of the El Dorado.
- According to rumors, El Dorado was located in the mountains of Guiana in South America.
- They first landed in Trinidad where they captured Don Antonio de Berrio, a Spanish leader who was also looking for the El Dorado.
- Walter Raleigh questioned Don Antonio de Berrio’s information about the El Dorado.
- Walter Raleigh and his men sailed to Orinoco River and met a village chief named Topiawari.
- Topiawari told Walter Raleigh about a rich culture who were in the mountains and Walter believed that this was the El Dorado they were looking for.
- He and his men continued their expedition but due to the weather conditions, with insufficient supplies, and little proof of El Dorado’s existence, they decided to go back to England.
- His expedition was considered a failure but he still firmly believed that El Dorado existed.
- His expedition was also deemed to be significant due to the alliances he was able to form with the natives that were believed to eventually have an impact on future colonization.
The Secret Marriage
- Walter Raleigh wanted to settle down with one of Elizabeth I’s ladies-in-waiting named Elizabeth Throckmorton.
- It was believed that as early as 1588, both could have already gotten married and had it kept from the jealous queen.
- In 1592, the queen had discovered the couple’s relationship when Throckmorton was about to give birth to their son.
- She was so jealous and she felt betrayed so she sent the couple to the Tower of London where they were separately imprisoned.
- Their baby, Damerei Raleigh, who was just born at that time, was sent with them but died after the plague outbreak.
- As Queen Elizabeth I felt sorry for what happened, she released Bess.
- A few months later, Walter Raleigh was also released but he was dismissed from his positions and was stripped of his privileges.
- He finished writing his “Cynthia” poems with contents of distress at losing royal favor.
- Walter Raleigh tried regaining the queen’s affection through an expedition to the Orinoco River in South America to find the El Dorado, the said legendary land of Gold.
- As the couple were devoted to each other, they had two more sons named Walter Raleigh and Carew Raleigh.
The New King
- Just as Walter Raleigh regained his royal favor, Queen Elizabeth I died on March 24, 1603.
- She was succeeded by James VI of Scotland who was eventually called James I of England.
- However, James I did not favor Walter Raleigh as much as the queen did.
- James I was a Protestant but he was eager to improve relationships with Spain.
- As Walter Raleigh had a conflicting relationship with Catholics and was against the Spanish, he was in a disagreement with the other officials.
- King James I accused Walter Raleigh of treason and sentenced him to death for his involvement in “Main Plot”, which aimed to replace the king with his cousin, Lady Arabella Stuart.
- The sentence was changed into imprisonment in the Tower of London.
- King James I showed mercy when he reduced Walter Raleigh’s sentence to life imprisonment in Tower of London.
- He was given luxurious rooms and was able to live there with Bess where their third child was also conceived.
- He was locked up in the tower for 13 years.
- During his imprisonment, he was also able to grow exotic plants, write poetry, study, and was visited by visitors such as Henry, Prince of Wales.
- He made an incomplete version of The Historie of the World with five completed versions published in 1614.
- Despite the given privileges and comfort, Walter Raleigh attempted suicide in his first early days of imprisonment.
Walter Raleigh, Last Expedition
- Walter Raleigh was released in 1616 and was sent to his final expedition to find El Dorado again.
- However, upon his return in June 1618, he was accused of igniting a war between Spain and England.
- With this, King James I had reinstated his original sentence of treason and execution.
- He was imprisoned at the Beauchamp Tower prior to his execution.
- Walter Raleigh was beheaded on October 29, 1618, at the Palace of Westminster.
- Courageously facing his fate, his last words were, “Strike, man, strike!”
- The embalmed head of Walter Raleigh was given to Bess and was kept in her red velvet bag for 29 years when she died.
- Walter Raleigh’s body was supposed to be buried in a local church located in Beddington, Surrey but after Bess died, it was laid to rest in St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster.
Walter Raleigh Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Walter Raleigh across 32 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching about Walter Raleigh who was one of the most notable explorers favored by Queen Elizabeth I.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Walter Raleigh Facts
- Is It True?
- What Do You Mean?
- Know Them
- Five Wh One H
- Walter, A Poet
- Story Teller
- Find the El Dorado
- The Expedition
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Link will appear as Walter Raleigh Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 11, 2021
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