Sir Wal­ter Ralegh’s ex­tra­or­di­nary life

BBC History Magazine - - Cover Story -

Wal­ter Ralegh is born at Hayes Bar­ton, Devon. Hav­ing be­come a favourite of Queen Eliz­a­beth I (right), Ralegh re­ceives a patent for the ex­plo­ration of the New World. Ralegh is knighted. He sup­ports the first Roanoke set­tle­ment in ‘Vir­ginia’. Ralegh is used by Queen Eliz­a­beth to write a pa­tri­otic ac­count of the fate of the Re­venge, the only ship lost to Spain dur­ing years of war, so turn­ing a naval loss into a mo­ral tri­umph.

Ralegh sails to South Amer­ica and sub­se­quently pub­lishes an ac­count of his ex­pe­ri­ences in The Dis­cov­ery of Guiana. Death of King James’s son Prince Henry, be­lieved to be a sup­porter of Ralegh. Ralegh’s His­tory of the World is pub­lished. He also writes Di­a­logue Be­tween a Coun­sel­lor of State and a Jus­tice of Peace. Ralegh joins the English army in Ire­land. Eliz­a­beth I has Ralegh im­pris­oned fol­low­ing his se­cret mar­riage to Bess Throck­mor­ton and the birth of their son, Damerei. Two more sons, Wal­ter and Carew, fol­low Eliz­a­beth I dies. Ralegh is found guilty of trea­son af­ter be­ing ac­cused of par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ‘Main Plot’ to un­seat the new king, James VI and I. Ralegh is re­leased from the Tower to lead an ex­pe­di­tion to find gold in ‘Guiana’. He sets sail the fol­low­ing year. Af­ter his troops at­tack a Span­ish out­post in South Amer­ica – against King James’s or­ders – Ralegh’s death sen­tence is re­in­stated. He is ex­e­cuted on 29 Oc­to­ber.

Ralegh’s se­cond son, Wal­ter, shown in a 1602 por­trait

James I cre­ates his son, Henry, Prince of Wales in a con­tem­po­rary il­lus­tra­tion

A por­trait of Ralegh’s neme­sis, James I

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