Raleigh, Sir Walter (15521618)

Raleigh, Sir Walter, courtier, soldier, and man of letters, born near Budleigh, in E. Devon, of ancient family; entered as student at Oxford, but at 17 joined a small volunteer force in aid of the Protestants in France; in 1580 distinguished himself in suppressing a rebellion in Ireland; was in 1582 introduced at court, fascinated the heart of the Queen by his handsome presence and his gallant bearing, and received no end of favours at her hand; joined his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in an expedition to North America, founded a colony, which he called Virginia in honour of the queen, and brought home with him the potato and the tobacco plants, till then unknown in this country; rendered distinguished services in the destruction of the Armada; visited and explored Guiana, and brought back tidings of its wealth in gold and precious things; fell into disfavour with the queen, but regained her esteem; under King James he became suspected of disloyalty, and was committed to the Tower, where he remained 12 years, and wrote his “History of the World”; on his release, but without a pardon, he set out to the Orinoco in quest of gold-mines there, but returned heart-broken and to be sentenced to die; he met his fate with calm courage, and was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard; of the executioner's axe he smilingly remarked, “A sharp medicine, but an infallible cure” (15521618).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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