Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 29, 2012

Sir Walter Raleigh

October 29, 1618: Sir Walter Raleigh dies. He was born into a Protestant family in the year 1552 or 1554. He was the youngest of five sons, three of the older boys were half-brothers. All of Catherine’s sons were prominent in Elizabethan England. Catherine’s aunt was Elizabeth’s governess and so the boys were introduced at court. Since religion was such an issue during this time, the family had many close calls during Queen Mary I of England’s reign, as she was a staunch Roman Catholic. Because of their trouble with Queen Mary, Raleigh grew to hate Roman Catholicism and Catholics. He was a staunch supporter of Queen Elizabeth I – a Protestant – and made it known soon after her taking the throne in 1558.

Raleigh was part of the colonization effort beginning in 1584 in the Colony and Dominion of Virginia. However, his first attempt ended in failure with the loss at Roanoke Island. This first attempt paved the way for others in the coming years but his own ventures in the New World were funded for the most part by himself and some of his friends. In 1587 he once again tried to establish a colony on Roanoke Island with a more diverse group of settlers and under John White’s leadership. White returned to England only to have war intervene and was trapped in Britain as all ships were needed to defend against the Spanish Armada. By the time suppliers could return to the colony, it was once again missing.

Raleigh secretly married one of Elizabeth’s ladies-in-waiting. The couple left London and a child was born, only to die shortly thereafter. When the Queen found out about the subterfuge, both were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Eventually, all was forgiven and Raleigh was released. He once again went exploring in the New World and found a purported city of gold at the headwaters of the Caroni River. He continued to serve and explore and was once again a favorite at court. But it was not to last.

The Queen died in 1603 and was followed by King James. On July 19 of that year, Raleigh was arrested and once again thrown into the Tower of London. On November 17 he was tried for treason and acted as his own defense lawyer – brilliantly. The main piece of evidence against Raleigh was a confession by Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham. He was never called to testify. Even though found guilty, King James spared Raleigh’s life. He was released in 1616 and was back exploring in Venezuela searching for El Dorado. There, he and some men attacked a Spanish outpost. When he returned to England, the Spanish ambassador was outraged and called for Raleigh’s death. To appease the ambassador, Raleigh was beheaded, his head was embalmed, and then presented to his wife.

War begets quiet, quiet idleness, idleness disorder, disorder ruin; likewise ruin order, order virtue, virtue glory, and good fortune.

He that doth not as other men do, but endeavoureth that which ought to be done, shall thereby rather incur peril than preservation; for whoso laboureth to be sincerely perfect and good shall necessarily perish, living among men that are generally evil.

I have loved her all my youth, / But now old, as you see; / Love likes not the falling fruit / From the withered tree. / Know that love is a careless child / And forgets promise past; / He is blind, he is deaf when he list / And in faith never fast.

Strike, man, strike! (last words with his head on the block waiting to be decapitated) – all from Walter Raleigh.

Also on this day:

Ali, the Greatest – In 1960, Cassius Clay, later to be known as Muhammad Ali, had his first professional fight.
Seeing Red – In 1863, the International Red Cross got its start.
You’re in the Army Now – In 1940, the first peacetime draft in the US was instituted.

One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on October 29, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Raleigh being a hater of Roman Catholics is a good example of the crown and others trying to get rid of Protestants by sending them to North America. The pilgrims at Plymouth Rock and most of the first settlers in Virginia were from the jails in England. They had been given the choice of the gallows or the new world. The new world meant a chance for them to live at least longer than a few days until their execution date.

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