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Essay on Sir Walter Raleigh

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Sample Essay on Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh was an explorer, a politician, a historian, a soldier, a sailor, and a poet. He was born at Hayes, Devonshire in 1552 (Compton’s Encyclopedia. 91). The year of his birth is somewhat in question. Some believe he was born in 1554(Poetry Criticism. 200). He entered Oriel College, Oxford in 1568, but the next year he left to join the Huguenot Army in France.

Sir Raleigh gained the recognition of Queen Elizabeth I after his heroic efforts in the suppression of the Irish rebellion in Cork. The story was that he won the Queens favor by throwing his expensive velvet cloak on a mud puddle and allowing the queen to walk on it so she did not get her shoes wet (Compton’s Encyclopedia. 90).

Sir Raleigh was said to be a handsome and witty man, with country manners and imposing personality. He was a proud man. Queen Elizabeth granted him many favors during her reign. He always fulfilled his responsibilities in an excellent manner. His greatest claim to fame was his efforts to colonize the new world. His position at court gave him an opportunity to push this great project, but the queen would not permit him to lead any colonizing expeditions in person. To Sir Walter Raleigh the vision of a new England beyond the sea had an irresistible appeal.

Sir Walter Raleigh was tireless in his effort to settle English people in America. He sent out one expedition after another. The area explored by his expedition in 1584 was given the name Virginia in honor of the “virgin queen,” as Queen Elizabeth was called. Three settlements were made on the island off North Carolina, but none survived. Sir Raleigh’s work did pave the way for later settlements. His crew brought back tobacco and potatoes from the new world. He popularized smoking and created a demand for the tobacco leaf. This become a profitable crop in the colonies. He was in Ireland when he introduced the potato in 1592 (Compton’s Encyclopedia. 91).

Sir Walter Raleigh encountered the queens’ anger when she discovered he had secretly married Queen Elizabeth’s maid of honor(Agnes. 145). They both were immediately imprisoned in the Tower of London. Sir Raleigh’s sense of lose and anger about this incident were expressed in his peon, “The Ocean to Cynthia.” In less than a year the queen’s need for Sir Raleigh’s services to stop the Spanish piracy led to his release. He eventually regained his post as captain of the Guard, but the intimate royal access that he once enjoyed was never regained.

In 1596, Sir Raleigh undertook an expedition to Guiana. Upon his return he published, “The Discovery of Guiana,” an account of the wealth and potential of this area. This gave him broad acceptance among Elizabethan intellectuals.

Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603 and King James I inherited the throne. King James did not trust Sir Walter Raleigh because of his role in the execution of Essex and because of their conflicting views toward Spain and Catholicism. Hostility between the two men led to a change of conspiracy against Sir Raleigh who was accused of plotting against the king. He was sentenced to death. King James later commented sentence to life in prison. He was sent to the Tower of London where he remained for the next thirteen years. Most of he time of his imprisonment his wife and son were allowed to live with him. He was visited by many great scholars and poets (Compton’s Encyclopedia. 29)

during his imprisonment he became close friends with Prince Henry who was King James’ son. For Prince Henry, Sir Walter Raleigh wrote the book, History of the World. The first volume, published in 1614, only went to 130 B.C. Prince Henry tried to convince his father to free Sir Raleigh but was not successful. Prince Henry died in 1614(Reference Guide to English Literature. 1119)

In 1616, Sir Raleigh convinced King James to release him and lead an expedition to the Orinoco River and bring back some of the gold that he claimed to have discovered. The king agreed to release him but not to pardon him. The king ordered him not to engaged in combat with the Spaniards. When in Guiana, Sir Raleigh disobeyed the king and engaged in combat with the Spaniards Sir Raleigh’s son was killed as were many men on both sides (Compton’s Encyclopedia. 146) the expedition was a disaster. Not only did Sir Raleigh lose his son, disobeyed the king, but also failed to find the riches he had promised the king. During the expedition, Sir Raleigh contracted a tropical disease and almost attempted to flee to France, but was stopped and arrested.

King James invoked the death sentence of 1603 (www.havard.com.1) it was believed that the death sentence was invoked, primarily, to appease the Spanish (Compton’s Encyclopedia. 146) on October 29, 1618, Sir Walter Raleigh was executed by beheading.

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