- Raleigh, Walter
- (ca. 1554-1618; also spelled Ralegh)English explorer, historian, poet, and courtier. Born of a seafaring family in Devonshire, he studied at Oxford and the Inns of Court. He fought in military campaigns in France and Ireland and became involved in overseas enterprise in 1578 when he commanded a ship in the un-successful attempt of his half-brother, Humphrey Gilbert, to plant a colony in North America. Raleigh attracted the favor of Queen Elizabeth I, was knighted and given valuable public offices. He com-manded expeditions against the Spanish in 1595 and 1616, but his bel-licose record and his political links to anti-Spanish political factions offended King James I (1603-1625) and contributed to his being con-victed of treason and sentenced to death in 1603. His real offense was involvement in an effort to prevent the accession of James to the En-glish throne. His death sentence was commuted to imprisonment in the Tower of London. He was released in order to carry out an expe-dition to the coast of Guyana in 1616, but when it failed to produce the anticipated plunder (which the crown would have shared) and led to Spanish diplomatic protests, he was executed in 1618 on the basis of the original conviction of 1603. As a poet, Raleigh produced a num-ber of much-admired lyrics; as a prose writer, he published accounts of expeditions to the Azores and Guyana, but his major prose work was his History of the World (1614).
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.