Britannia Biographies: Sir Walter Raleigh Part 16

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Biography of Sir Walter Raleigh by Christopher Smith

S I R      W A L T E R
 R A L E I G H
Part 16: A Prisoner in the Tower

The Tower of London

Raleigh was assigned two rooms on the second floor of the Bloody Tower and here he lived for some thirteen years. Though there were occasional summonses before the Privy Council and one brief removal to a less conspicuous gaol. Lady Raleigh was allowed to visit him and conditions were so relaxed that their second son, Carew, was born in the Tower in 1605. Wat was still a healthy child though, at one point, he almost died of the plague when it was ravishing the city. Sir Walter's financial position was desperate. He lost their home due to a legal slip and was obliged to pawn a diamond given him by the late Queen. King James did, however, allow Lady Raleigh a pension. Raleigh was in the Tower at the time of the infamous Guy Fawkes' imprisonment and many wondered if he might be involved in the Gunpowder Plot. Itself.

Sir Walter now started writing his 'War with Spain,' his 'Instructions to His Son' and, of course, his famous 'History of the World' which King James did eventually allow him to publish. Raleigh also found friendship with the King's neglected wife, Queen Anne (of Denmark), whom he began to turn to for support. He was soon appointed as tutor to her son, Henry, the Prince of Wales: a fine young man who is said to have proclaimed that "None but my father would keep such a bird in a cage". Sadly Henry died of typhoid, in 1612, after swimming in the Thames, leaving his incompetent brother, Charles, as heir to the throne.

The King, meanwhile, was kept busy entertaining his many favourites at court. Robert Carr had been given Sherborne castle, but he now fell out of favour and James became interested in George Villiers, said to have been the most beautiful man in England. James showered him with riches which he could scarce afford and soon found himself desperate for money. Ambassador Gondomar - 'the Spanish Machiavelli' - encouraged the King's extravagance in order to extract the best deal possible for Spain from a proposed Royal marriage alliance between the Spanish Infanta and Prince Charles. James coveted the lady's promised dowry, but, in 1615, when the ambassador presented the required terms, the king found them to be totally unacceptable: any children of the union were to be baptised and educated as Catholics and the penal laws repealed to allow freedom of worship. Still desperate for cash, King James now began to lend a sympathetic ear to Secretary Westwood. He suggested a resurrection of Raleigh's plans to discover the glittering gold which was supposedly hidden along the banks of the Orinoco.

Part 17: A Last Chance    Copyright ©1999, LLC