Britannia Biographies: Sir Walter Raleigh Part 5


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Family Background
Youthful Experience
Irish Command
Queen's Favourite
Discovery of Virginia
Royal Servant
Ralph Lane's Colony
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Out with the Old
In the Tower
Last Chance
Return to America
Execution


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 5: The 'Discovery' of Virginia

A Native American Stockaded VillageThe aim of planting colonies in North America was an most ambitious project bequeathed to Raleigh by his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Sir Humphrey had tried, in 1578 and again in 1580, to set up such colonies with the services of the Portuguese pilot, Simon Fernandez. Fernandez had crossed the Atlantic and returned three months later with valuable information about the New England Coast Line. Following this, Walter helped pay for a second expedition in 1583, when Sir Humphrey set sail in the Bark Raleigh. He reached Newfoundland, but perished aboard the Squirrel near the Azores on his return.

From Durham House, Walter planned a third expedition with John Dee and Thomas Harriot, one of the greatest mathematicians of the day. It sailed in May 1584 and arrived off Florida in July. They made a landing on Roanoke Island where they found a palisaded village. The land was a paradise and the inhabitants friendly and, after some weeks, they persuaded two of the natives to return with them to England. They arrived safely from 'Virginia' in the September following.

At Raleigh's request, Richard Hakluyt, a well-known Elizabethan historian, wrote the 'Discourse' portraying the Americas as a promised land of honey, venison, palm trees, wine, sassafras (a cure for VD), gold and red copper. Hakluyt saw America as a panacea for unemployment. Prisons could be emptied of criminals who could then be transported to this New World. He insisted the Spanish genocidal policies were an outrage and that the Queen should give every assistance the Native Americans. Raleigh was much influenced by these ideas and decided to arrange another expedition. This time, however, he was to remain at home.

Part 6: The Royal Servant


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