Britannia Biographies: Sir Walter Raleigh Part 11

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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 11: The Wilderness Years

New Sherborne Castle, built by RaleighElizabeth's refusal to forgive his marriage was a source of great bitterness to Raleigh; but, though he was no longer in favour, he still owned Durham House and Sherborne Castle and benefited from his monopolies. He had been shamed, but not ruined. However, he was still separated from his beloved wife. A situation which was only brought to and end by a stroke of luck.

Sir John Borough captured the Madre de Deos, a floating castle of 1,600 tons with seven decks manned by 800 crewmen. Hawkins estimated the haul at 500,000 and Lord Burghley sent Raleigh to Dartmouth to divide the spoils. Elizabeth benefited from most of the bounty. Raleigh secured no riches but, on 22nd December, Arthur Throckmorton was able to record in his diary that "my sister was delivered from the Tower." A grudgingly grateful Queen had, at last, allowed Sir Walter and Bess to start their new life together at Sherborne.

The couple's first child must have died, but Bess was soon pregnant again and their son, Wat, was born in 1593. In the same year, Raleigh started to build a grand new house, south of the old castle at Sherborne, on the site of a hunting lodge. His half-brother, Adrian Gilbert, was the surveyor. Sir Walter settled down to the life of a country gentleman. He became firm friends with Charles Thynne of nearby Longleat in Wiltshire and also turned to his brother, Carew, who became a close companion.

Raleigh busied himself in Parliament. He spoke on religious matters and the need for a strong British naval force, but ill advisedly questioned James VI of Scotland's succession to Elizabeth. Essex continued to try to blacken his name, a cause which was helped by Sir Walter having befriended the playwright, Christopher Marlowe, who was a well-known atheist. To improve his image, Raleigh arrested a half-Cornish, half-Irish Catholic priest. He had him convicted in Dorchester (Dorset), hanged, drawn and quartered, and his head stuck on the pinnacle of St. Peter's Church in the same town.

Part 12: The Search for El Dorado    Copyright ©1999, LLC