Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh played a major role in the history of America. He established the Virginia colony Roanoke Island and earned an important place in U.S. history. He was the first person to send British colonists to America and establish the first English colony in the northeast coast of North Carolina. His persistent efforts led to the settlement of British in the New World.

Sir Walter Raleigh was a British soldier, explorer, poet, politician and writer. He was known as a dashing and bold figure during the rule of Queen Elizabeth I. He led an adventurous life with a dynamic personality having witty and charming behaviour.

Reaching Fame

• Sir Walter Raleigh became famous for establishing the first British colony in the land of America.

• He was the first to introduce the use of tobacco and the potato plant in England and Ireland. Before that, potato was considered poisonous and was not grown in the entire Europe.

• During the time of his imprisonment for 13 years for treason, he started writing poetry and about his adventure tales. His poems, “What is our Life” and “The Lie” gained much popularity. But most of his brilliant work was destroyed during his trial for disloyalty.

• He was known for his bold and courageous behavior in the court life during the Elizabethan Age.

Early Life

Sir Walter Raleigh was born in 1552 in Hayes Barton in Devonshire, England. His father, Walter Raleigh was a farmer and his half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert was a famous explorer. At the age of 17, he went to Oriel College at Oxford. When he was 17 years old, he left his college to fight for the Protestants (Huguenots) in France.


After serving the military in Huguenot army in France, Sir Walter Raleigh along with his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert initiated his expeditions against Spaniards. In 1582, while serving the Queen’s army in Ireland, he attracted the attention of Queen Elizabeth and joined the court. He rapidly gained her confidence and became her favourite courtier. He was offered monopolies, states and then knighthood in 1585. The Queen was so impressed by him that he was given privileges of trade and the right to form colonies in America. In 1584, under the support of Queen Elizabeth, he started his search to discover remote islands in the New World. He sent an army of English colonists to Roanoke Island, North Carolina, who later settled over there.

He played an active role in the court life and became an important figure during the Elizabethan Age. In 1593, he was elected in the parliament as a burgess of Mitchen. He penned down his expeditions to Guyana in ‘The Discovery of Guiana’. He worked as a Governor of the Channel Island in Jersey from 1600-1603. After the death of the Queen in 1603, Sir Walter Raleigh was arrested and imprisoned for 13 years for his involvement in making the plot against James I. He was released in 1617 after which he sailed to Guiana in South America to find gold. He could not find gold and returned back to England in disgrace. Sir Walter Raleigh was retried and condemned to death in England for the previous charge of betrayal.

Expeditions and First Colony in the New World

Sir Walter Raleigh was given permission by the Queen to explore and discover new remote islands. In 1584, under the charter of Queen Elizabeth, Walter Raleigh planned an expedition and sent two ships to North America. These two ships were led by Arthur Barlow and Philip Amadas. They returned to England and brought back certain items from the newly discovered land to be displayed in a show in London.

Sir Walter Raleigh made his first trial to settle the New World in the year 1585. A batch of settlers sailed from Plymouth and reached Virginia colony of Roanoke Island, which Raleigh named after Queen Elizabeth in her honor. The Queen was so happy that she offered him knighthood. They started unloading and settling in Roanoke and started building trading relationships with the local Indians. Ralph Lane took the charge of the colony and built a military background. However, the initial good relations with the local Indians started to worsen due to the demanding behavior of the colonists. Simple trading with the locals was replaced by demands for their supplies. Conflicts ensued between Native Americans and the English colonists. In 1586, the ill prepared colonists returned back to England due to shortage of supplies and other hardships.

Sir Walter Raleigh did not succeed in establishing the first colony to the Roanoke Island, but he made a second attempt to form other colonies. This time he sent women and kids along with men in 1587. The first English baby was born on American soil and was named Virginia Dare. During this attempt of colonization, relationships with the Native Americans or local Indians were not good and were worsening with time.

John White, who was leading the colony at that time, had to go to England for a supply run. However, John was unable to return for three years due to complications in England. When he came back, he found his family and the colonists missing. He found the word ‘CROATOAN’ Carved into a tree. John White made many attempts to find the lost colony but the mystery of the lost colony is still unknown. In 1602, Samuel Mace was sent to Virginia or North Carolina by Sir Walter to search for the survivors of the mysteriously lost colony.

Though the colonies sent by Sir Walter Raleigh did not succeed, the persistent efforts made by him led to the permanent settlement of British in the New World. In 1792, the capital of North Carolina was named Raleigh, who was known as the founder and sponsor of the Roanoke Colony. The first attempts of colonization by English have been honored at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Sir Walter Raleigh, a poet, soldier, aristocrat, and explorer is one of the most dashing and colorful figures of the Elizabethan era.

3 responses to “Sir Walter Raleigh”

  1. Patrick Starr says:

    it kinda helped…ish

  2. Faith Guerrero says:

    This helped me for my essay! Thanks!!!

  3. fench says:

    very cool

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