Sir Walter Ralegh Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

0111204963-Ralegh.jpg Sir Walter Ralegh (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

A favorite of Queen Elizabeth I who was awarded numerous trade monopolies in the New World, Ralegh was the object of jealous attacks on his unorthodoxy, tolerance, and intellectual boldness. In 1592 a Jesuit pamphlet by Robert Parsons accused him of heading a “School of Atheism” and denounced his skeptical scientific inquiry as conjuring. An ecclesiastical commission established to investigate Ralegh’s baiting of a conventional parson named William Ironside yielded to Ralegh’s witty logic, but Ralegh was rarely circumspect. He spoke out, for example, against conducting witch-hunts for religious nonconformists.

All copies of The History of the World, a cynical assessment of human history that Ralegh composed during the thirteen years he was convened in the Tower of London, were recalled in 1614, at the command of King James I, who objected to the book’s allegorical frontispiece, to the fact that a condemned prisoner claimed authorship, and to its “too saucy” censuring of princes. The History’s prefatory “Premonition to Princes” asserted that the power of kings might seem great in the small theater of the world but was little next to the power of God, who would call even kings to account for their sins through Death, “the great Leveller.”

Officially executed for plotting to dethrone James, Ralegh was actually executed for his defiance of conventional Jacobean wisdom. Later, Puritans made his condemnation of tyrants in Prerogative of Parliaments a cornerstone of their dissent.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Although Ralegh is often spelled Raleigh, Walter Ralegh signed his name once as Rawleyghe, in 1587, then signed it Rauley until 1583, and more or less spelled it consistently as Ralegh from 1584 until his death in 1618. He was the quintessential arriviste: Born in Devon, educated at Oxford, he rapidly became a court favorite and was knighted in 1584, but fell into disgrace when, after a bitter rivalry with the up-and-coming younger earl of Essex, he was imprisoned for seducing one of the queen’s maids-of-honor, Elizabeth Throckmorton, whom he later married. He was increasingly unpopular for, among other things, his flamboyant lifestyle. When James came to the throne, Ralegh was sentenced to death for treason, although the sentence was reduced to imprisonment in the Tower of London. During his imprisonment, between 1603 and 1616, Ralegh became a close friend of the prince of Wales, wrote extensively, and became a center of influence and even of counterestablishment power. He was released by James in 1616 and sent on an ill-fated expedition to Guiana, and on his return, executed—his death bewailed by as many people in 1618 as had desired it fourteen years earlier.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Sir Walter Ralegh (RAWL-ee), or Raleigh, epitomizes the merchant adventurers who lent glamour to the court of Elizabeth I and spread her fame throughout the old and new worlds. Born into the landed gentry, which was just beginning to realize its potential power, Ralegh had to make his way through his own ability, ambition, and charm.{$S[A]Raleigh, Sir Walter;Ralegh, Sir Walter}

Ralegh was born about 1552. He attended Oriel College, Oxford, in 1568, but within a year he left the university to fight for the Huguenot cause in France. Although he returned to study at the Inns of Court in 1575, the North American expedition being planned by his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, interested him far more than his law books....

(The entire section is 814 words.)