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Books for Kids:
Great Explorers: Sir Walter Raleigh


Rosen Publishing



Great Explorers: Sir Walter Raleigh






The original Renaissance Man, Sir Walter Raleigh's life was so full of adventure and struggle that the book was quite easy to write. The true test was to figure out what to leave out.

This sample covers Raleigh's entrance into the court of Queen Elizabeth and his calculated risks to draw her attention.



This book was published in Spring 2003.



Chapter 4: Life in the Court of Elizabeth I -- Raleigh, the Gentleman

When Raleigh lay his cloak down for Queen Elizabeth, he began to play an exciting and dangerous game, the kind that he loved. Queen Elizabeth was the most powerful woman in Europe, and she was unmarried. Raleigh began to explore the very complicated game of love. In the Court of Queen Elizabeth, this game had special rules and hidden dangers. In it, Raleigh the Gentleman emerged as a winner.

The Virgin Queen

By the time Raleigh met Queen Elizabeth, he was a dashing, 30 year-old man, and she was well past forty. Although she had tried, she had failed several times to find a suitable man to marry.

From the day she was born, her parents, King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, had looked for a suitable match. Over the course of many years, Elizabeth had met and been matched with a number of acceptable suitors for an heir to the throne of England. Alas, all of them were rejected. Elizabeth never fell in love with any of these men who approached her for the crown on her head-not for the love in her heart.

[{Painting of Queen Elizabeth I BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFO: The Shepherd and his Ocean: Sir Walter Raleigh and his Times; Adamson, JH; p. 128a DESCRIPTION: Queen Elizabeth I. Note the presence of her crown, her hand on the globe and the English warships in the background. NOTES: None.]

She did long for a stirring, romantic love. Over time, she found herself drawn to the soldiers and sailors who were part of the Court around her. Her first real passion was directed at Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, whom she knew since she was eight years old. She loved him for many years but never agreed to marry him. Finally, the Earl turned his attention elsewhere and married another woman. Elizabeth repeated this pattern many times: she would pay attention to a young man and encourage his interest in her. When he insisted that they marry, she would reject him and begin again with a new handsome young man.

Why did Elizabeth not want to marry any of her official suitors or the men whom she truly loved? There are a number of reasons.

When Elizabeth was three, her own mother was beheaded by the order of King Henry VIII, her father, supposedly for adultery. Five years later, her step-mother, Catherine Howard, was also beheaded by her father. Clearly, these events would have made an impression on a young girl. According to law, her husband would become the King of England. If she married a man, it would be possible for him to have her beheaded.

That man would rule England and the Church of England. To protect the nation that she dearly loved, Queen Elizabeth had to choose a King very carefully. Did her suitors want to take over England? Did they want to destroy Protestantism and the Church of England? Her suitors may have smiled, brought gifts and enchanted her with loving words, but their real motives may not have been very nice.

As Elizabeth grew older, she became very adept at evaluating her suitors. She had taken a torn country, unified it, and helped it to blossom among the growing empires of France and Spain. She was no fool, yet she also yearned for real love.

Raleigh and Elizabeth: The First Years

By the time he met Queen Elizabeth, Raleigh's dark, chiseled face stood above the heads of others at Court. Already, he had grown a deep brown beard that drew to a point below his chin, sharpening his hawkish features. To complement such a striking face, Raleigh wore elaborate jewelry and bright colors in bold costumes. Although he spoke with a strong accent of his native Devon, Raleigh's speech and manner suggested someone of great education and intellect.

This polished man had accomplished a great deal in the battlefields of France and Ireland. None of the other men at Court could match Raleigh's intellectual ability. Witty and charming, Raleigh always managed to find the right thing to say at the right time. In addition to his unflinching courage and successes on the battlefield, Raleigh had an abiding interest in poetry, which Queen Elizabeth shared. As early as the age of twenty, Raleigh was writing and publishing well-regarded poems, for at the time, soldiers who fought with passion were often the first tellers of the romantic stories of the battlefield. Raleigh had a natural ability to recall the facts of his explorations and to embellish them into grand stories.

Through his stories and poems and great personal charm, Raleigh did impress the Queen. That he stood before his Queen without fear or awe must have been very intriguing to her. Here, she must have thought, is an interesting man.

Sidebar: Raleigh and His Wardrobe

When Raleigh first appeared at Court, he was an officer of low rank with little money and no property or title to his name.

The image that he chose to portray was quite different. With his meager earnings, Raleigh invested in expensive clothes that were tailored to show off his bold style. Huge collars of lace, a sweeping cloak and jewel-studded coats gave the impression that he had a large fortune.

Here again was another example of Raleigh's daring. If he in his fancy clothes failed to gain acceptance at Court, he had nothing left, except those fancy clothes.

Raleigh and Elizabeth became very close. They shared favorite poems with each other. Raleigh began to write poems just for her. Eventually, Raleigh declared his love for her.

Raleigh was aware of the risks of this exploration of love. To be the Queen's favorite was to acquire enemies who wanted to play that role of favorite, too. To be the Queen's favorite and then to lose her friendship could cost him his life.

One night, he used a diamond to scratch a message on the Queen's window, "Fain would I climb, yet fear I to fall." Delighted, the Queen scratched a reply, "If thy heart fail thee, climb not at all." She had challenged him, and Raleigh responded to the challenge. He loved the risks of adventure. Here was a new realm, the world of love in the Court, for him to explore. Fearlessly, he climbed in Court until he became the favorite of his Queen.

Raleigh was not born into a wealthy family, so it was not easy for him to woo the Queen. To be seen with her, he needed good clothes and money. Graciously, the Queen provided the means for him. For his successes in Ireland, Raleigh was named in 1582 one of three governors of Munster, a large and fertile region in Ireland. For conquering the land, Raleigh was given the authority to farm it and to tax its inhabitants. The Queen granted him the right to tax exported fabric. He began to build his fortune.

In 1584, Queen Elizabeth knighted him, and he was thereafter called, "Sir Walter Raleigh." To keep him close to her, Queen Elizabeth granted him the right to live in Durham House, a fine mansion along the Thames River in London. The people of his hometown of Devon saw how quickly Raleigh was moving up in the eyes of the Queen. In 1584, they elected him to Parliament to represent their town.

Raleigh had a fortune, a large piece of land, a title, a home, and an elected office. In the span of nine years, he had acquired unbelievable success for a common-born man. His great success was mostly due to the love of his Queen, and to her, he promised his love forever.

Restless Raleigh

But Raleigh was restless. A man of considerable energy and ambition, he longed to explore more of the world and to engage in great battles for the glory of England. While he explored the world of the Court, he watched the battlefield successes of others, like his half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

In 1578, Gilbert had acquired a patent, which was the right to explore the New World and to conquer it in the name of the Queen. That same year, Raleigh and his half-brother set out to enforce their patent by removing the Spanish from their territories in the West Indies. Ten ships with a year's supplies left England, and somewhere at sea, they engaged in a dangerous sea fight with the Spanish. Raleigh and Gilbert managed to straggle back to England by May of 1579. Defeated and humiliated, Gilbert wanted revenge. In 1583, he assembled a new fleet and led an expedition to the New World, while Raleigh was kept at home by the Queen. Gilbert was lost at sea.

The following year, Raleigh convinced the Queen that he was the man to conquer the New World for her. He was her knight in shining armor, and she awarded him the patent to conquer the New World. But the patent came at a cost. The Queen forbade her lover from going on the explorations. Over the years, it became a source of frustration for Raleigh. Although he is credited as the "discoverer" of Virginia, which he named for the Virgin Queen Elizabeth, he personally never set foot on what we now call North America.

Lord Essex

In the same year that Raleigh acquired the patent, Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex, appeared at court. Here was a bold upstart, a brash 21 year-old who would not be tamed. As good-looking as Raleigh, Essex was nobly born. In the eyes of the Queen, the Earl of Essex began to glow brighter and brighter.

With a new rival at Court, Raleigh's campaigns in the New World became very important. Raleigh needed a huge conquest for his Queen in order to keep his station by her side. As he became better at playing the role of the Gentleman at Court, Raleigh used his position and the gifts from the Queen to create a new role for himself as the Merchant of the New World.

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(c) 2007 Steven P. Olson. All rights reserved. Samples are for demonstration purposes only.