Sir Walter Raleigh 1585

Letter of Reprisal


Sir Walter Raleigh was an English explorer, soldier and writer. At age 17, he fought with the French Huguenots and later studied at Oxford. He became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth after serving in her army in Ireland. He was knighted in 1585, and within two years became Captain of the Queen’s Guard. Between 1584 and 1589, he helped establish a colony near Roanoke Island (present-day North Carolina), which he named Virginia. Accused of treason by King James I, Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned and eventually put to death.

Between 1579 and 1583, Raleigh fought in the service of Queen Elizabeth I in Ireland, distinguishing himself with his ruthlessness at the siege of Smerwick and establishing English and Scottish Protestants in Munster. Tall, handsome, and superbly self-confident, Raleigh rose rapidly at Elizabeth I’s court, upon his return, and quickly became a favorite. She rewarded him with a large estate in Ireland, monopolies, trade privileges, knighthood, and the right to colonize North America. In 1586, he was appointed captain of the Queen’s Guard, his highest office at court. Extravagant in his dress and conduct, the legend that he spread his expensive cloak over a puddle for the Queen has never been documented, but many historians believe him capable of such a gesture.

An early supporter of colonizing North America, Sir Walter Raleigh sought to establish a colony, but the queen forbid him to leave her service. Between 1585 and 1588, he invested in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, attempting to establish a colony near Roanoke, on the coast of what is now North Carolina, and name it “Virginia” in honor of the virgin queen, Elizabeth. Delays, quarrels, disorganization, and hostile Indians forced some of the colonists to eventually return to England. However, they brought with them potatoes and tobacco, two things unknown in Europe at the time. A second voyage was sent in 1590, only to find no trace of the colony. The settlement is now remembered as the “Lost Colony of Roanoke Island.”

Sir Walter Raleigh forfeited Elizabeth’s favor with his courtship of and subsequent marriage to one of her maids-of-honor, Bessy Throckmorton, in 1592. The discovery threw the queen into a jealous rage and the couple were briefly imprisoned in the Tower of London. Upon his release, Raleigh hoped to recover his position with the queen and in 1594, led an unsuccessful expedition to Guiana (now Venezuela) to search for “El Dorado”, the legendary land of gold. The expedition produced a little gold, but subsequent forays to Cadiz and the Azores reinstated him with the queen.

Sir Walter Raleigh’s aggressive actions toward the Spanish did not sit well with the pacifist King James I, Elizabeth’s successor. Raleigh’s enemies worked to taint his reputation with the new king and he was soon charged with treason and condemned to death. However, the sentence was commuted to imprisonment in the Tower in 1603. There Raleigh lived with his wife and servants and wrote his History of the World in 1614. He was released in 1616 to search for gold in South America. Against the king’s approval, he invaded and pillaged Spanish territory, was forced to return to England without booty, and was arrested on the orders of the king. His original death sentence for treason was invoked, and he was executed at Westminster.

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About Sir Walter Raleigh 1585 Letter of Reprisal
Sir Walter Raleigh had to post £500 as a guarantee to the King that he would share the booty when he captured enemy ships under authority of this Letter of Reprisal.

Below is the text of Sir Walter Raleigh 1585.

Letter of Reprisal

Know all men by these presents. That I, Walter Raleigh, Knight, am bound and surely obliged to the most honourable Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham, Knight of the most noble order of the Garter, lord high Admiral of England that now is, in five hundred pounds of English money, to be paid to him, Charles lord high Admiral of England, or to his appointed attorney, his heirs or executors for the good and faithful payment whereof I, by these presents, firmly bind myself, my heirs and executors.

Sealed with my seal and dated the twelfth day of the month of August in the year of the Lord, 1585, and in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of my lady
Elizabeth, queen of England, &c.

Walter Raleigh.