Included in the BBC’s 2002 poll of Greatest British people is the English sea-dog Sir Walter Raleigh. He was a landed gentleman from Devon, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy, explorer and played a significant role in England’s exploration and early settlement of America. Born in 1522 he was raised in a protestant family which heavily influenced his future political career. He was involved in Queen Elizabeth I's court and became one of her favourites due to his activities suppressing revolts in Ireland and supporting the Protestant Church there. He was knighted in 1585. His exploration of the New World and efforts against the Spanish bought him further prestige.
Elizabeth died on March 23rd 1603 and with that Raleigh's fortunes took a nosedive. He was arrested on July 19th of that year on charges of treason for his involvement in a plot against Elizabeth's successor, James I. He found himself imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he remained until 1616. The following year however, he was pardoned and led an expedition to Venezuela in search for El Dorado. Raleigh's pardon had included a condition that he avoided hostility with Spain. Sadly, his long-term friend, Lawerence Keymis did not follow Raleigh's orders and led an attack on the Spanish outpost of Santo Tom é de Guayana. The attack led to the Spanish ambassador in England demanding that Raleigh by executed. King James had no choice but to do so.
Upon his return to England Raleigh was arrested and taken to London. On the 29th October 1618 he was taken to the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster and beheaded. His head was embalmed and presented to his wife. His body was laid to rest in St Margaret’, Westminster where his tomb can be visited today.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on important people in British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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