Biography of Walter Raleigh

Portrait of Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh was an Elizabethan seaman adventurer.

When and Where was he Born?

1554 Hayes Barton, near Buddleigh Salterton, Devon, England.

Family Background:

Walter Raleigh was the son of Walter Ralegh, a country gentleman from Fardell, near Plymouth.


Oxford University. Middle Temple, London, to study law.

Timeline of Sir Walter Raleigh:

1578: Raleigh joins a piratical expedition against the Spanish organised by his half brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

1580: Walter Raleigh is sent to Ireland where he brutally puts down an uprising. He later became a favourite of Queen Elizabeth the First and was showered with titles and gifts.

1584: He is sent on an expedition to America to take lands in the name of the Queen.

1585: He is appointed Lord Warden of the Stanneries and Vice Admiral of Devon and Cornwall. He also becomes a Member of Parliament for Devon.

1587: The Second Earl of Essex becomes Court favourite over Raleigh and he goes to Ireland and plants Estates in Munster and becomes good friends with the poet Edmund Spenser. Walter Raleigh sacks the port of Cadiz in Spain which becomes known as “Singeing the King of Spain’s beard.”

1592: On his return to England Walter Raleigh is committed to the Tower of London for having a secret affair with Bessy Throckmorton, one of the Queens Maids of Honour whom he had got pregnant and was forced to marry. He is kept away from the Queen for four years.

1595: Raleigh takes five ships on an expedition and explores the coasts of Trinidad and sails up the Orinoco River in South America.

1596: With Charles Howard and the Earl of Essex Walter Raleigh captures the port of Cadiz in Spain.

Statue of Walter Raleigh
Statue to Sir Walter Raleigh outside the Royal Naval College, 
Greenwich, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1600: He becomes Governor of Jersey.

1603: On the 17th July although he had not taken part in the major plotting at the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign he is still implicated and is arrested. He attempts suicide. At his trial at Winchester he defends himself but is condemned to death. Only on the scaffold is his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

1616: Walter Raleigh is released from the Tower of London and goes on another expedition to the Orinoco in search of a goldmine. The mission is a complete failure as many of his ships sink and his son dies during the voyage. Breaking his terms of freedom he razed a Spanish town to the ground.

1618: On his return to England the Spanish Minister in London invokes the suspended death sentence.

When and Where did he Die?

29th October 1618, Old Palace Yard, Whitehall, London, England. He was put to death for treason by the King.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1591: “The Fight about the Azores.”
1596: “The Discovery of the Empire of Guiana.”
1614: “The History of the World.”
(1642): “The Prince or Maxims of State.”
(1644): “Today a Man, Tomorrow None.”


1592 to Elizabeth (Bessy) Throckmorton, a Maid of Honour to Queen Elizabeth the First whom he had got pregnant.

Site of Grave:

St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, London.

St Margaret's Church, Westminster
St Margaret’s Church, Westminster (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Compton Castle.


The Tower of London.


Coughton Court, Kings Coughton (Married Bessie Throckmorton). (National Trust).

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