the chiefe enterpriser - add note
Sir Walter Ralegh/Raleigh (1554-1618): Soldier, sailor, explorer, courtier, historian, M.P., propagandist and poet, Sir Walter Ralegh was a Renaissance man among the Renaissance men of Elizabethan Britain. Ralegh fought with the Huguenots in France, helped put down a rebellion in Ireland, studied (though never earned degrees) at Oriel College, Oxford and Middle Temple, sailed the Atlantic with Humphrey Gilbert’s 1578 exploratory expedition as captain of the Falcon in his twenties, and was wounded in the naval action in the 1596 attack on Cadiz in his fifties. He was at times a member of parliament for both Dorsett and Cornwall and a favorite of Elizabeth’s in court, and at other times confined variously to fleet prison and the Marshalsea prison for brawling in his early years, and repeatedly sent to the tower of London by both Elizabeth and James. Ever looking towards the distant horizon (as well as towards personal wealth, glory and tactical advantages over Spain), Ralegh promoted and organized the Roanoke Voyages to colonize Virginia and himself embarked on several exploratory expeditions to Guiana in search of the fabled El Dorado. Finally, after a life of adventure, poetry, and a bit of villainy, Ralegh was executed in James’ reign in 1618 under accusations of treason
Mastermind of the Roanoke Voyages (1583-1590): Though he never travelled to Virginia himself, Ralegh was perhaps the primary force in the early British efforts to colonize North America from 1583-1590. While Ralegh developed a base of financial and political support in court, it is thought that the Roanoke colony was primarily to be used as a base of operations for privateering expeditions against the Spanish, forming the colony’s tactical and economic raison d’état. It was Ralegh who, in 1583, secured a patent for exploration and colonization of the new world, together with the loan of a ship and the right to name the land “Virginia,” and who recruited Richard Hakluyt to compile works in favor of English efforts at colonization and exploration. Ralegh organized and sent out a primarily military expedition under Richard Grenville in 1585, which settled on Roanoke Island, but didn’t last. In 1587, Ralegh mounted another expedition under John White, this time intending a settled farming colony with the settlers being granted land. This plan also went rather badly and by 1590 (largely due to the cessation of supply ships cause by the Armada crisis of 1588) the colony had disappeared, spurring several hundred years of historical and archaeological investigations and occasional leaping to dramatic and speculative conclusions.
Citations: Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams, “Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554-1618),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/themes/theme.jsp?articleid=92738, accessed 5 Sept 2011]. Paul Hulton. America 1585: The Complete Drawings of John White. (Galliard: UNC Press, 1984), 3. David Quinn, “Introduction. A Critical Assessment of the Materials,” in The Roanoke Voyages, 1584-1590: Volume I, ed. David Beers Quinn (London: Hakluyt Society, 1955), 6, 22.