A famed English writer, poet, courtier and explorer.. English aristocrat writer poet soldier courtier spy and explorer
Sir Walter Raleigh (1552 or 1554 – 29 October 1618) is a famed English writer, poet, courtier and explorer. Note that many alternate spellings of his surname exist, including Rawley, Ralegh, and Rawleigh; "Raleigh" appears most commonly today, though he, himself, used that spelling only once. His most consistent preference was for "Ralegh". The name is correctly pronounced "rawley", though in practice "rally" is the usual modern pronunciation.
Walter Raleigh was born at Hayes Barton, in Devon, England. He was the half brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Adrian Gilbert; nephew of Sir Francis Drake through his first wife Alice Drake; and brother-in-law of Sir Richard Grenville through Alice's brother John [cf. George Edward Cokayne, The Complete Peerage]. He was also related to the Sackvilles or Sackfields of Dorset and apparently to most of the individuals whom he chose for his travels to the New World and other places. Raleigh's family was Protestant in religious orientation and experienced a number of near escapes during the reign of the Catholic queen Mary I of England. During childhood, Raleigh developed a hatred of Catholicism, proving himself quick to express it after the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558. In 1572, he became an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford and in 1575 was registered at the Middle Temple.
By 1581, after a number of military and naval engagements in France, Ireland and elsewhere, he had become established as a courtier and as Elizabeth's favourite. There is a famous story that he once took off an expensive cloak and threw it over a mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth to walk across, but this is actually a Victorian era invention.
In 1587, on Raleigh's orders, the first Ark Royal was built as Ark Raleigh at Deptford on the River Thames; he was later compelled to sell the ship to cover his debts.