Raleigh Road, TW9

Place Name

Sir Walter Raleigh (born sometime around 1553 – October 29, 1618), writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy, explorer, and quite possibly the man responsible for killing more people before or since with his introduction of tobacco to England – others also hold this dubious honour but Raleigh certainly made it fashionable at court. Raleigh first came to notice of the Queen Elizabeth I with his adventures against the Spaniards in 1578 and later suppressing rebels in Ireland. With her backing he sent settlers to colonise North Carolina in 1585 but this and a subsequent attempt to set up a colony in Virginia failed. For a time he fell out of favour and faced accusations of atheism, further blotting his copybook for marrying Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen’s maids of honour in 1592, without first seeking permission from the monarch. For that, Raleigh spent time in the Tower of London and Elizabeth was expelled from the court but the marriage appears to have been a genuine love-match and survived the imprisonment. Back on the high seas he headed to South America to find the fabled city of gold, El Dorado, which was ultimately unsuccessful. But his exploits against the Spanish at Cadiz in 1596 and the Azores in 1597, plus his moves against the rebellious Essex in 1601 reinstated him as the monarch’s favourite. He was not so fortunate after James I took the crown. After being accused of treason, which he vehemently denied, he was sentenced to death, later commuted to imprisonment. During his incarceration he wrote a History of the World. On his freedom he returned to the sea, but against his own orders, his men attacked a Spanish settlement in violation of a treaty between England and Spain. On his return the death sentence was reimposed. At his beheading he apparently said to his executioner: “Let us dispatch. At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear.” After he was allowed to see the axe that would be used to behead him, he mused: “This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries.” According to James Green, Judith Filson and Margaret Watson in The Streets of Richmond and Kew, Raleigh was “a friend of the Earl of Leicester [and] frequented Richmond in the reign of Elizabeth I.”


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