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Real Life

Sir Walter Raleigh was a favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth 1, who knighted him in 1584, the year he obtained Gilbert’s patent. By the 1590s, Raleigh fell out of favor with a jealous Elizabeth after he married one of her maids of honor, and the queen imprisoned him briefly in 1592. He was later “rehabilitated,” however, and went on to serve with distinction in naval expeditions to the Guiana coast of South America (1595), Spain (1596), and the Azores (1597). In 1600, he was appointed governor of the Isle of Jersey, serving until 1603, when advisers to Elizabeth’s successor, James 1, persuaded the new king that Raleigh had conspired against his ascension to the throne. Raleigh was sentenced to death, but execution was stayed for 13 years, during which he languished in the Tower of London. In 1616, he appealed to James to send him on an expedition in search of South American gold. When he returned empty-handed, he was sent back to the Tower—at least in part because the Spanish crown demanded that he be punished for having sacked a Spanish settlement in Guiana. James then ordered his execution, for the original conspiracy conviction, on October 29, 1618.


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