Updated: Jan 11, 2022
On This Day In History
– English explorer, author, courtier, favourite of Elizabeth I Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded for allegedly conspiring against king James I of England.
Walter Raleigh (also spelled Raleigh) was born into a well-connected gentry family at Hayes Barton in Devon in around 1552. He attended Oxford University, fought with the Huguenots in France & later studied law in London.
In 1578, Raleigh sailed to America with his half brother the explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert. This expedition may have stimulated his plan to found a colony there.
In 1585, he sponsored the first English colony in America on Roanoke Island (now North Carolina). The colony failed & another attempt at colonisation also failed in 1587.
On the return voyage, he boarded the Santa Maria, a Spanish Treasure Ship filled with gold, silver, pearls, sugar & spices. Grenville eventually met Sir Walter in Plymouth with half this Spanish crew to ransom. The Queen & the investors were delighted.
No surprisingly Raleigh was extremely popular & quickly rose in Elizabeth I’s favour; he knew how to play the role of the charismatic courtier & wrote several poems to the Queen.
Thomas Fuller wrote in 1663: 'Captain Raleigh, coming out of Ireland... cast & spread his cloak on the ground: whereupon the Queen trod gently'.
This, now famous, incident supposedly took place on the present site of the Queen's House at Greenwich Palace. The two became good friends, as shown when, soon afterward, Walter wrote this poem on a window pane:
'Fair would I climb, yet fear to fall'
Elizabeth completed the couplet:
'If they heart fails thee, climb not at all'
Their intimacy was obvious & soon Raleigh began to accrue a number of rewards as a result of this favour.
He was granted land in Dorset & Durham House in London. His role in shaping the expanding empire was in no small part thanks to the Royal Charter (1584) which authorised his colonisation of new lands. He is now famous for bringing back the ‘Virginia’ potato from the New World, although they were not widely eaten for a long time after their cultivation in Ireland. He also received a patent for wine-selling & the licensing of vinters (wine-sellers) worth at least £700 per annum; it was this patent that was to be the foundation of Raleigh’s wealth for the rest of his life.
In 1585, Raleigh was knighted & was appointed warden of the stannaries, that is of the tin mines of Cornwall & Devon, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, & vice-admiral of the two counties. He sat in parliament as member for Devonshire in 1585 & 1586. He was also granted the right to colonise America.
Raleigh commissioned shipbuilder R. Chapman of Deptford to build a ship for him. It was originally called Ark but became Ark Raleigh, following the convention at the time by which the ship bore the name of its owner. The Crown (in the person of Queen Elizabeth I) purchased the ship from Raleigh in January 1587 for £5,000 (£1,100,000 as of 2015). This took the form of a reduction in the sum that Sir Walter owed the queen; he received Exchequer tallies but no money. As a result, the ship was renamed Ark Royal. In the Armada year of 1588, Raleigh had some involvement with defence against the Spanish at Devon. His ship, the Ark Raleigh, was Lord High Admiral Howard's flagship
Raleigh’s good favour with the Queen changed drastically in the early 1590s when he entered into a relationship with one of her ladies-in-waiting, Elizabeth, or Bess, Throckmorton. In late 1591 Bess fell pregnant & the two were married in secret. They were fully aware that when the news became known it would displease the Queen & Raleigh attempted to quash the rumours of the marriage, even going so far as to lie about it in order to protect his career. Bess gave birth to a son, Damerei Raleigh, on 29 March 1592 & just under a month later, returned to court, still attempting to keep both marriage & motherhood under wraps, but they had underestimated the intensity of the Queen’s displeasure & both were sent to the Tower of London on 7 August.
On his release, in an attempt to find favour with the queen, he set off on an unsuccessful expedition to find El Dorado, the fabled 'Golden Land', rumoured to be situated somewhere beyond the mouth of the Orinoco river in Guiana (now Venezuela).
Hi second son also called Walter (pictured above) was actually born in the Tower.
Elizabeth's successor, James I of England and VI of Scotland, disliked Raleigh, & in 1603 he was accused of plotting against the king & sentenced to death. This was reduced to life imprisonment & Raleigh spent the next 12 years in the Tower of London, where he wrote the first volume of his 'History of the World' (1614).
In 1616, Raleigh was pardoned & released to lead a second expedition to search for El Dorado.
The expedition was a failure, & Raleigh also defied the king's instructions by attacking the Spanish. On his return to England, the death sentence was reinstated & Raleigh's execution took place on 29 October 1618.
On 29 October 1618 Raleigh was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster. "Let us dispatch", he said to his executioner. "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 & miseries." According to biographers, Raleigh's last words (as he lay ready for the axe to fall) were: "Strike, man, strike!"
Thomas Hariot may have introduced him to tobacco. Having been one of the people to popularise tobacco smoking in England, he left a small tobacco pouch, found in his cell shortly after his execution. Engraved upon the pouch was a Latin inscription: Comes meus fuit in illo miserrimo tempore ("It was my companion at that most miserable time").
His head was embalmed & presented to his wife!
His body was to be buried in the local church in Beddington, Surrey, the home of Lady Raleigh, but was finally laid to rest in St. Margaret's, Westminster, where his tomb may still be visited today. "The Lords", she wrote, "have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits." It has been said that Lady Raleigh kept her husband's head in a velvet bag until her death. After Raleigh's wife's death 29 years later, his head was returned to his tomb & interred at St. Margaret's Church.
Although Raleigh's popularity had waned considerably since his Elizabethan heyday, his execution was seen by many, both at the time & since, as unnecessary & unjust, as for many years his involvement in the Main Plot seemed to have been limited to a meeting with Lord Cobham. One of the judges at his trial later said: "The justice of England has never been so degraded & injured as by the condemnation of the honourable Sir Walter Raleigh."
Princess Marie of Edinburgh was born
Princess Marie of Edinburgh was the last Queen of Romania as the wife of King Ferdinand I.
Marie was the eldest daughter & second child of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, & the former Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, respectively the son of Queen Victoria & the daughter of Emperor Alexander II.
DID YOU KNOW? Marie turned down a proposal from her cousin, the future King George V.
She was chosen as the future wife of Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, the heir apparent of King Carol I, in 1892. Marie was Crown Princess between 1893 & 1914, & became popular with the Romanian people. Marie had controlled her weak-willed husband even before his ascension in 1914, prompting a Canadian newspaper to state that "few royal consorts have wielded greater influence than did Queen Marie during the reign of her husband".
After the outbreak of World War I, Marie urged Ferdinand to ally himself with the Triple Entente & declare war on Germany, which he eventually did in 1916.
During the early stages of fighting, Bucharest was occupied by the Central Powers & Marie, Ferdinand & their five children took refuge in Moldavia. There, she & her three daughters acted as nurses in military hospitals, caring for soldiers who were wounded or afflicted by cholera.
On 1 December 1918, the province of Transylvania, following Bessarabia & Bukovina, united with the Old Kingdom. Marie, now queen of Greater Romania, attended the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, where she campaigned for international recognition of the enlarged Romania. In 1922, she & Ferdinand were crowned in a specially-built cathedral in the ancient city of Alba Iulia, in an elaborate ceremony which mirrored their status as queen & king of a united state.
As queen, she was popular, both in Romania & abroad. In 1926, Marie & two of her children undertook a diplomatic tour of the United States. They were received enthusiastically by the people & visited several cities before returning to Romania. There, Marie found that Ferdinand was gravely ill & he died a few months later. Now queen dowager, Marie refused to be part of the regency council which reigned over the country under the minority of her grandson, King Michael. In 1930, Marie's eldest son Carol, who had waived his rights to succession, deposed his son & usurped the throne, becoming King Carol II. He removed Marie from the political scene & strived to crush her popularity.
Marie moved away from Bucharest & spent the rest of her life either in the countryside, or at her home by the Black Sea. In 1937, she became ill with cirrhosis & died the following year.
After Romania's transition to a Socialist Republic, the Romanian monarchy was excoriated by communist officials. Several biographies of the royal family described Marie either as a drunkard or as a promiscuous woman, referring to her many alleged affairs & to orgies she had supposedly organised before & during the war. In the years preceding the Romanian Revolution of 1989, Marie's popularity recovered & she was offered as a model of patriotism to the population. Marie is primarily remembered for her work as a nurse, but is also known for her extensive writing, including her critically acclaimed autobiography.
Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein died
(Christian Victor Albert Louis Ernst Anton; (b.14 April 1867 was the eldest son of Princess Helena, third daughter of Queen Victoria.
Prince Christian was born on 14 April 1867, at Windsor Castle.
His father was Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, the third son of Christian, Duke of Augustenborg, & Countess Louise of Danneskjold-Samsøe.
His mother was Princess Helena, the fifth child & third daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert.
His parents resided in the United Kingdom, at Cumberland Lodge, & the Prince was considered a member of the British royal family. Under letters patent of 1866, he was styled His Highness Prince Christian Victor of Schleswig-Holstein.
He was educated at Lambrook, Wellington College, Magdalen College, Oxford, & the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned in the 60th King's Royal Rifles in 1888 & served in the 4th King's Royal Rifle Corps. He served at Hazara 1891, Mirzanai 1891, Ashanti 1895 & Nile 1898.
"Christle", as the Prince was known in the family, was the first member of the Royal Family to attend school instead of being educated by a tutor at home.
That he studied at Wellington College made Queen Victoria very happy, as Prince Albert had helped to establish the institution many years before. At Wellington he played for the college First Eleven in 1883 & was captain of the cricket team in 1885. He was also captain of the cricket team while at Magdalen College & at Sandhurst, & made a single first-class appearance, for I Zingari against Gentlemen of England in 1887, scoring 35 & 0.
He remains the only member of the British royal family to play cricket at such a high level
After finishing his training at Sandhurst in 1888, he became a British Army officer in the King's Royal Rifle Corps. In 1891, he participated in the Hazara & Miranzi expeditions in 1891, the Isazi expedition in 1892, & participated also in the Ashanti Expedition to Ghana.
He was elevated to the rank of Major & then served under Lord Kitchener in 1898 when the British troops defeated the Dervishes at Omdurman near Khartoum & recovered the Sudan.
In 1899 he saw duty in the Second Boer War, served as a staff officer in the Second Boer War being involved the relief of Ladysmith under General Sir Redvers Buller & later was with Lord Roberts in Pretoria.
In October 1900, while in Pretoria, he came down with malaria, & died of enteric fever, on 29 October, aged 33, after receiving Holy Communion in the presence of Lord Roberts & Prince Francis of Teck. He was interred in the Pretoria cemetery on 1 November 1900. His grave is marked with a granite cross & a cast-iron railing.
Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester died aged 102
Princess Alice was the wife of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the third son of George V & Queen Mary. She was the mother of Prince William of Gloucester & Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
Alice Christabel was born in Montagu House, Whitehall, London, on Christmas Day 1901 as the third daughter of John Montagu Douglas Scott, Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, & his wife, the former Lady Margaret Alice "Molly" Bridgeman, daughter of the 4th Earl of Bradford.
Her brothers Walter & William & her nephew John were all Conservative MPs.
Did you know? Her first cousin, Marian Montagu Douglas Scott, was the paternal grandmother of Sarah, Duchess of York, former wife of Alice's great-nephew, Prince Andrew, Duke of York.
DID YOU KNOW? She was a descendant, in an unbroken male line, of Charles II through his eldest but illegitimate son, James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, himself a major political figure during the years leading up to the Glorious Revolution. As she was born on Christmas Day, she was given the middle name of Christabel.
An experience of nearly drowning at the age of 14 awoke her to a keen sense of making the most of every day. She was convinced that she was going to die & she prayed to God, begging for a miracle to save her life in exchange for her devoting herself to public service:
"The next instant my feet touched rocks. I was able to stand up & get my breath back. I had been carried quite a way down the coast—some houses had come & gone on my left—but the rocks proved to be a reef & I was able to scramble through them back to shallow water without further mishap.... In return for my life I had promised to dedicate it to some useful purpose; but there never seemed to be anything that required my help or that I was any use at. So when, through a series of unforeseen circumstances, I one day found myself allowed to a life of public duty in the service of my country, a very secret pledge was honoured
In August 1935, Lady Alice became engaged to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. They were married in a private ceremony, in the Private Chapel, Buckingham Palace, on 6 November of that year. The wedding was originally planned for Westminster Abbey; but after her father the Duke of Buccleuch died of cancer on 19 October 1935, & in consideration of the King's (George V) own failing health, it was decided that the wedding should be scaled down to a more private setting.
Two of her bridesmaids was her husband's nieces, Princess Elizabeth of York (now Queen Elizabeth II) & Princess Margaret of York.
Alice wore a blush-hued wedding gown, the only British Royal bride to do so. Her gown was designed by Norman Hartnell, who later designed the wedding dress of Princess Elizabeth, the future queen. The dress was "of modest simplicity, with long, narrow sleeves & a high neckline draped into a nosegay of artificial orange-blossom". The veil was made from "a drifting cloud of crisp modern tulle".
On her way to the private chapel at Buckingham Palace, Alice wore "an ermine blanket stole" due to the cold weather. Although the day was cold & wet, a crowd estimated to be over one million people lined the streets from the Palace to the railway station to see the couple off on their honeymoon. She was often referred to as the "Winter Princess" from then on.
The Duke & Duchess of Gloucester lived at the Royal Pavilion in Aldershot, where the Duke was taking the Army staff course. The Duke of Gloucester left the army to take on more public duties following the abdication of Edward VIII in December 1936. The couple received a grace & favour residence at York House, St James's Palace, London &, in 1938, they purchased Barnwell Manor in Northamptonshire. The Duchess suffered two miscarriages, before giving birth to two sons:
Prince William of Gloucester (18 December 1941 – 28 August 1972)
Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester (born 26 August 1944)
The Duke & Duchess of Gloucester travelled extensively, undertaking various engagements. During World War II, the Duchess worked with the Red Cross & the Order of St John. She became head of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1939 as Senior Controller, changed to Air Commandant on 12 March 1940, & appointed Air Chief Commandant on 4 March 1943, when she took over as director until August 1944. When the WAAF became the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) in 1949, she was appointed an Air Chief Commandant (equivalent to Air vice-marshal) in the new service on 1 February 1949. She was promoted to Air marshal on 1 September 1968, & to air chief marshal in the Royal Air Force on 23 February 1990. She also served as deputy to Queen Elizabeth, the consort of George VI, as Commandant-in-Chief of the Nursing Corps.
From 1945 to 1947, the Duke & Duchess of Gloucester lived in Canberra, where the Duke was serving as Governor-General of Australia.
The Duchess of Gloucester served as Colonel-in-Chief or deputy Colonel-in-Chief of a dozen regiments in the British Army. In 1965, while returning from Winston Churchill's funeral in their vehicle, the Duke suffered a stroke which resulted in a car crash, with Prince Henry being thrown out of the car & the Duchess "suffering facial injuries".
In 1975, Princess Alice was the first woman to be appointed a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. In 1981, she first published her memoirs under the title The Memoirs of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. In 1991, she released a revised edition as Memories of Ninety Years.
She officially retired from public duties at the age of 98. In December 2001, the Royal Family held a ceremony to acknowledge Princess Alice's 100th birthday. This was Princess Alice's last public appearance (as well as the last public appearance of Princess Margaret, the Queen's younger sister, who died on 9 February 2002). On the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother at age 101 in March 2002, Princess Alice became the oldest living member of the British Royal Family.
On 21 August 2003, Princess Alice surpassed the Queen Mother's record as the oldest person in the history of the British royal family by reaching the age of 101 years & 238 days.
Princess Alice died on 29 October 2004 in her sleep at Kensington Palace at age 102.
Her funeral was held on 5 November 2004, at St George's Chapel, Windsor, & she was interred next to her husband, Prince Henry, & her elder son, Prince William, in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore.