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Family Background
Youthful Experience
Irish Command
Queen's Favourite
Discovery of Virginia
Royal Servant
Ralph Lane's Colony
Courtly Rivalries
The Lost Colony
Fall from Grace
Wilderness Years
Search for El Dorado
Attack on Cadiz
Conflict with Essex
Out with the Old
In the Tower
Last Chance
Return to America

Biography of Sir Walter Raleigh by Christopher Smith
S I R      W A L T E R
 R A L E I G H
Part 7: Ralph Lane's Colony

A Native of Florida drawn by John WhiteSir Walter chose his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, to head his second expedition to the New World. They sailed from Portsmouth on 9th April 1585 with five ships and two pinnaces. Grenville sailed in the Tiger with Simon Fernandez as the pilot. Philip Amadas and Ralph Lane, from Lympstone (Devon), were fellow officers on board. There were initial difficulties when a pinnace sank in a storm off Portugal. However, though the fleet was scattered, it managed to collect again off Puerto Rico. They then sailed on past Hispaniola, the Bahamas and up the Florida Channel, where disaster struck. The Tiger grounded, spoiling valuable stores. Grenville and Lane were at loggerheads. The former decided it was time for action and led a party inland. During this exploration, John White recorded a valuable insight into Native American life. Sunflowers and pumpkins flourished and so did tobacco which the natives smoked. It had been grown in England as early as 1565, but it was Raleigh who made it fashionable following this very expedition. Grenville soon returned and, armed with these details of local crops, he began to build a settlement on Roanoke Island. He established about a hundred men there before setting off back to England in the Tiger. On the return voyage, he boarded the Santa Maria, a Spanish Treasure Ship filled with gold, silver, pearls, sugar and spices. Grenville eventually met Sir Walter in Plymouth with half this Spanish crew to ransom. The Queen and the investors were delighted.

Lane remained in the fort at Roanoke with a hundred and seven men. He dispatched a party, including Harriot and White, to Chesapeake Bay to make the first maps of North America and what is now Virginia; but the settlement depended heavily upon the Native Americans for food and this led to many disputes. Raleigh had problems in sending a relief expedition and when Grenville finally arrived and found no-one remaining. Sir Francis Drake had, in fact, rescued them from the harsh conditions which they could no longer bear. Unfortunately, in the chaos of the evacuation, many of their voluminous records were thrown overboard by the uncaring sailors and three men were even left behind by accident. The remainder arrived in Plymouth on 28th July 1586.

Despite this triumph, Essex' threat to Raleigh's position at Court soon resurfaced. The commander of the armed forces - despite his military incompetence - the Earl of Leicester, now died of cancer. Elizabeth mourned his death, but made his widow settle most of the Earl's debts herself. She then forced the poor lady to give up Leicester's lodgings at St. James' Palace to the Earl of Essex who was further ennobled by being elevated to the Order of the Garter. Raleigh then quarrelled with Essex and was challenged to a duel. Eventually, however, the latter was prevented from taking part by the strenuous intervention of other parties. Raleigh left for Ireland, where he began to spend much more of his time: converting Lismore Castle and visiting his neighbour, Spenser, who was writing his 'The Fairie Queen'.

Part 8: Courtly Rivalries

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