Renaissance Man


Sir Walter Raleigh was perhaps the most colorful personality of the Renaissance.


Sir Walter Raleigh was born in Hayes, Devonshire. This was the beginning of an incredible life. Sir Walter Raleigh later attended Oxford but did not finish there. Instead he studied law in England. He also did not finish there. Instead he went on an expedition of piracy with his brother Sir Humprey Gilhar in 1578. In 1580, Raleigh became the captain of the army of Ireland and suppressed a rebellion.

Ten years later, in 1590, Raleigh was at the height of his power. By this time he was known as one of the dashing personalities of England. He had been knighted and was one of the queen's favorites. He was so popular with the queen he was granted 12,000 acres of land in the new world.

A short time later his power dropped severely. He lost the queen's favor by marrying one of her maids of honor. In 1603 things were even worse. The queen died and the new king charged Raleigh with treason. After the king locked him in the London Tower for twelve years, he finally convinced the king to let him free by promising him the gold of Spain. The king had ordered him not to engage the Spanish in war but Raleigh's son attacked a village and was killed. Upon return to England Raleigh was executed for disobeying orders. In 1618 Sir Walter Raleigh was beheaded but he faced his fate bravely. He joked with his executioner and even gave the signal for the axe to fall... After all he was a Renaissance man.


In that colorful life of his he gained the title of a Renaissance man, which is a universal well-rounded man. This was a goal that every man wanted to achieve. The things needed to gain this title were steep. Firstly, you had to have cultural grace. Raleigh was prominent in the royal court. Secondly, you had to be a gentleman. There are rumors that Raleigh put his coat over a mud puddle for the queen to step over and Raleigh was a knight. You had to be of noble birth or of a noble position. Raleigh was a favourite of the queen, prominent in the royal court and was the captain of the army of Ireland. Courage was also one of the characteristics. Raleigh was an explorer who led expeditions to North America and South America. He also established colonies on Roanoke Island on two separate occasions (1585 and 1587). When he was facing execution he joked with the executioner and gave the signal for the axe to fall. A Renaissance man must be well-educated. Raleigh attended Oxford and studied law. You had to be articulate. Raleigh had a good grasp of the English language. He wrote books: History of The World, Discovery of Guinea, and a poem "The Last Fight of the Revenge." Usually a Renaissance man must have an understanding of the arts and the sciences; he was a good writer. He also introduced potatoes and tobacco to England.


Sir Walter Raleigh had a great impact on Renaissance society. Raleigh was known as a Renaissance man and others copied him in hopes of being like him. Besides that he made it easier for future explorers to colonize North America.

English ships landing on the Virginia Coast


1. Pollit, Ronald L. "Sir Walter Raleigh." Encarta, 1997.

2. "Raleigh, Sir Walter." World Book Encyclopedia, 1991, vol. 16, p. 134-136.

3. "Sir Walter Raleigh." The Renaissance, Portland, J. Weston Publishing, 1972, p. 4.

This page was prepared by Chad, Grade 8, Riverdale Junior Secondary School