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English explorer, sailor, author and courtier of the Elizabethan age. Raleigh was the first Englishman to attempt to found a colony in North America.

He was born near Budleigh Salterton in Devon. He was at Oxford and the Temple and may even have fought in France in 1569 but little is known of his early life until 1578 when he accompanied his step-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, on a voyage of piracy and exploration.

He served for a year (1580-1) in Ireland and gained the favour of the Queen and Walsingham on his return. He soon became of the most prominent courtiers and recieved several grants of land.

In 1584, Raleigh began his unsuccessful attempts to colonise Virginia and N. Carolina and in 1587 he lost the favour of the Queen. He left court and visited Ireland. He attempted, but was forbidden by the Queen from taking part in further expeditions against the Spanish galleons.

He was committed to the Tower of London for seducing one of Elizabeth's maids of honour but, on marrying her, he was released. He set out in 1595 to discover the mythical El Dorado. During the voayge he engaged the Spaniards several times and captured Cadiz in 1596. Despite his exploits, Raleigh was never popular with either the Court or the people.

On the accession of James I in 1603, Raliegh lost many of his grants and was imprisoned in the Tower of London and sentenced to death on a charge, apparently false, of conspiracy.

Raleigh gained his release from imprisonment by offering to search again for El Dorado and set off on the South American expedition in 1617. The quest a failure, he returned to England in 1618 where he was arrested and executed under his old sentence.

Raleigh wrote the Discovrie of Guiana (published in 1595) and his History of the World of which only the first volume was completed.

He was a friend of Marlow and of Spenser who dedicated the first three books of his Faerie Queen to him.

Several legends have arisen around Raleigh's name such as the one about his laying his cloak in the mud for the Queen to step on.

Another is that he first in the British Isles to smoke tobacco. Tobacco had been introduced to England in 1565 by Hawkins but Raleigh may have brought smoking to public notice.

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SHERBORNE   Sherborne 'Old ' Castle, built by Roger de Caen between 1122 and 1139 was given to Sir Walter Raleigh by Queen Elizabeth I in recognition of his achievements. Raleigh built Sherborne 'New ' castle close-by in 1594. The 'Old ' castle was dismantled in 1645 after a siege by Fairfax.

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