The New Eden

Friday 26th May. 8 AM – Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral. Continuing yesterday’s scene and with the portrait session now finished and Raleigh seeking an audience with the Queen.

This will be another of those famous moments from Raleigh’s life that are a combination of myth and reality. In the scene he will present the queen with the spoils of his first visit to the New World – potatoes and tobacco, along with gold seized from Spanish ships.
In reality, and contrary to popular belief, Raleigh actually never visited the land he named Virginia after his Queen. Although he did later cross the Atlantic, at this time he was engaged in promoting the idea of a colony, rather than leading any expedition. Raleigh stayed in England, raising funds for the project and trying to persuade suitable people to leave their life in the Old World behind and become citizens of the New. In this he acted like a cross between a sponsor and a travel agent, tempting people with lavish descriptions of the beauty and perfection of the colony and demonstrating the exotic luxury (and riches) to be had there.
This is the idea we are trying to get over in this part of the scene –Raleigh is an adventurer with a dream – a dream that offers a new life in a new world, an apparent Eden untouched by the political and religious strife of Europe, and a source on untold riches. As such he shows the Queen the wonders to be had there – the strange vegetable he is (apocryphally) credited with having introduced to Ireland, the potato, and a leaf the Virginian natives smoked, tobacco, which he certainly greatly helped to popularise in England. He also brings with him two native Americans, Manteo and Wanchese, who are actually attested in England at this time and no doubt added greatly both to the exotic reputation of the court and Raleigh’s sales pitch. But it is the last gift he presents to the Queen that hints at the other side to Raleigh’s character – Spanish gold. Elizabeth’s favourite might have been a dreamer but it was dream he intended to finance with other people’s money.

5 thoughts on “The New Eden

  1. Thank you for putting us in the picture by giving such a concise and informative insight into the scene and times of Elizabeth. I am now beginning to feel the atmosphere and the spark that existed between Elizabeth and Raleigh,each reliant upon the other in a number of ways.She needed him to expand the Empire,he needed her backing and approval.She had the power, he possessed the recklessness and daring to carry out future plans.His motives for making errors that were his downfall are still not known.I would like to know how Miss Blanchett and Mr.Owen are breathing life back into these two characters,putting flesh back onto the bones.Perhaps Mr.Kapur will clue us in at some point.Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

  2. hey hey Justin,
    I read that the reason why he never went to Virginia was because of the Queens demand to keep him by her side. She did not want her favourite to die. So Raleigh sent SIr Richard Grenville in his place, in a scouting mission for a colony. Grenville returned leaving behing men on Roanoke Island. The next trip Grenville brought alot of men and few women to start a colony, Raleigh still not allowed to go, not having permission. Grenville returned to resupply in England, but the Armada was coming and the Queen needed all the ships she could get, so Grenville did not return to Virginia, when he did return the colony was gone with a post in their place with the word croatoan. Grenville died on the return trip. Raleigh did make many trips to far off destinations, but my question is , do you think that Raleigh would of survived the 3 trips to Virginia? If he didn’t he would be not be as famous as he now is, to me the Queen kept him alive by not allowing him to be a Privy member or fight in the Armada besides landforces. Once he was out of favour due to Damerie and Bess T. he retired from Court to Sherborne, when he had favour again the Queen allowed him to do with his life what he willed.
    Yup thats my point of View.
    Ohya, potatoes were tiny and tobbacco was introduced to England by John Howard a decade before Raleigh made it fashionable, thats all he did was make money by promoting Tobbacco himself. Howard was an enemy of Raleighs and would not of enjoyed his profits from tobbacco. Rakeigh loved to promote the New World. Elizabeth didn’t give much money for his journeys, Raleigh always had family and close friends pitch in.
    Thanks WR

  3. I would like to make a few corrections when I said John Howard, I meant Henry Howard. Grenville went on the 2nd and third trip to Virginia after the first was led by a man from Raleighs household to young for the job. Queen Elizabeth did not need Raleigh to expand her empire, she had enough to deal with, she just agreed to allow a New World settlement with Raleigh in charge and that was the very first step to colonizing America for England though it did not work. While Raleigh was in the Tower in 1607 K. James made it happen and he was a horrible king not to make Raleigh part of it.

  4. WR – Would Raleigh have survived the Virginia expeditions? That’s an intersting question and very difficult to answer. Certainly Elizabeth didn’t like the idea of him leaving her side – hence the appointment as Captain of her Guards. I also don’t think Raleigh would have wanted tp go at this time. His dream required him to be at court, raising money and keeping alive the idea of the New World. A man who kept disappearing for months and years at a time on expeditions couldn’t do that.

  5. Hey Hey Justin,
    I agree with you but he sent 3 expeditions before the secret marraige and I am sure he wanted to go on one of them. Raleigh was a man whom dreamed and desired for his name to live on through history like the relics of the past from his time. My point of view of this time period in Raleigh’s life is that after going to France as a young soldier, then to Ireland as an experienced soldier,and then went on privateering trips with Sir Humphrey Gilbert. After all that I agree he wanted to have the life of a courtier and a parliament man, but like all things he tried I feel he wanted to move on, he missed action, danger, adventure, privateering and all the Queen would allow was for him to coach by the sidelines. Unlike Essex who wen’t anyways to adventures, Raleigh listened to the Queen and stayed with her which led to a secret marraige with Bess T.
    My Question is do you think the secret marraige was an escape plan so that he could be more free to fight in the war with Spain and go on his expeditions? He was getting old and was aware this was the time to to make his name grow in historical fame.
    He is quite an interesting character that leads us in all directions not knowing which he preffered, wouldn’t you agree Justin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.