Wednesday 28th June. 11.00 AM – ‘A’ Stage, Shepperton Studios. Day two on the pivotal ‘immensities’ scene in which Raleigh begins to capture Elizabeth’s imagination.
Although the real Raleigh was, at least at the time this movie is set, less used to exotic adventures than our movie version what he was undoubtedly brilliant at was selling the idea of foreign lands and new colonies. The project he masterminded to create an English colony in Virginia involved not only raising the finances for equipping and provisioning the initial expeditions but also required him to recruit potential colonists who were prepared to leave the certainties of Elizabethan England behind and start a new life in a strange and unexplored land.
To achieve this Raleigh sold a dream. At his request Richard Hakluyt wrote the ‘Discourse’, a book which portrayed the New World as a second Eden, rich in animals, plants and precious minerals and inhabited by friendly innocents. It was to be the cure to the ills of the age. The Reformation had swept away many of the certainties of rural life and removed the social safety net that the church had once provided for the destitute and sick. Enclosures were also leaving parts of the population homeless and jobless with a knock-on effect on vagrancy and crime. Raleigh’s colony offered land, freedom and the opportunity for a new start in life – a tempting proposition for both those who felt excluded from society and those who agonised over what to do with them. This is the dream that we now find Raleigh selling to Elizabeth.