Not that you didn’t already know this, but here’s a snippet from Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life & Legend by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams:
The well-worn tale of how Ralegh once spread his cloak over a ‘plashy place,’ traditionally at Greenwich, so allowing the Queen to walk across, rests only on gossip recorded by Thomas Fuller, who was born at least twenty years after the event he describes. As Steven May points out,t he story does not accord with the ways in which a Queen went about her business. With the threat of assassination so potent in the 1580s, royal walkabouts in the uncontrolled press of a crowd were deemed too risky. Nevertheless, here is history as it should have been, an imaginative illustration of a known truth. In the tale, the Queen rewards Ralegh with ‘many suits’ in recompense for the one that he has cast down; adventure brings reward.
As for whether a servant saw Raleigh smoking and, believing his master to be on fire, poured a bucket of water over him: also probably not true. In fact, the same story apparently has been told about the Elizabethan actor Richard Tarleton.
Also, Raleigh “almost certainly did not bring potatoes into England,” although maybe—maybe—he introduced them to Ireland. (A mixed blessing, I should say!) Neither was Raleigh the first to bring tobacco to England, although he probably was the first to bring it into fashion.
Isn’t it funny how almost all the details your old history books wanted you to know about someone turn out to be wrong? And what, I wonder, changes for them being true or false?
IMAGES: Raleigh Meeting Elizabeth, from Sadlier’s Excelsior Studies in the History of the United States for Schools by A Teacher of History (1879); Raleigh Smoking, from Sadlier’s Elementary History of the United States by A Teacher of History (1896)