Skip links

Sir Walter Raleigh Biography and Facts For Kids


Sir Walter Raleigh was an English aristocrat, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy, and explorer and cousin to Sir Richard Grenville. He is also well known for popularizing tobacco in England.

  • Raleigh was born to a Protestant family in Devon, the son of Walter Raleigh and Catherine Champernowne.
  • Little is known of his early life, though he spent some time in Ireland, in Killua Castle, Clonmellon, County Westmeath, taking part in the suppression of rebellions and participating in the Siege of Smerwick.
  • Instrumental in the English colonization of North America, Raleigh was granted a royal patent to explore Virginia, which paved the way for future English settlements.
  • After Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Raleigh was again imprisoned in the Tower, this time for being involved in the Main Plot against King James I, who was not favorably disposed toward him.
  • He returned to England and, to appease the Spanish, was arrested and executed in 1618.
  • Raleigh’s family was highly Protestant in religious orientation and had a number of near escapes during the reign of the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I of England.
  • During his seventeen years as an Irish landlord, frequently being domiciled at Killua Castle, Clonmellon, County Westmeath, Raleigh made the town of Youghal his occasional home.
  • Raleigh’s plan in 1584 for colonization in the “Colony and Dominion of Virginia” in North America ended in failure at Roanoke Island, but paved the way for subsequent colonies.
  • She gave birth to a son, believed to be named Damerei, who was given to a wet nurse at Durham House, but died in October 1592 of plague.
  • According to many biographers – for instance, Raleigh Trevelyan in Sir Walter Raleigh (2002) – Raleigh’s final words (as he lay ready for the axe to fall) were: “Strike, man, strike!” The “Lost Colony” is commemorated at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island, North Carolina.