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Sir Walter Raleigh

Explorer / Scalawag

Born: 1552
Died: 29 October 1618 (beheading)
Birthplace: Devonshire, England
Best known as: The man who laid his cloak over a mudpuddle for the queen
Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the grand scalawags of the Elizabethan Age. He made a name for himself fighting the Irish at Munster; later he was introduced at court and became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. Known for his wit and womanizing, Raleigh was in and out of Elizabeth's favor. (According to a famous legend he once laid his plush and expensive cloak over a mud puddle so that the Queen's feet would not be dirtied; the legend has long been disputed, but it may actually be true.) He also organized expeditions to the new world, popularized tobacco, and found time to write poetry on the side. Raleigh was not a favorite of Elizabeth's successor, James I, who kept Sir Walter imprisoned in the Tower of London for years and finally had him beheaded in 1618.
Extra credit: After Raleigh's execution, his head was embalmed and returned to his wife... Some sources say on the day he was beheaded Raleigh was granted a last smoke of tobacco -- establishing the tradition of giving a prisoner a last cigarette before execution.

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