avert this loss Raleigh, partly out of his own pocket and partly by securing the help of courtiers and capitalists, provided the means for the expedition to Newfoundland in 1583, in which Gilbert, who had been reduced to sell “the clothes off his wife's back” by his previous misfortunes, finally perished. Sir Humphrey's patent was renewed in favour of Sir Walter in March 1584.
Raleigh now began the short series of ventures in colonization which have connected his name with the settlement of Virginia. It has often been said that Raleigh showed a wise originality in his ideas as to colonization. But in truth the patent granted to him, which gave him and his heirs the proprietary right over all territory they occupied subject to payment of one-fifth of the produce of all mines of precious metals to the crown, is drawn closely on Spanish precedents. Nor was there any originality in his desire to settle English colonists, and encourage other industries than mining. The Spaniards had pursued the same aim from the first. In April 1584 Raleigh sent out two captains, Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, on a voyage of exploration. They sailed by the Canaries to Florida, and from thence followed the coast of North America as far as the inlet between Albemarle and Pamlico sounds in the modern state of North Carolina. The name of Virginia was given to a vast and undefined territory, but none of Raleigh's captains or settlers reached the state of Virginia. In the same year he became member of parliament for Devonshire, and took the precaution to secure a parliamentary confirmation of his grant. His first body of settlers, sent out in 1585 under Sir Richard Grenville, landed on what is now Roanoke Island in North Carolina. Sir R. Grenville showed himself mainly intent on taking prizes, going and coming. The settlers got on bad terms with the natives, despaired, and deserted the colony when Sir Francis Drake visited the coast in 1586. Attempts at colonization at the same place in 1586 and 1587 proved no more successful (see North Carolina), and in 1589 Raleigh, who represented himself as having spent £40,000 on the venture, resigned his rights to a company of merchants, preserving to himself a rent, and a fifth of whatever gold might be discovered.
After 1587 Sir Walter Raleigh was called upon to fight for his place of favourite with the earl of Essex (see Essex, 2nd Earl of). During the Armada year 1588 he was more or less in eclipse. He was in Ireland for part of the year with Sir R. Grenville, and was employed as vice-admiral of Devon in looking after the coast-defences and militia levy of the county. During this year he received a challenge from Essex which did not lead to an encounter. In 1589 he was again in Ireland. He had already made the acquaintance of Edmund Spenser and now visited him at his house at Kilcolman. It was by Raleigh's help that Spenser obtained a pension, and royal aid to publish the first three books of the Faerie Queen. The exact cause of Raleigh's partial disgrace at court is not known, but it was probably due to the queen's habitual policy of checking one favourite by the promotion of another. In 1589 he accompanied the expedition to the coast of Portugal, which was intended to cause a revolt against King Philip II., but failed completely. In 1591 he was at the last moment forbidden to take part in the voyage to the Azores, and was replaced by his cousin Sir R. Grenville, whose death in action with the Spaniards was the subject of one of Sir Walter's most vigorous pieces of prose writing. In 1592 he was again at sea with an expedition to intercept the Spanish trade, but was recalled by the queen. The cause of his recall was the discovery that he had seduced one of her maids of honour, Elizabeth Throgmorton. Raleigh denied in a letter to Robert Cecil that there was any truth in the stories of a marriage between them. On his return he was put into the Tower, and if he was not already married was married there. To placate the queen he made a fantastic display of despair at the loss of her favour. It must be remembered that the maids of honour could not marry without the consent of the queen, which Elizabeth was always most reluctant to give and would be particularly unwilling to give when the husband was an old favourite of her own. Raleigh proved a good husband and his wife was devoted to him through life. As the ships of the expedition had taken a valuable prize, the Portuguese carrack “Madre de Dios,” and as there was a dispute over the booty, he was released to superintend the distribution. He had been a large contributor to the cost of the expedition, but the queen, who sent only two ships, took the bulk of the spoil, leaving him barely enough to cover his expenses.
Raleigh now retired from court to an estate at Sherborne in Dorsetshire, which just before his disgrace he had extorted from the bishop of Salisbury, to whose see it belonged, by a most unscrupulous use of the royal influence. A son was born to him here in 1594, and he kept up a friendly correspondence with Sir Robert Cecil, afterwards earl of Salisbury, the secretary of state. But a life of constant retirement was uncongenial to Raleigh, and as his profuse habits, together with the multiplicity of his interests, had prevented him from making any advantage out of his estates in Ireland, he was embarrassed for money. In 1595 he therefore sailed on a voyage of exploration with a view to conquest, on the coast of South America. The object was undoubtedly to find gold mines, and Raleigh had heard the wild stories of El Dorado which had been current among the Spaniards for long. His account of his voyage, The Discoverie of Guiana, published on his return, is the most brilliant of all the Elizabethan narratives of adventure, but contains much manifest romance. It was received with incredulity. He was now the most unpopular man in England, not only among the courtiers, but in the nation, for his greed, arrogance and alleged scepticism in religion. In 1590 he was named with the poet Marlowe and others as an atheist. At court he was not at first received. The share he took in the capture of Cadiz in 1596, where he was seriously wounded, was followed by a restoration of favour at court, and he was apparently reconciled to Essex, whom he accompanied on a voyage to the Azores in 1597. This co-operation led to a renewal of the quarrel, and Raleigh, as the enemy of Essex who was the favourite of the soldiers and the populace, became more unpopular than ever. In 1600 he obtained the governorship of Jersey, and in the following year took a part in suppressing the rebellion of Essex, at whose execution he presided as captain of the Guard. In 1600 he sat as member for Penzance in the last parliament of Elizabeth's reign. In parliament he was a steady friend of religious toleration, and a bold critic of the fiscal and agrarian legislation of the time.
The death of the queen and the accession of James I. were ruinous to Raleigh. James, who looked upon Essex as his partisan, had been prejudiced, and Raleigh's avowed desire for the prolongation of the war with Spain was utterly against the peace policy of the king. Raleigh was embarrassed for money, and had been compelled to sell his Irish estates to Richard Boyle, afterwards 1st earl of Cork, in 1602. He was expelled from Durham House, which was reclaimed by the bishop, dismissed from the captaincy of the Guard, deprived of his monopolies, which the king abolished, and of the government of Jersey. In his anger and despair he unquestionably took some part in the complication of conspiracies which arose in the first months of James's reign, and was committed to the Tower on the 19th of July 1603. Here he made what appears to have been an insincere attempt to stab himself, but only inflicted a small wound. His trial at Winchester, November 1603, was conducted with such outrageous unfairness as to shock the opinion of the time, and his gallant bearing in face of the brutality of the Attorney-General, Sir Edward Coke, turned public opinion in his favour. It is now impossible to reach the truth, but on the whole it appears probable that Raleigh was cognizant of the conspiracies, though the evidence produced against him was insufficient to prove his guilt. Much was kept back by the council, and the jury was influenced by knowing that the council thought him guilty.
The sentence of death passed on Raleigh, and others tried at about the same time, was in most cases not carried out.