Sir Walter Raleigh: To Cloak or Not To Cloak

By Nene Adams on Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Emanuel-Gottlieb-Leutze-Elizabeth-and-Raleigh
“Presently Raleigh cast and spread his new Plush Cloak on the ground, whereon the Queen trod gently.” —Thomas Fuller

In a Nutshell

Taking the air one day in London, Walter Raleigh saw Queen Elizabeth I in danger of stepping in a mud puddle. Chivalrously, he removed his expensive cloak and spread it over the puddle to protect the queen’s footwear, thus earning her gratitude. Many people believe the romantic legend, but it is completely untrue.

The Whole Bushel

While Queen Elizabeth I and the explorer/adventurer Walter Raleigh had a close relationship—among other honors, she knighted him in 1585—he actually came to her attention when he suppressed an uprising during the Desmond Rebellions in Ireland. Raleigh’s star rose rapidly at court until he married in secret, earning Elizabeth’s wrath.

The story of Raleigh’s gallant gesture originates with Thomas Fuller, an English scholar and historian whose work Histories of the Worthies of England was published after his death in 1622. While he did make an effort to collect facts from reliable sources, Fuller was known for embellishing the bald truth with more interesting anecdotes.

The legend went viral with the 1821 publication of Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott. The book is set in Elizabethan England and contains a scene depicting the famous fictional encounter between the queen and Raleigh, complete with invented dialogue.

Show Me The Proof

BBC: Walter Raleigh
Thomas Fuller: Sir Walter Raleigh
Encyclopedia Britannica: Thomas Fuller