A true ‘renaissance man’ in the cliche sense of the word, Sir Walter Raleigh was a soldier, explorer, courtier, poet, and politician who served Queen Elizabeth I, though he was (perhaps unjustly) executed by her successor, King James. The Queen chartered Raleigh to establish a colony in the New World, but she also forbade him to leave court, so he never landed in Virginia or the other American sites that would later bear his name. He did pay for and organize the expeditions. He also wrote a pretty clever poem rebutting the typical romantic crap others were flinging around.
His life is more interesting than his few screen portrayals would suggest! Only when a QEI frock flick needs a different love interest does he get a starring role. This plot always has to do with his 1591 secret marriage to Bess Throckmorton, one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting, who wasn’t supposed to marry without the Queen’s permission. The transgression landed both husband and wife in the Tower of London for a short while, and Bess lost her position at court. This could have been as much because they broke the rule as due to a love triangle, but y’know, frock flicks gotta go with the drah-mah.
Anyway, let’s look at the fellas who’ve tried to bring a little bit of Raleigh to the screen!
Vincent Price in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
Leslie Bradley in Time Flies (1944)
Richard Todd in The Virgin Queen (1955)
Nicholas Selby in “Sweet England’s Pride,” Elizabeth R (1971)
Simon Jones in “Potato,” Blackadder II (1986)
Ronald Pickup in My Friend Walter (1992)
Derek Riddell in The Virgin Queen (2005)
Ben Pullen in Elizabeth I (2005)
Clive Owen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
Rufus Jones in Bill (2015)
Michael Lindall in A Discovery of Witches (2021)
Who’s your favorite Sir Walter Raleigh onscreen?