MCM: Sir Walter Raleigh


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.

1588 - Sir Walter Raleigh by unknown artist

1588 – Sir Walter Raleigh by unknown artist

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.

1598 - Sir Walter Raleigh by William Segar

1598 – Sir Walter Raleigh by William Segar

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)

The story is all about QEI & Essex’s affair, but Price sure looks good in his bit part!


Leslie Bradley in Time Flies (1944)

Sir Walter Raleigh - Time Flies (1944)

Per IMDB: “A minor music hall star uses a professor’s time machine to travel back to the Elizabethan era.”


Richard Todd in The Virgin Queen (1955)

Richard Todd in The Virgin Queen (1955)

Full on love triangle between the Queen, Raleigh, & “Beth” Throckmorton, though it seems more earnest on QEI’s side than his.


Nicholas Selby in “Sweet England’s Pride,” Elizabeth R (1971)

Sir Walter Raleigh - Elizabeth R (1971)

Probably the most historically accurate portrayal of Raleigh (no surprise!) where he’s playing the game at court, plus he’s dressed as in is portrait above, even that black & silver cape.


Simon Jones in “Potato,” Blackadder II (1986)

Sir Walter Raleigh - Blackadder II (1986)

Sorry I couldn’t get a better screencap of this hilarious episode where Sir Walter “Oooh what a big ship I’ve got” Raleigh shows off to QEI & makes Blackadder all jealous.


Ronald Pickup in My Friend Walter (1992)

Sir Walter Raleigh - My Friend Walter (1992)

A kid’s TV movie where a young girl descended from Bess Throckmorton meets Raleigh’s ghost. I suspect I’d have loved this when I was a kid.


Derek Riddell in The Virgin Queen (2005)

Sir Walter Raleigh - The Virgin Queen (2005)

In the final episode, he’s shown as one of the Queen’s councilors who warns of Essex’s treachery. Right on!


Ben Pullen in Elizabeth I (2005)

Sir Walter Raleigh - Elizabeth I (2005)

Briefly shown in the first episode around the time of the Spanish Armada, then he hangs around to duel Essex, & I’m rooting for him because Essex irritates me (historically & onscreen).


Clive Owen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Clive Owen in Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Awww, yes! Quite the love interest for Her Maj, because how would *he* not be?


Rufus Jones in Bill (2015)

Sir Walter Raleigh - Bill (2015)

I’ve seen it, but I honestly can’t tell which of QEI’s courtiers is Raleigh because only a couple of the earls are named. Sorry!


Michael Lindall in A Discovery of Witches (2021)

Sir Walter Raleigh - A Discovery of Witches (2021)

Apparently he’s in a few episodes of S2, which y’all keep telling us to watch, so OK, I’m figuring out how to watch S1 so I’ll know WTfrock is going on first.



Who’s your favorite Sir Walter Raleigh onscreen?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Facebook Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

25 Responses

  1. MoHub

    So happy to see Simon Jones in Blackadder II. I was hoping to see him before I scrolled down.

    • Anne

      Me, too! And Tom Baker’s bit in that always leaves me laughing till I hurt!

    • M.E. Lawrence

      Reminds me–now that I’ve got a new working telly and a DVD player adapter, I can dig out my Blackadder collection!

    • Jamie LaMoreaux

      I love Queenie’s “So WHAT o REALLY?!” and nursey laughing. That Black Adders episode was incredible. but then they all were!

    • Susan Pola Staples

      Nicholas Selby and Michael Lindell are my favourites. And I can let you borrow my Season 1 of Discovery of Witches, if you need to.

  2. florenceandtheai

    I found “Discovery of Witches” on Prime. I’m still weighing watching it, strictly because of this blog.

  3. Natasha Rubin

    Listen, Raleigh is all well and good, but considering Christopher Marlowe is one of my all-time historical crushes (seriously, to those who don’t know, look him up! His life was fascinating), I feel the need to defend him here that nothing he wrote was “romantic crap”, and certainly not typical. ;-)

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Lol! I’m prob. feeling rather bitter these days, but Marlowe’s poetry can be rather sappy, so I’m into Raleigh’s reply more.

      • Nzie

        I quite enjoy them as a pair, as I first encountered them in high school. I think I was rather taken with the sappy love side from Marlowe, but I could see that the nymph made some good points (and in a witty way to boot). I did write an alternative reply poem in which the nymph says she doesn’t want any of the fluff promises but actually just loves the shepherd. I wonder if I have it somewhere–it would be interesting to see what I think of it almost 20 years later!

      • Victoria Hannah

        Well if you watch Discovery, you’re going to hate Kit.

  4. Vég Anett

    Yep, Discovery of witches is worth watching. Especially for teh costumes in S2. I can’t wait to see, what you think about them.

  5. Jamie LaMoreaux

    I’m afraid the desire to watch Discovery of witches ended for me when they said it was a medieval Twilight! BLAH!

    • Mrs. D

      I’ve only seen the first episode, but I’ve read the first two books. I will freely admit that they can be a bit hokey in places, and I find the central relationship somewhat problematic. However, medieval Twilight they are not. The history is by far the best part and seems to be meticulously researched.

  6. Kathleen J Norvell

    Richard Todd was my first Raleigh and I still love him, although Clive Owen has the right dash.

  7. Saraquill

    I’m drooling over his portraits. I want a movie about Raleigh and his pearls, dangit!

  8. KMS

    Jack Whitehall also played Raleigh in Drunk History which was fun!

  9. Julia R

    Thank you so much for always including Blackadder where applicable. That show is the absolute best, and deserves all of the love it can get <3