Located just outside the Raleigh Convention Center, this statue of Walter Raleigh commemorates the namesake of North Carolina’s capital city and the founder of the Roanoke Colony, an expedition to the New World that would go into history as “the Lost Colony.”
Raleigh, born in 1552, was an Englishman and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. He was also a bit of a skalawag. He was awarded a charter to establish a colony in the newly discovered Americas, but never actually visited North America himself. Instead, he founded the Roanoke Colony, which was established in what is now North Carolina, in 1585. He never followed through with financial or logistical support and, by the time a second colony landed on Roanoke Island two years later, the colony had disappeared, with no sign of the original settlers to be found.
As I said, Raleigh was a bit of a skalawag. He took part in a plot to overthrow Elizabeth’s successor, James I, and spent thirteen years emprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1617, he was pardoned by the King and was granted permission to lead an expedition to South America in search of El Dorado, the mythical City of Gold. During the expedition, Raleigh’s men attacked a Spanish outpost on the Orinoco River, a direct violation of a treaty between Spain and England. To appease Spain, Raleigh was sentenced to death and was beheaded in 1618 at Westminster Palace.
He wasn’t exactly a shining example of what a great man could be, but we’re stuck with him, I guess. He does cut a dashing figure, though.