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Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was an explorer known for his expeditions to the Americas, and for allegedly bringing tobacco and the potato from the New World to the British Isles. In 1585 he attempted to set up an English colony in Virginia, but failed. In 1617 he led an expedition to find the mythical land of El Dorado in South America. A favourite of Elizabeth I (after whom he named Virginia), he fell from favour under James I and spent 13 years in the Tower of London, writing a history of the world, before being executed for treason.

Raleigh is often considered a near-ideal English gentleman of the Renaissance. A well-known legend holds that on one occasion he spread his cloak over a muddy puddle so that Queen Elizabeth would not have to soil her feet by walking through it.

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