On 15 February 1971, known as Decimal Day, the United Kingdom and Ireland decimalised their currencies. Under the old currency of pounds and pence, the pound was made up of 240 pence, with 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound; the loss of value of the currency meant that the "old" penny, with the same diameter as the US half-dollar, had become of low value. The Coinage Act of 1792 had authorized the United States as the first English-speaking nation to have decimalised currency, although Tsar Peter the Great used the concept for the Russian ruble close to a century earlier, in 1704, while China has used such a decimal system for at least 2000 years; the United Kingdom's Parliament rejected Sir John Wrottesley's proposals to decimalise sterling in 1824, prompted by the introduction in 1795 of the decimal French franc. After this defeat, little practical progress towards decimalisation was made for over a century, with the exception of the two-shilling silver florin first issued in 1849.
A double florin or four-shilling piece was a further step in that direction but failed to gain acceptance and was struck only from 1887 to 1890. The Decimal Association was founded in 1841 to promote decimalisation and metrication, both causes that were boosted by a realisation of the importance of international trade following the 1851 Great Exhibition, it was as a result of the growing interest in decimalisation. In their preliminary report, the Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage considered the benefits and problems of decimalisation but did not draw any conclusion about the adoption of any such scheme. A final report in 1859 from the two remaining commissioners, Lord Overstone and Governor of the Bank of England John Hubbard came out against the idea, claiming it had "few merits". In 1862, the Select Committee on Weights and Measures favoured the introduction of decimalisation to accompany the introduction of metric weights and measures; the decimalisation movement entered fiction. In Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels, Plantagenet Palliser is a passionate advocate of decimalisation, a cause the other characters seem to find intensely boring.
Palliser's scheme would have divided the shilling into ten pennies. This would have changed the threepence into 2 1/2 new pence, the sixpence into fivepence and the half crown into a two shilling, five pence piece, it would have required the withdrawal and reissuance of the existing copper coinage. At the end of the fifth book in the series, The Prime Minister, Palliser muses that the reform will not be accomplished, since it can only be done by a Chancellor of the Exchequer sitting in the House of Commons, the Duke now sits in the House of Lords; the Royal Commission on Decimal Coinage, chaired by Lord Emmott, reported in 1920 that the only feasible scheme was to divide the pound into 1,000 mills but that this would be too inconvenient. A minority of four members disagreed. A further three members recommended that the pound should be replaced by the Royal, consisting of 100 halfpennies. In 1960, a report prepared jointly by the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, followed by the success of decimalisation in South Africa, prompted the Government to set up the Committee of the Inquiry on Decimal Currency in 1961, which reported in 1963.
The adoption of the changes suggested in the report was announced on 1 March 1966. The Decimal Currency Board was created to manage the transition, although the plans were not approved by Parliament until the Decimal Currency Act in May 1969. Former Greater London Council leader Bill Fiske was named as the Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board. Consideration was given to introducing a new major unit of currency worth ten shillings in the old currency: suggested names included the new pound, the royal and the noble; this would have resulted in the "decimal penny" being worth only more than the old penny. But Halsbury decided, in view of the pound sterling's importance as a reserve currency, that the pound should remain unchanged. Under the new system, the pound was retained but was divided into 100 new pence, denoted by the symbol p. New coinage was issued alongside the old coins; the 5p and 10p coins were introduced in April 1968 and were the same size and value as the shilling and two shillings coins in circulation with them.
In October 1969 the 50p coin was introduced, with the 10s note withdrawn on 20 November 1970. This reduced the number of new coins that had to be introduced on Decimal Day and meant that the public was familiar with three of the six new coins. Small booklets were made available containing all of the new denominations; the old halfpenny was withdrawn from circulation on 31 July 1969, the half-crown followed on 31 December to ease the transition. There was a substantial publicity campaign in the weeks before Decimalisation Day, including a song by Max Bygraves called "Decimalisation"; the BBC broadcast a series of five-minute programmes, "Decimal Five", to whi
A gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is based on a fixed quantity of gold. Three types can be distinguished: specie and exchange. In the gold specie standard the monetary unit is associated with the value of circulating gold coins, or the monetary unit has the value of a certain circulating gold coin, but other coins may be made of less valuable metal; the gold bullion standard is a system in which gold coins do not circulate, but the authorities agree to sell gold bullion on demand at a fixed price in exchange for the circulating currency. The gold exchange standard does not involve the circulation of gold coins; the main feature of the gold exchange standard is that the government guarantees a fixed exchange rate to the currency of another country that uses a gold standard, regardless of what type of notes or coins are used as a means of exchange. This creates a de facto gold standard, where the value of the means of exchange has a fixed external value in terms of gold, independent of the inherent value of the means of exchange itself.
Most nations abandoned the gold standard as the basis of their monetary systems at some point in the 20th century, although many hold substantial gold reserves. A 2012 survey of leading economists showed that they unanimously reject that a return to the gold standard would benefit the average American; the gold specie standard arose from the widespread acceptance of gold as currency. Various commodities have been used as money. Chemically, gold is of all major metals the one most resistant to corrosion; the use of gold as money began thousands of years ago in Asia Minor. During the early and high Middle Ages, the Byzantine gold solidus known as the bezant, was used throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. However, as the Byzantine Empire's economic influence declined, so too did the use of the bezant. In its place, European territories chose silver as their currency over gold, leading to the development of silver standards. Silver pennies based on the Roman denarius became the staple coin of Mercia in Great Britain around the time of King Offa, circa 757–796 CE.
Similar coins, including Italian denari, French deniers, Spanish dineros, circulated in Europe. Spanish explorers discovered silver deposits in Mexico in 1522 and at Potosí in Bolivia in 1545. International trade came to depend on coins such as the Spanish dollar, the Maria Theresa thaler, the United States trade dollar. In modern times, the British West Indies was one of the first regions to adopt a gold specie standard. Following Queen Anne's proclamation of 1704, the British West Indies gold standard was a de facto gold standard based on the Spanish gold doubloon. In 1717, Sir Isaac Newton, the master of the Royal Mint, established a new mint ratio between silver and gold that had the effect of driving silver out of circulation and putting Britain on a gold standard. A formal gold specie standard was first established in 1821, when Britain adopted it following the introduction of the gold sovereign by the new Royal Mint at Tower Hill in 1816; the United Province of Canada in 1854, Newfoundland in 1865, the United States and Germany in 1873 adopted gold.
The United States used the eagle as its unit, Germany introduced the new gold mark, while Canada adopted a dual system based on both the American gold eagle and the British gold sovereign. Australia and New Zealand adopted the British gold standard, as did the British West Indies, while Newfoundland was the only British Empire territory to introduce its own gold coin. Royal Mint branches were established in Sydney and Perth for the purpose of minting gold sovereigns from Australia's rich gold deposits; the gold specie standard came to an end in the United Kingdom and the rest of the British Empire with the outbreak of World War I. From 1750 to 1870, wars within Europe as well as an ongoing trade deficit with China drained silver from the economies of Western Europe and the United States. Coins were struck in smaller and smaller numbers, there was a proliferation of bank and stock notes used as money. In the 1790s, the United Kingdom suffered a silver shortage, it ceased to mint larger silver coins and instead issued "token" silver coins and overstruck foreign coins.
With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Bank of England began the massive recoinage programme that created standard gold sovereigns, circulating crowns, half-crowns and copper farthings in 1821. The recoinage of silver after a long drought produced a burst of coins; the United Kingdom struck nearly 40 million shillings between 1816 and 1820, 17 million half crowns and 1.3 million silver crowns. The 1819 Act for the Resumption of Cash Payments set 1823 as the date for resumption of convertibility, reached by 1821. Throughout the 1820s, small notes were issued by regional banks; this was restricted in 1826. In 1833 however, Bank of England notes were made legal tender and redemption by other banks was discouraged. In 1844, the Bank Charter Act established that Bank of England notes were backed by gold and they became the legal standard. According to the strict interpretation of the gold standard, this 1844 act marked the establishment of a full gold standard for British money. In the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton recommended to Congress the value of a decimal system.
This system would apply to monies in the United States. The question was what type of standard: silver or both; the United States adopted a silver standard based on the Spanish milled dollar i
Government of the United Kingdom
The Government of the United Kingdom, formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is commonly referred to as the UK Government or the British Government; the government is led by the Prime Minister. The prime minister and the other most senior ministers belong to the supreme decision-making committee, known as the Cabinet; the government ministers all sit in Parliament, are accountable to it. The government is dependent on Parliament to make primary legislation, since the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act 2011, general elections are held every five years to elect a new House of Commons, unless there is a successful vote of no confidence in the government or a two-thirds vote for a snap election in the House of Commons, in which case an election may be held sooner. After an election, the monarch selects as prime minister the leader of the party most to command the confidence of the House of Commons by possessing a majority of MPs.
Under the uncodified British constitution, executive authority lies with the monarch, although this authority is exercised only by, or on the advice of, the prime minister and the cabinet. The Cabinet members advise the monarch as members of the Privy Council. In most cases they exercise power directly as leaders of the Government Departments, though some Cabinet positions are sinecures to a greater or lesser degree; the current prime minister is Theresa May, who took office on 13 July 2016. She is the leader of the Conservative Party, which won a majority of seats in the House of Commons in the general election on 7 May 2015, when David Cameron was the party leader. Prior to this and the Conservatives led a coalition from 2010 to 2015 with the Liberal Democrats, in which Cameron was prime minister; the Government is referred to with the metonym Westminster, due to that being where many of the offices of the government are situated by members in the Government of Scotland, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive in order to differentiate it from their own.
A key principle of the British Constitution is. This is called responsible government; the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy in which the reigning monarch does not make any open political decisions. All political decisions are taken by Parliament; this constitutional state of affairs is the result of a long history of constraining and reducing the political power of the monarch, beginning with Magna Carta in 1215. Parliament is split into the House of Commons; the House of Commons is the more powerful. The House of Lords is the upper house and although it can vote to amend proposed laws, the House of Commons can vote to overrule its amendments. Although the House of Lords can introduce bills, most important laws are introduced in the House of Commons – and most of those are introduced by the government, which schedules the vast majority of parliamentary time in the Commons. Parliamentary time is essential for bills to be passed into law, because they must pass through a number of readings before becoming law.
Prior to introducing a bill, the government may run a public consultation to solicit feedback from the public and businesses, may have introduced and discussed the policy in the Queen's Speech, or in an election manifesto or party platform. Ministers of the Crown are responsible to the House. For most senior ministers this is the elected House of Commons rather than the House of Lords. There have been some recent exceptions to this: for example, cabinet ministers Lord Mandelson and Lord Adonis sat in the Lords and were responsible to that House during the government of Gordon Brown. Since the start of Edward VII's reign in 1901, the prime minister has always been an elected member of Parliament and therefore directly accountable to the House of Commons. A similar convention applies to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would be politically unacceptable for the budget speech to be given in the Lords, with MPs unable to directly question the Chancellor now that the Lords have limited powers in relation to money bills.
The last Chancellor of the Exchequer to be a member of the House of Lords was Lord Denman, who served as interim Chancellor of the Exchequer for one month in 1834. Under the British system, the government is required by convention and for practical reasons to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons, it requires the support of the House of Commons for the maintenance of supply and to pass primary legislation. By convention, if a government loses the confidence of the House of Commons it must either resign or a General Election is held; the support of the Lords, while useful to the government in getting its legislation passed without delay, is not vital. A government is not required to resign if it loses the confidence of the Lords and is defeated in key votes in that House; the House of Commons is thus the Responsible house. The prime minister is held to account during Prime Minister's Questions which provides an opportunity for MPs from all parties to question the PM on any subject
Shilling (British coin)
The shilling was a coin worth one twentieth of a pound sterling, or twelve pence. It was first minted in the reign of Henry VII as the testoon, became known as the shilling from the Old English scilling, sometime in the mid-sixteenth century, circulating until 1990; the word bob was sometimes used for a monetary value of several shillings, e.g. "ten bob note". Following decimalisation on 15 February 1971 the coin had a value of five new pence, it was made from silver from its introduction in or around 1503 until 1947, thereafter in cupronickel. Prior to Decimal Day in 1971 there were 240 pence in one pound sterling. Twelve pence made a shilling, twenty shillings made a pound. Values less than a pound were written in terms of shillings and pence, e.g. forty-two pence would be three shillings and six pence, pronounced "three and six". Values of less than a shilling were written in terms of pence, e.g. eight pence would be 8d. Although the coin was not minted until the sixteenth century, the value of a shilling had been used for accounting purposes since the Anglo-Saxon period.
A shilling was deemed to be the value of a cow in Kent, or a sheep elsewhere. The value of one shilling equalling 12d was set by the Normans following the conquest; the first coins of the pound sterling with the value of 12d were minted in 1503 or 1504 and were known as testoons. The testoon was one of the first English coins to bear a real portrait of the monarch on its obverse, it is for this reason that it obtained its name from an Italian coin known as the testone, or headpiece, introduced in Milan in 1474. Between 1544 and 1551 the coinage was debased by the governments of Henry VIII and Edward VI in an attempt to generate more money to fund foreign wars; this debasement meant that coins produced in 1551 had one-fifth of the silver content of those minted in 1544, the value of new testoons fell from 12d to 6d. The reason the testoon decreased in value is that unlike today, the value of coins was determined by the market price of the metal contained within them; this debasement was recognised as a mistake, during Elizabeth's reign newly minted coins, including the testoon, had a much higher silver content and regained their pre-debasement value.
Shillings were minted during the reign of every British monarch following Edward VI, as well as during the Commonwealth, with a vast number of variations and alterations appearing over the years. The Royal Mint undertook a massive recoinage programme in 1816, with large quantities of gold and silver coin being minted. Previous issues of silver coinage had been irregular, the last issue, minted in 1787, was not intended for issue to the public, but as Christmas gifts to the Bank of England's customers. New silver coinage was to be of.925 standard, with silver coins to be minted at 66 shillings to the troy pound. Hence, newly minted shillings weighed 5.655 grams. The Royal Mint debased the silver coinage in 1920 from 92.5% silver to 50% silver. Shillings of both alloys were minted that year; this debasement was done because of the rising price of silver around the world, followed the global trend of the elimination, or the reducing in purity, of the silver in coinage. The minting of silver coinage of the pound sterling ceased in 1946 for similar reasons, exacerbated by the costs of the Second World War.
New "silver" coinage was instead minted in cupronickel, an alloy of copper and nickel containing no silver at all. Beginning with Lord Wrottesley's proposals in the 1820s there were various attempts to decimalise the pound sterling over the next century and a half; these attempts came to nothing significant until the 1960s when the need for a currency more suited to simple monetary calculations became pressing. The decision to decimalise was announced in 1966, with the pound to be redivided into 100, rather than 240, pence. Decimal Day was set for 15 February 1971, a whole range of new coins were introduced. Shillings continued to be legal tender with a value of 5 new pence until 31 December 1990. Testoons issued during the reign of Henry VII feature a right-facing portrait of the king on the obverse. Surrounding the portrait is the inscription HENRICUS DI GRA REX ANGL Z FRA, or similar, meaning "Henry, by the Grace of God, King of England and France". All shillings minted under subsequent kings and queens bear a similar inscription on the obverse identifying the monarch, with the portrait flipping left-facing to right-facing or vice versa between monarchs.
The reverse features the escutcheon of the Royal Arms of England, surrounded by the inscription POSVI DEVM ADIVTORE MEVM, or a variant, meaning "I have made God my helper". Henry VIII testoons have a different reverse design, featuring a crowned Tudor rose, but those of Edward VI return to the Royal Arms design used previously. Starting with Edward VI the coins feature the denomination XII printed next to the portrait of the king. Elizabeth I and Mary I shillings are exceptions to this; some shillings issued during Mary's reign bear the date of minting, printed above the dual portraits of Mary and Philip. Early shillings of James I feature the alternative reverse inscription EXURGAT DEUS DISSIPENTUR INIMICI, meaning "Let God arise and His enemies be scattered", becoming QVAE DEVS CONIVNXIT NEMO SEPARET, meaning "What God hath put together let no man put asunder" after 1604. A slang name for a shilling was a "bob" (plural as singular, as
Bank of England £1 note
The Bank of England £1 note was a banknote of the pound sterling. After the ten shilling note was withdrawn in 1970 it became the smallest denomination note issued by the Bank of England; the one pound note was issued by the Bank of England for the first time in 1797 and continued to be printed until 1984. The note was withdrawn in 1988 in favour of the one pound coin. One pound notes were introduced by the Bank of England for the first time in 1797, following gold shortages caused by the French Revolutionary Wars; the earliest notes were handwritten, were issued as needed to individuals. These notes were written on one side only and bore the name of the payee, the date, the signature of the issuing cashier. Between 1797 and 1821 the lack of bullion meant that banks would not exchange banknotes for gold, but after the end of the Napoleonic Wars the shortage was alleviated such that notes could be exchanged for an equivalent amount of gold when presented at the bank. One pound notes were replaced by gold sovereigns.
During the First World War the British Government wanted to maintain its stocks of gold and so banks were ordered to again stop exchanging any and all denominations of banknotes for gold. Gold sovereigns were replaced by one pound notes issued by the Treasury; these notes were nicknamed "Bradburys" because of the prominent signature of Sir John Bradbury, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury displayed on the notes. Britain returned to the gold standard in 1925, although the Bank of England was only obliged to exchange notes for gold in multiples of 400 troy ounces or more; the responsibility for the printing of one pound notes was transferred to the Bank of England in 1928, the ability to redeem banknotes for gold ceased in 1931 when Britain stopped using the gold standard. The Bank of England's first post-World War I one pound notes were two-sided green notes which were printed – not handwritten; the name of the payee was replaced by the declaration "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of one pound".
This declaration remains on Bank of England banknotes to this day. This signature of the issuing cashier was replaced by the printed signature of the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England. In 1940, following the outbreak of the Second World War, one pound notes were issued in a new blue-orange colour scheme to deter counterfeiters, although the design remained the same. At the same time, metal thread running the paper was introduced as a security feature. After the war one pound notes were issued in their original green colour; the earliest post-World War II notes did not have the metallic thread security feature, but those issued from September 1948 onward did. A new design for one pound notes was introduced in 1960, with the old notes ceasing to be legal tender in 1962; these new series C notes were narrower, were the first one-pound notes to feature a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the front. The reverse design incorporated the logo of the Bank of England. Series C notes were replaced by the series D notes from 1978 onward.
These smaller notes featured an new design with Queen Elizabeth II on the front and scientist Isaac Newton on the back. The note was redesigned in 1981 to feature brighter background colours. Following a consultation with retailers and other groups it was announced on 31 July 1981 that the one pound note would be replaced by a one pound coin. Part of the reason for this change was that notes, on average, lasted only nine months in general circulation, while coins could last forty years or more; the government believed that the growing vending industry would benefit from the introduction of a one-pound coin. The new cupro-nickel coin was introduced on 21 April 1983 and the one pound note ceased to be legal tender on 11 March 1988. Bank of England £1 notes are still found in circulation in Scotland, alongside Royal Bank of Scotland £1 notes; this is because Scotland has no concept of Legal Tender, any Sterling bank note, of any age, may be used provided the trader is content to accept it. The Bank of England will exchange old £1 notes for their face value in perpetuity.
Information taken from Bank of England website. Bank of England note issues Bank of England website
Royal Bank of Scotland
The Royal Bank of Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Banca Rìoghail na h-Alba, Scots: Ryal Bank o Scotland abbreviated as RBS, is one of the retail banking subsidiaries of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, together with NatWest and Ulster Bank. The Royal Bank of Scotland has around 700 branches in Scotland, though there are branches in many larger towns and cities throughout England and Wales. Both the bank and its parent, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, are separate from the fellow Edinburgh-based bank, the Bank of Scotland, which pre-dates The Royal Bank of Scotland by 32 years; the Royal Bank of Scotland was established in 1724 to provide a bank with strong Hanoverian and Whig ties. Following ring-fencing of the Group's core domestic business, the bank is expected to become a direct subsidiary of NatWest Holdings by 2019. NatWest Markets comprises the Group's investment banking arm. To give it legal form, the former RBS entity was renamed NatWest Markets in 2018. Drummond and Child & Co. businesses in England.
The bank traces its origin to the Society of the Subscribed Equivalent Debt, set up by investors in the failed Company of Scotland to protect the compensation they received as part of the arrangements of the 1707 Acts of Union. The "Equivalent Society" became the "Equivalent Company" in 1724, the new company wished to move into banking; the British government received the request favourably as the "Old Bank", the Bank of Scotland, was suspected of having Jacobite sympathies. Accordingly, the "New Bank" was chartered in 1727 as the Royal Bank of Scotland, with Archibald Campbell, Lord Ilay, appointed its first governor. On 31 May 1728, the Royal Bank of Scotland invented the overdraft, considered an innovation in modern banking, it allowed a merchant in the High Street of Edinburgh, access to £ 1,000 credit. Competition between the Old and New Banks was centred on the issue of banknotes; the policy of the Royal Bank was to either drive the Bank of Scotland out of business, or take it over on favourable terms.
The Royal Bank built up large holdings of the Bank of Scotland's notes, which it acquired in exchange for its own notes suddenly presented to the Bank of Scotland for payment. To pay these notes, the Bank of Scotland was forced to call in its loans and, in March 1728, to suspend payments; the suspension relieved the immediate pressure on the Bank of Scotland at the cost of substantial damage to its reputation, gave the Royal Bank a clear space to expand its own business—although the Royal Bank's increased note issue made it more vulnerable to the same tactics. Despite talk of a merger with the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank did not possess the wherewithal to complete the deal. By September 1728, the Bank of Scotland was able to start redeeming its notes again, with interest, in March 1729, it resumed lending. To prevent similar attacks in the future, the Bank of Scotland put an "option clause" on its notes, giving it the right to make the notes interest-bearing while delaying payment for six months.
Both banks decided that the policy they had followed was mutually self-destructive and a truce was arranged, but it still took until 1751 before the two banks agreed to accept each other's notes. The bank opened its first branch office outside Edinburgh in 1783 when it opened one in Glasgow, in part of a draper's shop in the High Street. Further branches were opened in Dundee, Dalkeith, Port Glasgow, Leith in the first part of the nineteenth century. In 1821, the bank moved from its original head office in Edinburgh's Old Town to Dundas House, on St. Andrew Square in the New Town; the building as seen along George Street forms the eastern end of the central vista in New Town. It was designed for Sir Lawrence Dundas by Sir William Chambers as a Palladian mansion, completed in 1774. An axial banking hall behind the building, designed by John Dick Peddie, was added in 1857; the banking hall continues in use as a branch of the bank, Dundas House remains the registered head office of the bank to this day.
The rest of the nineteenth century saw the bank pursue mergers with other Scottish banks, chiefly as a response to failing institutions. The assets and liabilities of the Western Bank were acquired following its collapse in 1857. By 1910, the Royal Bank of Scotland had around 900 staff. In 1969, the bank merged with the National Commercial Bank of Scotland to become the largest clearing bank in Scotland; the expansion of the British Empire in the latter half of the nineteenth century saw the emergence of London as the largest financial centre in the world, attracting Scottish banks to expand southward into England. The first London branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland opened in 1874. However, English banks moved to prevent further expansion by Scottish banks into England. An agreement was reached, under which English banks would not open branches in Scotland and Scottish banks would not open branches in England outside London; this agreement remained in place until the 1960s, although various cross-border acquisitions were permitted.
The Royal Bank's English expansion plans were resurrected after World War I, when it acquired various small English banks, includin
Sir Walter Raleigh spelled Ralegh, was an English landed gentleman, poet, politician, courtier and explorer. He was cousin to younger half-brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, he is well known for popularising tobacco in England. Raleigh was one of the most notable figures of the Elizabethan era. Raleigh was born to a Protestant family in Devon, the son of Walter Raleigh and Catherine Champernowne. Little is known of his early life, though in his late teens he spent some time in France taking part in the religious civil wars. In his 20s he took part in the suppression of rebellion in Ireland participating in the Siege of Smerwick, he became a landlord of property confiscated from the native Irish. He rose in the favour of Queen Elizabeth I and was knighted in 1585. Raleigh was instrumental in the English colonisation of North America and was granted a royal patent to explore Virginia, paving the way for future English settlements. In 1591, he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, without the Queen's permission, for which he and his wife were sent to the Tower of London.
After his release, they retired to his estate at Dorset. In 1594, Raleigh heard of a "City of Gold" in South America and sailed to find it, publishing an exaggerated account of his experiences in a book that contributed to the legend of "El Dorado". After Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Raleigh was again imprisoned in the Tower, this time for being involved in the Main Plot against King James I, not favourably disposed towards him. In 1616, he was released to lead a second expedition in search of El Dorado. During the expedition, men led by his top commander ransacked a Spanish outpost, in violation of both the terms of his pardon and the 1604 peace treaty with Spain. Raleigh returned to England and, to appease the Spanish, he was arrested and executed in 1618. Little is known about Raleigh's birth but he is believed to have been born on 22 January 1552, he grew up in the parish of East Budleigh in South Devon. He was the youngest of the five sons of Walter Raleigh of Fardel Manor in the parish of Cornwood, in South Devon.
His family is assumed to have been a junior branch of the de Raleigh family, 11th century lords of the manor of Raleigh, Pilton in North Devon, although the two branches are known to have borne dissimilar coats of arms, adopted at the start of the age of heraldry. His mother was Katherine Champernowne, his father's 3rd wife, the 4th daughter of Sir Philip Champernowne, lord of the manor of Modbury, Devon, by his wife Catherine Carew, a daughter of Sir Edmund Carew of Mohuns Ottery in the parish of Luppitt and widow of Otes Gilbert of Greenway in the parish of Brixham and of Compton Castle in the parish of Marldon, both in Devon. Katherine Champernowne's paternal aunt was Kat Ashley, governess of Queen Elizabeth I, who introduced the young men at court; the coat of arms of Otes Gilbert and Katherine Champernowne survives in a stained glass window in Churston Ferrers Church, near Greenway. Sir Walter's half-brothers John Gilbert, Humphrey Gilbert, Adrian Gilbert, his full brother Carew Raleigh were prominent during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I.
Raleigh's family was Protestant in religious orientation and had a number of near escapes during the reign of Roman Catholic Queen Mary I of England. In the most notable of these, his father had to hide in a tower to avoid execution; as a result, Raleigh developed a hatred of Roman Catholicism during his childhood, proved himself quick to express it after Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558. In matters of religion, Elizabeth was more moderate than her half sister Mary. In 1569, Raleigh left for France to serve with the Huguenots in the French religious civil wars. In 1572, Raleigh was registered as an undergraduate at Oriel College, but he left a year without a degree. Raleigh proceeded to finish his education in the Inns of Court. In 1575, he was registered at the Middle Temple. At his trial in 1603, he stated, his life is uncertain between 1569 and 1575, but in his History of the World he claimed to have been an eyewitness at the Battle of Moncontour in France. In 1575 or 1576, Raleigh returned to England.
Between 1579 and 1583, Raleigh took part in the suppression of the Desmond Rebellions. He was present at the Siege of Smerwick, where he led the party that beheaded some 600 Spanish and Italian soldiers. Raleigh received 40,000 acres upon the seizure and distribution of land following the attainders arising from the rebellion, including the coastal walled town of Youghal and, further up the Blackwater River, the village of Lismore; this made him one of the principal landowners in Munster, but he had limited success inducing English tenants to settle on his estates. Raleigh made the town of Youghal his occasional home during his 17 years as an Irish landlord being domiciled at Killua Castle, County Westmeath, he was mayor there from 1588 to 1589. His town mansion of Myrtle Grove is assumed to be the setting for the story that his servant doused him with a bucket of water after seeing clouds of smoke coming from Raleigh's pipe, in the belief that he had been set alight, but this story is told of other places associated with Raleigh: the Virginia Ash Inn in Henstridge near Sherborne, Sherborne Castle, South Wraxall Manor in Wiltshire, home of Raleigh's friend Sir Walter Long.
Amongst Raleigh's acquai