Sir Walter Ralegh (Raleigh); Walter Ralegh
3 of 48 portraits of Sir Walter Ralegh (Raleigh)
Sir Walter Ralegh (Raleigh); Walter Ralegh
by Unknown artist
oil on canvas, 1602
78 1/2 in. x 50 1/8 in. (1994 mm x 1273 mm)
Given by Lennard family, 1954
Sittersback to top
This portraitback to top
This portrait was painted in 1602, when Ralegh was at the height of his renewed favour with the Queen. It shows him together with his eight-year old son, also Walter (1593-1618), who is made to mimic his father's confident pose. Both father and son are dressed in splendid costumes; Ralegh's jacket is embroidered with seed pearls, and his son's blue suit is silver-braided. A contemporary of Ralegh described him as, 'framed in so just a proportion and so seemly an order, as there was nothing in him that a man might well wish to have been added or altered'.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Audio Guide
- Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 82 Read entry
Nicknamed 'Water' by the queen, Ralegh was one of Elizabeth's favoured courtiers. She made him Captain of the Guard in 1582 and knighted him in 1585. He fell from favour after secretly marrying Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the queen's maids of honour, and retired to his estate at Sherborne in Dorset. A soldier, philosopher, explorer and poet, Ralegh wrote on subjects as diverse as shipbuilding, politics and world history. He organised a number of expeditions to North America and is credited with popularising tobacco in England. Implicated in a plot during the early years of James I's reign, Ralegh was imprisoned in the Tower of London for thirteen years. On his release he was given permission to look for gold in the region in South America then known as Guiana, but during the journey a detachment of his men attacked a Spanish outpost in violation of peace treaties with Spain; the treason charge was revived on his return to England, and he was executed in September 1618. This portrait was painted in 1602 when Ralegh was at the height of his renewed favour with Elizabeth I, following service in the navy at Cadiz and against the third Spanish Armada during the autumn of 1597. He is shown alongside his eight-year-old son, also named Walter but known as Wat, whose pose mimics that of his father but whose fashions are more up to date, with full Venetian hose and a turned-down collar. Wat accompanied his father on the ill-fated journey to Guiana and was killed during the attack on the Spanish settlement.
- Charles Nicholl, Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 121
- Nicholl, Charles, Character Sketches: Elizabethan Writers, 1997, p. 51
- Nicholl, Charles, Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, 2005, p. 98
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 56
- Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 75
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 511
- Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 257
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1602back to top
Current affairsThe Lord Deputy of Ireland Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy secures the surrender of the Spanish force sent to Ireland to assist the Catholic rebellion led by Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.
Art and scienceThe full-length portrait of Sir Walter Ralegh and his son is painted by an unknown artist.
The Bodleian Library of Oxford University is inaugurated by the scholar and diplomat Sir Thomas Bodley.
Akbar, Mughal Emperor of India, constructs the Buland Darwaza ('Great Gateway') in Fatehpur Sikri, India, to commemorate his conquest of Gujarat.
InternationalFoundation of the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) and the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
The Dutch fleet arrives in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and is welcomed as aid against the Portuguese.
Abbas I, Shah of Persia expels the Portuguese from Bahrain in the Persian Gulf and launches a campaign against the Ottoman Empire.
Become a Member
Enjoy access to special events, discounts on the Gallery online shop, supporters’ updates and much more
Bringing people together by sharing the portraits and stories of the men and women who have shaped our nation.
Sign up to receive information on exhibitions, collections and activities of the National Portrait Gallery, including special offers, shop products, and exclusive competitions.
- Searching for Shakespeare
- Making History: Printed Portraiture in Tudor and Stuart Britain
- Tudor Miniatures
- Tudor and Elizabethan matching pairs
- 2018 Anniversaries
- Silhouettes display, 2004-05
- Return to Life: A New Look at the Portrait Bust
- 2019 Anniversaries
- William Hazlitt's Spirit of the Age
- Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact and Fiction
- Restoration Lives: Samuel Pepys and His Circle
- Brilliant Women
- Chartist Portraits
- Mary, Queen of Scots
- Nelson: before and after Trafalgar
- Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Art Conservation Project
- Rebel women
- Theodore de Mayerne
- Popular Prints of Victoria and Albert
- Gunpowder, Treason and Plot
- Abolition Trail
- Tudor pick up guides
- Icons and Identities: Shakespeare to Winehouse
Until 17 July
Tell us more
Framed & unframed prints
Choose your favourite portrait from our Collection as a framed or unframed print for your home.