A Thought Spared for Raleigh

Queen Elizabeth's thoughts of Sir Walter Raleigh as she forgives him, just before the battle of Cadiz, and after the Discovery of Guiana.

The Queen had been in ill humour of late. Few who had seen could forget the shocking white of her skin as she'd sent Raleigh to the tower many months past. There were whispers within the walls of Whitehall of her secret love for him, and her jealous vanity; however the Queen herself paid little heed to what she considered mindless blather. Grudgingly, and at Cecil's persuasion, she had allowed Raleigh to go on his expedition to Guiana, though she'd had little faith that anything would come of it.

She had been informed of his return and read over his rather colourful report with her councillors. The Queen sighed, little knowing why she'd granted Raleigh's exaggerated tale her eye at all. The way he spoke of Guiana called to mind his last expedition; Virginia. He had promised much from that land, wealth and riches beyond her imaginings, and at first she'd allowed herself to be carried away by his tall tales; however the venture had ultimately proved a failure.

Not long after his report had been read officially the Queen found that it had been published in her name, Raleigh himself sending a finely bound copy for her inspection. She had, to her best effort, portrayed herself as unamused as she regarded the novel in her hands, for that's what it was. That Raleigh had been to Guiana she knew all too well, however his escapades had never come to anything, and she doubted that this time would be any different. Still the man could talk, that was evident enough from the opening paragraph.

Elizabeth raised her head thoughtfully, one hand reaching up to play with a coil of auburn hair that was no longer her own; the wig having long ago replaced her own thinning locks. Sharp blue eyes shifted through the large windows of Whitehall into the open, empty courtyard; though they took in none of the stonework there. Elizabeth was lost in her own thoughts, as she often was when alone in her rooms. Raleigh would be expecting a response of some kind to his fine tale, for she couldn't deny the attraction of the story; however the bitterness within her prevented her from giving him acknowledgement. He had betrayed her trust and she wasn't going to allow herself to be flattered back to good humour by his hand, though perhaps he did deserve something.

Settling back in her fine chair the Queen drew her shawls a little tighter against the chill, quietly cursing old age as she moved her feet to rest closer to the grate of the fire. This was Whitehall's worst fault; drafts moved freely through the high towering walls. Though proud, Elizabeth found her vanity draw her attention back to the finely bound volume in her lap. She had read it once, but a second reading could do no harm and she had little else to entertain her thoughts.

Opening the expensive binding once more Elizabeth let her eye travel over the introductory passage to Howard and Cecil. This bit of humble modesty little interested the Queen. There was nothing she despised more than false modesty and forced flattery; the whole novel was composed with the singular goal of getting back into Elizabeth's good graces. In all honesty she preferred his informal honesty to this dim-witted drivel, no matter how well written it may be. His flattery would mean everything to her if only it was honest.

Pulling out of her reverie the Queen continued to run her eye loosely across the text, pushing bitter thoughts of Lisbeth Raleigh to the back of her mind where they belonged. She was hardly surprised, as she read on, that the references to gold and riches came from hearsay; that was one of the reasons she'd refused to send more parties back to Guiana. Had Raleigh set eyes on this gold himself then perhaps she may have been persuaded to allow him once more into her presence to explain himself; however she saw little reason to risk a venture on the word of Spaniards. They were hardly likely to speak honestly to their enemies after all.

More flattery and talk of everlasting devotion to Queen and country. A pity, she reflected, that this devotion hadn't stayed him where Lisbeth Throckmorton was concerned; and Lisbeth she would remain in the Queen's mind. What an insult that his wife should share her name! An insult Elizabeth would not abide; it was Lisbeth from this day forward.

Despite those bitter feelings, Elizabeth could not help but feel herself swayed a little at Raleigh's talk of princes. The view that princes were far less competent in war and ventures than the Queen herself sent a flutter to her chest that touched upon her vanity; however this would not sway the Queen's mind. She knew well Walter's ability to flatter, and turned the page dismissively.

Ah, the Queen had reached her favourite section, about how the native folk had reacted to her picture. Raleigh's championing of her cause was flattering in a way that only Walter could be, and his eloquent speech made it a task for Elizabeth to keep her anger towards him; however one reminder of Lisbeth and her cold demeanour was firmly back in place. The Queen was not one to be moved by idle flattery. Elizabeth continued, quietly enjoying the image of herself as an idol in the eyes of an unknown people, though she did question how a people could look upon her aged portrait with such expressions of admiration.

More idle talk from the Spaniards followed, talk that she was surprised Raleigh put any faith in. He was naïve, and no longer had the youth to match that naivety; still it was his expedition, and she'd been expecting little to come out of it in the first place. She did wonder why the Spaniards would want the place; however it was of little concern to her. There was clearly no profit if Raleigh's findings were anything to go by. The man had terrible luck.

Part two of this novel was of little more interest to her; these natives interested her greatly and she paid little heed to the notes of their journey up river, exaggerated in its writing no doubt. Some of the herbs, roots and medicines mentioned piqued her interest, though those would be of little use to her. Shot worked better than poison where Spaniards were concerned.

Raleigh's reaction to the women was also favourable to the Queen's wise eye, though she knew he was merely enticing her good graces. As a woman herself Elizabeth was not one to endorse ill treatment of women from any race. Another advantage of his actions was the reaction of the natives, who surely held Walter in high regard since he'd proven himself to them. This was the way to win a people. Treat them well and they will praise your name, treat them ill and they'll be no help at all.

From Raleigh's abundant description of the edible resources the Queen had little doubt that the island held an abundance of rare delicacies, some of which may be encouraged to flourish in her own native soil; however there was little point in starting a venture for mere food. If food was all this island could offer it was as much of a waste as Virginia, which had brought forth tobacco and potatoes.

The Queen turned to the third section with a weary eye, for this was Raleigh's failure to find the gold. She was not surprised; indeed she had expected the result to be thus simply because it was Raleigh, who seemed to fare better in battle than exploration as the records had proven. Perhaps, she mused, years of gunshot had tainted his sense of smell, and thus the gold and riches promised eluded him. Or perhaps he was just incompetent. Either way, he constructed excellent excuses and would, the Queen expected, turn the resulting failure of his venture onto her in some manner. In Virginia's case it had been her fault for not sending him personally; such utter folly, and impertinence.

The ores he spoke of had indeed been inspected and catalogued; however they were of little consequence, and for now they required their resources for the coming battle with Spain, for the winds were full of ill tidings. Looking at his eloquent words in the final pages Elizabeth smiled, seeing clearly his intention to compare the maidenhead of Guiana to her own, though England would not be so easily sacked. Elizabeth herself would see to that.

As the Queen closed the book it remained in her hands as her mind turned to darker thoughts. The Spanish had sent their armada and failed; however a few ships had landed in Ireland, and this was a failure on the Queen's part, at least Elizabeth felt it was so. Ireland was her weakest point and she had not defended it; however it was Britain's time to strike. The council had been speaking of Cadiz, and she agreed it was an excellent opportunity, but one must approach these matters with caution.

Looking at the book in her hands the Queen thought of Raleigh. Incompetent discoverer he may be, however an incompetent soldier he most certainly was not. He had gained his reputation first in his military deeds. Perhaps it was time she put her own pride aside. Walter would be useful in Cadiz; she could sense it. Perhaps she would put forth his name. Just perhaps. It was an idea worthy of more consideration.

The End

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