Historian’s Almanac: July 29, 2016

Today is the 29th day of July, 2016.  There are only 149 days left until Christmas and only 155 left in 2016.

It was on this day in 1586 that Sir Walter Raleigh made the first delivery of Virginia tobacco to England.

You will recall that it was Sir Walter who covered a puddle of water with his velvet cloak so that Queen Elizabeth I might not muddy her royal feet.  The first mention of his noble gesture is found in Thomas Fuller’s History of the Worthies of England, published in 1662.

Raleigh was but one of a number of gentlemen rumored at the time to be among the Virgin Queen’s lovers.  Whether or not Queen Elizabeth I did in fact have secret lovers has never been verified by historians.  Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic opponents who wanted to replace her on the throne of England with her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic, referred to her as the “whore” of Europe who had “defiled her body and the country” with her “filthy lust.”

There is no doubt that Raleigh was one of the queen’s favorites and that she was obviously charmed by him.  But, though she may have had other male favorites, she was not one to suffer disloyalty.  When it became known that Raleigh had secretly married one of the queen’s ladies in waiting, Sir Walter was packed off to the Tower of London, as was also the recent bride, Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton.

Raleigh and his wife were released from prison in 1593.  Raleigh regained the Queen’s favor after several years.

The Raleighs lived happily until Elizabeth’s death on March 23, 1603.  Just four months later Raleigh was arrested and returned to the Tower of London after being implicated in plot against Elizabeth I’s successor, James I.   James I was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots.  At the appointed time on October 29, 1618, Raleigh was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster.  His severed head was embalmed and given to his wife, Lady Raleigh.  She kept in a velvet bag until her death 29 years later.

A small pouch of tobacco was found in Raleigh’s cell after his execution.  He had written on it in Latin, “It was my companion at that most miserable time”.

Raleigh’s delivery of tobacco to England on this date in 1586 was perhaps his most lasting legacy.  Jamestown became a boom colony as Virginia tobacco became one of the New World’s chief exports to Europe.  Promoters of the foreign weed hailed it as a “sacred herb” with valuable medicinal properties capable of curing 36 ailments. More importantly perhaps is the fact that it quickly became a very profitable source of tax revenue wherever it was introduced.

Not until the mid-twentieth century did modern medicine acknowledge that tobacco, far from being good for one’s health, was in fact a deadly weed.  Such was already noted by James I in a treatise he wrote in 1604 titled “A Counterblaste to Tobacco”, in which denounced the use of tobacco as “[a] custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.”


Also of note during these two weeks of the major political party conventions to nominate candidates for the upcoming election is that on this day in 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon was nominated as the Republican candidate for president.  Although Nixon lost the election to John F. Kennedy, he was elected president in 1969.  Ironically, it was on July 29, 1974 that the House Judiciary Committee voted 27 – 11 to recommend President Nixon be impeached.


And finally the world’s best known sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, made his first appearance in the “Adventure of Dancing Men” on this day in 1898.

Until next time be good to all God’s creation and always go under the mercy.



2 responses to “Historian’s Almanac: July 29, 2016

  1. William Yount

    Thanks for the historical insights!


  2. New address:



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