In the Tower Where He Lived Before Beheading, a Find

Etching found in Tower of London could be self-portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2018 2:33 PM CDT
400 Years After His Beheading, an Image of His Head?
Sir Walter Raleigh.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Monday marks the 400th anniversary of Sir Walter Raleigh's beheading, and that very head is now back in the news. It's all thanks to the discovery of an etching (see it here) concealed under layers of paint in the Tower of London's Bloody Tower, where Raleigh lived before his 1618 execution. Because the etching was found on the layer of wall that dates to the early 17th century, it's possible the drawing is a self-portrait of Raleigh, Fox News reports. The Telegraph reports the head is shown in profile and is crowned with a laurel wreath, which Dr. Agnieszka Sadraei, the historic buildings curator for the charity that manages the Tower, said might be significant: "Raleigh was a poet and it is possible that he could have been represented wearing such a wreath in an Antique fashion," though wreaths were also used at the time when illustrating kings.

Tourists may inadvertently be responsible for the find. Visitors are believed to have "knocked the wall," as the Telegraph puts it, and a wall-paintings specialist spotted black coloring peeking through. As for Raleigh, he bounced between favor and disgrace: Queen Elizabeth I sent him to explore North and South America, but had him imprisoned in the Tower of London when he wed one of her ladies in waiting without first seeking her approval. Two more imprisonments followed under James I, one that lasted 13 years. (Another discovery, this one toxic, was made amid a trio of rare books.)

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