This panel concerning the year of our Lord 1583 is number one in the series of 24 that go to make up
the enormous 267 ft length of the panoramic Tapestry. As will soon become apparent there are five scenes on each panel and
this, the very first of all, records that particular day in March1583, the seventh, when an audience at Court is given to
Sir Walter Raleigh by Queen Elizabeth. It resulted in the genesis of the British Empire.
Raleigh is an especial favourite of the Queen, not least because he’s the visionary promoter of schemes
to set up English colonies in the New World for the very first time. The Dons are already bringing back treasure ship after
treasure ship, laden with fabulous gold booty stolen from the South American Indians. Bess therefore wants a share of the
action too but in areas not yet controlled by the Spanish.
Raleigh’s first choice however seems rather puzzling, Newfoundland. There’s no precious metal to be filched there
but there’s plenty of silvery fish, so much as to make sizable fortunes for enterprising merchants and sea captains
before he turns his attention to mainland America. That is why the Queen has finally given the green light to Raleigh’s
cousin Sir Humphrey Gilbert to assemble an expedition fleet at Plymouth in Devon to cross the North Atlantic and take Newfoundland
for the Crown as its first colony.
So the scene shows the Queen commanding Raleigh to write to his cousin
wishing him every success in the coming venture and, as a mark of her regard and favour also to convey to Gilbert her royal
present of a necklace of gold with a pendant shaped like an anchor hanging from it.
Two of the Tower of London’s yeomen warders
stand on guard nearby. On their tunics are the letters ER – Elizabeth Regina. A portrait of the Queen’s father
King Henry VIII looks down from the wall. Waiting outside the palace is the Queen’s Messenger, ready to speed the letter
and gift westwards for over 300 miles to Sir Humphrey’s home at Compton Castle in South Devon. His route will be a winding one, shown here complete with dollops of horse manure on it for realism. En route
he will, amongst other places, change horses in Totnes and a house there is featured, which centuries later will become a
museum. This panel was stitched in Totnes.