The legend of Walter Raleigh spreading his cloak over a puddle so that Queen

Elizabeth could cross it without getting wet first appeared in Thomas Fuller’s History

of the Worthies of England (1662), more than forty years after Raleigh’s death. The

tale famously demonstrates not only the civility with which courtiers treated their

queen, but also the generosity with which Elizabeth reciprocated courtly favors:

The story of this most dramatic episode-which may or may not have taken

place1-has come to symbolize the lengths to which courtiers would go for their

queen and the sway that Elizabeth held over the men who served her and needed her

patronage. Elizabeth’s reported gift to Raleigh of “many suits” suggests both gifts of

clothes (the passage underscores the “good habit” to which he was accustomed) and

court positions. However magnanimous Elizabeth’s gift of expensive clothing may

have been, it certainly was not entirely selfless.2 As a representative of the queen’s

court, Raleigh would need to display the best possible apparel as a reflection of his

sovereign; the suits bound him to his queen. The reward of court suits also involved

a reciprocal exchange. Raleigh, an unknown at court upon his arrival, proved his

loyalty to the queen who, in turn, advocated and sponsored his overseas enterprises.