JAMES VI and I, King of Scotland (1567-1625) and of England (1603-1625). Document signed, a warrant addressed to Sir George More, Whitehall, 19 March 1615, signed by the King at the head on the first leaf of a bifolium, 305 x 195 mm, papered seal (split and worn), seal slits in centre fold (slight discolouration in margins), integral leaf endorsed in a contemporary hand, '19 March 1615/the King's warrant to Sir George More to discharge Sir Walter Ralegh from the Tower', affixed to mount by tape in corners.
The King's warrant for the release of Sir Walter Ralegh from imprisonment in the Tower of London to allow him to make preparations for his second Orinoco voyage.'Whereas Sir Walter Ralegh knight hath been a most humble suitor unto us, that wee would give him leave to take a voyage by Sea, upon his own costs and charges, to whose request in that kind wee have been graciously pleased to condescend, These are therefore to will and require you forthwith to permitt him to goe abroad with such a Keeper as you shall apoynt to attend upon him either in London or elsewhere to the end that he may by that freedome the more conveniently furnish himself with shippinge and other necessary provisions for that voyage'.
The expedition which Ralegh had proposed to the King was to be his second voyage to Guiana in the quest for gold. It was his last undertaking, and was to lead to his execution.
Charged with conspiring to overthrow James I and put the Lady Arabella Stuart on the throne, Ralegh had been condemned to death for treason, but reprieved. He spent the twelve years from 1603 in the Tower of London. Believing, with the encouragement of Lawrence Keymis, his companion on his previous voyage to Guiana, in the existence of gold mines near the Orinoco River, he proposed to Sir Robert Cecil and Queen Anne as well as to James I himself, to return there and bring back treasure. Although several expeditions had come home empty-handed, Ralegh's offer appealed to the King's cupidity. The present warrant allowed Ralegh to prepare for the expedition and within eight days he had commissioned the building of the Destiny, the ship that was to carry him. A year later he was granted a full release.
Conceived with the highest and most enthusiastic hopes, the expedition which set sail in June 1617 ended disastrously. Ralegh himself was too ill to lead his force when they landed. The undertaking he had given to the King to refrain from attacking the Spanish in Guiana was breached in an engagement with them near the fortified town of San Thomé, in which Ralegh's son was killed. His second-in-command, Keymis, committed suicide, and no gold was found. Ralegh's plans were in any case compromised since James had disclosed them to the Spanish ambassador during discussion of a possible marriage between Prince Charles and the Infanta Maria of Spain. On his return, Ralegh was arrested and accused of having fabricated reports of a goldmine on the Orinoco in order to plunder the Spaniards and, under pressure from the ambassador and inspite of the intercession of the Queen, James I signed his death warrant. He was executed on 29 October 1618.