- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 30, 2017

HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) - Did Sir Walter Raleigh, as the oft-told story goes, really lay his expensive cloak across a mud puddle to keep Queen Elizabeth from getting her feet dirty? Or has history now relegated that once-great moment in chivalry to more of a great moment in fallacy?

Depends on whom you ask, but one North Carolina man who has researched Raleigh’s life extensively still has faith that the gallant gesture took place.

“For many years it was regarded as true, and then for many more years it was regarded as fiction,” says Elliott Engel, a renowned educator, scholar and storyteller whose many biographical lectures include one on Sir Walter Raleigh. “For the past 40 or 50 years, though, we’ve kind of been turning back to the idea that it’s true.”

According to Engel, who will present his lecture on the famous English explorer next week in High Point, Raleigh’s coat of arms includes a depiction of his cloak.

“It’s supposedly very difficult to get something on there that’s not validated, so now people are tending to think that the story may indeed be true,” Engel says. “I’m one of the ones who’s inclined to believe that it’s true.”

Engel, who spent more than a year researching Raleigh, will present an entertaining and informative lecture, titled “Beyond the Muddy Cloak: The Brilliance of Sir Walter Raleigh,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the High Point Theatre.

Engel, who prides himself on lacing his lectures with fascinating, little-known facts, promises audiences will learn a lot about Raleigh during his presentation.

For example, while it’s well-known that Raleigh was a noted explorer and that he sold Queen Elizabeth on the idea of establishing a colony in the New World - leading to the founding of North Carolina’s Roanoke Colony in 1585 - it’s not as well-known that Raleigh never actually came to the New World himself.

“The queen said she would give him all the money he needed, all the men he needed and all the ships he needed, but at the last minute she decided he wouldn’t be going,” Engel says. “And if you want to know why she made that decision, all you have to do is come to my program.”

Engel will also shed light on Raleigh’s little-known literary prowess.

“Most people don’t know about his brilliance as an author,” Engel says. “He wrote some of the most amazing love poetry ever written - it was written to Queen Elizabeth, of course - and I’m going to read one of his love poems during my presentation.”

So why weren’t Raleigh’s amorous writings better known? Because he had the great misfortune of having lived during the same era as another pretty talented writer by the name of William Shakespeare. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

“Shakespeare overshadows everybody,” Engel says, “but it’s particularly sad that he overshadows Sir Walter Raleigh.”

Engel, who lives in Raleigh, has about a hundred different talks he does, delving into the lives of such noted individuals as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as that Shakespeare fellow. A former professor at the University of North Carolina, N.C. State University and Duke University, he has authored 10 books, has had his mini-lecture series on Dickens run on PBS television stations around the country, and has published articles in numerous newspapers and national magazines.

He prides himself on his ability to delight his audiences without the use of any other media.

“I am old-fashioned,” he says unapologetically. “My presentation is not multimedia - it’s zero-media. It’s just me standing in front of the audience telling a story. I take it as my challenge to make one person standing on a stage talking more interesting than any multimedia presentation.”

And considering he’s been doing this successfully for about 40 years now, it’s clearly a challenge he has overcome.


Information from: High Point Enterprise, https://www.hpenews.com

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