Should We Credit Him for French Fries?

Sir Walter Raleigh is one of the most mythologized figures of early modern England.

So which stories about him are on our myth-busting list today?

Raleigh was a reputed ladies’ man, known to charm Queen Elizabeth (no one knows how far). But the story about him laying his cloak across a mud puddle so the queen could walk across unsullied is a myth.

But was it true that Raleigh brought potatoes and tobacco from the New World to Europe? Nope. Potatoes were known to have been grown in Italy in 1585 and probably before that, which is before Raleigh got back from the Americas. And it was Jean Nicot (after whom nicotine was named) who introduced tobacco to Europe, specifically France. The “noxious weed” spread from there to England, not the other way around.

Sir Walter, however, was probably responsible for making tobacco popular in the English royal court.