But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy Love.
Some say Raleigh's money made it happen, which is true; but there's always a public story and the rest of the story. It was the flame he carried for Queen Elizabeth I that bought the 50 ton vessel bearing her moniker to Manteo, North Carolina, then named Virginia after the Virgin Queen in 1585.
of a 16th century sailing ship that carried Raleigh's explorers on their expedition to America.
Think of Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner in "The Bodyguard" and you've got the picture—somewhat. The handsomely rugged yet intellectually refined Captain Raleigh, object of the Queen's fantasies, had earned her trust. And as head of the Royal Guard, he would remain by her side—where from the palace she provided overlooking the Thames, he would plan the colonization of America.
After several expeditionary voyages, Raleigh sent two vessels on a reconnaissance mission in 1584. In mid-October his men returned to England with an Algonquian Indian chief named Manteo and the leader of the Roanoke tribe, Wanchese, both from Roanoke Island. The Spaniards had already settled areas west of modern day Charlotte and Hickory some 18 years prior but had fallen out of favor with the local Indians due to their combative behavior. It was in the Algonquians' best interest to forge relations with the English that would mutually benefit everyone and stave off Spanish aggressions. With assistance from astronomer Thomas Harriot, Manteo and Wanchese learned English and shared their native language with their London hosts. The pair became a sensation at the Queens court and won public financial support for the plan to form a colony in America. Manteo and Wanchese would provide negotiations and protection and in return, become an integral part of an egalitarian plan for a new free world.
Meanwhile, the bond between Raleigh and the Queen deepened. They'd already shared a disdain for Roman Catholicism, a passion for riches, and now an apparent growing passion for each other, as rumor had it. Planning a new settlement provided coveted time together—along with possible new gold and silver mines and a base from which to launch raids against Spanish treasure ships, all in a land far from Jesuit rule. Raleigh's plans were well laid: he would name the Roanoke colony "Virginia" after his virgin lover and set sail himself on a sailing bark named "Elizabeth". The Queen knighted him for his ingenuity and appointed him Governor of Virginia, but insisted he remain by her side—and for good reason. As she wrote in a letter to the French Ambassador, “There are more than two hundred men of all ages who, at the instigation of the Jesuits, conspire to kill me.” And so Sir Richard Grenville would lead the 1585 American expedition instead of Raleigh.
On April 9th, Grenville, Manteo and Wanchese set sail for Roanoke Island with a crew of seven ships including the bark, Elizabeth. Gentleman artist John White was commissioned to draw what he saw on their journey. His work remains the most informative illustrations of Native American society on the Eastern Seaboard.
The remaining settlers built a small fort but resources were scarce and members began quarreling among themselves and with the natives. Despite diplomatic efforts by Manteo and Wanchese, hostilities broke out and Lane ended up killing the Roanoke Island high chief, Wingina. That was it for Wanchese who then distanced himself from the Englishmen. The colony fell under attack from the Algonquians who surrounded them and began forcing them to disburse.
It was now June. April had come and gone with no news from Grenville. However, Sir Francis Drake, returning from a pirate raid at St. Augustine Florida, arrived at Roanoke and rescued the colonists, returning them to England. Shortly thereafter, Grenville's relief fleet finally arrived to find the Roanoke Island settlement abandoned. Grenville left fifteen of his men to protect Raleigh's claim and headed home again.
Sir Walter Raleigh wasted no time re-establishing his interests; but this time, he would settle at Chesapeake Bay to the north of Roanoke Island. Meanwhile, Elizabeth had her own troubles. Her long-time friend and Roman Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, had been arrested for a plot to murder Elizabeth and take over her throne. Planning the venture in America was a welcome diversion. They named John White Governor of the new colony and assigned him to lead the expedition. White recruited 113 settlers including his daughter and son-in-law, Eleanor and Ananias Dare. On February 1, 1587 Elizabeth signed her cousin's death warrant and in May, John White set sail for Chesapeake Bay.
July 22, the settlers were allowed to disembark the ship upon reaching the Roanoke area. But in a strange turn of events, navigator Simon Fernandez refused to allow the crew to re-board, insisting that Roanoke Island was the best place to settle. White acquiesced and set up camp in the original abandoned fort, this time in a family style. His daughter was "with child" and would need a suitable nursery.
With Manteo mediating between the settlers and natives, White was determined to make this colony their home. The Croatoan Indians, a branch of the Roanoke tribe from Hatteras Island, took the pilgrims under their wing and bailed them out of numerous scrapes with the locals. They became allies occupying a large portion of what is now known at Dare County. August 13, Manteo was christened "Lord of Roanoke" by orders from Sir Walter Raleigh and less than a week later on August 18th, baby Virginia Dare was born in the Outer Banks.
August 22, 1587 the planters requested that Governor John White return to England for supplies. White refused, of course, unwilling to abandon his family. But concerned they would not survive without replenishment, the colonists put their request in writing, promising to look after things in the Governor's absence. Six days later, White set sail, planning to return in a year.
As White made plans to set sail in July of 1588, 130 Spanish warships paraded up the English Channel. King Philip II of Spain was intent on overthrowing Queen Elizabeth, bringing England back into the fold of Rome. The British Navy was ready. With Raleigh on her war council, Elizabeth ordered all vessels in port for potential use in battle. Governor John White would not be sailing anytime soon.
On the cliffs of England, the watchmen waited day and night. At first sight of the Spanish fleet, a beacon was lit, sending the signal throughout the land. On July 28 British sailors filled eight warships with pitch, brimstone, gunpowder and tar, lit them on fire and cast them toward the enemy fleet. With fireships bearing down on them, the Spanish warships cut anchor and broke formation. The English closed in with gunners. Devastated, the Spanish Armada was forced to retreat.
The next morning, the governor and crew headed for Croatoan Island where it was assumed the settlers would be found. But they ran into rough waters and lost several of their anchors. The weather turned foul and supplies ran low, so they thought it best to abandon the search and head Southward for fresh water. Thus John White committed the "planters of Virginia to the merciful help of the Almighty".
During the Spanish Armada, Raleigh had fallen for one of the Queen's ladies in waiting, Bess Trockmorton, whom he married in secret. When Elizabeth found out, she had them both thrown in prison. They were released after a short time and Raleigh, still devoted to his wife, was elected to Parliament. He eventually made his way back into the good graces of his virgin Queen.
What better legacy could America have than that of cooperation between the English and Croatoan Indian tribe? No commercial fanfare, no big corporate charter. Just quite mutual care for the land and its people; respecting the laws of nature. Could this be America's true legacy? To me, the Outer Banks is America's first English settlement: North Carolina's Virginia. Yes, Sir Walter Raleigh's Virginia.