Saturday, August 19, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006
Sir Walter Raleigh founded the colony of Roanoke in 1584 under a charter granted to him by Queen Elizabeth. Under the terms of the charter, this wasn’t quite an outright gift, as one generally supposes a charter to be, it was little more than an option on the development rights of the land in the New World. Sort of like getting an option on the film rights to a book, you either make the movie or the rights revert to the author. Raleigh had ten years in which to make the place a going concern. This proved to be a bit more difficult than, I am sure, he thought it would be. His first attempt ended in failure but, not really wanting to give up his development rights, he gave it another shot. In 1587, Raleigh named John Witte Governor and sent him on his merry way to attempt to undue the damage done by the previous attempt at settlement, during which the colonists’ response to Native American inability to provide enough food for the ill-equipped and poorly staffed colony was to kill the Native Americans. After that, the indigenous population was understandably reluctant to offer their assistance. Shortly after his granddaughter’s birth, Witte, taking stock of the colony’s resources, which were, once again, running low, probably recognized the wisdom in making himself scarce. Witte graciously and selflessly offered to return to England to pick up more supplies. Once in England, one thing led to another, that whole Spanish Armada and destruction of the British Empire thing springs to mind, and Witte wasn’t able to even begin the return trip to Roanoke until 1590. He was well intentioned though and he did make it back for his granddaughter’s third birthday on the 18th in 1590. Did the little brat rush down to the shore, joyfully waving at her approaching grandpa? No, she didn’t, the little ingrate. When Witte finally dropped anchor, he discovered that his granddaughter and everyone else were nowhere to be found. The whole place was deserted. Oh ye of little faith. Roanoke came to be known as the lost colony. Lost colony? Was it like losing your keys? Did he check under the sofa cushions and look in the junk drawer in the kitchen? It isn’t a lost colony. The guy had been gone three years! Lost? I think not. Abandoned? Much more likely. After more than 400 hundred years it doesn’t really matter however and Roanoke: The Lost Colony has much more promise as a t-shirt than does Roanoke: Where the Hell is it?