Features

25 March 1584: Sir Walter Raleigh receives a patent to colonise America

On this day in 1584, Queen Elizabeth I issued a patent to Sir Walter Raleigh to establish an English colony in North America.

15-3-24-raleigh-634
Sir Walter Raleigh bankrolled much of England's early attempts at colonisation

Catholic Spain was doing rather well out of its conquests on the Spanish Main in the 16th century. Its treasure fleets brimming with gold were making their way back across the Atlantic, under the green eyes of protestant England.

Queen Elizabeth I wasn't going to stand for that. In 1578, she issued letters patent to Sir Humphrey Gilbert to settle the North American coast for England. But before Sir Gilbert could carryout his instructions in earnest, he died.

So, on 25 March 1584, the responsibility passed to his half-brother and court favourite, Sir Walter Raleigh, to settle "such remote heathen and barbarous lands, countries and territories, not actually possessed by any Christian prince".

That worked out well for Raleigh, since he had also been drawing up his own plans to carve out a slice of the Americas. A colony would not only be a potentially lucrative trading post in the New World, but it would also serve as a base from which to launch raids on Spanish shipping.

Raleigh wasted no time indispatching an expedition that April. In July the following year, the ships landed on an island off the coast of modern-day North Carolina, Roanoke, and the English flag was raised.

The expedition returned to England with glowing accounts of the land they had found along the coastline. Elizabeth decided to name her new territory after herself, the Virgin Queen' Virginia.

But while further attempts were made to establish a colony on Roanoke Island, none were ultimately successful.

Part of the problem was that Raleigh had bank-rolled much of the expeditions himself, and inevitably, provisions had run short. What was needed was a more steady and reliable source of funding.

Later attempts at settlementin the early 17th century, during the reign of King James I, would meet with better success, thanks in part to the financial support of the merchant class.

The joint-stock London Company was founded in 1606, helping to create a blue-print for further colonisation in North America, and what would eventually become the British Empire.

Recommended

How long can the good times roll?
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Bad data is driving fear of a second wave of Covid-19
UK Economy

Bad data is driving fear of a second wave of Covid-19

The recent spike in Covid-19 “cases” is very different to the original outbreak, says James Ferguson of MacroStrategy Partnership. The government need…
18 Sep 2020
Quiz of the week, 12-18 September
Economy

Quiz of the week, 12-18 September

Test your recollection of the events of the last seven days with MoneyWeek's quiz of the week.
18 Sep 2020
Central banks want politicians to take charge – but what will they do?
US Economy

Central banks want politicians to take charge – but what will they do?

The US Federal Reserve has come to the end of the road in terms of what it can do to accelerate any recovery, says John Stepek. It's over to the polit…
17 Sep 2020

Most Popular

Here’s why you really should own at least some bitcoin
Bitcoin

Here’s why you really should own at least some bitcoin

While bitcoin is having a quiet year – at least in relative terms – its potential to become the default cash system for the internet is undiminished, …
16 Sep 2020
Will a second wave of Covid lead to another stockmarket crash?
Stockmarkets

Will a second wave of Covid lead to another stockmarket crash?

Can we expect to see another lockdown like in March, and what will that mean for your money? John Stepek explains.
18 Sep 2020
Central banks want politicians to take charge – but what will they do?
US Economy

Central banks want politicians to take charge – but what will they do?

The US Federal Reserve has come to the end of the road in terms of what it can do to accelerate any recovery, says John Stepek. It's over to the polit…
17 Sep 2020