Saturday, September 24, 2016

John Smith and Lady Frances

Portrait of Lady Frances, Countess of Hertford, in 1611.

                 How well did she know John Smith?

         Her husband, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, was Smith’s “best friend.” The Earl died at age 81 on April 6, 1621. Lady Frances was then 43 years old. John Smith was 41. A wealthy widow, Frances nonetheless wasted no time in attaching herself to a new husband:  Just two months after Edward died, Frances married a 47-year-old Scottish nobleman, Ludovic Stewart, 2nd Duke of Lennox. He was a cousin of King James I. A member of the Privy Council, he was also Steward of the Royal Household. Steward became Earl of Newcastle upon Tyne and Duke of Richmond on August 17, 1623, but did not enjoy those titles very long. He died at age 50 in his bed (of a heart attack?) at Whitehall on the morning of February 16, 1624. As his widow, Lady Frances, now wealthier than ever, became known as the “Double Duchess.”

         On July 12, 1624 John Smith’s monumental Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England and the Summer Isles was published. It was dedicated To the Illustrious and Most Noble Princesse, the Lady Francis, Duchesse of Richmond and Lenox. A  1623 engraving of her image was bound into the original edition.

          Lady Frances financed John Smith’s book.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

More John Smith Mysteries

John Smith, like many other Englishmen who came to Jamestown in 1607, nearly died there. Critically wounded in the mysterious gunpowder accident in 1609, he had little choice but to return to England.  

Where he stayed, and what he did then, remain mysteries with few clues.

·      After his return to England, Smith put together his book, A Map of Virginia, which was published in 1612 and dedicated “To the right honorable Sir Edward Semer Knight, Baron Beauchamp, and Earle of Hartford.”

·      The dedication is in two surviving copies of Smith’s historic book. One of the copies, now in the New York Public Library, belonged to Edward Seymour.

·      In the dedication, Smith writes: “It is the best gift I can give to the best friend I have. l  . . In the harbour of your Lordships favour, I hope I ever shall rest secure . . . .

Did Smith, recovering from his wound, and writing his book, stay with Seymour from 1609 to 1612--and after?

·      One of Seymour’s properties was Hertford House, a London town house on Cannon Row in Westminster.

Edward Seymour was a nephew of Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII

The earl’s wife was Frances Howard, a great beauty. She was 34 years old in 1612. John Smith was 32.

Frances’s husband was 39 years older than she. He was 73 in 1612.

Pity that Frances did not keep a diary.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Summer at Jamestown --and elsewhere

James River
Summertime at Jamestown, 1606

Summertime in Houston, 2016

Look for more blogs in August!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Summer at Jamestown, July 1607: Some good news, some bad.

The first summer at Jamestown, July 1607

In the journal kept by the colony’s first president, Edward Wingfield, on July 3, 1607 there was some good news, and some not so good:

Seven or eight Indians presented President Wingfield with a Dear (sic).”

About this tyme divers (sic) of our men fell sick.”

And some of them died.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summertime, Jamestown 1607: No vacation!

 Having a hot summer?
Think of the English at Jamestown, summer 1607:  

       There was back-breaking, hand-blistering labor to do as soon as they had picked a place—marshy and unhealthy, as it turned out--to settle. Sailing more than thirty miles up the wide river that they named the James after King James I, they chose a small, wooded peninsula about two miles long and a mile to a mile and a half wide. It was actually an island, separated from the mainland by a shallow creek, but the James River was six fathoms [36 feet], deep enough to moor their ships a stone’s throw from the shore.
        By June 15, seven weeks after they arrived, 104 men and boys (one man had died on the voyage) had finished an enormous task: They had built a fort at the site they called Jamestown. Working and sweating in the hot Virginia sun, they dug over 1,600 feet of trenches nearly three feet deep to form a huge triangle by the river’s edge. They chopped down hundreds of pine and oak and elm trees. They dragged heavy logs of up to one foot in diameter, one by one, to set vertically in the trenches to make a palisade with walls eleven to fifteen feet high. When it was finished, the fort by the river covered about an acre and a half, or roughly the area of two football fields. It was 140 yards long on the side facing the river, and 100 yards on each of the other two sides. With guns mounted at each angle and only one entrance, a massive log gate on the side facing the river, this palisaded fort would be a comforting defense against invaders—either Indian or Spanish.

     Invaders would be the least of their worries. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Blog Break

"June is bustin' out all over. . . ." 
Time to take a blog break! 

More later. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Pocahontas: What’s in a Name?

         Donald Trump recently called Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, a name that is offensive in some usages to Native Americans, especially women. Every school child in America knows who Pocahontas was, bur not many know her other names.

         When John Smith met her in 1608, she was a little girl of ten or so. Pocahontas was her nickname. It meant Little Mischief. Her real name was Matoaka, an Algonquin Indian name of unknown meaning. It has been said to mean Bright Stream between the Hills, or One Who Kindles, but who knows? The first record of it is in a letter by a Virginia colonist in 1614, when she married another colonist, John Rolfe. If, as some have suggested, Matoaka was Pocahontass secret name, kept secret by a superstitious fear of hurt by the English, (Samuel Purchas, 1625), we have no proof that this was so. If Pocahontass secret name might cause the English to harm her, why did she let it appear in A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia, a public relations tract put out by the Virginia Company in 1615?
         Her other name was Rebecca, given her when she was baptized as a Christian in 1614.