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Tudor minute August 5: Humphrey Gilbert Claims Newfoundland

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for August 5. 

Today in 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland for the English Crown, making it the first English colony in the Americas. He is often credited with founding the British Empire. His plan was originally to take investment from Catholics who were interested in having a colony in America where they could worship, free of recusancy fines. Gilbert left in June 1583 with five ships, though one had to turn back because it didn’t have enough food. They reached Newfoundland in July, had to overcome some local resistance, and took formal possession on August 5, including 200 leagues to the north and south, for Elizabeth and the English crown. Part of the ceremony was to cut the turf, symbolizing in English common law the transfer of possession of the soil. The locals presented him with a dog - he named her Stella after the North Star. 

The fleet departed for home without making a settlement because they had no supplies. Gilbert, sailing his favorite ship the HMS Squirrel, ordered a change of course that was controversial and went against what more senior sailors wanted to do. One ship, the Delight, soon ran aground and sank, taking with it most of the supplies. 

In early September they ran into huge waves near the Azores, and when his men told him he should go to the Golden Hinde, which was sailing with them, and was much larger, Gilbert said he’d just stay put. He was last sighted on 9 September reading a book - thought to be More’s Utopia. The Golden Hinde was within hailing distance, and the crew heard Gilbert cry out, “we are as near to Heaven by sea as  by land,” pointing to the skies. Around midnight the lights were extinguished, and the crew on the Golden Hind said that the ship had sunk. 

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com where there are several episodes on Trade and Exploration in Elizabethan England.

Links:
Episode 31: Trade and Exploration in the 16th Century
https://www.englandcast.com/2017/07/throwback-episode-31-trade-exploration-16th-century/

The Lost Colony of Roanoke: https://www.englandcast.com/2018/10/roanoke/

Richard Hakluyt, Travel Writer: https://www.englandcast.com/2018/12/episode-114-richard-hakluyt/