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Gilbert's Patent


GILBERT'S PATENT. Sir Humphrey Gilbert, an English nobleman whose conduct during the imposition of Tudor rule in Ireland earned him a reputation for brutality, was by the 1570s a leading promoter of the search for a Northwest Passage through North America. In 1578 he was granted a patent by Queen Elizabeth I to plant colonies in America within a six-year period. Lands he discovered were to be held as a royal fief, and one-fifth of all gold and silver was to be reserved to the crown. Elizabeth authorized Gilbert to transport English settlers, establish one or more colonies, set up a government, grant lands, and make trade concessions "over a territory encompassing the settlement on all sides to a distance of two hundred leagues." All laws and religious policies were to conform to English practice. An expedition carefully planned in that year failed to materialize, but in June 1583 Gilbert's fleet of five ships sailed, reaching Newfoundland about the close of July. The colony failed, and Gilbert was lost at sea on his return voyage. On 25 March 1584 Gilbert's patent was renewed in the name of his half brother, Sir Walter Raleigh, whose discovery of Roanoke Island later that year was the beginning of English colonization in America. Gilbert's experience in subjugating the Irish rebellion proved useful to Raleigh in his efforts to wrest control of Virginia from Native Americans.


Quinn, David Beers. Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 1584–1606. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.

Hugh T.Lefler/a. r.

See alsoExplorations and Expeditions: British ; Indian Policy, Colonial ; Land Patents ; Native Americans ; Northwest Passage ; Virginia .

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