PortCities London

Pocahontas (c.1595-1617)
 
A native American princess

Known for

Virginia. English Captain Argall takes Pocahontas the daughter of King Powhatan on board his ship.
View full size imageVirginia. English Captain Argall takes Pocahontas the daughter of King Powhatan on board his ship. © NMM
The romanticised Disney film, which portrays her and John Smith as young adults. She was a girl of 12 and he was a veteran explorer when they met.

Creating peace between the Englishmen colonising Jamestown and the native American tribes of Eastern Virginia.

Port connection

Her life ended with a triumphal tour of England, where she was treated as a visiting princess. She met James I, the Royal Family and the best of London society.

Before her ship left London, she contracted an unknown disease - possibly pneumonia, smallpox or tuberculosis. When it became apparent that she would not survive the voyage home to Virginia, she was taken ashore and died.

She was buried in a churchyard in Gravesend, aged only 21 or 22.

Interesting facts

The portraictuer of Captayne Iohn Smith Admirall of New England.
View full size imageThe Portraictuer of Captayne John Smith Admirall of New England. © NMM
Pocahontas was her childhood nickname; it translated as ‘little wanton’, meaning she was playful and hard to control. Her real name was Matoaka.

Powhatan, her father, allegedly had 100 wives, with one child by each. James I had Powhatan crowned Emperor of Virginia, making Pocahontas a princess outranking a lot of English nobility.

When John Rolfe - whom she later married - first sailed to Jamestown he was shipwrecked in Bermuda by a terrible storm. A report of this event, by a fellow passenger, may have inspired Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.

Life story

c.1595Born in the Tidewater area of Virginia to a native American chief, Powhatan, and one of his many wives.
1607Met Captain John Smith, an English explorer taken captive by her tribe. Legend has it that she saved him from being executed by her father and they became friends.
1610She apparently married a native American named Kocoum.
1612Another English explorer named Captain Samuel Argall captured.
1613While captured, she met John Rolfe, an English tobacco planter. Dale obtained her ransom and she was returned to her family.
1614Pocahontas was baptised and married John Rolfe. They had a son named Thomas.
1616Sir Thomas Dale went to London to raise funds for his Virginia Company. For extra publicity, he took Pocahontas with him. She was presented to James I and reunited with John Smith, whom she believed was dead.
1617Rolfe decided to return to Virginia with his family but Pocahontas was ill. She died and was buried in Gravesend.