Much has been written about the famous Pocahontas, her life and her relationship with John Rolfe.
Disney released a very romanticized version of her life story that in the opinion of many bares little resemblance to her true life.
Below is the generally accepted view of the facts behind such a fascinating person.
(According to Chief Roy Crazy Horse of the Powhattan Nation, "Pocahontas" was a nickname, meaning "the naughty one" or "spoiled child." Her real name was Matoaka. )
You can read his thoughts here: http://www.manataka.org/page8.html
A lot of what is contained below was supplied by Ken Spencer who lives in the parish of Heacham, Norfolk where Pocahontas lived with John Rolfe. He spent some time researching this on my behalf and has seen and shared the parish records relating to her death. Many thanks Ken I appreciate all of your hard work!
Pocahontas was born about 1595, and was the favourite daughter of Powhatan. As paramount chief Powhatan was often called a "King" by the English colonists, so Pocahontas was called "Princess", although they were not royalty.
The story told by Captain John Smith that Pocahontas saved his life never happened, as they had not met at that time. John Smith probably told the story back in London to enhance his reputation as an adventurer and to help with his book sales. He was captured by the Native Americans, but well treated and released unharmed.
As a child Pocahontas
was attracted by the settlers and was often seen playing with the boys at
Jamestown. The colonists were starving at this time due to bad harvests, but
Pocahontas helped them by bringing them food every 4 to 5 days. There was
also conflict between the settlers as the Powhatans felt threatened as the
settlement was expanding.
In 1612 Captain Samuel Argall was trading with the Patawomeck, in the village of Passapantanzy, and was staying with the village Chief Iapassus. Argall, having seen Pocahontas, made a plan to capture her and end the fighting. He tricked her onto his ship with the help of Iapassus and his wife, by inviting them onboard for dinner.
After her capture she was taken to the new settlement of Henricus. Pocahontas was held there for about a year but was treated well. Powhatan was informed that he could have her back for the return of the English prisoners and the swords and tools that had been stolen. Although Powhatan denied any knowledge of the stolen goods, he later returned all of the captives and some swords and tools. This still did not satisfy the English so they continued to hold her captive.
During her stay at Henricus
she expressed an interest in Christianity. She was in the care of the settlement
vicar and on her conversion took the name Rebecca.
John Rolfe a 28-year old widower, met Pocahontas while she was staying in Henricus. They fell in love and married in April 1614. (However there is theory that she had agreed to marry Rolfe as a condition for her release.) Following their marriage there was a time of peace. They lived for 2 years on John Rolfe’s plantation and their son Thomas was born on January 30th 1615.
About this time the
Virginia Land company in England was having financial problems due to lack
of investment, so it was decided that Pocahontas, John Rolfe, the settlement
governor and some other prominent people as well as some Native Americans
would sail for England. They landed in Plymouth in June 1616.
(Side note: Powhatan had told his relative Tomocomo who was on the ship to spy on the English by making a notch in a stick. Soon after landing he realized it was futile and threw the stick away.)
They travelled to London by coach which took about a week. On arrival in London they lodged in Ludgate Hill near St Paul's. Pocahontas was treated like visiting royalty and invited to meet the King and Queen and other prominent people.
Pocahontas became ill after a short time, probably from the smell of the open sewers and foul air in London.
They left London to visit the Rolfe family home in Heacham, Norfolk to help her recover her health. They stayed for about 10 months.
Coat of arms displayed at Heacham Village
Pocahontas then decided
that she wanted to return home. Little Thomas was also ill and it was decided
to leave him behind in the care of Henry, John's younger brother.
Pocahontas sailed for home in March 1617. As the ship sailed down the Thames she became ill and died onboard. The ship’s name is unknown. It docked at Gravesend in Kent for Pocahontas to be buried with much honour in St George's Cemetery. After the church burnt down Pocahontas was reburied in the church yard but no record of the grave exists.
Entry in the church records.
1617 March 21st.
Rebecca Wrolff wyffe of Thomas John Wrolff gent a Virginia lady borne.
Buried in ye chancell, entered by Reverend Nicholas Frankwell.
(It must be remembered that at that time there was no standard spelling.)
There is now a memorial
statue of Pocahontas in the church yard of the rebuilt St George's.
John Rolfe returned to Virginia and became a rich tobacco planter. He died in 1622 and it is not known if he died of some illness or was killed in a raid by the Native Americans. Where his grave lies is also unknown. It may be possible his remains were returned to Heacham and possibly buried there at a later date but no records indicate this happened.
Thomas Rolfe returned
to Virginia in 1635 and lived on his father's plantation and land left to
him by Powhatan. He married Jane Poythress. They had a daughter also called
Jane. Some of their descendants are:
Edith Wilson wife of President Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Mann Randolph Jr husband of Martha Washington Jefferson, daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Jefferson.
The singer, Wayne Newton, who is a distant relative of Pocahontas has tried to have her remains returned to America and buried in Virginia, but it has not been possible as her exact grave is unknown. The church records note her death and burial, but not the exact location. Reverend David Willey, rector of Saint George's, told Newton in 2000 that the church burned down on August 24, 1727 when a great fire also destroyed about 110 houses.
Services were transferred
to the town hall until the church (restored in the Georgian style and part-funded
by the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches) was completed in 1731.
John Rolfe, whose family estate was Heacham Hall, England and his wife Pocahontas have long been known in America to be the couple who united two nationalities and two worlds in America to create the beginning of a new peaceful nation. After John Rolfe, Pocahontas and her father died, problems began to arise as the Native Americans were being pushed out of their homes due to the influx of many new immigrants from Europe. This was a story that was happening all over the American continent at that time though.
This Sedgeford portrait of Pocahontas and her son Thomas Rolfe has been carefully preserved through the centuries, although its travels and whereabouts have been been shrouded in mystery.
Presently at the Kings Lynn Museum, Norfolk
It is believed that the bereaved John Rolfe brought this portrait with him from England to his home on the edge of the wilderness. The picture may have hung on the wall of one of Virginia's stately Colonial mansions and been taken back to England at some time.
When reaching adulthood, Thomas Rolfe returned to Virginia and assumed his father's lands and possessions. He may have shipped the painting back to England, possibly to the Heacham Hall estate, which had been in the Rolfe family hundreds of years before John was born.
It is known that the painting was sold at about the turn of the present century. The canvas was removed to Sedgeford, another Rolfe property. That the painting was carefully preserved proves, however, it's value to the Rolfe ancestors.
knows anything about the Sedgeford Portrait of Pocahontas and her little son,
This is the question now being asked earnestly by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. So says Miss Ellen Bagby, chairman of the Jamestown committee of that organization, and therefore the ex-officio guardian angel of all that pertains to the memory of Pocahontas.
The portrait itself
is fairly well known, but its story is lost in the dim and mysterious shadows
There are some authorities who believe that it was painted from life and that the picture was brought to Virginia by John Rolfe soon after he had buried his lovely young wife under the chancel of the church at Gravesend, in Kent, England, close to where she died when starting on her homeward voyage.
Others, however, hold to the opinion that although the painting is ancient it is not the work of a contemporary artist because the little Thomas is represented as a much older child than could have been possible, even at the time of his mother's death. History tells us that he was only a little more than 2. The child in the portrait might pass for 4.
There is a third theory concerning the date of this old picture, and it is as interesting as it is practical. Eustace Neville Rolfe, who happened to be head of the Rolfe family in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, purchased the famous painting in about 1880 from a Mrs. Charlton. That lady stated at the time that her husband had bought it in America many years before.
Mr. Rolfe and his brother-in-law, Holcomb Ingleby, examined the canvas most carefully and came to the conclusion that, although very old, it is a copy of an earlier work and that the copyist was an artist of dangerously active imagination who put something into the portrait that was not intended by the original painter. They believe this answers affirmatively that Pocahontas and her son could have sat for the picture, and also explains the prodigious growth of the little boy.
The earrings worn by Pocahontas in the picture are in existence today and are the only personal belongings of Powhatan's daughter known to have survived the long intervening centuries. They have been handed down carefully in the Rolfe family from father to son for generations and are owned now by Robert Girdlestone Meggy of Brooklyn, New York
Their present owner cherishes the precious earrings reverently, but he told Miss Bagby that as much as he would hate parting with them, he would let them go for $5,000. The price is thought to be exorbitant, even for so valued relics, and brought keenest disappointment to the board of the A. P. V. A. that for years has longed to own them.
Each earring is formed of a double mussel-shell, the rare white kind found only on the eastern shore of the Berings Strait. Would it not be interesting to trace the journey of those shells during their transportation across the vast tractless continent? It is probable that many years elapsed between the time they were taken from Berings' shore until they enriched the beauty of Powhatan's daughter. It all happened, of course, long before the Anglo-Saxon set foot on the New World.
Double shell earrings were worn very generally among the Native Americans we are told, but the white variety were reserved exclusively for the adornment of priests and princes. These royal jewels are set in silver rims, inlaid with small steel points. This mounting, it is thought, suggests that they were set, or re-set, in England.
The latter assumption is more or less confirmed by an old tale concerning these valuable ornaments. It is declared that they were reset in England for Pocahontas by the Duke of Northumberland who was the brother of George Percy the colonist, who wrote "The Trewe Relacyon of What Happened in Virginia." This document is a letter from the emigrant to his brother, the nobleman, who remained at home.
Many Virginians have seen these famous earrings, for they were on exhibition at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893, and were shown again at the Jamestown Exposition in 1907. Only a few months ago the officers of the A. P. V. A. had them on private view at the John Marshall House, where they would become a part of the permanent exhibit were the association able to acquire them by purchase.
When Pocahontas died and was buried at Gravesend, her small son was left by his father in the care of the little boy's uncle, Henry Rolfe, with whom he lived until maturity. The descendants of this Henry Rolfe were known as the Rolfe's of Essex, the last member of this branch of the family being J. Girdlestone Rolfe. His second wife was Isabella Golden Clark, to whom he gave the earrings at the time of their marriage in 1923, and she bequeathed the precious earrings to her sister, Mrs. Jessie Hodgson Meggy. In this way they went out of the Rolfe family. The present owner inherited them from his mother, who had obtained them from her sister, Mrs. Rolfe.
The story of the earrings is fairly conclusive, for their fate was a far more tender one than that which may have been encountered by the portrait between early Colonial days and the time it came into the possession of Mr. Charlton, whose widow evidently did not know from whom he bought it.
many people in England 50 years ago, and even today, "in America"
seems to be sufficient. Anywhere between the Atlantic and the Pacific; Canada
and the Gulf, is all one to them, and what difference does a mere name of
person or place make so long as the basic fact is established. In this instance,
he bought it in America. And that was that.
Source: http://richmondthenandnow.com/Newspaper-Articles/ Pocahontas-Earrings.html