The New World Tapestry

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cene Five
    1588-90 PANEL

It is now 1590. The Spanish Armada has been defeated and the invasion threat is over. This being so all the English ships that had been ordered to be kept at home to defend the realm have been released from their duties so their captains can resume their normal activities, including lucrative privateering.

Thus Governor White too is able to muster relief ships for Roanoke to succour the desperate colonists there who haven’t had any help whatsoever since three years ago. Three vessels are victualled and on 20 March he’s aboard one of them as they make their way across the Atlantic, to eventually drop anchor off Roanoke Island. Almost as soon as the moorings are secure he’s off shorewards, in one of two boats that fight their way through the surf and treacherous currents seeking a safe passage to the beach, as is shown in the centre illustration.

White’s lucky. His boat makes it. The other doesn’t. It overturns in the foaming breakers and seven of the occupants are drowned including Captain Spicer (1587 panel) and Skinner. It’s a disastrous beginning but what follows is White’s personal worst nightmare that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Looking about there is not one single colonist to greet the would-be saviours. The pioneers’ own boats are nowhere to be seen and, worse and worse, Fort Raleigh is found ransacked and deserted. It’s weird. Not a sign of anyone. Not a living soul. No bodies. No bones. No livestock. What’s to be done? That’s it, scour the woods – people may be hiding! The soldiers blow their trumpets. Undergrowth is combed and muskets fired but answer comes there none… All the bewildered searchers find to give them any sort of clue is the word ‘CROATOAN’ carved into one of the wooden posts of the fort. What it means baffles the searchers who eventually have to abandon their efforts and the venture altogether. It’s been an absolute failure from its beginning six years ago and White returns to England a broken man later, to write up his account of what will become known as ‘The Lost Colonists of Roanoke’

The illustration at the top of this scene shows Loseley in Surrey and is there because Tom Mor (Moore) was determined to include an Elizabethan namesake on the Tapestry. Sir George Moore who was alive in 1588 and a great favourite of the Queen thus fitted the bill perfectly – doubly so, for his descendants were still living at Loseley in 1988.

tapestry photo 1588-90 scene five

FEVERFEW  Matricaria.  ‘The herbe is good against the suffocation of the mother, that is the hardnesse and stopping of the same, being boiled in wine, and applied to the place’. Gerard.

COMFREY  Symphyium officinale.  ‘The root stamped and applied to them, taketh away the inflammation of the fundament and overmuch flaving of the hemorrhoides’. Gerard.

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