A garrison of 15 men had been posted to the island to uphold England’s claim. But by the time a ship arrived bearing 115 colonists, the garrison was gone, the island was abandoned, and the only clue to the men’s fate was a single human skeleton. It was a bad omen, but since the colonists had disembarked, they were not permitted to return to the ship.
In the late 16th century, the New World presented significant opportunities for European expansion and commerce. The Roanoke Colony, popularly known as the Lost Colony, was founded by royal charter of Queen Elizabeth I to gain a strategic foothold in North America. From Roanoke Island – which is located in present-day North Carolina – it was hoped that English privateers would be able to launch attacks on Spanish treasure ships.
And so on March 25, 1584, Walter Raleigh was granted the charter to “discover, search, find out, and view such remote heathen and barbarous Lands, Countries, and territories … to have, hold, occupy, and enjoy.” Raleigh, who was knighted by the Queen in the next year, was a notable explorer and an influential figure in the royal court. However, his attempt to colonize Roanoke was a historic failure.