King #24336

William (Capt.) King (1544-1609)

Born in England.  Arrived at Jamestown, Virginia on 18 Aug 1609 (possibly my first ancestor to reach the shores of North America) and perished at sea on the return voyage to England and

Blanche Mainwaring (1548- )

Born and died in England.

King #24336

Godspeed underway off the coast of Hampton, Virginia (photo taken in 2012), an 88-foot replica of one of the ships that brought settlers to Jamestown in 1607.  She was built in Rockport, Maine and completed in early 2006.  Replicas of the Godspeed and her sisters in the 1607 voyage, the larger Susan Constant and the smaller Discovery, are docked in the James River at Jamestown Settlement (formerly Jamestown Festival Park), adjacent to the Jamestown National Historic Site.

Capt. William King may be the first of my ancestors known to have set foot on the shores of North America.  In 1609, he commanded the ship Diamond (along with a Capt. Ratcliffe), as a member of the so-called “Third Supply” mission to Jamestown, Virginia.   The first English colonists had reached Jamestown in 1607.  The “Third Supply” mission was undertaken at a critical time of the beginning of the Jamestown Colony and of the English colonization in the New World.  Other colonization attempts were made prior to Jamestown, but all had failed prior to this time.  The supply fleet consisted of nine ships and 500-600 colonists (including the first group of women and children).  During the voyage, a hurricane sank one ship, Catch, and wrecked the flagship Sea Venture on the coast of Bermuda.  The remainder of the fleet (minus Catch and Sea Venture), including the Diamond, arrived in Jamestown on or about  18 Aug 1609.  On the return voyage, Diamond was wrecked in a storm near the English coast and William King was lost at sea in late 1609.

Sylvester Jourdain’s A Discovery of the Barmudas (1610)

The story of what happened to the Sea Venture castaways on Bermuda is interesting as well[1].  They survived, at least in part, on wild pigs on the island that may have been left by a previous Spanish shipwreck.  Over the course of several months, they were able to build two new ships, from native Bermuda cedar and salvage materials from the wrecked Sea Venture.  The ships, Patience and Deliverance, finally completed their mission to Jamestown in May 1610.  The previous winter of 1609-10, which the castaways spent in Bermuda, is known as “the starving time” in Jamestown, because of the hardships the settlers endured, in part because their leaders and much of their supplies had been lost with Sea Venture.  Of a population that had peaked at over 400 the previous August, only 90 half-starved colonists survived to greet Patience and Deliverance in the spring of 1610.

English Origins: Some sources[2] have suggested that William King may be descended from nobility through a “Sir Ralph Kinge” who distinguished himself at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, through a “Johanna Beauchamp”, daughter of one of the Earls of Warwick and connecting to the Plantagenet kings through Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and Lady Philippa Plantagenet, Lionel Plantagenet of Antwerp Duke of Clarence, etc.  I have attempted to construct these lines from the information provided in these sources, but I have not been convinced of the truth of this tradition.

The son of Capt. William King, Capt. John King, of the ship Falcon (who went first to Barbadoes and then to Virginia), ultimately settled in Virginia and established the family line in that colony.  However, it was his father, who never settled permanently in the colony, who was my first ancestor to visit American shores.  John’s son, Francis King, soon followed as one of the headrights of Capt. Giles Brent.  Robert King, son of Francis, married his cousin, Hannah Scarborough[3].  Their daughter Dorothy King married John Waller (1673-1754), and this lineage is continued under his own heading, as he was an immigrant to Virginia and is the first in his line.

“Safely Ashore, July 28th, 1609”. All passengers and crew of the “Sea Venture” safely make it to shore in Bermuda. While being thankful for their safe delivery, they are unaware of the historical significance of their shipwreck for the island (painting by Christopher M. Grimes).


[1] The story reached London and it is believed that Shakespeare based his play The Tempest on this shipwreck, even though his play (performed in 1616) was set in the Mediterranean.  For source material, Shakespeare may have drawn inspiration from the eyewitness report of William Strachey (1572-1621), one of the survivors of the real-life shipwreck of the Sea Venture on the islands of Bermuda, that was later published in England. The account was contained in a an eloquent letter dated 15 Jul 1610, to an unnamed “Excellent Lady” in England about the disaster, including an account of the precarious state of the Jamestown colony. Being critical of the management of the colony, it was suppressed by the Virginia Company. After the dissolution of the company it was published in 1625 by Samuel Purchas as A true reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir THOMAS GATES Knight. Strachey’s writings are among the few first-hand descriptions of Virginia in the period. His list of words of the Powhatan is one of only two records of the language (the other being Captain John Smith’s).

[2] Refer to King, Roy Stephenson, Ancestral Pilgrimages Along Life’s Pathway (Atlanta, Georgia, 1939) and Feldhauser, Goode King and George M. G. Stafford (ed.).  The King Family (typescript – original at the DAR Library, Washington, DC, 1949).

[3] There does not appear to be any close connection between the Hannah (Johanna) Scarborough who married Robert King and our ancestor Edmund Scarborough in the maternal lineage, although a connection cannot be ruled out and warrants further investigation.

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