Sir Edwin Sandys
Sir Edwin Sandys, one of the founders of the Virginia Company, sits for an oil portrait sporting traditional style dress with a large, layered lace collar. This photograph shows the original painting which was made by an unknown artist sometime in either the sixteenth or seventeenth century and is now in private hands.
Sandys, an author and parliamentarian as well as a colonizer, was born in 1561, the second son and namesake of his father, who would become Archbishop of York. Sandys served a brief diplomatic mission that led to travels through Europe, which became the basis for A Relation of the State of Religion (1605), a survey of religion on the continent that focused on Catholicism. As a member of Parliament for more than three decades, he was an influential and outspoken critic of King James I, as well as an important supporter of English colonization efforts in Massachusetts, Bermuda, and especially Virginia. Sandys likely helped reorganize the Virginia colony in 1609, transferring control from the king to a company-appointed governor. In 1618, he helped draw up the "Great Charter," which established the General Assembly, and in 1619 he was elected treasurer, the Virginia Company's top leadership position. He failed at diversifying Virginia's economy away from tobacco, but succeeded in a strong effort to promote emigration and bolster its population. A negotiated tobacco monopoly with England in 1622 eventually led to an investigation of the financially troubled Virginia Company and Sandys's leadership in particular. The king revoked the charter and in 1624 the company dissolved. Sandys died in Kent, England, in 1629.