Author: Warren M. Billings

ENTRY

West, Thomas, twelfth baron De La Warr (1576–1618)

Thomas West, twelfth baron De La Warr, served as the first governor of Virginia appointed by the Virginia Company of London, living in the colony only briefly but holding the title until his death. Born to a wealthy and well-connected Protestant family, De La Warr attended Oxford without taking a degree and served with his first cousin, Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, in Ireland. After managing to escape the taint of Essex’s failed rebellion against Queen Elizabeth, De La Warr invested in the Virginia Company and, after James I issued its second charter, was appointed governor and captain-general for life. He arrived at Jamestown in 1610 just in time to save the colony from abandonment. After establishing a strict, military-like regime and renewing a brutal campaign against the Indians, he left Virginia in March 1611 because of illness. De La Warr attempted to return to Virginia in 1618, having never relinquished his title of governor, but he died en route. Three of his brothers also lived in the colony, two of whom, Francis West and John West, also served as governor. The Delaware River was named for De La Warr.

ENTRY

Howard, Francis, fifth baron Howard of Effingham (bap. 1643–1695)

Francis Howard, fifth baron Howard of Effingham, served as royal governor of Virginia from 1683 until 1692, and during his tenure brought Virginia under stronger English control. Born into a prosperous rural family in Surrey County, England, Effingham inherited the barony Effingham unexpectedly in 1681. The title provided him influence at court and soon led to his appointment as governor of Virginia. The monarchy strove for firmer authority over its dominions, and Virginia drew special attention after Bacon’s Rebellion (1676–1677). Unlike his two predecessors, Effingham successfully asserted the power of the governor’s office, constraining the House of Burgesses by taking away its right to name its clerk and removing two powerful opposition figures from the governor’s Council. Eventually the gentry accepted tighter royal oversight. Effingham resided in Virginia for just five years of his tenure, with ill health forcing him to accept the appointment of a lieutenant governor in 1690. He died in 1695, in England.

ENTRY

Claiborne, William (1600–1679)

William Claiborne served as a member of the governor’s Council (1623–1637; 1642–1661) and as secretary of the colony (1626–1634). Born in England and educated at Cambridge, Claiborne came to Virginia in 1621 as surveyor of the colony and by 1623 was a member of the Council. He operated a lucrative trading post on Kent Island but was evicted by Maryland authorities, who claimed the land as their own. In 1626, Claiborne became secretary of the colony and led a powerful faction on the Council that clashed with Governor Sir John Harvey and eventually evicted him from office. After serving in the militia during the Anglo-Powhatan War of 1644–1646, Claiborne, a Puritan sympathizer, helped negotiate the surrender of Virginia to Parliament in 1652 after the English Civil Wars. When Charles II was restored to the throne, Claiborne, who had a civil relationship with the long-serving loyalist governor Sir William Berkeley, retired from public life. He defended the governor during Bacon’s Rebellion (1676), losing much of his property in the process. Claiborne died in 1679.

ENTRY

Chicheley, Sir Henry (1614 or 1615–1683)

Sir Henry Chicheley represented Lancaster County in the House of Burgesses (1656), was a member of the governor’s Council (1670–1683), and served as lieutenant governor of Virginia (1678–1680; 1680–1682) during the mostly absentee administration of Sir Thomas Culpeper. Born in England and educated at Oxford, Chicheley was a Royalist during the English Civil Wars and was imprisoned for his role in a plot against Parliament. The terms of his parole allowed him to sail for Virginia, where he promptly married into a powerful family and befriended the governor, Sir William Berkeley. After acquiring land, Chicheley experimented with various agriculture techniques and supported restrictions on tobacco cultivation, but he failed in his attempt to convince London to enact such restrictions. Chicheley commanded a militia set to attack hostile Indians but Governor Berkeley held him back, a move that in part sparked Bacon’s Rebellion (1676). During the failed uprising, Chicheley remained loyal to the governor and was taken hostage for a time. As acting governor in the rebellion’s aftermath, Chicheley struggled with falling tobacco prices and colonists who destroyed crops in order to create a price-boosting shortage. His measured response prevented the problem from growing worse. Chicheley died in 1683.

ENTRY

Bland, Giles (bap. 1647–1677)

Giles Bland was a participant in Bacon’s Rebellion (1676–1677) who was executed in 1677. Born into an English mercantile family with substantial interests in Virginia, he arrived in the colony about 1673 and assumed a post as customs collector. Something of a free spirit, he clashed with Governor Sir William Berkeley concerning their overlapping authority and with politically influential family members over disposition of an uncle’s estate. The sharp-tongued Bland got into an alcohol-fueled exchange of insults with the secretary of the colony that resulted in his arrest and a public apology. Following Bland’s accusations in September 1675 that Berkeley had willfully violated trade laws, the governor’s Council suspended him as customs collector. These personal and professional conflicts likely spurred Bland to join the rebellion led by Nathaniel Bacon the following year. In September 1676 Bacon put Bland in charge of an expedition to seize the governor. Berkeley captured Bland instead, and he was executed in Jamestown on March 27, 1677.

ENTRY

Berkeley, Sir William (1605–1677)

Sir William Berkeley was the longest-serving governor of Virginia (1641–1652, 1660–1677), a playwright, and author of Discourse and View of Virginia (1663), which argued for a more diversified colonial economy. After being educated at Oxford and after a brief study of the law, Berkeley gained access to the royal circle surrounding King Charles I, and one of his plays, The Lost Lady (1638), was performed for the king and queen. In 1641, he was named governor and captain general of Virginia, where he raised tobacco but also, at Green Spring, experimented with more diverse crops. His first stint as governor, marked by his willingness to share power and by the rise in stature of the General Assembly in Jamestown, ended with the king’s execution. Berkeley’s restoration coincided with King Charles II’s, but his second governorship was much less successful. He failed to diversify the tobacco-based economy or to convince many settlers that the colony was adequately protecting them from Indian attacks. In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon challenged Berkeley directly, even laying siege to and then burning Jamestown. Although Bacon’s Rebellion (1676–1677) was suppressed, Berkeley’s authority had been undermined, and he was replaced by Herbert Jeffreys in 1677. In May of that year Berkeley sailed to England to plead his case, but before he could meet the king, he died on July 9.

ENTRY

Armistead, John (fl. 1650s–1690s)

John Armistead was a member of the governor’s Council of Virginia late in the seventeenth century. A planter in Gloucester County, he also entered into several successful business ventures. Becoming active in politics, Armistead sat on the county court and served as sheriff. He opposed the tobacco cutting riots and favored English policies put in place after Bacon’s Rebellion (1676–1677). Armistead twice represented Gloucester in the House of Burgesses before the governor appointed him to the Council in 1688. Armistead relinquished his seat in 1691 when he refused to take the oaths to the new monarchs William and Mary. Although restored to his place later in the decade, Armistead did not rejoin the Council. His date of death is unknown.

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