Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1539-1583) came to be known as one of the more famous English Noblemen, Explorers, Member of Parliaments and Soldiers of Elizabethan era from Devonshire. He was a half brother to Sir Walter Raleigh. Though born in a well to do family, Gilbert inherited little as he was a younger son.
However, Gilbert grew up understanding the nuances of navigation and sea exploration. He entered the services of Elizabeth before her ascension to the crown and remained one of her ardent supporters till he died in 1583.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert: The Soldier
However, his claim to fame lay in his exploits in Northern Ireland, where his gruesome exploits led to the Irish rebellion being dealt heavy blows in their quest for control over the province of Munster.
It was for his services rendered to the Queen that Sir Humphrey Gilbert received his Knighthood in 1570, incidentally in a ruined Irish rebel camp surrounded by slain Irish soldiers.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert: The Explorer
Long before the Queen sent Gilbert to Ireland, he had proposed the idea of exploration for a Northwest Passage to the land of Cathay (modern-day China) in his A Discourse of a Discovery for a New Passage to Cathay, where he advocated an English settlement in North America.
No importance, however, was given to his idea and he was sent to Ireland instead. His Discourse was published in 1576 and
It was in 1578 that he was granted patent from the Crown empowering him to make Western discoveries under the strict condition that he would not interfere with the Spanish.
His first exploit into sea thereafter led to failure. He was then asked to return to Ireland. Gilbert then decided to set sail again and in June 1583, he and a crew of 260 left from Plymouth towards North America. They eventually landed at St. John’s Bay, Newfoundland which Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed to the crown.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert Facts
From there Gilbert set sail in a small ship called “The Squirrel” against the advice of many of his crew. On September 9th, 1583, it is said that “The Squirrel” disappeared and so the world would never see Sir Humphrey Gilbert again.
In life, Sir Humphrey Gilbert was married to Anne Archer and they had seven children. Gilbert was elected to parliament as a member for Plymouth.
He was also said to be involved in an alchemical project, whereby iron was to be transmuted into copper and antimony. He was always remembered more as a Colonizer than Sailor both in life and in death.
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