March 1617 marks 400 years since Pocahontas’ death on English soil. An icon of popular culture, largely due to an inaccurate Disney movie, little is commonly known of her true story with many people assuming she is a fictional character.
The Native American princess, associated with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia, is famously said to have intervened to save the life of pioneer Captain John Smith. Later captured by the English during Anglo-Indian hostilities in 1613, she was held for ransom but during her captivity she converted to Christianity, took the name Rebecca and married an Englishman, John Rolfe (not the John Disney would have us believe!). She left her home in Virginia to travel to over 3,000 miles to England and became a regular at the court of King James. In 1617, the Rolfes set sail for Virginia, but Pochahontas was taken ill and died near Gravesend.
“Were you not afraid to come into my father's country and caused fear in him and all his people (but me) and fear you here I should call you ‘father’? I tell you then I will, and you shall call me child, and so I will be for ever and ever your countryman.”Pocahontas to Captain John Smith, 1617