Ceremonies in London mark 400th anniversary of Virginia Charter
Descendants of 17th century Virginia pioneers joined with British officials Monday to mark the anniversary of the Virginia Charter, which created a company that started the first permanent English settlement in North America four centuries ago.
The London Virginia Company in 1606 sent out settlers who landed the following year along the James River on the coast of Virginia. The settlement barely survived Indian raids, disease and severe food shortages, but managed to endure. In 1619, the first representative government of the New World met there.
At Monday's event at Clothworkers Hall in London, British and American descendants of the original pioneers signed commemorative charters that had casts of the seal of King James I, who created the document.
The charter began the "first joint stock company in which people risked capital as well as their lives to travel around the world," said Lord Mayor of London David Brewer.
The Adventurers for Virginia group, based in southwest England, displayed pieces of its New World Tapestry, which depicts the lineage of the families who traveled to settle the colony, as well as other well-known aspects of history.
The tapestry, which took volunteers more than 20 years to complete, consists of 24 panels, totaling 267 feet in length.
Tom Mor, the tapestry's designer, worked with historians to ensure all the depictions were accurate, particularly the family crests.
Mor said his motivation for undertaking the project was his frustration with what he said was a "piece of (British) history that had been forgotten or ignored" in Britain.
Mor said he believes most people assume the Pilgrims, who landed in Massachusetts in 1620, were the first to establish a colony in the U.S. and that the tapestry will set the record straight.
An event Monday night was to include historical readings and musical performances and a look at the relationship between the U.S. and British legal systems, as well as the role of the London Livery Companies in founding the Virginia Company.
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