Anglo-French Relations The Cloak of Secrecy A personal voyage of detection

George Kendall, Spy and a founder of Jamestown, Virginia

The second colony included Thomas Hannam and George Popham representing mainly west-country interests. The Charter gave strict rules of governance, the granting of property rights and above all the maintenance and furtherance of the protestant religion.

After a delayed voyage the first group arrived in Chesapeake Bay in May 1607 with about 144 men. Among these were GK, Wingfield, who had served in Ireland and Flanders (and if GK was a de la Pole relation then Wingfield was ‘kin’ through the marriage of Michael de la Pole to Katherine Wingfield), John Smith, John Ratcliffe, Bartholomew Gosnold, George Percy and Gabriel Archer. A great number of this expedition’s members or supporters had Wingfield or Suffolk connections. Wingfield was appointed by sealed orders as the first President. A letter dated June 1607 reports promisingly that the river is full of ‘sturgion and other sweet fish as no man’s fortune hath ever possessed the like.….The soil is most fruitful, laden with Oake, Ashe, Walnut tree, Poplar pine, sweet woods, Cedar and other’.

The Indian presence caused GK to organise a preliminary protecting defence-work. Then work began on the construction of a wooded fort.  All this work apparently produced tensions among this small force. Wingfield was replaced by Ratcliffe and confined, and then GK was accused of a conspiracy and fermenting dissent. As a result he was sentenced to be executed, which he was – the first execution in America.

I have seen claims that GK was a Catholic and a spy for Spain. An author, Philip L. Barbour, who seems to have examined relevant Spanish documents from that time, states that there is no evidence of this. On a long ship voyage I am quite certain that experiences in the wars in Flanders will have been discussed. Others had been there as well as GK and Wingfield. It is even possible that the fact that GK had been in and out of the Archduke’s court, might have been known and interpreted to mean that he had been ‘turned’. It is also possible that GK had spent time in Spain 1602-6. However, I do not believe that Robert Cecil would have employed him in the way that he did without being confident of both his religion and his loyalty. Remember too GK’s sign-off to Robert Cecil –‘Your loyal servant to death, George Kendalle’. The decisive factor for me on this is that GK had asked Cecil to look after his brother Edward. This Cecil did, and continued to do this after GK’s death, as we will see below.



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