Saturday, April 5, 2014

Quadricentennial of Pocahontas' Wedding

Today marks the 400th anniversary of the wedding of Indian princess Pocahontas to the English colonist John Rolfe in Jamestown, Virginia, which occurred on April 5, 1614. It was an important milestone in American cross-cultural relations, and in American history.

After her conversion to Christianity, she was baptized by Alexander Whitaker, son of the famous Puritan scholar, William Whitaker, and took the name Rebecca. John Rolfe, who was famous in his own right for being credited as the first to successfully cultivate tobacco in the New World, had lost a wife and child in Bermuda previously, but fell in love in Rebecca, and the two were married by Rev. Richard Buck, who was the first chaplain to the Virginia General Assembly.

The two lived in Virginia for a short while, and had a child, Thomas, in 1615, before they traveled to England, where Pocahontas died in the Lord in March 1617, in Gravesend, Kent, England.

Theirs was not the first marriage between a European and an Indian princess, however, nor the first Christian wedding in America. In 1566, Ernst d'Erlach, French Huguenot nobleman and survivor of the infamous 1565 Fort Caroline massacre, and Princess Issena of the Timucuan Indian tribe, were wedded at Ormond Beach, Florida, in a Huguenot ceremony.

Although Princess Issena is remembered by some, the name Pocahontas -- who is credited with saving the life of Captain John Smith and bringing peace to the conflict between his colonists and the braves of her father Chief Powhatan -- stands alongside those of Squanto and Samoset, who helped to further the cause of Christ in colonial America.

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