0

The Wikipedia says the following about the death of Pocahantas:

In March 1617, Rolfe and Pocahontas boarded a ship to return to Virginia; the ship had only sailed as far as Gravesend on the river Thames when Pocahontas became gravely ill. She was taken ashore and died in John Rolfe's arms at the age of twenty-two. It is not known what caused her death, but theories range from smallpox, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, to her having been poisoned.

It seems strange that she should die so suddenly at so young an age and at a critical juncture, no less. She died shortly after discovering that John Smith was alive. Is there any additional information that is more definitive about the way she died?

  • I do not see how this is "opinion based". She DID die of something, just because you don't know how she died of something does not make it a matter of opinion. – Tyler Durden Dec 19 '14 at 23:03
8

I don't think much more is known. Medical diagnoses were probably much vaguer in those times and detailed records were not so commonplace and would not all have survived.

It seems strange that she should die so suddenly at so young an age

Why? In 1617 death from illness was more common at all ages. It was not that uncommon for travelers to other continents to fall victim to diseases not present in their country of origin and for which they had no immunity.

According to Wiklipedia: "During the early 1600s in England, life expectancy was only about 35 years, largely because two-thirds of all children died before the age of four". So an English native who survived early childhood diseases might expect a longer life, but the same could not necessarily always be expected for immigrants or visitors who were born in America.


According to The Story of Pocahontas by Charles Dudley Warner

Camden in his "History of Gravesend" says that everybody paid this young lady all imaginable respect, and it was believed she would have sufficiently acknowledged those favors, had she lived to return to her own country, by bringing the Indians to a kinder disposition toward the English; and that she died, "giving testimony all the time she lay sick, of her being a very good Christian."

The Lady Rebecka, as she was called in London, died on shipboard at Gravesend after a brief illness, said to be of only three days, probably on the 21st of March, 1617. I have seen somewhere a statement, which I cannot confirm, that her disease was smallpox. St. George's Church, where she was buried, was destroyed by fire in 1727. The register of that church has this record:

  "1616, May 21 Rebecca Wrothe
   Wyff of Thomas Wroth gent
A Virginia lady borne, here was buried
     in ye chaunncle."

Yet there is no doubt, according to a record in the Calendar of State Papers, dated "1617, 29 March, London," that her death occurred March 21, 1617.


According to The Smithsonian

The copper-plate engraving, by the Dutch artist Simon van de Passe, was published in a volume devoted to English royalty. The inscription beneath her image makes clear the portrait’s message: Matoaka, daughter of an Indian “Emperour,” had been “converted and baptized,” becoming Rebecca Rolfe, a respectable, thriving and thoroughly Anglicized lady.

But look closely at the portrait. Pocahontas appears grave, her cheeks are sunken and her hand is skeletal. Perhaps this was simply the artist’s rendering. But it may have reflected her failing health. In common with so many natives exposed to Europeans in this period, she and her young son fell ill in England, possibly from tuberculosis. Soon after the Rolfes set sail for Virginia, Pocahontas had to be brought ashore at the Thames port of Gravesend. She died there in March 1617, at the age of about 21.


The National Parks Service say

In March 1617, the Rolfe family was ready to return to Virginia. After traveling down the Thames River, Pocahontas, seriously ill, had to be taken ashore. In the town of Gravesend, Pocahontas died of an unspecified illness. Many historians believe she suffered from an upper respiratory ailment, such as pneumonia, while others think she could have died from some form of dysentery. Pocahontas, about twenty-one, was buried at St. George's Church on March 21, 1617.


See also

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.