Humphrey Gilbert


Sir Humphrey Gilbert was an English adventurer who gained some measure of fame, by attempting to claim lands in Newfoundland for England. He was the half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, and at least peripherally involved in several failed expeditions and adventures. Like his brother Raleigh, he started his career as a soldier in Ireland. He made a name for himself by successfully subduing some Irish clans using exceedingly brutal tactics, which he insisted were necessary to quell the rebellion. Most of the adventures in his life, right up until his death at sea, were marked by a considerable degree of recklessness, so such sentiments are not wholly out of character.

On Gilbert's return to England he married, and almost immediately became interested in the idea of searching for the alleged Northwest Passage. In 1578 he set out on a failed voyage to the Americans, and soon after was sent on a failed sea-voyage to Ireland. In spite of these setbacks he continued his quest, and with the help of his brother Sir Walter Raleigh, who was by this time at high favor in the court of Elizabeth, was finally able to raise money for a voyage to the Americas. In 1583 he started out with five ships, reached the coast of Newfoundland, and attempted to find a promising location for a settlement, but it was determined that the available supplies on ship-board were insufficient for the coming winter. The fleet therefore returned to England. One of the boats in his fleet, the Squirrel, was known to be unseaworthy, but Gilbert insisted on staying aboard in spite of the exhortations of his captains. Sometime during the night the Squirrel, went down with all hands.

Key events during the life of Sir Humphrey Gilbert:

Birth of Humphrey Gilbert
Served in Ireland against Shane O'Neill.
  Employed relatively brutal tactic to supress the rebellious Irish.
Returned to England. Married Anne Auchur.
Fought in the Netherlands.
Helped arrange Frobisher's exploration of Greenland.
Set forth on failed trip to explore the Americas.
Set forth on a failed sea campaign against Ireland.
Sailed for American with a fleet of five ships. Attempts a settlement of Newfoundland.
Went down with one of his sailing ships on the return to England.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Sir Humphrey Gilbert  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Early Dicoverers  in  Canada: Peeps at History  by  Beatrice Home
Adventures of Sir Humphrey Gilbert  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
How a Breton Sailor Came to Canada  in  Our Empire Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Sir Humphrey Gilbert  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Sir Humphrey Gilbert refuses to leave his sinking ship
 in Canada: Peeps at History

Sir Humphrey Gilbert cutting the first sod in Newfoundland
 in Canada: Peeps at History

Sir Humphrey Gilbert
 in  Sir Walter Raleigh

Short Biography
Walter Raleigh Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
Elizabeth I Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Anne Auchur Wife of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Mother of six sons.
Shane O'Neill Chieftain of the O'Neill clan of Ulster, under Queen Elizabeth.
Martin Frobisher Explored much of Canada in seach of the Northwest Passage. Fought in the Armada.