Ten things you may not know about Pocahontas, and her Norfolk links

The village sign at Heacham, featuring Pocahontas.

The village sign at Heacham, featuring Pocahontas. - Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers

March 21 2017 marks the 400th anniversary of the burial of Norfolk-linked Pocahontas. To mark the anniversary, here are ten things you might not know about one of the most famous people from American history.

To posterity she is Pocahontas. But legally, she was Mrs Rebecca Rolfe, having changed her name in 1614 and then married Heacham landowner John Rolfe.

Pocahontas is a nickname. Her original name was Matoaka. 'Pocahontas' is a nickname meaning 'the mischievous one'.


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It is hard to appreciate the sensation she must have made at the court of King James, although it wasn't the first time courtiers had seen Native Americans – Sir Walter Ralegh hosted the visit of Wanchese and Manteo in 1584.

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Captain John Smith's story of how he was rescued by Pocahontas was not mentioned in the early editions of his books.

At the time of the 'rescue', Pocahontas was 11 or 12, and Smith 27.

John Smith's biographer, Peter Firstbrook, believes that his brief apprenticeship to a King's Lynn merchant first fired his taste for adventure

Heacham village tradition links her to a local copy of the King James Bible dating from 1617, and a mulberry tree - although there is no definitive evidence that she visited there.

A painting in the King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council archives – known as 'The Sedgeford Hall Portrait' – is said to show Pocahontas and her son Thomas. But some researchers claim it is more likely to be the wife and child of Osceola, the last of the Seminole Indian chiefs.

Pocahontas was buried in St George's Church, Gravesend, on March 21 1617. But the original church was burned down 110 years later, and the exact location of the grave is lost.

Many Americans claim descent from her son Thomas, whom John Rolfe left behind in England when he returned to America.

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