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'Charles', a Boy from Guiana, 1597.
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It is hard to know what the boys must have felt as they arrived in London. We only have lists of names and places of origin in the Parish Register. The letters below have been written to try and imagine what their experience must have been like.

Author:  Lin Carey



Native American, 1671

Elma's TIP!
Find Out More...
Click on the pictures as you read the story. They will tell you more about life at the time.

Charles, a boy…10 or 12 years old'

On 13 th February 1597 , the records of St Luke's Church in Chelsea mention the baptism of a South American Indian boy: “Charles, a boy by estimation 10 or 12 years old brought by Sir Walter Rawlie from Guiana ”.

Charles, a boy...from Guiana. Baptism Entry for Charles, Sir Walter Raleigh's Servant, 1597
Baptismal record of Charles

From the date, it seems likely that Charles was brought back from Raleigh 's first voyage to Guiana in South America , in 1595. Raleigh was searching for the legendary city of El Dorado , the city of gold. Raleigh had with him an interpreter brought to England from an earlier voyage. With his help Raleigh was able to make contact with several Guianan leaders along their route.

The Orinoco

While travelling by boat along the Orinoco River , Raleigh 's party met a local tribe called the Orenoqueponi. Their chief, Topiawari, made the explorers welcome and exchanged gifts. Raleigh then asked for volunteers to accompany him back to England . Topiawari gave his son, Caywaraco, a young man of eighteen or twenty. In return, Raleigh left two of his crew with the Orenoqueponis: a sailor called Francis Sparrow, and a sixteen-year-old cabin boy, Hugh Godwin, who planned “to learn their language”.

Native American, 1671.
Native American

Back in London

Three other Orenoqueponi people returned to England with Raleigh , one of whom may well have been the boy “Charles”. We do not know what happened to Charles after this baptism record, but he would have been taught English and may well have stayed at Raleigh 's house. If he survived, he may have been one of a number of Guianan Indians who became valued interpreters to other English explorers during the following decade.

James Hamilton's Map of Chelsea, 1644.
James Hamilton's Map of Chelsea , 1644

Raleigh in the Tower of London

Raleigh himself was not able to return to Guiana for another twenty-two years. For much of this time he was imprisoned in the Tower of London . In the Tower he was waited on by two Guianan Indians, Leonard and Harry, who may or may not have been the other two men from the 1595 voyage. We do know that Caywaraco returned to Guiana in 1596 after his father's death, and remained a friend of Raleigh and a supporter of the English.

This is how Raleigh described Guiana :

I never saw a more beautiful country, nor more lively prospects: hills so raised here and there over the valleys; the river winding into divers branches; the plains adjoining without bush or stubble, all fair green grass; the ground of hard sand, easy to march on for horse or foot; the deer crossing in every path; the birds towards the evening singing on every tree with a thousand several tunes; cranes and herons of white, crimson and carnation perching on the river's side; the air fresh with a gentle easterly wind; and every stone that we stooped to take up promised either gold or silver by his complexion.

What can Charles and the other Guianans have thought of London when they arrived in September 1595?  

Tudor Street Scene.
A View of Tudor London


Click on the names below to find out about other Native Americans who came to London with Sir Walter Raleigh:

Manteo and Wanchese
Leonard Ragapo and Harry
Christopher Guayacunda and the death of Raleigh



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