Who held the position of the Governor of Virginia first?

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By Erica Silverstein

Virginia’s First Governor

The position of Governor of Virginia holds a special place in American history as it was the first colonial governorship in the New World. Virginia was founded in 1607 by the Virginia Company of London, and it was not long before the colonists established their own form of government. The Virginia Company appointed a governor to oversee the colony’s affairs, and thus began the long line of Virginia governors.

Jamestown’s First Governor

The first governor of Virginia was Edward Maria Wingfield, who was appointed by the Virginia Company in 1607. Wingfield was one of the leaders of the expedition that founded Jamestown, and he was chosen to be the governor on the basis of his experience and reputation. However, Wingfield’s tenure as governor proved to be tumultuous, as he was accused of embezzlement and mismanagement of the colony’s resources. He was eventually removed from office and replaced by John Ratcliffe.

The Rise of Sir Thomas West

Sir Thomas West, also known as Lord De La Warr, was appointed as governor of Virginia in 1610. West was a seasoned military leader and was tasked with restoring order to the struggling colony. He quickly established a strict code of law and order, which helped to stabilize the colony. West also initiated a policy of aggressive expansion, which led to the establishment of several new settlements and the expansion of Virginia’s territory.

The Administration of Sir George Yeardley

Sir George Yeardley was appointed as governor of Virginia in 1619, and his tenure marked a turning point in Virginia’s history. Yeardley was a skilled administrator and was known for his fairness and impartiality. He oversaw the establishment of the House of Burgesses, which was the first representative assembly in the New World. Under Yeardley’s leadership, Virginia became a more democratic and prosperous colony.

The Interim Governorship of Francis Wyatt

Francis Wyatt was appointed as interim governor of Virginia in 1621, following the death of Sir George Yeardley. Wyatt was a seasoned administrator and had previously served as governor of the colony of Jamestown. During his tenure, Wyatt oversaw the establishment of new settlements and continued the policy of expansion initiated by his predecessors.

The Return of Sir George Yeardley

Sir George Yeardley was reappointed as governor of Virginia in 1626, and he continued his efforts to improve the colony. Yeardley oversaw the establishment of the College of William and Mary, which was the first college in the New World. He also initiated a policy of trade and commerce, which helped to make Virginia a more prosperous and economically stable colony.

The Tenure of Sir Francis Wyatt’s Son

Francis Wyatt’s son, also named Francis, was appointed as governor of Virginia in 1639. Francis Wyatt Jr. was an experienced administrator and oversaw the establishment of several new settlements in the colony. However, his tenure was marked by conflict with the Virginia Assembly, which led to his removal from office in 1642.

Edward Digges and the Commonwealth Period

Edward Digges was appointed as governor of Virginia in 1655, during the period of English Commonwealth rule. Digges was a skilled administrator and was known for his efforts to promote religious tolerance and freedom of speech in the colony. He also oversaw the establishment of several new settlements and improved the colony’s infrastructure.

Sir William Berkeley and the Longest Governorship

Sir William Berkeley was appointed as governor of Virginia in 1642, and his tenure would span over 30 years, making him the longest-serving governor in Virginia’s history. Berkeley was known for his efforts to expand the colony’s territory and promote economic growth. However, his tenure was marred by conflict with the Virginia Assembly, which led to his removal from office in 1677.

The Arrival of Lord Culpeper

Lord Culpeper was appointed as governor of Virginia in 1680, and his tenure marked a period of political and social upheaval in the colony. Culpeper was known for his efforts to promote economic growth and trade, but his tenure was also marked by conflict with the Virginia Assembly and accusations of corruption.

The End of Royal Rule in Virginia

The end of royal rule in Virginia came in 1776, when the colony declared its independence from Great Britain. The position of governor was replaced by the office of the governor of Virginia’s Commonwealth, which was elected by the people. The first governor of Virginia’s Commonwealth was Patrick Henry, who was appointed in 1776.

Conclusion: The Legacy of Virginia’s First Governors

The legacy of Virginia’s first governors is a rich and complex one. From the tumultuous tenure of Edward Maria Wingfield to the long rule of Sir William Berkeley, Virginia’s governors have played a crucial role in the colony’s history. They oversaw the establishment of representative government, promoted economic growth and expansion, and helped to shape the political and social landscape of Virginia. Today, the position of governor of Virginia remains one of the most important offices in the Commonwealth, and it continues to play a vital role in shaping the state’s future.

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Erica Silverstein

Erica, a seasoned travel writer with 20+ years of experience, started her career as a Let's Go guidebook editor in college. As the head of Cruise Critic's features team for a decade, she gained extensive knowledge. Her adventurous nature has taken her to Edinburgh, Australia, the Serengeti, and on luxury cruises in Europe and the Caribbean. During her journeys, she enjoys savoring local chocolates and conquering various summits.

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