The first time the British tried to mix with the natives in a series of landings on Roanoke Island off the Carolina coast, all of the 100-plus men, women and children who tried to colonize the place vanished—or were killed by Indians. That was four centuries ago, and no one knows what finally happened after they went ashore beginning in 1584 under a charter granted Sir Walter Raleigh by Queen Elizabeth I.
On Friday, July 13, 1984 Britain gave it another go when 33-year-old Princess Anne, descendant of Queen Liz, came over with a passel of other British dignitaries to commemorate the anniversary of her country’s initial efforts to set up shop in the New World. This time the natives were more cordial: Governors, senators, Lumbee Indians (descended from Roanoke’s aborigines), the crew of a full-size facsimile of the Old English vessels and old salt Walter Cronkite joined 45,500 plain folks for the Roanoke Island celebration.
Only the weather was hostile. It poured. But the Princess toughed out the deluge, which, quipped Anne, made her “feel at home.” Shortly after she unveiled a plaque to the lost colonists, a steamy sun broke through. Next day with the sun still beaming, Cronkite boarded the flagship of a 69-vessel flotilla that toured the island, then highlighted the three-day bash with a speech concluding, “And that’s the way it was, July 14, 1984.”