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Ralph Lane

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Sir Ralph Lane (~1530 - 1603) was an English explorer of the Elizabethan era.

Ralph Lane was born in Lympstone, Devon, England. His father was Sir Ralph of Orlingbury, and his mother, Maud, was a cousin of Catherine Parr the last queen of Henry VIII. Ralph Lane started his service for the crown in 1563 as an equerry under Queen Elizabeth I of England, carrying out duties as an officer of the royal household, which included law enforcement and customs duties.

Ralph Lane is best remembered for his unsuccessful attempt to colonize Roanoke, Virginia, at the request of Sir Walter Raleigh. Queen Elizabeth was looking for areas to colonize and the Americas were ripe for expansion in the 1500s. The ill-fated journey began on April 9, 1585 when Ralph Lane set sail from Plymouth England with Raleigh's cousin, Sir Richard Grenville. It is known that the trip to the Americas, on board the vessel Tiger, was very difficult and the two men were at odds due to differences in leadership styles.

When they finally arrived in the Americas, Lane was left on Roanoke Island, Virginia with 107 colonists to explore and fortify the area. Almost immediately Grenville left with the Tiger to return to England. While on the Island, Lane served as Governor and employed his men in the duties of exploring the surrounding areas within a 130-mile radius and erecting a Fort to protect their outpost. They made contact with the Native Americans, but showed little respect for them and on several occasions kidnapped them in order to gain supplies and information. This treatment may have been the cause for the famed disappearance of the Roanoke settlers left by Sir Francis Drake when he returned to pick up Lane and his crew.

After Lane left Roanoke with Drake, he participated in several other expeditions before becoming the muster-master general of Ireland in January 1592. He was knighted in 1593 and given the job of the Lord Deputy of Ireland. He was wounded a year later in an Irish uprising against the crown and died several years later in October 1603, never having fully recovering from his wounds.

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