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Get Ye to Jamestowne

Our road-trip guide to all the fuss.



Her Majesty is coming! Farewell to separation anxiety, happiness is in the land.

True, in addition to her Virginia appearance early next month, Elizabeth II will pack her bags for a day at the Derby and dinner with Dubya. For Anglophiles and history-loving locals, the monarch's first visit to the banks of the James since 1957 is bringing smiles. It also lends welcomed imprimatur and gravitas to the 400th anniversary observance of the first English settlement at Jamestown.

Joseph Gravely uses some props to imagine the past.

On both sides of the Atlantic, special programs, both thoughtful and lavish, are under way. Here, the Virginia Historical Society, The Library of Virginia, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and others are presenting major exhibitions. In London, the British Museum is marking Jamestown's settlement with "A New World: England's First View of America," a showing of Virginia scenes circa 1600.

But the center of attention is at Jamestown itself. There, on May 14, 1607, three English ships dropped anchor 60 miles inland on the north bank of the James. The people who emerged began the arduous process of physical survival, settlement, racial dominance and territorial expansion.

In 1957, when the Jamestown experience was last marked in a big way, the company line aspired to be noble, the advent of Anglo civilization in the Northern Hemisphere. Those were the Eisenhower years and a simpler time, at least on the surface.

The ensuing half-century, however, has seen dizzying change. This makes deconstructing the meaning of Jamestown more dicey. The world is smaller and the Yankee melting pot is now a stew in which diversity is promoted and citizens are separated red state from blue. The economic spread between rich and poor has broadened dramatically.

Today the voices and accents that join the discussion of how we interpret history are more diverse. But this is our time — and Virginia's 400th anniversary — and a variety of stories will be told from different perspectives.

It is Richmond's story too. On May 24, 1607, an English posse arrived at the Falls seeking a passage through the continent. Although thwarted by the topography, they claimed the region for Mother England. This was the day that Richmond, as we know it, really began.

A team from Style recently hit the road east, setting off on a warm Saturday morning to check out the Jamestown celebration. The mission: preview what awaits Her Highness and thousands of anticipated visitors at the place where America began. And give us directions. S

Read the stories.

  • Getting There.

  • The Old Neighborhood: Historic Jamestowne.

  • Living Arrangements: Jamestown Settlement.

  • Sustenance

  • Trip Research
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