By Michael E. Ruane and Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 5, 2007
JAMESTOWN, Va., May 4. -- Archaeologist Danny Schmidt began showing the distinguished lady in the aqua coat and black gloves the latest objects his team had prodded from dirt packed here 400 years ago.
Suddenly he stopped, realizing the importance of the moment. He looked at the pale 81-year-old woman and said, "Welcome to James Fort."
It was a greeting that echoed across four centuries Friday, as Queen Elizabeth II stood on the ground by the mile-wide James River where the ragged subjects of an earlier British sovereign established the colony that would become the United States of America.
It was the second day of a six-day visit, planned, in part, so the queen could mark the 400th anniversary of the establishment in May 1607 of the country's first permanent English-speaking settlement.
The queen, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and a royal entourage, was formally welcomed to the settlement by Vice President Cheney and former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Among the others on hand were the vice president's wife, Lynne; Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and his wife, Anne Holton; U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va); and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and his wife, NBC's Andrea Mitchell.
It was the queen's second visit to Jamestown -- she visited as a 31-year-old monarch in 1957 to celebrate its 350th anniversary -- but the location of the fort wasn't discovered until 1994.
"I think she should be here for this occasion," said Frances H. Davis, honorary state president of the Virginia Society Colonial Dames XVII Century. "The birth of a nation saved our mother nation."
The royal couple spent much of the day steeped in the details of Colonial American history.
The queen was whisked from stop to stop in a caravan of black sedans and SUVs, to be greeted by children with flowers and women in shoulder sashes and sun hats.
Throughout the day, the queen led the way, at times looking weary but walking forthrightly, smiling now and then, as her aides and entourage trailed.
The royal couple first visited Jamestown Settlement, the state-owned gallery and living history museum, and then went to Historic Jamestowne, the island site a few miles away where remnants of the original fort were discovered and where archaeologists are still at work.
The queen had lunch outside the Governor's Palace in the Colonial Williamsburg Historic District, then toured the College of William and Mary. She and her husband left for Louisville on Friday night to attend the Kentucky Derby and planned to return to Washington on Sunday.
In the morning, the settlement, also the site of a re-created Colonial fort, was bustling.
Sam Running Deer McGowan, 30, a member of the Mattaponi tribe, was in full regalia -- red and black face paint, buckskin garments -- and his scalp was closely shaved on both sides. From his right ear a hawk's claw dangled.
McGowan, a settlement employee who visits public schools to teach about Jamestown, said he had no bad feelings about the hardships his people suffered after the English arrived.
"We live and learn from mistakes," he said, acknowledging that the Indians' welcome was not always warm. "We want to get out the word that our people are still here. It's a great honor to see and meet the queen. I look for no apology."
The queen, accompanied by her husband, entered the living history park about 10:25 a.m. near the pier where replicas of the three original ships -- the Godspeed, the Susan Constant and the Discovery -- were moored.
The queen strolled along the walk leading to the fort, several hundred people lining both sides of her path, snapping pictures and applauding.
Inside the fort, O'Connor and Cheney spoke in a brief ceremony. "Inside a little three-sided fort, in this corner of Virginia, large events were set in motion," Cheney said, "and great and noble traditions were introduced."
Afterward, Prince Philip toured the Susan Constant. A sailor in period costume piped a whistle to sound the welcome, and the duke strode up the gangplank. Capt. Eric Speth welcomed him aboard.
The prince, wearing a dark suit with a blue-striped shirt and maroon tie, listened as Speth, maritime program manager for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the state agency that operates the museum, spoke.
As the duke returned to the pier, four crew members climbed the ship's rigging. Others went below deck to prepare its cannon.
"Your majesty," Speth called from the deck of the ship, "on behalf of Jamestown Settlement and Jamestown's founding fleet, we salute you!"
He then shouted orders for the crew to unfurl the tall ship's sails.
"Set the fore course!" Speth cried, and the foremost sail tumbled down. "Set the main course! Give the salute!"
The cannon boomed four times. "It's quite a noise," the queen said, according to several bystanders.
At Historic Jamestowne, chief archaeologist William M. Kelso, of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), waited nervously for the queen.
It was Kelso who discovered the fort's site in 1994, when most other archaeologists believed its remains had been washed into the river.
He said he'd have about 20 minutes to explain 12 years of recent archaeology to her. "It's a lot to tell," he said.
At the archaeological site, Schmidt and fellow APVA archaeologist Luke Pecoraro noted that they had excavated down to the level of the 1600s. "It's definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for an archaeologist," Pecoraro said. "It's not often that you have a head of state visit an archaeological site."
At the dig site, Kelso and Schmidt explained what was being excavated inside the perimeter of the original triangular fort.
The queen appeared interested, Kelso said later, but was quiet.
Schmidt was showing the queen an old pipe bowl that had just been unearthed, when, he said, it dawned on him that he should welcome her to the past. She thanked him and noted that the site was greatly changed in 50 years, he said.
At the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, the queen, who had changed from her morning attire into a lilac overcoat and matching hat with turquoise trim, lunched outdoors with 400 others on rockfish, Virginia ham, salad and a lemon cloud tart. "We rehearsed the meal a couple times until we got the flavor right," said Colonial Williamsburg's executive chef, Hans Schadler. "There's got to be zero defects."
At William and Mary, the queen emerged at 2:45 p.m. on the portico of the college's historic Wren building to thunderous applause from thousands of students. College President Gene R. Nichol welcomed her with a nod to the college's historic ties with England. Set on a lush campus in Williamsburg, the college was born in 1693 when King William III and Queen Mary II granted it a royal charter.
"We are ancient by the standards on this side of the water, if not your own," Nichol told the queen.
Senior Class President Jessica A. Vance then rose and announced that the queen would receive an honorary degree.
"I ask you to join us in becoming an honorary member of the Class of 2007," Vance said. "For now, ma'am, will you please stand and join us in the singing of our -- and now your -- alma mater."
And with that, several thousand students, faculty and guests filling the long grass courtyard stood and sang the alma mater. At its conclusion, the queen clapped her white gloved hands politely.
Then, fulfilling a William and Mary tradition, the honorary graduate was offered the chance afforded all seniors on their last day of classes -- to ring the Wren bell.
"I asked her if she wanted to do it," 22-year-old Vance, who accompanied the queen to the bell, said later. "She said, no, I could do it."
So Vance rang the bell, and the queen emerged on a second-floor balcony. Leaning into a microphone overlooking the courtyard, Vance announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the newest member of the Class of 2007, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II."
Staff writers Rosalind S. Helderman and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.