Queen Elizabeth’s I Repatriation Acts

Picture from the National Archives: An Open Letter about ‘Negroes’ Brought Home
This letter illustrates how Elizabeth I attempted to divert attention from social problems by blaming Black people. It was sent to the lord mayor and aldermen of London and to mayors and sheriffs throughout the country.

The queen asserts that England has a growing population of its own and does not need the ‘divers blackmoores brought into this realme’. This was followed by a declaration that 10 Black people would be deported. This was only the opening salvo in Elizabeth’s campaign to remove ‘blackmoores’ from England.

PC 2/21, f 304 (11 July 1596

Concerned about the numbers of black servants in England, in the 1590’s Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) tried to expel them from her realm. In 1596 she wrote to the Lord Mayors of major cities noting that there were “Blackmoors brought into the realm, of which kind of people there are already here to manie (too many)”.

That same year the queen issued a proclamation for the expulsions of black settlers and a license to the merchant, Casper van Senden to carry out the deportations.  89 people were deported to Spain and Portugal. As the first proclamations did not have the desired effect, a second was issued by the Queen in 1601. Had the proclamations been made earlier in the Queen’s reign the consequence would have had a devastating effect on the black population living here, but because they were issued in the latter years of her reign, the effects were minimal.  

See the National Archives for more details. As has happened on many occasions, Black people are scapegoated when Governance is in trouble, for Queen Elizabeth 1 this was intense economic hardship.