Sebastian Cabot

Venetian Navigator, Cartographer, & Explorer

Born: 1476

Died: 1557

Sebastian claimed to have accompanied his father, John Cabot, on the elderís first voyage to North America in 1497, which mistook the American coast for the coast of China. He also claimed that he took part of a 1508 expedition to the North American mainland, visiting Labrador and Hudson Bay. Many historians doubt the veracity of these claims.

Sebastian, a cartographer for then King Henry VIII, accompanied the English army sent to aid King Ferdinand II of Aragon against the French. He drafter maps for the invasion into France in the War of the Holy League. In 1512, during that campaign, Cabot entered the service of Spain and served King Ferdinand, and then King Charles. Six years after switching sides to join up with the Spanish forces, he was promoted by his new King to the title of Pilot-Major by King Charles.

In 1525, Cabot led to the Pacific a three-ship Spanish expedition intended to establish trade with the Orient. En route, while stopped on the shores of Brazil, Cabot heard tales of the riches to be had in the Rio de la Plata region of South America, and as a result he abandoned his original mission and headed to Rio de la Plata instead. Cabot failed to find this fabled region, and as a result, also failed to complete his original mission. As a result, Sebastian Cabot was arrested upon his return to Spain on charges of mismanagement. After a period of banishment to Africa, however, he was once again restored to his posting of Pilot Major.

In 1548, after a period of disillusionment with the Spanish service, Cabot returned to England, where he had been offered a naval post by the English crown. He enjoyed great popularity in the court of King Edward VI, who appointed him the Grand Pilot of England. He founded and led the Muscovy Company of Merchant Adventurers. As head of the Muscovy Company, Cabot supported exploratory expeditions to increase Englandís trade, especially with the East.

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