North Carolina Royal Colony
photograph by web.lib.unc.edu/nc-maps

Having just celebrated Independence Day in North Carolina, we still have vivid memories of our neighborhood cookout, or weekend getaway to the beach. We can still taste the cheeseburgers fresh off the grill, and hear the fireworks crackling in the night.

But while we celebrate the Fourth and our freedom from the British, one fact may surprise you: North Carolina was only under royal leadership for less than 50 years.

Early on in the colonization period, the Lord’s Proprietors were in control of North Carolina, which was a tract of land that stretched from just south of Daytona Beach, Florida to the border between North Carolina and Virginia. The Lords made all decisions in the colony, from gubernatorial appointments to taxes.

Ultimately, the Lord’s Proprietors proved to be bad at maintaining order, something that both the colonists and the Crown were displeased with. In 1719, South Carolina was sold back to the crown, and made a royal colony. In 1728, seven of the eight Lords of North Carolina sold their shares back to England, placing the colony under direct rule of the king.

On July 25, 1729, Parliament approved the deal and North Carolina was formally under control of the British.

John Carteret, Earl of Granville, was the only Lord’s Proprietor that refused to give up his share of land to the King. After years of debate, he was granted a 60-mile wide stretch that hugged the central North Carolina-Virginia border.

This area became known as the Granville District, and contained the most densely populated parts of the colony. But Carteret didn’t know anything about the people whose land he owned; he had never even stepped foot in America.

During the 40-year period of royal control, the colony became very wealthy and efficient. And despite Carteret owning such a large part of the colony, he had no say in the government workings there — he had surrendered all control to King George II in exchange for keeping his land.

The Granville District was sold to settlers of North Carolina, with a large share being sold to the Moravians to form a 98,985-acre settlement named Wachovia. However, Carteret’s agents often failed to prepare rolls of everyone living on the land, or even present people with their titles. Most of the Granville District quickly filled with squatters.

There was never a successor to Carteret as the Earl of Granville after he died in 1763. The relationship between the colonies and Britain was already under considerable strain in the decade leading up to start of the Revolutionary War. By the start of the war, additional land grants were no longer being processed. North Carolina declared independence from Britain in 1776, and won its freedom from their rule after seven years of war.

Read more about the history of North Carolina during the Revolutionary War at NCPedia.org.

This story was published on

Sara Pequeño is the summer 2017 digital intern at Our State. She grew up in the famous small town of Mount Airy and studies journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her favorite part about writing is getting to talk to people about their passions.

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