This small lead object is in the shape of a cross pattée. This shape has been used since medieval times; its name comes from the French pattée, meaning “footed,” which refers to the flaring arms. The cross pattée has been used throughout history in several ways, including during the Crusades and in military flags and badges. Notably, the cross pattée appears on many royal crowns in Christian countries, including the British Imperial State Crown, worn by the British monarch after their coronation and at state openings of Parliament.
The symbol is also used commonly in heraldry, including on the Coat of Arms of the feudal barony of Berkeley. Two members of the Berkeley family, distant cousins, influenced early Virginia.
The first, Richard Berkeley, hailed from the Gloucestershire family line. Inspired by fellow Gloucestershire native George Thorpe, he joined the Virginia Company of London. Along with Thorpe, Sir George Yeardley, the Governor of Virginia, Berkeley family historian John Smythe, and others, Richard Berkeley was granted 8000 acres of land by the company, which became known as Berkeley Hundred. Thirty-eight colonists set sail from Bristol in a ship called Margaret, and arrived on December 4, 1619. In the written instructions given to Captain John Woodlief, the Margaret’s captain, one mandate stated, “the day of their arrivall at the place assigned for the plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” Thus, it is said that the first Thanksgiving occurred not in Plymouth in 1620, but in Virginia on December 4, 1619.
The other influential Berkeley with crosses pattée on his Coat of Arms was William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia from 1641-1652 and 1660-1677. He descended in the “Bruton Branch” of the family, hailing from Bruton in Somerset, England. Both of his parents held stock in the Virginia Company of London, and William arrived in Virginia as governor in 1642. During his second term, he oversaw the construction of a multi-room brick statehouse on Jamestown Island, which began around 1663 and was expanded upon and altered for the duration of Berkeley’s tenure. Berkeley was embroiled in conflict in the last few years of his governorship, which culminated in 1677 after Nathanial Bacon led a rebellion that resulted in the burning of the statehouse, the church, and other buildings at Jamestown near where James Fort once stood. While this small cross pattée may have been associated with one of the Berkeley men, we will likely never know who brought it to Jamestown. It was discarded with other trash to be found hundreds of years later by Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists.