Robert Carter

Robert “King” Carter was elected to the Virginia Houses of Burgesses to represent Lancaster County, VA, in 1691.  Who was this man?

Robert “King” Carter (ca. 1664-1732) was the son of John Carter (ca. 1613-1670) and Sarah Ludlow Carter (d. 1668).  John, member of an English family with ties to the Virginia Company of London, immigrated to Virginia by 1642.  He served in the House of Burgesses and on the Governor’s Council and left the bulk of his property, including Corotoman Plantation, to his elder son John II. 

Robert was sent to England in 1673 to be educated.  He studied there for six years, developing important business contacts.  In 1690, John II died and left Robert most of his estate, including Corotoman, thus catapulting Robert into the leading ranks of the planter class.  Large scale cultivation of tobacco required capital and labor and constant attention to detail.  Robert was equal to the task.  He kept a close eye on every aspect of his operation, becoming planter, merchant, shipper, and international trader.  Corotoman developed into a small village with warehouses, docks, a grain mill, stores, barns, and houses for the labor force. 

Robert Carter served as vestryman of Christ Church Parish, justice of the peace for Lancaster County, commander of the militias for Lancaster and Northumberland Counties, and naval officer for the Rappahannock River in charge of a customs office.  He represented Lancaster County in the House of Burgesses in 1691 and 1692 and from 1695-1699.  He presided as Speaker in 1696 and 1697.  In 1699, the House appointed him treasurer of the colony.  He served until 1705.  He served on the Governor’s Council from 1699 until his death in 1732, taking an active part in the government of Virginia.  His political activities fostered a Virginia identity separate from England yet equally entitled to self-government, a prerequisite for the Revolution. 

Carter’s great passion was amassing land.  Ignoring primogeniture, he set out to amass enough land to leave each son and several grandsons sufficient land to be leading planters in their own right.  He succeeded.  He amassed land though purchase, foreclosure, head rights, and as agent for the Culpepper-Fairfax families who owned the land between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers known as the Proprietary or Northern Neck.  

In 1688, Robert Carter married Judith Armistead (d. ca. 1699).  They had four daughters (Elizabeth, Judith, Sarah, and another Judith) and one son (John III, d. 1742).  Circa 1704, Robert Carter married Elizabeth Landon Willis (d. 1719).  They had five sons (Robert II, Charles, Ludlow, Landon, and George) and five daughters (Anne, Sarah, Betty, Mary, and Lucy).  Robert Carter died at Corotoman on January 10, 1732, the largest landowner and wealthiest man in Virginia, owning at least 295,000 acres of land, much personal property, and numerous slaves.  His will ran to forty pages.  A devout man, his memorial was in the churches he built. 

First Mississippi Company Descendants of Robert “King” Carter: Richard C. Bradley, III