Years ago, I ran a brief scenario through Point of Divergence on England founding a colony in Drake's "Nova Albion" - wherever the heck, exactly, Drake's landing was. I always meant to get around to posting it (my website in those days was so small it fit on a single floppy!) but for some reason never did. Later, some of it was recycled into my "Isle of California" timeline.

Now, having just located it again, I cleaned it up a bit and am posting it for you all to see what an early AH scenario of mine looks like...

...so, let's play with the idea of a Nova Albion colony...


In June of 1579, Drake pulled into a small bay (depending on whose theory you believe, placed anywhere from Monterey Bay to Oregon to British Columbia! - admittedly, most spots are centered on the coast just north of San Francisco) for repairs and resupply. Prior to this, the only things Europeans knew about Upper California were from Cabrillo's one cruise up and down the coast (which missed such "minor" features as the entirety of San Francisco Bay...) and what was seen by the Manilla Galleons as they made their way from the Philippines to Acapulco. Spain had no colonies closer than southern Baja at the time and the only land expedition even vaguely to the area didn't get more than a few miles past the Colorado river. Nova Albion

So, Drake claims the land as Nova Albion and - unlike on OTL - England decides that this "conveynient harborough" would be a good spot to put a colony to support its pirate - er, privateer - ships so that could prey on the rich Manilla Galleons and raid the South American coast like Drake did (it was the whole reason for his being there in the first place - well, that and looking for the Northwest Passage...).

This isn't impossible - certainly, the returns from Drake's voyage were high enough - but the San Francisco Bay area in 1579 is way the heck far away from any other English outpost - or any other European one, for that matter. This would make it difficult just to get the colonists there, let alone keep them supplied.

Still, it is at a good spot to harass the Galleons and a much closer port to do some equally harassing things to Spain's Pacific coastal towns and cities. And the fact that it is so far away from any other colony makes planting one there logical if England plans to continue raids in the Pacific - since none of the others are close enough. Someone else, though, will have to figure out the details of just why England would go with this plan on this ATL.

Let's assume that by the time all the details are worked out, the first colony ship arrives in 1584, five years after Drake claims the area - just about the minimum time given the length of transit plus time to get things together back in England. Seventy-five stout men and maybe twenty women, led by a small army detachment of say fifteen. Call it one-hundred and ten colonists all together.

Let's further assume that after exploring the area a bit more, they decide to place the colony along the northern shores of San Francisco Bay (or, we may assume that this is "Drake's Bay" in some form or another - it is one of the candidates after all). This area is protected from Pacific storms (as long as they stay off the peninsula), has access to water, arable land and decent harborage. It also - which would be a plus in their minds - is pretty much invisible to the Spanish ships cruising down the coast (people kept missing the mouth of San Francisco Bay for decades, the Golden Gate is frequently fogged in). Not a bad thing for a pirate base.

Spain has by now heard of Drake's trip and - as it did OTL - has instructed its captains to keep an eye out for the Northwest Passage. If England was snooping around for it, they wanted to find it first.

The Nova Albion colony has in permanent residence a small ship and several launches that they use to explore the bay and - eventually - quite some distance up the Sacramento River as well. There are also the privateer ships that were the reason for founding the colony in the first place, but of course don't hang around long - they're there to resupply and repair between attacking galleons and returning with treasures to England.

By 1588, Spain has lost enough ships in the area to realize that someone has a base there and their spies ferret out that it's the English. Problem is that, due to lack of information, the area of "in the area" pretty much stretches from San Diego to Alaska. This isn't exactly narrowing things down much, still, they detach a ship to search the coast.

This is where it gets tricky. 1588 is the year of the Armada. Now, how does this AH change that? Will ships (on both sides) that were involved OTL instead be somewhere off the Pacific Coast? How will this affect strategy and - most importantly for the Armada and its storm - timing. While I can see no way for the Spanish to win the battle, a few days either way and their surviving ships don't join the others at bottom of the channel in that big storm. A whole different AH could develop from this even if the Nova Albion colony flickers and dies a couple of years later (which is not an unlikely outcome, actually).

To simplify (and to make things more interesting), let's assume that while the colony survives, the Armada sinks pretty much on schedule.

The colony is now quite a bit larger - there have been many deaths, but several supply ships have dropped off new colonists/privateers (licking their lips at the thought of all those galleons filled with Asian Luxuries) and those that are there have been successfully chatting-up the local Miwok Indian maids (at least, those that survive the various plagues that burn though the area).

OTL, Spain finally found San Francisco Bay in 1595, so let's assume they do so around this time on this ATL as well. However, here, they are surprised by an English Privateer - the Leeds - and sent to the bottom of the bay. Thanks to this bit of luck, the English colony can have Spain not get word of the bay for a couple of more decades, at least.

However, Spain certainly knows they're there - if they're still somewhat vague on where that "there" is (they have by now at least narrowed it down to somewhere between Monterey Bay and the Columbia River). They've lost dozens of ships to English privateers and they've begun to route the Manilla Galleons southward much farther out in the Pacific, so they no longer reach land until around OTL's Los Angeles area. This makes for a longer - and riskier - trip, but sailing down the "Devil's Coast" is riskier still. However, between this tactic and convoying, by 1600, their loses begin to drop to next to nothing.

This cuts into the Nova Albion colony's profits big time, but by now the population is nearly five-hundred and many of the residents are beginning to consider this a place to live, rather than just a "short" term job at the privateer base.

Back in England, the religious squabbles that drove the Pilgrims to New England in 1620 OTL are in full swing. Given the superior climate/farming conditions of Nova Albion over the North-East Coast, it's just possible they will op for the longer (much, much longer) trip there rather than straight across the Atlantic. However, as their navigation skills are no better on this world than on ours, they end up landing in Monterey Bay and setting up their colony there instead of near the original Nova Albion colony in San Francisco Bay.

(as an aside, how does the English support of this colony affect their colonizing on the East Coast? After all, they didn't have a bottomless pot of money/ships/colonists to draw from, so if this rather large chunk of the pot is going to Nova Albion, what colony is getting shortchanged/never off the ground back in the Atlantic?)

OTL, Spain didn't even start setting up Missions in Alta California until the 1760's, but it's likely that with knowledge of English colonies in "its" territory, they will set up a colony of their own at OTL's San Diego by 1640, while the Church begins sending in missionaries to the "heathens" northward from there (OTL, they were doing Baja California at the time).

Around 1645, Fr. Nicolas and his troop of three other Brothers and seventeen missionized Indians comes over the hills surrounding Monterey Bay and face to face with one of the second generation Pilgrim colonists, farming his field...


Decades later, when Great Britain's North American colonies start to make noises about independence...just what kind of independence might the Nova Albion colony try for/get?

First of all, it'd be pretty isolated from all the eastern colonies (assuming that the English only plant the one colony on the west coast - which may not be a good assumption), so in any sort of independence movement, it's going to be more or less on its own. It's also likely to have a different world-view from its east-coast counterparts. It primarily developed as a "navy depot" more than anything else and the Pilgrim colony may or may not be considered a part of "Nova Albion." If it is, I'm not sure how that would affect the local politics.

I should note that while it's isolated from the other English colonies, it'd be right next door to the Spanish ones. This is likely to make it feel much more loyalty to England than on the east coast, if for no other reason than the fear Spain would move in if they kicked England out!

Off the top of my head, I'd expect this colony to remain loyal to the Crown until given Dominion status by Britain. Probably it would be combined with the territories of British Columbia as one country - a "Greater British Columbia" or perhaps "Greater Nova Albion." Because of this, it's likely that Britain would be more motivated to keep a grip on the land between the two - namely what's Washington & Oregon, OTL.

This "Greater Nova Albion" would probably be separate from "Canada" to the east - OTL, the link between western and eastern Canada was tenuous at best (still is pretty weak) and only maintained because of the fear that the U.S. would move in if it wasn't (not an unreasonable fear, that). The North America of Nova Albion

So we've got two big British Commonwealth countries now in North America: "Canada" and "Greater Nova Albion." We'll assume some sort of "U.S." get's its independence on the east coast (though, really, we've changed events so much with this POD, that it's likely any such nation would be quite different from the one OTL - even assuming it wins independence at about the same time as OTL).

Because of the proximity of two big "British" nations - and a much smaller U.S. territory - let's assume that the U.S. here isn't nearly as successful with the whole "Manifest Destiny" thing. Perhaps the Nova Albion colony spreads eastwards. Mexico might hold onto its New Mexico territories in this scenario, but I think that the California ones might just end up a separate nation well within the British orbit - possibly a protectorate. The map might look something like this.

North America ends up with four big nations, and at least two or three smaller ones (California and few south of Mexico).