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Governor John Ratcliffe

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This is my land! I make the laws here! And I say that anyone who so much looks at an Indian without killing him on sight will be tried for treason and hanged!
~ Governor John Ratcliffe exposing his plan

Governor John Ratcliffe (or better known as Governor Ratcliffe or John Ratcliffe) is the main antagonist in Disney's 33rd full-length animated feature film, Pocahontas, and its 1998 sequel. He is very loosely based on the historical figure John Ratcliffe, though in truth he takes on the qualities of many of history's ambitious and morally dubious pioneers as well as the usual traits of a Disney villain (such as a love of power, arrogance, and a flair for the dramatic).

He was voiced by David Ogden Stiers.



He leads an expedition to Virginia to find gold and other riches (which he wants to keep for himself). He fails to tell any of the other crew of his real reason of going to Virginia and recites the "Adventure of our lives" and "Freedom" speech to cover it. When they see land, Ratcliffe meets with John Smith, whom the crew admire, about his plan on dealing with the "savages" and "filthy heathens" (what he calls the Native Americans) and Smith assures his success and the meetings through. Ratcliffe arrives on the Shore of Virginia shortly after Smith and Thomas, a new recruit, then takes some land in the name of King James and calls it Jamestown.

After Smith leaves to search for the Indians, Ratcliffe orders men to build a fort and clear the ship while he has the rest men dig for gold. When he sees John Smith running off somewhere, he sends Thomas to follow him, hoping the "poor excuse for a soldier" will be of some use. He overhears the men talking about Smith's capture and realizes he could steal the Powhatan's gold once they are through with them (though it's noted earlier by Smith that they have no gold, Ratcliffe refuses to believe it). He wages war against the Powhatans, but to assure the men's back up he states it's to rescue Smith. After the two sides march their way to one and other, they are stopped abruptly by the film's heroine Pocahontas who tells everyone that they were led onto the path of hatred.

Pocahontas Saves John (HD)02:40

Pocahontas Saves John (HD)

Though Chief Powhatan and the Powhatans are touched by Pocahontas's speech, Ratcliffe is not moved and orders his men to fire at the Indians. Eventually, they refused to do so, as they no longer see any reason to fight the Indians just because they have different societies, just as Smith told them before. Ratcliffe then tries to gain the upper hand by firing a shot at Chief Powhatan, but Smith takes the bullet but not fatally. Finally seeing Ratcliffe for the corrupt, greedy monster he truly was, Thomas and the other men turned on Ratcliffe. They chained and gagged Ratcliffe and load him into a boat back to England to await punishment for his crimes.

Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World

Ratcliffe returns in the second movie and allows Smith to "fall to his death" after Smith tries to escape the English soldiers (he has been framed by Ratcliffe as a traitor). Working with King James, he learns of Pocahontas's visit to court to speak with the king (he and the king were expecting the chief, but ultimately let that fact pass) and invites her to the ball to prove she is not too savage. (But, knowing her savage instinct, he gets a circus performer to bear bait in front of Pocahontas and the king's court to make Pocahontas act savage and be punished by the king to get her out of the way. He plans to lead England's Armada to attack the Powhatans).

After Pocahontas and John Rolfe discover and put forth that Smith's alive in front of the king's court, it proves to the king Ratcliffe has lied from the start. Ratcliffe's army was just getting ready to set sail when Ratcliffe orders a rush anchor release after realizing he is being targeted. After the ships have crashed (thanks to Pocahontas, Rolfe, and Smith), Ratcliffe attempts to end Pocahontas's life in revenge. When Smith gets in the way, he attempts to do away with him in execution style after their sword fight turned stalemate. Rolfe comes in from behind and "hangs" Ratcliffe on a boat post, Smith then cuts the rope holding Ratcliffe and the latter falls into the sea. Ratcliffe swam to the shore decks where the angry King and his guards are waiting for him.

Exposed, Ratcliffe attempts to lie once more to the King about the heroes sabotaging the armada, but the King, having enough of this and learned the truth, warns him never to speak any more lies again, quoting "No more lies". The King then orders his guards to arrest Ratcliffe (it is unknown if he is hanged or not, though the former choice is more likely to happen, since Ratcliffe is certain on committing high treason). With Ratcliffe defeated, King James grants Pocahontas and her people with peace, hires Rolfe as his new lord advisor (though Rolfe declines it to be with Pocahontas for the rest of her life), and Smith with a new ship for himself to travel around the world.

House of Mouse

Ratcliffe is a minor guest character in the House of Mouse, He also appear in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse.



  • Ratcliffe is regarded as one of Disney's less popular villains, but he is so far the only Disney animated villain to be based on an actual historical person. The rest of Disney's animated villains are indeed fictional. 
  • The real Ratcliffe was generous with the colony's Native Americans. They tortured him to death when he was planning to trade with them in 1609. He did not live to see Pocahontas be married to John Rolfe. 
  • The supervisor of Captain John Smith's ship on the journey to America in 1607 was Christopher Newport, not Ratcliffe. 
  • His first name, John, is never mentioned in the first or second animated film. 
  • He is the second villain in the "Disney Princess" film to not have a death, The first being Lady Tremaine and the third being Prince Hans. Ratcliffe didn't die in the sequel either though it is possible due to him being likely sentenced to death. 
  • Ratcliffe is arguably to be hated, because of his hatred of Native Americans.

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