Humphrey Gilbert was the second son of a wealthy British aristocrat, but he would not see any of that wealth. By British laws, an estate would automatically be transfered to the first-born son on the death of his father. Humphrey would be left with nothing.
The New World offered Gilbert a chance at a future, though, and he pounced on the opportunity. He met with Queen Elizabeth I and convinced her of the great opportunities offered to the British in the New World. Land abounded there, and thousands of young British men in the same circumstances as himself would jump at the chance to acquire it.
Queen Elizabeth granted Gilbert a patent and vice regal powers which would allow him to claim the land for England and to dispense land titles to colonists. He was also granted full authority to defend the land as he saw fit.
Investors were found for the newly-formed Muscovy Company and, with additional funding by the Queen, ships and crew were gathered. Most of the crew Gilbert hired were pirates, many of whom hoped to escape lengthy prison terms or, in some cases, execution. They were cheap labour, but very unreliable. This would play heavily in Gilbert's attempts to settle the New World.
In November of 1578, ten ships set sail from England. Only days out to sea, 4 of the ships deserted and returned to piracy. Two of the remaining ships soon developed serious leaks and were forced to return to England for repairs. The 4 ships that remained were not sufficiently supplied for the voyage, let alone for settlement, and were forced to return to England as well.
Humphrey Gilbert's first attempt to settle the New World failed dismally.
* First Voyage 1578 - Destined to Fail *
Second Voyage 1583 - Settlement & Thirst for Power