Sir Martin Frobisher (1535 - 1594) MP

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Birthplace: Altofts, Yorkshire, England
Death: Died in Plymouth, England
Managed by: Breya Warnstaff
Last Updated:

About Sir Martin Frobisher

A famous yet curiously little known English mariner of the Elizabethan Age, Martin Frobisher was born around 1535 in Altofts, Yorkshire and was third and youngest son of Bernard and Margaret Frobisher. Following his fathers death, the seven year old Martin was sent to London to earn a living with his Uncle, Sir John York. (Un) fortunately, young Martin's aptitude for books and numbers was less than inspiring, so his uncle, in an attempt to make this boy into something, assigned Martin to his first voyage abroad to the Guinea coast. Thus his career as a sailor began.

During the next decade or so, Frobisher was to sail to the Guinea coast, be captured by the Portuguese, imprisoned for about a year and then to return home only to become a pirate in English waters. Eventually, his skill leading vessels gradually brought him to privateering for French Huguenots. He was again captured as a pirate by the English government and placed in Fleet prison to await trial. His exploits against French Catholics, however, caught the attention of a few key powerful men of Elizabeth's Court including William Cecil, Lord Burleigh. He was granted clemency and became a pirate hunter for the Crown.

Early in the 1570s, he was selected to lead an expedition to the Northwest in search of a passage way to Cathay (China). This series of ventures is what made Martin Frobisher famous. Upon his return from his first voyage, a piece of black rock he brought back as a souvenir was taken by the expedition's benefactor, Michael Lok, to be gold. Two more expeditions were to follow with the expectation of bring back this ore for refinement. At great expense and commencement, the two following ventures were readied and over 200 tons of this ore was returned to England. Eventually, the ore was found to only contain Pyrite (Fool's Gold), thus reducing Michael Lok to bankruptcy and Frobisher to dishonor.

In 1585, he was selected to accompany Francis Drake on an expedition to the West Indies in order to sack Spanish settlements and attempt to capture the yearly treasure fleet heading back to Spain. The venture succeeded barely but, earned Frobisher a reputation of a steadfast, competent and trustworthy captain, which was a rarity in these times.

In 1588, with war against Spain looming before England, Frobisher was commissioned as Vice-Admiral under Sir Charles Howard Lord Effingham, Lord High Admiral to command the largest of the English navy vessels: the Triumph. Together with Francis Drake and John Hawkins, the English were to repulse Spain's attempt at invasion. Frobisher's help during the great war with Spain earned him a knighthood from the Lord High Admiral in July of that same year.

Following the "ware of 21 Julie", Frobisher was once again employed making sure Spain would not attempt any future enterprises of England. This new found reputation earned him a commission as Admiral in an expedition to oust Spanish forces in the city of Brest located on the Crozon Peninsula. The assault on the Fort, El Leon, unfortunately resulted in Frobisher being made one of the casualties. Following his return to Plymouth, Frobisher died. His entrails were entombed at St. Andrews, Plymouth while his body was interred at St. Giles, Cripplesgate in London.

This brings an end the life of one of England's greatest mariners. He died the same way he lived, violently and precipitately. Though his venture to find a Northwest Passage for England failed, it would be one of his greatest achievements. -------------------- http://www.yourdictionary.com/sir-martin-frobisher

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Sir Martin Frobisher's Timeline

1535
1535
Altofts, Yorkshire, England
1559
May 30, 1559
Age 24
1564
1564
Age 29
1576
June, 1576
Age 41
Frobisher Bay

"In June 1576, mariner Martin Frobisher initiated decades of serious English exploration and colonization of the New World when he embarked on the first of three voyages to North America looking for the Northwest Passage. He was convinced that the voyage to Cathay was "not only possible by the northwest, but also as he could prove, easy to be performed." He was trained in the navigational arts by court astrologer John Dee, who was skilled in astronomy, mathematics, and geography, and served as principal adviser to the Crown on navigation. In mid-July, a pair of barks and a pinnace reached the eastern coast of Greenland, but ice packs frightened off one of the masters, who sailed back to England, and the pinnace sank. Frobisher endured and managed to sail around the southern tip of Baffin Island and up what is now Frobisher Bay, which he believed was l a strait and the fabled passage to Cathay. He claimed the land for England and captured a native before sailing home."

1577
May, 1577
Age 42
London, Greater London, UK

"Merchant Michael Lok formed the Cathay Company, and subscribers (including the queen) invested in Frobisher's second and third voyages to search for gold and the Northwest Passage. Frobisher 'j sailed in May 1577 and again exactly one year later. During the former he brought home 140 tons of ore and ten times as much as that during the latter."

1578
May, 1578
Age 43
HUdson River

"In July 1578, he sailed up the Hudson Strait, but fog and ice forced him to turn around. Nevertheless, he believed he had found the passage to China. Although his voyages had cost a whopping £20,000 and showed virtually no return, the English remained resolute in their pursuit of wealth and empire."

1594
November 24, 1594
Age 59
Plymouth, England