Historical records matching Sir Francis Drake
About Sir Francis Drake
Alternate date: He his said to have died in January 1596, but his will is dated April 10, 1661. http://www.xroyvision.com.au/drake/history/hist18.htm
Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral (1540 – 27 January 1596) was an English sea captain, privateer, navigator, slaver, a renowned pirate, and politician of the Elizabethan era. Elizabeth I of England awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581. He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588, subordinate only to Charles Howard and the Queen herself. He died of dysentery in January 1596 after unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico.
His exploits were legendary, making him a hero to the English but a pirate to the Spaniards to whom he was known as El Draque, 'Draque' being the Spanish pronunciation of 'Drake'. His name in Latin was Franciscus Draco ('Francis the Dragon'). King Philip II was claimed to have offered a reward of 20,000 ducats, about £4,000,000 (US$6.5M) by modern standards, for his life.
He is famous for (among other things) leading the first English circumnavigation of the world, from 1577 to 1580.
Sir Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon, in February or March of 1544 at the earliest, when his namesake godfather Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford was but age 17. Drake's family immediately removed to Kent where he was raised. Although Drake's birth is not formally recorded, it is known that he was born while the six articles were in force and that 'Drake was two and twenty when he obtained the command of the Judith' (1566) this carries back his birth to 1544 (at which time the six articles were in force). He was the eldest of the twelve sons of Edmund Drake (1518–1585), a Protestant farmer called in question for his religion by the six articles, who became a minister among the seamen in the king's navy to read prayers to them, and his wife Mary Mylwaye.
In the days of religious persecution, the Drake family fled from Devonshire into Kent, where the father obtained an appointment to minister to men in the King's navy,and soon afterwards was ordained deacon and made vicar of Upnor Church upon the Medway. Drake's father put his son to the master of a barque, his neighbour, who carried on coasting trade transporting merchandise to France. The ship master was so satisfied with Drake's conduct, and pleased with him, that, being unmarried and childless at his death he bequeathed the barque to Drake as his inheritor.
The elder Drake is sometimes confused with his nephew John Drake (1573–1634), who was the son of Edmund's older brother, Richard Drake. (cf. John White, note 2). Francis Drake's maternal grandfather was Richard Mylwaye.
Francis Drake was married to his first wife, Mary Newman, from 1569 until her death 12 years later. In 1585, Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham—born circa 1562, the only child of Sir George Sydenham, sheriff of Somerset. After Drake's death, Elizabeth eventually married Sir William Courtenay of Powderham. Sir Francis Drake did not have any children, and his estate and titles passed on to his nephew (also named Francis).
“ The people of quality dislike him for having risen so high from such a lowely family; the rest say he is the main cause of wars. ”
—Gonzalo González del Castillo in a letter to King Philip II in 1592.
Francis Drake was reportedly named after his godfather Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, and throughout his cousins' lineages are direct connections to royalty and famous personages, such as Sir Richard Grenville, Ivor Callely, Amy Grenville and Geoffrey Chaucer. However, James Froud states, "He told Camden that he was of mean extraction. He meant merely that he was proud of his parents and made no idle pretensions to noble birth. His father was a tenant of the Earl of Bedford, and must have stood well with him, for Francis Russell, the heir of the earldom, was the boy's godfather."
As with many of Drake's contemporaries, the exact date of his birth is unknown and could be as early as 1535, the 1540 date being extrapolated from two portraits: one a miniature painted by Nicholas Hilliard in 1581 when he was allegedly 42, the other painted in 1594 when he was said to be 53.
During the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549, the family was forced to flee to Kent. Before he turned thirteen, Drake started his sea career when he became an apprentice member of the crew of a barque trading between the Thames and the cross-Channel ports. He became owner-master of the ship at the age of twenty after the death of its previous captain, who bequeathed it to him. At age twenty-three, Drake made his first voyage to the New World, sailing, in company with his second cousin, Sir John Hawkins, on one of a fleet of ships owned by his relatives, the Hawkins family of Plymouth. In 1568 he was again with the Hawkins fleet when it was trapped by the Spaniards in the Mexican port of San Juan de Ulua. He escaped along with Hawkins but the experience is said to have led him to his lifelong revenge against the Spanish.
Following the defeat at San Juan de Ulua, Drake vowed to get revenge and thus made two minor voyages to the West Indies, in 1570 and 1571, of which little is known. It was in 1572 that he embarked on his first major independent enterprise. He planned an attack on the Panama isthmus, known to the Spanish as Tierra Firme and the English as the Spanish Main. This was the point at which the silver and gold treasure of Peru had to be landed and sent overland to the Caribbean Sea, where galleons from Spain would pick it up at the town of Nombre de Dios. He left Plymouth on May 24, 1572, with a crew of 73 men in two small vessels, the Pascha (70 tons) and the Swan (25 tons), to capture Nombre de Dios.
His first raid there came late in July, 1572. Drake and his men captured the town and its treasure. However his men noticed that Drake was bleeding profusely from a wound and they insisted on withdrawing to save his life, leaving the treasure. He remained in the vicinity of the isthmus for almost a year, raiding Spanish shipping and attempting to capture a treasure shipment.
In 1573, he joined up with a French buccaneer, Guillaume Le Testu, in an attack on a richly laden mule train. This raid succeeded beyond any of their wildest dreams and Drake and his companions found that they had captured around 20 tons of silver and gold. It was far too much for the few men to carry off and so much of the treasure was buried (which may have given rise to all subsequent stories of pirates and buried treasure). Le Testu was wounded, captured and later beheaded.
The small band of adventurers dragged as much gold and silver as they could carry back across some 18 miles of jungle-covered mountains to where they had left their small raiding boats. However, when they got there, their boats had vanished. Drake and his men, downhearted, exhausted and hungry, now had nowhere to go and the Spanish were not far behind.
At this point, Drake showed exceptional leadership. He rallied his men, buried the treasure on the beach and built a raft to sail himself and two volunteers ten miles along the fearsome surf-lashed coast to where he had left his flagship. The raft was continually awash up to their chests and the salt water and the burning sun caused them much suffering. However, they pushed onwards until they reached their ship. When Drake finally stood on her deck, his men were alarmed at his bedraggled appearance. Fearing the worst they asked him how the raid had gone. Drake, in spite of everything, could not resist a joke and teased them by looking downhearted. Then he laughed, pulled a necklace of Spanish gold from around his neck and said "Our voyage is made, lads!" By August 9, 1573, he was back in Plymouth.
Circumnavigation of the earth
Entering the Pacific
With the success of the Panama isthmus raid, in 1577 Elizabeth I of England sent Drake to start an expedition against the Spanish along the Pacific coast of the Americas. He set out from Plymouth on 15 November 1577, but bad weather threatened him and his fleet, who were forced to take refuge in Falmouth, Cornwall, from where they returned to Plymouth for repair. After this major setback, he set sail once again on the 13th of December, aboard Pelican, with four other ships and 164 men. He soon added a sixth ship, Mary (formerly Santa Maria) a Portuguese merchant ship that had been captured off the coast of Africa near the Cape Verde Islands. More importantly, he added its captain, Nuno da Silva, a man with considerable experience navigating in South American waters.
Drake's fleet suffered great attrition; he scuttled both Christopher and the flyboat Swan due to loss of men on the Atlantic crossing. He then made landfall at the gloomy bay of San Julian, in what is now Argentina. Ferdinand Magellan had called here half a century earlier and here he had put to death some mutineers. Drake's men saw weathered and bleached skeletons on the grim Spanish gibbets. Here Mary was found to be rotten and was burned. Drake, following Magellan's example, tried and executed his own 'mutineer' Thomas Doughty. Drake then decided to remain the winter in San Julian before attempting the Strait of Magellan.
The three remaining ships of his convoy departed for the Magellan Strait, at the southern tip of South America. A few weeks later (September 1578) Drake made it to the Pacific, but violent storms destroyed one of the three ships in the strait and caused another to return to England, leaving only the Pelican. After this passage the Pelican was pushed south and discovered an island which Drake called Elizabeth Island. Drake, like navigators before him, probably reached a latitude of 55°S (according to astronomical data quoted in Hakluyt's The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation of 1589) along the Chilean coast. Despite popular lore, it seems unlikely that he reached Cape Horn or the eponymous Drake Passage, because his descriptions do not fit the first and his shipmates denied having seen an open sea, while the first report of his discovery of an open channel south of Tierra del Fuego was written after the 1618 publication of the voyage of Willem Schouten and Jacob le Maire around Cape Horn in 1616.
He pushed onwards in his lone flagship, now renamed the Golden Hind in honour of Sir Christopher Hatton (after his coat of arms). The Golden Hind sailed north along the Pacific coast of South America, attacking Spanish ports and rifling towns. Some Spanish ships were captured, and Drake used their more accurate charts. Before reaching the coast of Peru, Drake visited Mocha Island where he was seriously injured by hostile Mapuches. Later he sacked the port of Valparaíso further north in Chile.
A most consequential action
Near Lima, Drake captured a Spanish ship laden with 25,000 pesos of Peruvian gold, amounting in value to 37,000 ducats of Spanish money (about £7m by modern standards). Drake also discovered news of another ship, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, which was sailing west towards Manila. It would come to be called the Cacafuego. Drake gave chase and eventually captured the treasure ship which proved their most profitable capture. Aboard Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, Drake found 80 lb (36 kg) of gold, a golden crucifix, jewels, 13 chests full of royals of plate and 26 tons of silver.
On 17 June 1579, Drake landed somewhere north of Spain's northern-most claim at Point Loma. He found a good port, landed, repaired and restocked his vessels, then stayed for a time, keeping friendly relations with the natives. He claimed the land in the name of the Holy Trinity for the English Crown as called Nova Albion—Latin for "New Britain". Assertions that he left some of his men behind as an embryo "colony" are founded merely on the reduced number who were with him in the Moluccas.
The precise location of the port was carefully guarded to keep it secret from the Spaniards, and several of Drake's maps may even have been altered to this end. All first-hand records from the voyage, including logs, paintings and charts were lost when Whitehall Palace burned in 1698. A bronze plaque inscribed with Drake's claim to the new lands -Drake's Plate of Brass- fitting the description in Drake's own account was discovered in Marin County, California, but was later declared a hoax. Another location often claimed to be Nova Albion is Whale Cove, Oregon, although to date there is no evidence to suggest this, other than a general resemblance to a single map penned a decade after the landing.
Samuel Bawlf[ marshaled indications that "Nova Albion" was established at Comox on Vancouver Island, during an undocumented "secret voyage" north. It is known that Drake and his men sailed north from Nova Albion in search of a western opening to the Northwest Passage, a potentially valuable asset to the English at the time. During this venture the sailors accurately mapped the westward trend of the north-western corner of the North American continent, present-day British Columbia and Alaska. They had a rough voyage among the islands of the Alaskan panhandle, and were forced to turn back due to freezing weather.
Bawlf argues that Drake's ship reached 56°N, much farther north than was recorded. The reason for this false record, Bawlf writes, was for political reasons: competition with the Spanish in the Americas. Queen Elizabeth wanted to keep any information on the Northwest Passage secret, with the result that the location of Nova Albion and the highest latitude the expedition reached is still a source of controversy today. Drake's brother endured a long period of torture in South America at the hands of Spaniards, who sought intelligence from him about Francis Drake's voyage.
His voyage to the west coast of North America is important for a number of reasons. When he landed, his chaplain held Holy Communion; this was one of the first Protestant church services in the New World (though French Huguenots had founded an ill-fated colony in Florida in the 1560s). Drake was seen to be gaining prestige at the expense of the Papacy.
What is certain of the extent of Drake's claim and territorial challenge to the Papacy and the Spanish crown is that his port was founded somewhere north of Point Loma; that all contemporary maps label all lands above the Kingdoms of New Spain and New Mexico as "Nova Albion", and that all colonial claims made from the East Coast in the 1600s were "From Sea to Sea". The colonial claims were established with full knowledge of Drake's claims, which they reinforced, and remained valid in the minds of the English colonists on the Atlantic coast when those colonies became free states. Maps made soon after would have "Nova Albion" written above the entire northern frontier of New Spain. These territorial claims became important during the negotiations that ended the Mexican–American War between the United States and Mexico.
Garry Gitzen's "Francis Drake in Nehalem Bay 1579, Setting the Historical Record Straight" disputes all other hypothesized landing sites by comparing ethnographic, language, floral, fauna, geography, topography and a sixteen century survey land claim that Drake made. Gitzen states, "Drake never set foot in California as we know it today." The Oregon Archeological Society Newsletter December 2008 describes the book as "magnificent and without parallel."
Drake now headed westward across the Pacific, and a few months later reached the Moluccas, a group of islands in the south west Pacific, in eastern modern-day Indonesia. While there, Golden Hind became caught on a reef and was almost lost. After three days of waiting for expedient tides and dumping cargo, the barque was freed. Drake and his men befriended a sultan king of the Moluccas and involved themselves in some intrigues with the Portuguese there. He made multiple stops on his way toward the tip of Africa, eventually rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and reached Sierra Leone by 22 July 1580.
Home and knighting
On 26 September, Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth with Drake and 59 remaining crew aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures. The Queen's half-share of the cargo surpassed the rest of the crown's income for that entire year. Drake was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth (and the second such voyage arriving with at least one ship intact, after Elcano's in 1520). Drake was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth aboard Golden Hind in Deptford on 4 April 1581; the actual dubbing being performed by a French diplomat, Monsieur de Marchaumont, who was negotiating for Elizabeth to marry the King of France's brother, Francis, Duke of Anjou. By getting the French diplomat involved in the knighting, Elizabeth was gaining the implicit political support of the French for Drake's actions.
In September 1581, he became the Mayor of Plymouth, and was a Member of Parliament in 1581, for an unknown constituency, and again in 1584 for Bossiney. In 1580 Drake purchased Buckland Abbey, a large manor near Yelverton in Devon. He lived there for fifteen years, until his final voyage, and it remained in his family for several generations. Buckland Abbey is now in the care of the National Trust and a number of mementos of his life are displayed there.
The Queen ordered all written accounts of Drake's voyage to be considered classified information, and its participants sworn to silence on pain of death; her aim was to keep Drake's activities away from the eyes of rival Spain. Also considering the friction with Spain, on the occasion of the knighting, Elizabeth I handed the sword to the Marquis de Marchaumont, ambassador from France, and asked him to dub Drake as the knight. During the Victorian era, in a spirit of nationalism, the story was promoted that Elizabeth I had done the actual knighting.
On his return, Drake presented the Queen with a jewel token commemorating the circumnavigation. It was made of enameled gold, taken as a prize off the Pacific coast of Mexico, bore an African diamond and a ship with an ebony hull. For her part, the Queen gave Drake a jewel with her portrait, an uncommon gift to bestow upon a commoner, and one that Drake sported proudly in his portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts, 1591. On one side is a state portrait of Elizabeth by the miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard, on the other a sardonyx cameo of double portrait busts, a regal woman and an African male. The "Drake Jewel", as it is known today, is a rare documented survivor among sixteen-century jewels; it is conserved at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
War broke out between Spain and England in 1585. Drake sailed to the New World and sacked the ports of Santo Domingo and Cartagena. On the return leg of the voyage, he captured the Spanish fort of San Augustín in Spanish Florida. These acts of piracy encouraged Philip II of Spain to order the planning for an invasion of England.
In a pre-emptive strike, Drake "singed the beard of the King of Spain" by sailing a fleet into Cádiz and also La Coruña, two of Spain's main ports, and occupied the harbours, destroying 37 naval and merchant ships. The attack delayed the Spanish invasion by a year. Over the next month, Drake patrolled the Iberian coasts between Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent intercepting and destroying Spanish supply lines. Drake estimated that he captured around 1600–1700 tons of barrel staves, enough to make 25,000 to 30,000 barrels (4,800 m3) for containing provisions.
Defeat of the Spanish Armada
Drake was vice admiral in command of the English fleet (under Lord Howard of Effingham) when it overcame the Spanish Armada that was attempting to invade England in 1588. As the English fleet pursued the Armada up the English Channel in closing darkness, Drake broke off and captured the Spanish galleon Rosario, along with Admiral Pedro de Valdés and all his crew. The Spanish ship was known to be carrying substantial funds to pay the Spanish Army in the Low Countries. Drake's ship had been leading the English pursuit of the Armada by means of a lantern. By extinguishing this for the capture, Drake put the fleet into disarray overnight.
On the night of 29 July, along with Howard, Drake organised fire-ships, causing the majority of the Spanish captains to break formation and sail out of Calais into the open sea. The next day, Drake was present at the Battle of Gravelines.
“ Coming up to them, there has passed some common shot between some of our fleet and some of them; and as far as we perceive, they are determined to sell their lives with blows. ”
— Letter to Admiral Henry Seymour, after coming upon part of the Spanish Armada, written aboard Revenge on 31 July 1588 (21 July 1588 O.S.)
The most famous (but probably apocryphal) anecdote about Drake relates that, prior to the battle, he was playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe. On being warned of the approach of the Spanish fleet, Drake is said to have remarked that there was plenty of time to finish the game and still beat the Spaniards. There is no known eyewitness account of this incident and the earliest retelling of it was printed 37 years later. Adverse winds and currents caused some delay in the launching of the English fleet as the Spanish drew nearer so it is easy to see how a popular myth of Drake's cavalier attitude to the Spanish threat may have originated.
In 1589, the year after defeating the Armada, Drake and Sir John Norreys were given three tasks. They were ordered to first seek out and destroy the remaining ships, second they were to support the rebels in Lisbon, Portugal against King Philip II (then king of Spain and Portugal), and third they were to take the Azores if possible. Drake and Norreys destroyed a few ships in the harbour of La Coruña in Spain but lost more than 12,000 lives and 20 ships. This delayed Drake, and he was forced to forgo hunting the rest of the surviving ships and head on to Lisbon.
Drake's seafaring career continued into his mid-fifties. In 1595, following a disastrous campaign against Spanish America, where he suffered a number of defeats, he unsuccessfully attacked San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Spanish gunners from El Morro Castle shot a cannonball through the cabin of Drake's flagship, but he survived. In 1596, he died of dysentery, at age 55 while anchored off the coast of Portobelo, Panama where some Spanish treasure ships had sought shelter. Before dying he asked to be dressed in his full armour. He was buried at sea in a lead coffin, near Portobelo. Divers continue to search for the coffin.
Drakes Bay and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard of Marin County, California are both named after him, as well as the high school in San Anselmo, California. The boulevard runs between Drakes Bay at Point Reyes to Point San Quentin on San Francisco Bay. Each end is near a site considered by some to be Drake's landing place in Central California. A large hotel in Union Square, San Francisco also bears his name. In Devon, England there are various places named after him, especially in Plymouth, where a roundabout has been named Drake Circus.
Drake's will was the focus of a vast confidence scheme which Oscar Hartzell perpetrated in the 1920s and 1930s. He convinced thousands of people, mostly in the American Midwest, that Drake's fortune was being held by the British government, and had compounded to a huge amount. If their last name was Drake they might be eligible for a share if they paid Hartzell to be their agent. The swindle continued until a copy of Drake's will was brought to Hartzell's mail fraud trial and he was convicted and imprisoned.
Modern workings of stories involving Drake include the 1961 British television series Sir Francis Drake, and the 2009 US television movie The Immortal Voyage of Captain Drake.
Nathan Drake, a fictional descendant of Sir Francis Drake, searches for lost treasure in the video game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
Drake accompanied his second cousin Sir John Hawkins in making the third English slave-trading expeditions, making fortunes through the abduction and transportation of West African people, and then exchanging them for high-value goods. The first Englishman recorded to have taken slaves from Africa was John Lok, a London trader who, in 1555, brought to England five slaves from Guinea. A second London trader taking slaves at that time was William Towerson whose fleet sailed into Plymouth following his 1556 voyage to Africa and from Plymouth on his 1557 voyage. Despite the exploits of Lok and Towerson, John Hawkins of Plymouth is widely acknowledged to be an early pioneer of the English slave trade. While Hawkins made only three such trips, ultimately the English were to dominate the trade.
Around 1563, Drake first sailed west to the Spanish Main, on a ship owned and commanded by John Hawkins, with a cargo of people forcibly removed from the coast of West Africa. The Englishmen sold their African captives into slavery in Spanish plantations. These activities undermine the tendency to view Drake as simply an untarnished English hero. Although slavery was legal throughout the world at the time, its expansion by Hawkins (and Drake) is now widely seen as a great blot upon their records. In general, the kidnapping and forced transportation of people was considered to be a criminal offence under English law at the time, although legal protection did not extend to slaves, non-Protestants or criminals. Hawkins' own account of his actions (in which Drake took part) cites two sources for their victims. One was military attacks on African towns and villages (with the assistance of rival African warlords), the other was attacking Portuguese slave ships.
Conflict in the Caribbean
During his early days as a slave-trader, Drake took an immediate dislike to the Spanish, at least in part due to their Catholicism and inherent mistrust of non-Spanish. His hostility is said to have increased over an incident at San Juan de Ulua in 1568, when Drake was sailing with the fleet of his second cousin John Hawkins. While negotiating to resupply and repair at the Spanish port, the fleet were attacked by Spanish warships, with all but two of the English ships lost. Drake survived the attack by swimming. The most celebrated of Drake's adventures along the Spanish Main was his capture of the Spanish Silver Train at Nombre de Dios in March 1573. With a crew including many French privateers and Maroons—African slaves who had escaped the Spanish—Drake raided the waters around Darien (in modern Panama) and tracked the Silver Train to the nearby port of Nombre de Dios. He made off with a fortune in gold, but had to leave behind another fortune in silver, because it was too heavy to carry back to England. It was during this expedition that he climbed a high tree in the central mountains of the Isthmus of Panama and thus became the first Englishman to see the Pacific Ocean. He remarked as he saw it that he hoped one day an Englishman would be able to sail it—which he would do years later as part of his circumnavigation of the world.
When Drake returned to Plymouth after the raids, the government signed a temporary truce with King Philip II of Spain and so was unable to acknowledge Drake's accomplishment officially.
Drake was considered a hero in England and a pirate in Spain for his raids.
In 1575 Drake was present at Rathlin Island, part of the English plantation effort in Ulster when 600 men, women, and children were massacred after surrendering.
Francis Drake was in charge of the ships which transported John Norreys' troops to Rathlin Island, commanding a small frigate called Falcon, with a total complement of 25. At the time of the massacre, he was charged with the task of keeping Scottish vessels from bringing reinforcements to Rathlin Island. The people who were massacred were, in fact, the families of Sorley Boy MacDonnell's followers.
Execution of Thomas Doughty
“ And after this holy repast, they dined also at the same table together, as cheerfully, in sobriety, as ever in their lives they had done aforetime, each cheering up the other, and taking their leave, by drinking each to other, as if some journey only had been in hand. ”
—Francis Fletcher in his account of the Communion
In 1578 Drake accused his co-commander Thomas Doughty of witchcraft in a shipboard trial. Doughty was charged with mutiny and treason. Drake then denied his requests to see Drake's commission from the Queen to carry out such acts and was denied a trial in England. The two main pieces of evidence against Doughty were the testimony of the ship's carpenter, Edward Bright, and also that Doughty admitted to telling Lord William Burghley of the voyage. Drake consented to his request of Communion and dined with him. Thomas Doughty was beheaded on 2 July 1578.
Source: Booklet “One Man’s Family – The Andrew’s” by Laura Hummel, 49 pages, written 1976, sent to my grandmother Vera Pickup by Frances Platte (Andrew) from Canada.
- says mother of James Singleton was a Drake, a descendant of Sir Francis Drake who was the Admiral of the Fleet when they defeated the Spanish Armada.
Vice Admiral Sir Francis Drake is Edmund Drake, of Great Waltham's first cousin five times removed.
He had no children, and his heirs were the descendants of his brother Thomas. They inherited his estate, Buckland Abbey, hence they were known as the Drakes of Buckland.