Sir Francis Drake: The Queen's Pirate / Edition 1

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Overview

In this lively and engaging new biography, Harry Kelsey shatters the familiar image of Sir Francis Drake. The Drake of legend was a pious, brave, and just seaman who initiated the move to make England a great naval power and whose acts of pirac against his country's enemies earned him a knighthood for patriotism. Kelsey paints a different and far more interesting picture of Drake as an amoral privateer at least as interested in lining his pockets with Spanish booty as in forwarding the political goals of his country, a man who became a captain general of the English navy but never waged traditional warfare with any success.

Drawing on much new evidence, Kelsey describes Drake's early life as the son of a poor family in sixteenth-century England. He explains how Drake dabbled in piracy, gained modest success as a merchant, and then took advantage of the hostility between Spain and England to embark on a series of daring pirate raids on undefended Spanish ships and ports, preempting Spanish demands for punishment by sharing much of the his booty with the Queen and her councillors. Elizabeth I liked Drake because he was a charming rogue, and she made him an integral part of her war plans against Spain and its armada, but she quickly learned not to trust him with an important command: he was unable to handle a large fleet, was suspicious almost to the point of paranoia, and had no understanding of personal loyalty. For Drake, the mark of success was to amass great wealth---preferably by taking it from someone else---and the primary purpose of warfare was to afford him the opportunity to accomplish this.

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Editorial Reviews

N.A.M. Rodger
It is easy enough to find 16th-century witnesses who attacked Drake. . . . What the modern reader needs to know is why he was attacked and to what extent we should believe his enemies.
New York Times Book Review
New Yorker
Anglophiles may be disappointed to learn that Sir Francis Drake, that paragon of English Protestant gumption, was a thoroughgoing rotter. Drake executed men without good cause, raped and pillaged, tortured prisoners, cheated his partners and crews, and shirked his duties as a naval commander when there was a chance for further plunder. This scrupulously researched and calmly argued book will leave Drake's champions little hope of restoring him to the rosy place in the English pantheon he once occupied: Kelsey's Drake is, alas, all too plausible.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As a pirate he was a fearless improviser. In naval engagements, he tended to hang back and look out for number one. Widely despised by his shipmates, he fascinated his queen and countrymen as the first Englishman to sail around the world. Drake emerges from Kelsey's biography as a paranoid bully who by luck and bluff succeeded in an age that was hungry for heroes. It's too bad that this demythologized Drake is denied a gripping narrative. We too often see him through the squint of a historiographer, as when he's stalled for pages in the Straits of Magellan while Kelsey compares theories on how he got around Cape Horn. When Drake does get moving, his itinerary of raids reads more like a police blotter than a saga. Fittingly, this determinedly unromantic, Dragnet approach works best when Drake is at his worst, as during the summary execution of his partner, Thomas Doughty. And it's useful to doubt such ill-supported myths as Drake's supposed landfall in California. But there should be more attention to the big picture, such as painting Spain and Portugal's relationship before following Drake on his ill-fated expedition to Lisbon--whose outcome Kelsey gives away too soon, for the sake of another statistic. Kelsey's Drake may be truer than others', but he needs more wind in his sails than the "pirate's progress" summations at the end of each chapter.
Library Journal
With 13 Drake biographies currently in print, presenting almost as many differing historical opinions, Kelsey embarks bravely upon a scholarly treatment of a man he calls "a rogue, an able seaman, and a pirate." Strong words indeed for a man who, in popular legend, discovered California for England, circumnavigated the globe, and helped defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588. Tracing Drake's family lineage and early childhood in a seafaring family, Kelsey does a creditable job of drawing Drake's character and the influences that molded him. A natural sailor, fearless, ambitious, and tenacious, Drake was also lacking in family attachment, covetous, and devoid of moral scruples. Kelsey's command of the sources is excellent; the notes are a treasure trove of information on 16th-century exploration, and the bibliography is exhaustive. This work will long stand as the definitive scholarly study of the most famous sea captain and pirate of the era of Good Queen Bess. -- Harold N. Boyer, Florence County Library, South Carolina
Hugh Thomas
...[The book] presents a picture of Drake as a ruthless, money-grubbing ruffian, paranoiac, a man who did not scruple to pursue an enemy...to his death...and whose grandest exploit, the circumnavigation of the world in the Golden Hind, was characterized by a series of violent raids on unsuspecting and peaceful Spanish colonial communities. -- The American Spectator
N.A.M. Rodger
It is easy enough to find 16th-century witnesses who attacked Drake. . . . What the modern reader needs to know is why he was attacked and to what extent we should believe his enemies. -- New York Times Book Review
New Yorker
Anglophiles may be disappointed to learn that Sir Francis Drake, that paragon of English Protestant gumption, was a thoroughgoing rotter. Drake executed men without good cause, raped and pillaged, tortured prisoners, cheated his partners and crews, and shirked his duties as a naval commander when there was a chance for further plunder. This scrupulously researched and calmly argued book will leave Drake's champions little hope of restoring him to the rosy place in the English pantheon he once occupied: Kelsey's Drake is, alas, all too plausible.
Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly debut exposing the celebrated 16th-century English seaman, explorer, and early favorite of Queen Elizabeth's for what he truly was: a ruthless pirate, a greedy robber-merchant, and a religious bigot and hypocrite who posed as a devout Christian. Kelsey (History/Univ. of California, Riverside) spent years exploring the great libraries of Europe and the U.S., only to discover that this hero of the English Renaissance was really not a very nice guy. A poor youth, Drake learned piracy from John Hawkins and his family, and he rose in the world largely on the strength of his reputation as a merciless raider of poorly defended Spanish merchant ships. He was also well known as a disloyal friend who abandoned comrades under fire, executed a close friend on flimsy evidence, deprived relatives of payment and inheritances, profited from the slave trade, and supported the Earl of Essex's bloody pacification of Ireland. He lived most of his life off the spoils of his one great achievement, a three-year circumnavigation of the world. Kelsey shows how Drake transformed piracy into an act of patriotism by currying favor—and sharing booty—with the queen and her nobles in exchange for a title. During the religious wars with Spain, Drake plundered and destroyed churches, monasteries, and convents and killed clergy in Spanish settlements. Poorly educated, crude, profane, and ambitious to amass great wealth by taking it from others, Drake was actually a poor warrior, and Kelsey maintains that he usually performed badly in massed combat actions. After he disappeared during the great naval battle with the Spanish Armada, he was never given high command again and finally lost favorwith Elizabeth. Kelsey's enormous research range and great detailing of Drake's life restore reality and truth to the history of the times. A great achievement in the fields of biography and history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300071825
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Series: Renaissance in Europe Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 592
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I

From Tavistock to Plymouth

NO HERO EVER DIES. HE lives, instead, in myth and legend. Part of the myth stretches back to include his origins. In the case of Francis Drake his forbears were dimly known and his boyhood obscure. The Drake family was established in Crowndale, Devon, a century or more before his birth. The place was originally part of the demesne land of Tavistock Abbey, but from very early days the fields at Crowndale seem to have been rented to families who had formerly served the abbot of Tavistock and the religious community. Some of their lease arrangements had endured for generations, with reasonable fees and nearly automatic renewal.

    Before Francis Drake spread terror through the ports of Spanish America, none of the Crowndale Drakes ever attracted much attention. Precisely when they arrived in Crowndale is unclear. Records of the abbey go back far enough to show that Richard Lamborn held the farm in the middle of the fourteenth century, followed by his son-in-law, William Gylys. By the middle of the fifteenth century Henry Drake, perhaps related by blood or marriage to Lamborn and Gylys, held the Crowndale lease. On 10 September 1481 Simon Drake, who was perhaps the son of Henry Drake, received a forty-year lease on messuages, lands, and tenements in Crowndale, with an annual rent of a little more than four pounds, probably a reasonable sum. The loamy soil at Crowndale was fertile enough to make the Drake family prosperous, and with prosperity came the desire to keep the land in the family. In time Simon Drake passed the lease along to his nephew John Drake, who ultimately gave it to his own son John.

    John Drake and his wife Margerie seem to have had three children. John junior was their eldest, followed by Edmund and Robert, along with another son named John, perhaps the child of an earlier marriage. In the course of time these sons married and had their own families. The records are scant, but it is clear that Edmund married and became the father of Francis Drake. Some idea of Drake family wealth can be seen in the Lay Subsidy Rolls of 1524. Simon Drake had goods valued at 18 [pounds sterling], while John had goods with a value of 5 [pounds sterling]. A similar record made nearly twenty years later shows that John and Margerie Drake had about what Simon Drake had when the farm was his: their personal holdings were valued at 20 [pounds sterling] in 1543. Their son Edmund had goods rated at 4 [pounds sterling], about what his father had twenty years earlier. The Drake family was well off, much more so than most of their neighbors.

    Crowndale was located a mile or so southwest of the town and abbey of Tavistock. If the boundaries of the Crowndale farm remained about the same over the years, then it was a very sizable place for the Drake family. A description of the farm in the eighteenth century recorded a "Dwelling House, Barnes, Stables, Brewhouse, pond-house, Sheep-penns & Linnys, with two Gardens and three Orchards." The entire property contained a bit more than 157 acres. Several decades later the buildings were listed as "a Good Farm House, Two Barns, Stable, Beast House and Pigsties," with somewhat more than 191 acres of woods, meadows, pastures, and arable land.

    The original dwelling was destroyed in the early 1800s, but a few years earlier a drawing of the place was made by the local vicar. Later the sketch was engraved and published. Still later, in the twentieth century, the ruins of the building were located and marked, and they can still be seen in an enclosure near the present farm buildings.

    A good idea of the size of the place can be gained from an eighteenth-century estate map, which shows a stone farmhouse facing a long, narrow courtyard, with another building of stone or wood on the opposite side. Judging from the sketch and the map, the dwelling was a typical sixteenth-century longhouse. In this sort of structure the interior fireplace and chimney served as a dividing wall and supported a stairway to the loft. A passageway on one side of the chimney separated the house from the byre, which usually had a stone floor and center drainage channel to make the job of removing animal waste a bit less messy.

    The family occupied both floors of the dwelling, a main room about fifteen feet square on the ground floor, with one or two other rooms in the loft or attic. Heat for the dwelling came from the fireplace, which also served for cooking and baking. Furnishings were plain, and there was no effort to separate sleeping quarters from the living areas.

    Life was much simpler then. Most people had but a single change of clothes, and laundry was done only once or twice a month. Bathing was even less frequent. An occasional sponge bath would do for the summer, and no bath at all in the winter, though most people were careful to wash their face and hands and keep their teeth clean.

    Food was usually plentiful but not fancy. Bread and beer were staples, along with peas and beans, greens, parsnips, turnips, carrots, and beets. Cows, sheep, and goats provided milk, butter, and cheese, and on rare occasions there was beef, pork, and mutton. There were chickens and eggs, while fruit trees and bushes provided apples, plums, and berries. But elaborate meals were for the wealthy and powerful. Farm families ate in accordance with their station: soup and another dish or two for the main meal; bread, cheese, and possibly fruit at other times. The local Tavistock beer, made with oats, had an unusual taste that some visitors to the region found disgusting.

    The Drakes were farmers, but like other farmers in the area, they also worked with cloth and engaged in other trades. At Shillamill, a quarter-mile down the river, an old waterwheel had been converted to power a fulling mill, and on a quiet morning the Drake family at Crowndale could probably hear trip-hammers pounding the locally woven woolen cloth to tighten the weave. One of the earlier John Drakes, perhaps the grandfather of Francis, was a mercer, or dealer in cloth. Edmund Drake, the father of Francis, was a shearman, the most skilled of all the craftsmen, who teased the nap of the cloth and then trimmed the nap with fine shears to make the surface as smooth as possible. As cloth making in Tavistock was not a full-time occupation, Edmund Drake soon took up another occupation: he became a priest.

    Very little is known of Edmund's family life or his ecclesiastical connections. The date of his ordination is unclear, as is the date of his marriage. His wife may have been named Anna Myllwaye, though the evidence for this is slim. In any case, they were probably married in 1539, and Francis Drake, by the best estimate, was born in February or March 1540.

    The recent sequestration of religious property eliminated many of the ecclesiastical benefices that had once supported secular priests. Either this circumstance or Edmund's recent marriage made it difficult for him to find a living as a priest. It may also explain why he became involved in a dispute in 1548, a dispute so serious that he was forced to leave Tavistock.

    As a result of the dispute Edmund Drake and two other men were charged with assault. At least one and perhaps two of the men were priests. The story of the crimes is simple. On 16 April 1548, Edmund Drake and William Master came upon Roger Langiford in Le Cross Lane near Petertavy, just outside Tavistock. First insulting the man, Drake and Master then beat the poor fellow with staves and swords "so...that he feared for his life." More than this, they took poor Roger's purse, which held twenty-one shillings and seven pence.

    Nine days later Edmund Drake and John Hawking were in Tavistock. Another man, John Harte, came by on his horse, an animal valued at three pounds. Drake and Hawking, threatening Harte with staves, swords, and knives, forced him to give them the horse. Afterward, John Drake, William Master, and John Hawking fled the county.

    William Master was a priest, well known in Tavistock, where he sometimes said Mass and read the bederoll. Lacking a regular appointment, he took temporary service wherever he could find priestly work, no doubt supplementing his income with work as a cordiner, or shoemaker. After fleeing the parish in 1548, Master disappeared from the records until 1556, in the reign of Queen Mary. During that year, when the English Church renewed its connection with Rome, William Master once more served in Tavistock parish.

    The identity of John Hawking is a little less certain. He may have been ordained at Exeter Cathedral in 1534, as William Drake had been. The uncle of Edmund Drake, William was ordained in 1530 for the Benedictine Abbey of Buckland. The John Harte whose horse was stolen was also well known in Tavistock. In one document, dated 1543, he referred to himself as generosus, a gentleman. Like John Harte, Roger Langiford was a prosperous landowner in the Tavistock vicinity.

    When Edmund Drake left town, he did not take his family with him, and his whereabouts for the next few years are unclear. In 1553 he was curate of the parish at Upchurch, Kent, but he was soon forced to leave that post, very likely because of his marriage.

    His father's departure probably had no direct effect on the home life of young Francis Drake, as he had already joined a number of other young relatives living with the Hawkins family in Plymouth. This information comes from Edmund Howes, whose 1615 book said that the child was one of "twelve brethren brought up under his kinsman Sir John Hawkins." The "brethren" mentioned by Howes were very likely "cousin-brethren," as John Drake once termed it in a deposition. It was common practice for sixteenth-century parents to send their children to serve in the houses of prosperous relatives or friends and to be educated there. An acknowledged "kinsman" of the Hawkins family, Francis Drake no doubt lived for several years in the house of William Hawkins. The group of cousin-brethren perhaps included his younger brothers John and Joseph Drake, young John Hawkins, and other boys put out by their parents for a period of training and service.

    It is possible to make a few guesses about the sort of training that Francis Drake received from his cousin John Hawkins and from John's father, William Hawkins, at the Hawkins family home in Plymouth. Old William Hawkins was from a Tavistock family that had moved to Plymouth around the turn of the century but still retained active connections with people in Tavistock. His father had been a merchant who raised his son for trading and seafaring. On several occasions William took ships to the Guinea coast of Africa and then to Brazil. At an early age he held important political posts in Plymouth and represented the town in Parliament. In 1544, with a letter of marque from the crown, Hawkins raided French and even Spanish ships, serving a term in prison for taking one of the latter. His sons John and William went to sea as boys, as did Francis Drake and other boys in the household. At home they heard talk of politics and religion, trade and foreign affairs. They mingled with people who knew how to live well, dress well, and speak well. At sea they learned that it was possible and profitable to seize foreign ships and cargoes from merchants who were themselves shading the law. They saw that a successful fleet commander with influential friends at court could on occasion commit piracy and suffer little or nothing in consequence.

    Flexible in morals, the Hawkins household was flexible in religion as well, though perhaps not in a way that Edmund Drake would have found objectionable. Protestant enough to satisfy the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559, Edmund Drake had earlier been Catholic enough to please the religious officials in the reign of Queen Mary who made him a curate at Upchurch. Nothing now known about him indicates a burning zeal for either trend in religion. Nor is there any hint of excessive zeal in the religious training of the Hawkins family. William Hawkins was neither a "rigid Catholic" nor an "ardent Protestant," but something in between. His son John Hawkins seems to have been the same. John Hawkins not only attended Mass during trading visits to Spanish Tenerife but did so with an apparent fervor that made his Spanish friends think he was a devout Catholic. This attitude may have been typical of merchant families in the period. Though Catholic in doctrine and ritual, they were probably glad to see papal authority ended and religious property secularized. Growing up in this atmosphere, young Francis Drake very likely adopted the moderate religious practices of the Hawkins family. But he also discovered that there were opposing viewpoints. The boy Francis went with his Hawkins relatives to Dutch, French, and Spanish ports, attending both Catholic and Protestant churches, just as circumstances might dictate.

    As a result of all the training they received in the Hawkins household, Francis Drake and the other young men learned to negotiate with foreign merchants and to deal with government officials. They learned to accept a sort of religion that was very different from the one into which they were born. And they learned especially how to handle a ship.


Chapter Two

2

Learning to Be a Pirate

THE FEW BRIEF SOURCES FOR the early life of Francis Drake seem confusing in detail, but the general meaning is clear. Drake was a natural sailor--not born to the sea, but raised in a seafaring family and given the opportunity to show his talent at an early age. According to the English chronicler Edmund Howes, Francis Drake was a youth of eighteen years when he sailed as purser on one of the Hawkins ships in the Bay of Biscay. The year was about 1558. In the Howes narrative all of Francis Drake's early voyages were in vessels belonging to the Hawkins family, but little else about these journeys is clear. Corbett thinks the reference to Biscay means a trading visit to the northern coast of Spain, a good possibility, for Spain was a recent ally, and the Hawkins family had commercial ties in that country. More likely, though, this brief reference means that during his middle teens Drake sailed on one of the Hawkins ships that prowled the French coast looking for merchant vessels to pick off. Drake may have served on the Tiger, a ship of about 50 tons and one of the few Hawkins raiders from this period identified by name in the records.

    Perhaps more important than the name of the ship is the business in which it engaged. Hawkins and the other Devon seamen were merchants, but they also found piracy profitable. Then as now, a pirate was a mariner who robbed from the ship of another mariner. There were varying degrees of piracy, and war could sometimes turn piracy into an act of patriotism, when pirates stole from the ships of the enemy. When pirates stole from one another, whether in war or in peace, the authorities usually looked the other way. The older British historians often used the word privateer to describe Hawkins and his associates, but that special term invests these sixteenth-century rascals with more dignity than their contemporaries were usually willing to give them. In reality William Hawkins and his sons were successful merchants who did a pretty good business as part-time pirates. We misjudge them if we call them anything else. Francis Drake grew up in this Devon coast society where piracy was a common calling, not highly respected, but widely tolerated and easily understood.

    One additional story about Francis Drake's early development further suggests his maritime destiny. While Francis lived with the Hawkins family in Plymouth, Edmund Drake lived in Upchurch, Kent. The parish of Upchurch consisted of about forty households with 260 communicants. Situated almost on the water, Upchurch was home port for a dozen ships and boats, all small, most less than 8 tons and none more than 14 tons. Fourteen men in the parish made their living from fishing or transportation. With contacts among the boatmen of the Medway, Edmund Drake was able to find a place for his oldest son as apprentice on a small vessel that sailed between the Kentish ports along the Medway and the ports of the French and Dutch coast. The unnamed master of the vessel found in young Francis Drake the son he did not have. When the man died, the boat went to Francis Drake.

    This is the story told by William Camden, who no doubt heard it from Drake himself. Even so, we need not think of it as entirely true. As did so many seamen, Drake liked to spin tales about his considerable exploits and his continual triumph over adversity. The great Victorian historian of British sea power, John Knox Laughton, wrote, "The several points of his story, notwithstanding its general acceptance, are inaccurate or absurd." The problem is that Camden heard the tale in the mid 1590s, during the period of Drake's growing estrangement from John Hawkins. Although the details are misleading, as Laughton indicates, "There is no need to doubt the substantial truth of the story told by Camden." Drake did not say so, but the vessel probably belonged to the Hawkins family, perhaps even to John Hawkins, who was himself moving to London and placing his ships in the Medway. The essential truth in Camden's story may be found in the tale told by Howes. Growing up in the Hawkins family, Francis Drake sailed with John Hawkins or some of his captains to the French coast and other parts of Europe in the later 1550s.

    This much seems pretty clear. Less certain is the part of the story that says Francis Drake inherited the little boat from the owner and that by selling it Drake "managed to scrape together a little money," then went off to join a Hawkins fleet to the Guinea coast. If Francis Drake did acquire a share in a small vessel, it was probably his share in a prize taken by the Hawkins ships from a luckless French or Spanish merchant. More than a few possibilities appear in the record, especially during the war with France that ended in 1559.

    Whatever he did to acquire the money, at the age of twenty, according to Howes, young Drake invested in trade goods and signed on as a seaman with one of the Hawkins ships sailing for the Guinea coast of West Africa. Since the early fifties, over considerable objection from Portugal, English traders including the Hawkins family had visited the Guinea coast and brought home valuable stores of gold, pepper, and ivory. No doubt this trip was one of the numerous unrecorded ventures by John Hawkins into the African trade. Under Queen Mary, English ships were prohibited from going to the Guinea coast, but her own officials allowed the trade to flourish. When Elizabeth came to the throne, she refused to extend Mary's prohibition, contending that the people of Guinea should be allowed to trade with whomever they pleased.

    During these early visits John Hawkins established important business connections in the Canary Islands, which he used as a base for his visits to the Guinea coast. A Hawkins relative named John Lovell was for a time the family's resident agent in Tenerife, where the families of Pedro Soler and Pedro de Ponte were the personal friends of John Hawkins. Two other close friends were Catholic priests, Pedro Soler the merchant's son and Mateo de Torres. During the 1560 visit Hawkins sold his shipload of woolens at Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Abona, and probably also at Adeje, Puerto de la Luz, and San Sebastian de la Gomera. Before returning home he stopped again with the family of Pedro Soler and loaded his vessel with sugar from the Soler family mill in Abona.

    A few years later Mateo de Torres told a curious story about this visit. He held an ecclesiatical benefice at Santa Cruz, and Padre Pedro Soler was vicar of Tenerife. One day Padre Soler came to see him in Santa Cruz, saying that he had come "to charter a boat for some English friends, who wanted to go to Canaria to look for a ship to take them home." He wanted Padre Torres to help him with the charter and assured him that nothing could happen that might be to his disadvantage. The Englishmen wanted only to go to Canaria to "take care of things." Anyway, they had letters of recommendation from the governor of Tenerife, and the governor himself had given them a license to make the trip. So the Englishmen chartered a boat from a local shipmaster, while Padre Soler suggested that they keep everything secret, saying the governor of Canaria did not really need to know about their movements. Some time later, Padre Soler wrote to the other priest and said the Englishmen would arrive that night, which they did, five or six men. They took the chartered boat to Canaria, where they joined several other Englishmen and purchased a ship. Some nights later the English partners quietly drew their ship into the harbor at Santa Cruz. There they climbed aboard another ship that was loaded with goods for the Indies, stole out of the port with it, and set sail for home.

    The Spanish biographer of John Hawkins thinks that the somewhat obscure references in the testimony of Padre Torres show conclusively that the pirates came from a ship belonging to John Hawkins. The main English biographer of Hawkins does not think the incident is even worth a mention. Whether John Hawkins was involved or not, young Francis Drake at least heard about the incident and learned an important lesson. Foreign ships and cargoes could be easily separated from their owners.

    Drake saw, too, how religion could be used to seal a friendship. Both priests testified that John Hawkins attended Mass in the islands as though he were a faithful Catholic. As late as 1568, after numerous others had sworn that it was well known that John Hawkins was a luterano (as the Spanish called all Protestants), Padre Torres begged to differ. "The other time he was in the Indies, perhaps seven years ago," Padre Torres "saw him hear Mass." Padre Soler said much the same thing. "John Hawkins went to church, and he heard Mass. By his words he seemed to be a Catholic, and he was commonly thought to be one."

    During negotiations on these early journeys John Hawkins made plans with his friends in the Canaries to break into the slave trade in Guinea. Pedro de Ponte would help provide the fleet with water and supplies, make necessary arrangements with merchants in the Indies, and find a skilled pilot to handle navigation. Hawkins would provide the ships and the capital. The partners made their plans with such little apparent compunction that historians are sometimes tempted to forget what a nasty business they were undertaking. Condemned by many religious officials as totally inhuman, slavery was tolerated by others on the ground that the slaves would be baptized and therefore eligible for salvation. For Hawkins and his partners the main consideration seemed to be profit. Prices in the Indies were high, forty ducados per slave, and costs in Africa were low. To keep the captives in line and to hold expenses to a minimum, the slaves were crammed into the holds of the ships, provided with the bare minimum of food and water. Sanitation simply did not exist. Profits in the slave trade were enormous, and it was not hard to find financial backing.

    From his new base in London, Hawkins made his preparations for the journey. His father-in-law, Benjamin Gonson, was treasurer of the navy and took a major role in the syndicate formed to finance the trip. Among the other partners were William Wynter, surveyor of the navy and master of ordnance, as well as two city magistrates.

    The fleet of three or four small ships left Plymouth in October 1562, manned by a hundred sailors of whom one was probably Francis Drake. The largest ship was only 140 tons. Called the Salomon, this vessel was owned by the Hawkins brothers and commanded by John Hawkins himself, general of the fleet, as the title was in those days. Another boat belonging to the Hawkinses was the Swallow, about 30 tons and commanded by Thomas Hampton. A third boat, the Jonas, was rated at 40 tons. The name of the fourth ship is unrecorded.

    Leaving Plymouth in October 1562, Hawkins stopped as planned to meet with business contacts at Tenerife. Pedro de Ponte had secured the services of an experienced pilot from Cadiz named Juan Martinez, who knew the routes to the Guinea coast and to the Indies. Martinez joined the fleet in Tenerife while water and supplies were taken on board. No doubt the ships also carried the usual woolens and other trade goods from Devon, plus a supply of beans that would be cooked to feed the captives.

    From Tenerife the fleet sailed to Cape Verde and on down the Guinea coast to Sierra Leone. There Hawkins filled the ships with blacks, stealing some from Portuguese traders, capturing others on his own, and finally taking a Portuguese vessel to carry the slaves that could not be crammed into his own holds. The unnamed English ship was sent home with goods, some traded, some acquired "by the sword." This seems to have been the ship on which Francis Drake sailed, as the evidence seems to show that he did not go to the Indies on this occasion.

    With the other vessels full of slaves, Hawkins sailed on to the West Indies, selling his cargo at below-market rates to eager Spanish buyers in three ports on La Espanola, Isabella, Puerto de Plata, and Monte Christi. He was back in Plymouth by September 1563, awash in such stunning profits that the Spanish government joined Portuguese diplomatic officials in attempting to bring an end to this new English adventure.

    Was Hawkins a pirate? The government of Portugal plainly thought so, as did Spain, whose ambassador complained about the unauthorized appearance of the Hawkins ships in the Indies. The dispute was not over individual rights but over trade and markets. No matter that the trade involved selling human beings, there was money in it, and by October 1564 Hawkins was ready to go again. The sources are ambiguous at best, but it is clear that Francis Drake had more sea experience with the Hawkins family than the three voyages mentioned by Howes. This second slaving voyage for young John Hawkins was likely the first West Indies trip for twenty-two-year-old Francis Drake, sailing again as a simple seaman.

    The second Hawkins voyage was very much a repetition of the first. As general of the fleet, Hawkins sailed in the queen's 700-ton Jesus of Lubeck, a crumbling crown vessel that Henry VIII had purchased from the Hanseatic League nearly twenty years earlier. Three other ships completed the fleet: the Salomon, 140 tons; the Tiger, 50 tons; and the Swallow, 30 tons. Hawkins stopped on the way at Tenerife, consulting with his friends and taking on supplies. In Sierra Leone he took slaves by force, sometimes from other traders, sometimes by raids on black villages. The slaves and trade goods were soon sold for a profit at stops in the West Indies and on the coast of South America, but delicate negotiations were required. Since the trade was illegal, the Spanish colonists usually insisted that Hawkins first make a show of force, after which they hurried to buy his slaves at a big discount from the usual price.

    As was his custom, Hawkins employed pilots who knew the route. In Guinea, for example, he freed a Spanish merchant from Jamaica who had been captured by the local people during a previous slaving expedition. As it turned out, this man did not recall as much about the Jamaican coast as he thought he would. As a result, the fleet sailed past the island without stopping, then proceeded to repeat the performance along the coast of Cuba. Hawkins thus missed the opportunity to purchase a cargo of hides and replenish his supply of water, while the poor Jamaican merchant ended up going back to England with the rest of the fleet.

    Another pilot was more useful. Martin Atinas of Dieppe had previously come to Florida with the expedition of Rene Laudonniere in 1562. Hawkins secured his services as pilot and was repaid when the man led him directly to the French settlement at Fort Caroline on the Rio de Mayo. Here Hawkins was received like a brother by the Huguenot Laudonniere, and he responded in kind. Seeing that Laudonniere needed a ship, Hawkins sold him the smallest one in his fleet in exchange for four cannon and a supply of powder and shot.

    It was a perfect training voyage for young Drake, with attacks by land and sea, intricate navigational problems, and diplomatic and business negotiations of every kind. The extremely cordial relations with Laudonniere's Huguenot colony reflected the growing tendency among the officers of the fleet and the English merchant class in general to align themselves with the liturgical and doctrinal innovations introduced by Queen Elizabeth's new archbishop, Matthew Parker.

    This development illuminates one of the major problems of the reformers. While theologians could understand and debate their differences, the doctrinal disputes were often too subtle for less sophisticated people to grasp. Then as now, many people could not appreciate the distinction between the Catholic teaching about transubstantiation and the new Anglican teaching that the bread and wine became the Body and Blood of Christ in a less literal but much more than symbolic way. On the other hand, the evident similarities between the new communion service and the Holy Bread that everyone had formerly received at the end of Mass must have made it easier for some to accept the changes in the liturgy.

    Other religious innovations in the Elizabethan era were also less revolutionary than they may seem now. In England the people had for years been accustomed to saying prayers in the vernacular, and they were probably not greatly shocked by the other changes in the liturgy. In many places the rood screens and altars had been removed some years earlier, then replaced, then removed again. The introduction of the liturgical table in place of the altar had great significance for theologians, but ordinary people may have seen it as less than a revolutionary move. A good many people liked the changes, and those who did not probably expected things to change again in a way that was more to their taste. For the most part, the changes in dogma had more appeal for the upper class, offset by a sort of dogged resistance among the ordinary people. So firm was this resistance that the seamen in Hawkins's fleet usually had to be menaced with a whip and threatened with imprisonment before they would attend religious services.

    In spite of this resistance, attendance at shipboard services became mandatory during the 1560s, and everybody went, if reluctantly. Two years after this voyage, Father Torres in Tenerife noted a remarkable change in the religious practices of the Hawkins seamen. "Some Englishmen from the crew of his ship came to town to buy fowls and other things that they needed," he said. "One of these men went to Confession, and others heard Mass. The upper class did not, because they were afraid to do so. I heard it said that there are many Lutherans [Protestants] in England and there are also Catholics."

    By the time Hawkins and his fleet reached England, both the Portuguese and the Spanish ambassadors were making strenuous objections to his new intrusions in Guinea and the West Indies. It was not that Philip objected so much to the traffic in slaves but rather that he wanted to keep the Indies trade as a special preserve of Spanish merchants. For several months Hawkins negotiated with the queen's representatives and even with the Spanish ambassador, all the while assembling cargo and preparing ships for a new voyage to the Indies. Though pleased with the generous return on their investments, the queen and her counselors were anxious to avoid offending the Spanish king, if this could be done without great expense. As a result Hawkins was required to post a 500 [pounds sterling] bond, promising not to go to the Indies that year or to send the Swallow or any of his other ships. This done, he promptly appointed his kinsman John Lovell to take charge of the fleet and sent him off on a repeat of the previous voyage. Such astonishing behavior surely signifies that Hawkins had at least tacit royal approval for the voyage. And if future diplomatic considerations should require that the bond be forfeit, the amount was small enough to make little difference to the investors who hoped to share his profits.

    There were four ships in Lovell's fleet, including the Salomon, commanded by James Raunse; the Paul, commanded by James Hampton; the Pascoe, commanded by Robert Bolton; and the Swallow. The Paul and the Salomon were about the same size, 140 tons or so, depending on the method of measurement. The Pascoe was a 40-ton vessel and the newly-built Swallow 180 tons.

    A relative of John Hawkins, Lovell may have been a relative of Francis Drake as well. In fact, the record seems to show that Hawkins and later Drake commonly appointed family members to fill important command positions in their fleets. Cousin or uncle, whatever he was, John Lovell was an ardent Protestant, and his conduct set an important example for young Francis Drake.

    According to later testimony by a seaman called both Miguel Morgan and Morgan Tillert, "They recited psalms in every ship, along with the other things that are specified in...the books the Protestants use in England." On the flagship the prayers were read by a merchant, very likely Thomas Hampton, the brother of James Hampton, commander of the Paul. Firmly grounded in the new religious practices, Lovell made no effort to accommodate opposing views. While John Hawkins had always taken some pains to conform to the religious practices of the Canary Islands, Lovell did no such thing. In fact, he seems to have gone out of his way to scandalize and offend the local people. Stopping as usual in Tenerife for supplies, Lovell told the alcalde of Garachico that "he had made a vow to God that he would come to these islands, burn the image of Our Lady in Candelaria, and roast a young goat in the coals."

    Lovell also made it difficult for the Catholic members of his crew. Recalling the pressure to conform, Morgan Tillert said that he had converted to the Protestant doctrines on this voyage, largely due to a conversation he had had with Francis Drake. As the Spanish notary observed: "Francis Drake, a firm English protestant, came in the ship and converted him to his law." Beyond this, Drake told Tillert that "God would receive the good work that he might perform in either law, that of Rome or that of England, but the true law and the best one was that of England." Tillert said that his conversion came about because of Drake's persistence; on the ship these ideas were "taught and discussed every day." Even so, the religious opinions reported by Tillert must reflect the ideas of many ordinary people in sixteenth-century England, that God could see good in either religious viewpoint, though he no doubt preferred one to the other.

    Sailing on to Guinea, Lovell spent two or three months trading, raiding, and gathering slaves. He seized four or five Portuguese ships, with cargoes worth perhaps thirty thousand ducats. Williamson believed that the Swallow must have returned to England with most of the ivory, gold, and other goods and that only three ships went on to the Indies. But a Spanish document states clearly that all four of Lovell's ships made the journey.

    Not much is known in detail about the voyage. Stopping first at the Caribbean island of Margarita, just off the coast of Venezuela, Lovell may have traded with the inhabitants there. Lacking a report about this from Spanish authorities, it seems more likely that he simply took on wood, water, and food. The next stop was Borburata on the Venezuelan coast, where he established his procedure for the rest of the voyage. Two French pirate fleets had already been on the coast ahead of him, and a third was in the harbor when he arrived. Jean Bontemps was well known to the Hawkins men, and Lovell quickly determined to join him in demanding permission to sell his slaves and merchandise.

    Saying that they had come in peace, Lovell and Bontemps anchored in the harbor at Borburata and sent their agents to see Governor Pedro Ponce de Leon in the nearby port of Coro. They told local officials in Borburata that they planned to give a hundred slaves to the royal treasury and to sell another two hundred to local citizens. Because the governor had given his license the previous year, everyone expected that things would go the same way. But the agents came back in a few days with a firm refusal from the governor. The rebuff prompted the sort of aggressive measures that John Hawkins had used to such good effect in the past.

    Landing as though for another negotiating session, Lovell and Bontemps seized two government officials and several other citizens of Borburata, imprisoning them on the ships. Two of the hostages, merchants from Nuevo Reyno de Granada, just happened to be carrying 1,500 pesos in their purses. Lovell and Bontemps took the money, gave the merchant-hostages twenty-six slaves in exchange, and set everyone free. It did not require great intelligence on the part of the local officials to see through this trickery. The slaves were immediately confiscated, and the merchants were required to pay a fine to the crown before the slaves were returned. But the pattern seemed to be set for successful trading in the Spanish colonies: English force, Spanish resistance, and secret negotiations that satisfied both the traders and the colonists. The colonists were determined to trade, whether the royal officials liked it or not. Business negotiations were carried on at night, and when they were questioned, the colonists "covered for one another." For their part, the officials said they hated to make the colonists testify about matters under oath. "We think they only perjure themselves."

    A few days later, on 18 May 1567, Lovell and his ships arrived in Rio de la Hacha and again sent an agent ashore, requesting a license to trade. The local commander was Miguel de Castellanos, royal treasurer for the pearl fishery and the business associate of John Hawkins from the year just passed. He replied that trade was now forbidden by the crown.

    What happened from this point is a matter of some dispute. Several weeks after the event, Baltasar de Castellanos, brother of the commander, wrote a letter signed by several other citizens. According to his story, Lovell spent six days in port, either coming ashore himself or sending an agent, to ask for permission to trade. Failing this, he unloaded "ninety or ninety-two slaves" on the far side of the river, then sailed away in the middle of the night.

    A somewhat different version of events was written by Miguel de Castellanos about six months later. According to Castellanos, Lovell sent a message, threatening to land his forces and lay waste the town with all its inhabitants. Castellanos replied that he would like to see him try.

    Lovell immediately brought his ships close to the shore and tried to land his men in the smaller boats. The local people, with only sixty-three able-bodied men at their disposal, were nonetheless able to keep Lovell's party from landing. After a time--and a great deal of gunfire on each side, mostly English cannons and Spanish harquebuses--he gave up the attempt.

    The Spanish colonists had only a few days earlier managed to hold off a similar attack by Jean Bontemps, who had told them that Lovell was on the way. Buoyed by success, they were not about to surrender to the less threatening English force. Firing from their prepared fortifications, the Spanish defenders managed to kill or wound a considerable number of Lovell's people, or so they reported. Lovell and his men retreated to the ships and remained there for several days. Finally, late one night, he landed "ninety-six slaves that were old and weak and on the point of dying" and sailed away.

    Another letter written by local colonists said that the "ninety-six slaves were so old and weak and sick that they were about to die." Even so, said the colonists, they had worked so hard and so bravely to defend the port that surely the king would want them to keep the slaves as part payment for all their trouble and expense.

    All this looks suspiciously like the same sort of arrangement that had been made in Borburata. Official resistance, followed by several days--and nights--of unofficial business dealing. Most merchandise could be hidden away and used as needed, but slaves had to be accounted for in some other way. Very likely there were secret payments, followed by the midnight delivery of the slaves at a place agreed upon across the river.

    Lovell lacked the tact and diplomacy of Hawkins. His arrogance with the Spanish authorities almost certainly cost a few English lives, just as the later Spanish reports say. This interpretation of events seems to be confirmed in a passage published by Philip Nichols in 1626, mentioning "the wrongs [Drake] received at Rio de Hacha with Captaine John Lovell... not onely in the losse of his goods of some value, but also of his kinsmen & friends."

    Having concluded his business at Rio de la Hacha, Lovell took his fleet to La Espanola to sell the remainder of his cargo. We have only the briefest mention of his dealings in La Espanola. Writing to the king a few months later, several citizens at Rio de la Hacha said, "He then departed and sailed on to the island of Espanola, where they say he wrought great evil and destruction." Perhaps he managed to take on a load of hides, as Hawkins had tried to do a year earlier. Whatever he accomplished, Lovell's voyage was not a great success, and Hawkins later blamed this on "the simpleness of my [deputies] who knew not how to handle these matters." Francis Drake was only a crewman on this voyage, not one of the "deputies." Nevertheless, he recalled the events with great embarrassment in later years.

[CHAPTER TWO CONTINUES ...]

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations viii
List of Maps and Plans ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xv
I LOOMINGS
ONE From Tavistock to Plymouth 3
TWO Learning to Be a Pirate 11
THREE Raids on the Spanish Main 40
FOUR The Successful Merchant 68
II AROUND THE WORLD
FIVE Plymouth to Cape Horn 93
SIX Cape Horn to Guatulco 137
SEVEN Guatulco to the Pacific and Home 172
III A PIRATE AND A GENTLEMAN
EIGHT Honors and Riches 207
NINE Raid on the West Indies 240
TEN Raid on Cadiz 280
ELEVEN Defeat of the Spanish Armada 305
TWELVE Expedition to Lisbon 341
IV A PIRATE'S LEGACY
THIRTEEN The Last Voyage 367
FOURTEEN The Drake Legend 392
Appendixes 401
Notes 423
Bibliography 523
Index 545
ILLUSTRATIONS
Tavistock Abbey xvii
Drake's boyhood home 5
Fort at San Juan de Ulua 37
A True Declaration 38
View of Plymouth 69
The Cacafuego 159
The Plate of Brass 189
Drake's ship at Ternate 199
Drake's anchorage in Java 203
A Discourse 226
Buckland Abbey 221
Drake's coat of arms 223
Portrait of Drake (van Sype) 226
Santo Domingo 260
Cartagena 266
San Agustin 275
Expeditio Francisci Draki 281
Portrait of Drake (Rabel) 286
Drake letter to Privy Council 312
Capture of the Nuestra Senora del Rosario 326
Pedro Coco Calderon letter 329
Drake letter to Walsingham 338
Portrait of Dom Antonio 344
A True Coppie of a Discourse 354
Two volumes published by Drake's nephew 369
Maynarde letter 380
Drake's will 381
Sketch of the coast at Porto Bello 390
Portrait of Drake (Holland) 396
Portrait of John Hawkins 398
MAPS AND PLANS
Crowndale and vicinity 2
Crowndale farm 4
Roads from Crowndale to Petertavy 8
Ports and Coasts where young Francis Drake sailed with
the Hawkins family 14
Hawkins voyages in the Canary Islands 15
Hawkins and Lovell in the West Indies 18
Returns of Hawkins and Drake 41
Drake in Panama, 1571 47
Drake's raids in the Caribbean 52
Drake in Panama, 1572-73 58
Drake's service in Ireland 73
Drake's route along the coast of Africa 94
Drake's route through the Cape Verde Islands 96
Drake's first landfalls on the coast of Brazil 101
Anchorage at the Rio de la Plata 102
Drake anchorages, May-August 1578 103
Drake's route to the Strait of Magellan 114
Drake's route through the Strait of Magellan 117
Strait of Magellan (Cavendish) 118
West coast of South America (Olives) 121
Strait of Magellan (Fletcher) 131
Strait of Magellan (Hondius) 133
Drake's route south of the Strait of Magellan 134
From the Strait of Magellan to the Island of Mocha 139
Raids along the central coast of Chile 141
Raids along the northern coast of Chile 144
Raids on the desert ports of northern Chile 147
Raids on the southern coast of Peru 150
Raids along the coasts of Peru and Ecuador 154
From Ecuador to Guatulco 163
California and the Strait of Anian (Gastaldi) 173
Drake's route on the Hondius Map 180
Drake's route on the van Sype Map 181
Portus Novae Albionis (Hondius) 184
Puerto de Acapulco (Ringrose) 185
Harbor at Acapulco (Ringrose) 186
Drake's route across the Pacific (Hondius) 193
Drake's route through the South Pacific 195
From the Pacific to the Indian Ocean 197
La Herdike Interprinse (van Sype) 212-13
Fortifications at Plymouth 228
Drake's raid on Vigo 246
Harbor at Vigo and Bayona 247
Route along the coast of Africa, 1585 251
Canary Islands visited by Drake 251
Raid on the Cape Verde Islands 254
Raid in the West Indies 258
Cruise along the coast of Cuba 273
Florida and Roanoke 276
Operations in Spain and Portugal 290
Boroughs map of the Cadiz raid 293
Raids in Spain and the Azores, 1587 296
English ports on the route of the Spanish Armada 307
Fleet movements, May and June 1588 322
Armada battles 327
Battle of Gravelines 335
Expedition of Drake and Norris 349
Attack on La Coruna 351
Attack on Lisbon 356
Drake and Hawkins in the West Indies, 1595-96 383
San Juan, Puerto Rico 384
Upchurch and the River Medway 402
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2000

    Qeen Elizabeth

    This was an out standing novel.Anyone who is interested with Englands history should read this.All together a fabulous book!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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