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Happy 445th Anniversary of Drake's voyage 'round the world

Sir Francis Drake set off on a trip around the world on 13 Dec 1577. As a privateer of Queen Elizabeth I, Drake was, in essence, a royally sanctioned pirate.

By the time he left on this voyage, he was already infamous for raiding Caribbean ports and commandeering Spanish gold ships, and the Spaniards hated and feared him. The queen commissioned him to sail the Atlantic Ocean in search of Terra Australis Incognita — a continent that was believed to lie south of South America — and if he happened to pick up some Spanish gold or silver on the way, so much the better. He left Plymouth in command of a fleet of five ships; in the end, only his ship, the Golden Hind, completed the circumnavigation. His journey took him from England to the Atlantic coast of North and South America, and through the Strait of Magellan. Then he made his way up the Pacific coast, where he raided and pillaged for five and a half months. He went about his piracy in a gentlemanly fashion; violence was kept to a minimum and no one was intentionally harmed in his raids. He went as far as northern California, which he named "Nova Albion" and claimed for Elizabeth. From there, he sailed through the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, and home to Plymouth once more, his ship heavy-laden with gold, silver, and spices.

Replicas of the Golden Hind have been set up all over Britain, the best of them in 1973 -- that one made it to San Francisco in 1975, and was used in the filming of the Shogun TV series. Nowadays it is an interactive museum docked in Bankside --
have you included it in your walks there in London?

Posted by
687 posts

The one thing about the 16th/17th centuries that's always fascinated me is the historical interconnectedness.

Drake was back in the America's in 1586 to raid Spanish shipping and settlements -- sacking Cartagena and St Augustine. A young lieutenant on this expedition was Thomas Gates. Gates will serve Drake, fights in th Low Countries and is knighted in 1596 for gallantry during the Anglo-Dutch raid on Cadiz, Spain. Sir Thomas Gates enters Virginia Company service becoming the Lieutenant-General/Governor of Virginia. He led the survivors of the shipwreck of the Sea Venture on Bermuda in 1609 and oversaw the construction of two new ships to leave the island. Some historians suggest that Shakespeare's Tempist is based on the wrecking of the Sea Venture.

After sacking St Augustine, Drake's 1586 fleet arrives at Roanoke Island and will evacuate Ralph Lane's 2nd Roanoke expedition. A member of Lane's company is the gentleman and artist John White. The engraver Theodor de Bry would base his engravings used in Thomas Harriot's 1590 volume "A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia" on White's artwork.

White would become the governor of the 3rd Roanoke expedition, now known as the Lost Colony. In 1591 White would return to the Americas commanding a fleet combined with a second fleet that was heading to raid in the Caribbean. This second fleet was commanded by Christopher Newport who would later command the fleet that brought the Jamestown settlers in 1607.

Posted by
2529 posts

That's some cool dot-connecting, including Cartagena and Jamestown, too. Nice.

Another level of interest not often considered is religious conflict - Drake's father was a Protestant vicar, and the messy separation of England from the (one true) Church was still working itself out in the years that Drake was poaching from Portugal and Spain, which had been awarded monopolies in slave trade and precious mineral removals. Drake got involved in politics and also assumed religious authority that he had not actually been granted when he was out on voyage.