Drake and Queen Elizabeth the First.

Drake described Queen Elizabeth the first as

Francis Drake paintings
Drake in the Wake of Magellan,

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Sir Francis Drake, a hero and patriot to the English. A pirate to the Spaniards to whom he is still known as El Draque, and ‘the Dragon’, that being a play on ‘Draque’ which is the Spanish pronunciation of ‘Drake’.

Drake described Queen Elizabeth the first as of a comely, well shaped figure with a regal presence, an olive complexion and golden hair, moderate, careful suspicious, forceful, commanding and in need of money.

The Queen said to Drake “I would gladly be revenged on the King of Spain for divers injuries that I have received”.

Drake said the Queen contributed 1,000 crowns to the venture for his voyage to the Pacific Ocean.

The venture as proposed by Drake to Queen Elizabeth I, was to reconnoitre the coasts of South America, contacting native inhabitants for trade and was to include sailing along what is now Chile as far as 30 degrees South.

He was additionally commanded to explore North as far as possible to search for a Northern passage and if undiscovered, to return via the Magellan Straits.

Drake was in effect undertaking a voyage for trade and discovery as a merchant and as a privateer, a corsair all be it without a written commission, no ‘lettre de marque’.

The Spanish already considered him a notable pirate.

The King of Spain had posted a considerable reward for Drake, 10,000 gold ducats, dead or alive.

Drake’s squadron sailed part way down the West Africa coast which even today is an adventure in its own right and during which he capture and held as a pilot, a Portuguese seaman, Nuno de Silva who remains with us as one of the principal accounts of the voyage from West Africa to central West America were he was released. By his account he’d have preferred to stay with the Golden Hind however Drake did not want to risk a Portuguese sharing the discoveries he knew he would make as he sailed Golden Hind North passing what is now California, Oregon and onto Alaska.

Then the Englishmen crossed the wide Atlantic Ocean to arriving off Brazil.

Sir Francis Drake

A hero and patriot to the English and a pirate to the Spaniards to whom he was known as El Draque, ‘Draque’ being the Spanish pronunciation of ‘Drake’.

With his most famous ship, The Golden Hind, Francis Drake became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe in an epic expedition of plunder and discovery (1577-1580).

Drake was to prove himself one of the finest seamen and navigators in all Human history by venturing where no Englishman and very few others had ever sailed.

Drake, most of his men and the Golden Hind returned to England in such good condition that they could have made sail again after no more than a general refit.

As well as the fabulous treasure the Englishmen from Plymouth Harbour ‘acquired’ from the Spanish who in turn were busy robbing the inhabitants of the native Americans, Drake returned with a wealth of cartographic and botanical information in the form of revised maps, diaries and log books.

Soldier, Seaman, Navigator, Explorer, Politician, Engineer and Humanitarian Sir Francis Drake is best remembered as a brave explorer, a fearless privateer, leader of men, Admiral, Mayor of Plymouth seaport and as very remarkable navigator.

In recent years it’s become fashionably ‘woke’ to brand Drake as a slaver.

As far as I know Drake made but one voyage as a slaver. A voyage lead by his cousin Hawkins. A voyage that was neither pleasant or a financial a success.

In subsequent years Drake’s attitude to slaves and native peoples is quite remarkable. On numerous occasions he lived and worked with run away slaves and native Americans. He made plain, he liked them, of some he said they are “like brothers to me”. Staunchly Protestant, Drake was an example to inspired the English abolitionists and all free men, a humanist way ahead of his time.

His name in Latin was Franciscus Draco (‘Francis the Dragon’).

Drake on Drake

King Philip II is said to have offered for his life, a reward of 20,000 ducats, about £10,000,000 (US$ 12,706,490) by 2023 standards.

Drake in his own words.

I was born in 1541 in a cottage made of rough tree branches on a nobleman’s estate in the country of England. The estate was located in Tavistock, twenty miles north of the seaport of Plymouth. I am the oldest of eleven brothers. My father, Edmund, was a Protestant farmer. He was a sailor before my brothers and I were born.

We crossed the equator in July and sailed into Plymouth Harbour in September of 1580. I returned with one ship and a half-starved crew of 58 men who had not set foot on a populated shore for 6 months. The ship carried the richest cargo ever to reach an English port.

Mary (his wife) and the mayor of Plymouth told me that enemies were keeping watch. We sent a secret message to Queen Elizabeth. She hesitated to recognize my famous trip because approval of my plunders would cause trouble with Spain. Later she came on board the Golden Hind and knighted me”.

The hardship endured in overcrowded and primitive quarters is hard to believe. 56 men survived with Drake, returning after 3 years with a vast cargo of treasure, every man rich for life with his percentage.

The Queens share easily paid off England’s national debt and much more.

‘El Draco’ became one of the most famous men in Western Europe.

He was feared and reviled by many but not all the Spanish.

While a Spaniard needed to keep in mind what he said about his encounters with Francis Drake could cost his head, many Spaniards nevertheless wrote of Drake’s courtesy, kindness, generosity and fair dealing.

Cadiz and Drake

Inevitably if you are in Cadiz and say you are from Plymouth Spaniards will say “Drake!”

Back in 1996 I found myself with French colleagues in Cadiz to research the Spanish perspective of Trafalgar.

Our Spanish colleagues could not have been more welcoming and hospitable and a very productive time that was too.

But.

When asked I said I was from Plymouth I got a strong reaction and was told the following tale.

To pacify unruly infants the mothers of Cadiz still say to the children “hush little one or Drake (the dragon) will return”.

That’s some 400 years after Drake attacked the docks and ships of Cadiz to, delay the ‘Spanish Armada’.

Wow, now that is some reputation !

P115 :

Last stop before the Magellan Straits.

Port San Julian is the stopover and overhaul

Port San Julian is the same anchorage as used by Magellan some 50 years earlier.

The bay lies at 49 degrees so is a little North of the Magellan Straits.

The English squadron arrived on the twentieth of June, departing during August seventeenth.

During this period the ships were re-victualled and thoroughly overhauled.

The latter tasks would have included repainting the hulls and sending aloft their best suits of sails in anticipation of hard times and heavy weather ahead.

Drake disposed of the smallest vessels in his squadron, two of were broken down, recycled, for supplies and spare parts.

Their crews were distributed into the remaining three ships.

The Magellan Straits were sighted on the 20 August 1578.

Three days according to Nuno da Silva were spent awaiting a favourable North East wind.

The wind came, the English left, their ships boldly stood into the yawing mouth of the Magellan Strait.

The Magellan Straits.

The Pelican was renamed most felicitously off the mouth of the Magellan Straits as the Golden Hind to honour one of the voyage sponsors, Sir Christopher Hatton who has a hind in his family crest.

“This Strait is extreme cold, with frost and snow continually; the trees seem to stoop with the burden of the weather, and yet are green continually, and many good and sweet herbs do very plentifully grow and increase under them”, by Francis Pretty, One of Drake’s Gentlemen at arms. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1580Pretty-drake.asp

Two grand oceans collide in the rock and shoal strewn mountainous Magellan Straits.

This passage even today is known to be difficult.

Tides are semidiurnal macro-tides that is two high and two low tides of the same height.

semidiurnal macrotides (two high and two low tides of the same height); on the Pacific (west) side, tides are mainly semidiurnal, but mixed.

On the Pacific side tides are mainly semidiurnal but mixed.

Drake’s ships were obliged to hazard the narrow rock and shoal strewn passages.

Some of the rocks are mostly submerged ‘pinnacle rocks’ so hard to detect.

Of the narrowest place the pilot said the distance was so short that an arquebus shot could reach one side from the other” and “we found it difficult to anchor due to shoals or increased depth”. (Sugden page 167)

the straits are home to a maze of islands and buffeted by strong freezing winds many of which descend without warning from the mountains.

Hazards include strong currents and counter currents, whirlpools, floating ice and huge seaweeds.

The ships did successfully anchor by various islands and found food in the form of flightless birds hundreds of which were killed and stored.

Yet again Drake demonstrates wise and skilful seamanship.

Drake’s overall passage was relatively uneventful and much useful information was recorded by pen and by paintings.

While it took Magellan 38 days to become the first European to navigate the Straits ocean to ocean Drake passed in a record 14 days.

Drake’s Squadron consisted of the Golden Hind and two ships accompanying her, The Elizabeth and the Marigold.

All three ships made it through the Strait.

Fourteen days remains the fastest passage that century, and the fastest for a fair few decades after.

Drake’s achievement is outstanding not least because because only one other ship had previously made a circumnavigation.

No person within the squadron, not even the pilot Nuno de Silva had been through the Magellan Straits.

Magellan’s ship had barely surviving its circumnavigation, Magellan did not.

Conversely the Golden Hind and her men came home very rich and ready for more adventures.

End of the Magellan Straits

sailed through the dangerous Strait of Magellan with speed and apparently with ease, to emerge on the 6th of September and after just two days be driven South by Pacific storms the like of which for shere violence and huge waves, none of them had ever seen before .

For two months with one brief lull the ships were in mortal danger.

Unable to sail clear of the weather struggling to keep of the granite bound stay coast.

—————————————————————————————-

Golden Hind the real ship.

Golden Hind is not an anonymous galleon.

The Golden Hind is one of the most famous ships in English history.

By 1578 not many ships were suitable for long ocean voyages.

Drake’s ship, the Pelican, was custom built by Drake’s order and destined to make just one major voyage that would place her among the foremost ship names in history.

Some historians claim she was London or even French built.

I think that unlikely because according to The Black Book of Plymouth, the Pelican was built at Plymouth.

Drake was a Plymouth seaman so he knew well the ships and shipwrights thus Plymouth built does seem very likely.

Michael Turner in his book “Sir Francis Drake & The Golden Hind” states (P 20) that by 1577 Drake’s ship the ‘Pelican’ was built at Coxside, Plymouth.

Coxside is on the East shore in the heart of Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour.

The Pelican / Golden Hind is describe as an English ‘Race Built Galleon’, a new type being developed by the English and French.

Golden Hind proved herself a fine ship although in a big sea her waist was liable to flood.

Golden Hind sailed readily in light airs and was responsive to her tiller.

Her hull we are told was sturdy and double planked from her waterline to her keel.

She carried 18 brass and iron guns some of which were likely upper deck swivel guns.

Actually relatively little is known about the Pelican / Golden Hind as a ship.

By today’s ocean going standards she was petite, probably eighty feet from stem to stern posts so about 100 tons depending how you calculate her tonnage.

The other ‘large’ ships for the voyage were smaller, the Elizabeth of London being of sixteen guns and eighty tons and the Marigold sporting five guns on thirty tons burden.

The fleet included two lesser ships but they never reached the Magellan Strait.

Some 160 recruited English men did sail into the strait.

56 men survived with Drake and about the same number returned to England with the Elizabeth.

The fleet is well described on page 99 of J. Sugden’s book.

Drake victualled his ships for 18 months and he was very aware of the need to provision well, proven by remarkably few of his men being lost to disease.

Thinking ahead, Drake had his ships well supplied with practical equipment including boats in pieces and everything needed to build a fort and an assortment of incendiaries the Spanish described as ‘unusual’.

A lot of detailed research was undertaken before the building of the replica Golden Hinde and yet she was still built overly narrow in her beam, in my opinion possibly deficient by as much as four feet.

I was told by Sid Yeo, my senior shipwright instructor and the Lloyds number one surveyor for the new build that after launching, the first man up her side almost pulled her over. Stability modifications were made which you can see today on her hulls sides as ‘blisters’.

Mathew Baker in 1775 authored the earliest detailed English treatise on ship design.

English ships then as now were fast evolving during the sixteenth century.

Mathew’s Father James Baker was responsible for many of the designs and the construction of King Henry VIII’s fleet. James designed improved ways for mounting cannon in a ship’s lower decks, rather than on the top deck, an idea credited to King Henry VIII.

Having been apprenticed to his father James, and having grown up in the surroundings of the dockyard, Mathew was appointed ‘Master Shipwright’ in 1572. As John Hawkins’s reformed naval administration began to bring discipline to the craft of shipbuilding, Mathew Baker became perhaps the greatest ship designer of Tudor times, known to have built, the Dreadnought, the Vanguard, and the Repulse among many other ships.

His reputation is made as he is the first known shipwright to develop the practice of ‘laying down the lines’ for a ship, on paper.

Golden Hind, The Capitana.

Descriptions and quotations below are taken from New Light on Drake, (1914) by Zelia Nuttall. A Collection of Documents Relating to His Voyage of Circumnavigation, 1577-1580. These quotations are sourced from various primary source documents from those either on the circumnavigation itself or connected to Spain. The Golden Hind as we know it is here referred to as The Capitana.

Pg. 56. “The Capitana was the largest of all and was of about 220 tons [100 English tons]… she is in a good measure stout and strong. She has two sheathings, one as perfectly finished as the other. She is fit for warfare and is a ship of the French pattern [a galleon], well fitted out and finished with very good masts, tackle, and double sails. She is a good sailer and the rudder governs her well. She is not new, nor is she coppered nor ballasted. She has seven armed port-holes on each side, and inside she carries eighteen pieces of artillery, thirteen being of bronze and the rest of cast iron, also an abundance of all sorts of ammunition of war, for none had been expended”

Golden Hind is not an anonymous galleon.

The Golden Hind is one of the most famous ships in English history.

Golden Hinde the Hinks Yard built replica

Among other things Golden Hinde stared in the Emmy winning mini series Shogun filmed entirely in Japan and based upon the best selling novel by James Clavell who oversaw the filming.

After the filming Golden Hinde sailed in the wake of her illustrious predecessor THE Golden Hind (1577 to 1580) completed her own circumnavigation.

The Shogun Trailer 1980 is on Youtube

You can visit and can help us preserve this fine old ship

The Pelican was renamed most felicitously off the mouth of the Magellan Straits as the Golden Hind to honour one of the voyage sponsors, Sir Christopher Hatton who has a hind in his family crest.

After Drake was knighted Queen Elizabeth I ordered the ship to be displayed for posterity.

Initially the original Golden Hind was a tourist attraction and was even used as a tavern.

In the late 20th century, a silver model of her was used by Westward Television to front its programmes.

Her image was used on the reverse of the old halfpenny, which is remembered by millions of Britons who used this coinage until 1971.

Golden Hind is not an anonymous galleon.

The Golden Hind is one of the most famous ships in English history.

Drake the Navigator.

By the time Sir Francis Drake was embarking on his famous circumnavigation, the Spanish say they had made a number of expeditions through the Magellan Strait. Even for the Spanish, whose maritime technology was advanced enough to brave longer journeys, this route through the Strait was treacherous and information on the route was sparse.

Pg. 139. “[the Strait] lies in 51 ½ degrees and in its narrowest part it is not a quarter of a league wide….” [deposition of nicolas jorje, New Light]

The men of Plymouth at that time were regularly sailing at least as far as into the Mediterranean Sea and West African coast and seamen regularly exchanged information, swapped yarns in bars. For example, Columbus is known to have taken advantage of this.

I read somewhere they claimed ‘you will find a Plymouth ship in every port of the Mediterranean’.

These Englishmen passed successfully with no engine, no charts, no tide tables, only basic navigational aids and learned skills.

They managed to find the most direct route through the big tides and strong, icy currents in a record 14 days when Magellan had taken 38 days.

They made the fastest passage that century, and for many years after.

If that isn’t fine seamanship what is?

Drake sailed with years of hard won experience, garnered from the finest English seamen of his age.

Drake arrived by happy coincidence or design at the Magellan Strait entrance at exactly the right time of year.

In the summer and midwinter months the fury of the Westerlies declines so the strait is at its most navigable.

Drake had a small selection of books including The Protestant Martyers by John Foxe and The Whole Book of Psalms by Sternhold and Hopkin as well as at least three books about navigation.

One was certainly the third account of Magellan’s voyage and likely a French translation of the Arte de Navegar by Pedro Medina.

Probably too the translation by Eden of Cortes the Art of Navigation.

Drake had several maps probably by Ortelius or Mercator.

None of the maps could have been very helpful lacking detail and with what we now know is the glaring error of the Chilean coast shown bearing North West instead of North.

Drake likely had copies of some primitive Portuguese and Spanish maps of the East Indies too.

Among Drake’s achievements were the many correction he made to improve the maps, one could hardly call them charts and he wrote detailed sailing directions

For the South American coast, Drake also had Nuno da Silva, a Portuguese as a pilot and prisoner.

The reality is Drake is sailing literally into uncharted waters and a phenomenal test of his leadership, seamanship, navigation, nerve and instincts.

The English had at that time limited their experience of longer voyaging sailing mostly to the Mediterranean and Baltic with rare sorties mostly from Plymouth and Bristol to the West African coats and the Americas.

As they became more prosperous and heard more of the fabled wealth Spain and Portugal claimed exclusively from the Americas, so the English, the French and Dutch too were becoming more adventurous and gaining experiences.

The English began to rapidly developed new types of stronger ships.

Golden Hind was one of these new style of English ship.

Descriptions of Drake’s Journey Through the Strait

Notes and quotations below are taken from the pieces Sir Francis Drake by John Sugden, 

New Light on Drake: A Collection of Documents Relating to His Voyage of Circumnavigation, 1577-1580 (1914) by Zelia Nuttall.

The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake (1628) by Drake’s nephew, also named Francis Drake. Although Drake and his ships encountered difficult weather conditions, these accounts show that he made it through the Strait with the three ships he entered with, making the journey in record time.

…The land on both sides is very huge and mountainous, and lower mountains whereof, although they be monstrous and wonderful to look upon for their height, yet there are others which in height exceed them in a strange manner, reaching themselves above their fellows so high, that between them did appear three regions of clouds.

…These mountains are covered with snow: at both the southerly and easterly parts of the Strait there are islands, among which the sea has its indraught into the straits, even as it has into the main entrance of the [freat?]

…This Strait is extremely cold, with frost and snow continually; the trees seem to stoope with the burden of the weather, and yet are green continually, and many good and sweet herbs do very plentifully grow and increase under them.

…The breadth of the strait is in some place a league, in some other places two leagues, and three leagues, and in some other four leagues, but the narrowest place had a league over.” [Nuño di Silva’s logbook, World Encompassed] wrote Nuno de Silva,for his trial for heresy. The Inquisition of Mexico, deposition of Nuño di Silva,in 1579, New Light]

After a sumptuous banquet in his honour, Drake knighted on board the Golden Hind by Queen Elizabeth.

“I was the first Englishman to sail in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and south of the Atlantic Ocean. I was the first Englishman to sail around the world, and I was the first European to see the west coast of Canada”.

The Drake Passage, a history

A very personal connection with the Golden Hind.

My own connection with the Golden Hind goes back many years.

When she was being built at the Hinks Yard in Appledore, North Devon I was studying as an adult, ship and boat building at at Falmouth Technical College.

Our elderly head of department, a marvellous craftsman who’s hobby was marquetry, was the Lloyds number one surveyor for the Golden Hinde, about which he sometimes spoke.

In the Western Morning News one sunny morning we read, the Golden Hinde had sailed the day before from Plymouth bound as Drake’s Golden Hind was, for South America and California.

The original ship back in 1578 had promptly run into difficulties so put into Falmouth.

We lads were in the habit of enjoying our sandwiches at a lunch break by walking to one of the quays of Falmouth.

Imagine our surprise that day to see the Golden Hinde anchored off Falmouth much as her illustrious predecessor had been?

My next and more intimate encounter with the Golden Hinde came when with a girlfriend I sailed my Wayfarer dinghy from Fowey to Falmouth to see the 1982 Tall ships race.

The Wayfarer I built in 1979.

Another surprise; there near the ‘modern’ tall ships was the Golden Hinde, back from her circumnavigation, again anchored in Falmouth Harbour.

Golden Hinde Red Arrows
Golden Hinde and the Red Arrows salute

I hailed the deck, somewhat to my girlfriend’s consternation.

She thought I shouldn’t try a hail. I should have realised there and then I was not the man for her, it was time to change girlfriend. That was arguably the single biggest mistake of my entire life !

Hailing “Golden Hinde, on deck there” seemed about right to me and it got me a prompt reply.

I said I was a boat builder and maritime painter. I asked if at some time convenient, could I come on board? I was apologetically told the captain is not on board but come on board anyway and the mate will give you a tour. This was an opportunity not to be missed?

Fenders and lines made ready I soon had my diminutive boat alongside and me scrambling, girlfriend in tow, up the ship’s side to find us royally treated.

1982 to 2023 and here I am with three new paintings to honour, celebrate, support and publicise the beautiful Golden Hinde replica now 50 years old and visitable by you in London.

Gordon Frickers © 01 July 2023.

Golden Hind Research

Buckland Abbey, sources of information.

The World Encompassed, published by Drake’s nephew in 1628 is the most extensive account of the voyage. The book seems to be intended as a companion volume for ‘Sir Francis Drake Revived’ (dated unknown, likely before 1589).

Sources include :

Buckland Abbey, https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/buckland-abbey

bucklandabbey@nullnationaltrust.org.uk T 01822853607

* Sir Francis Drake by John Sugden, 

* New Light on Drake, sub title, A Collection of Documents Relating to His Voyage of Circumnavigation, 1577-1580 (1914) by Zelia Nuttall.

* The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake (1628) by Drake’s nephew, also named Francis Drake first published in 1628 is the most comprehensive account of the voyage and relies heavily on Fletcher and also Cliffe’s narratives. Likely too, on a log book of Nuno de Silva

Probably as an accompanying volume for ‘Sir Francis Drake which was published about 1589.

* Chosen quotations are either from primary source documents belonging to Drake himself or Portuguese pilot Nuño di Silva, who was press-ganged into joining the circumnavigation and whose knowledge of the area proved invaluable.

Notes and quotations below can also be found in the book Sir Francis Drake by John Sugden,

* You can visit the Golden Hinde at St Mary Overie’s Dock, Cathedral St, London SE1 9DE, T: +44 20 7403 0123. W: https://www.goldenhinde.co.uk/

* Francis Drake Sails Around the World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WiwEwSdKh0c&t=65s by

* Epic History TV https://www.youtube.com/c/EpichistoryTv

it claims 1577 13 December Drake sailed with 5 ships & 164 men.

* #FrancisDrake #History #Documentary Great Adventurers- Sir Francis Drake: Voyage Around The World – Full Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pXYlgfmZNs by Documentary Base https://www.youtube.com/c/DocumentaryBase states on 30 August the gales abated and Drake sailed North (from the Cape Horn region) .

Drake and Golden Hind Article Epilogue.

There are many aspects of Drake’s voyage that remain disputed mysteries as accounts vary as does the motives of their authors while Drake’s own writings and paintings were made a state secret, never published and subsequently lost in a fire.

There are though common threads upon which my interpretation after much research and consideration, is based.

Samuel Pepys, England’s Lord of the Admiralty in the early 17th Century, had a copy of Sir Francis Drake’s pocket sized book of nautical maps.

Drake also inscribed it with his signature.

It is now housed at the Pepys Library on the campus of Magdelene College outside London and was featured in the “History Channel” video “The Galleon” part of the “Great Ships” video trilogy.

The main map folds out and the booklet contains nautical charts, compass bearings, ocean currents and major ports of European cities.

The book is very small 3 1/2″ inches wide and 4″ inches in height.

Pg. 119. “The strait through which he passed is that of Magellan and besides being an unusual rute it is so narrow that its mouth is only a league and a half wide, and from pure necessity, the current must be very furious.”–official documents tierra firme, New Light.

Gordon Frickers marine artist

Gordon Frickers is the only marine and maritime artist whose paintings have been honoured by a solo invitation to exhibit 35 paintings in the European Parliament (May 2011).

Many distinguished people and renowned companies chose Frickers paintings as you can discover by reading my illustrated résumée.

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