Two things I remember being taught about Francis Drake at school are he was the first British man to sail around the world, and that he nonchalantly played a game of bowls as the Spanish Armada sailed up the British Channel in 1588.
It’s true that Drake recreated the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation – although unlike Magellan, he survived being attacked by hostile islanders, and lived to tell the tale.
As for his game of bowls, there was a bowling green at his manor house, but the story first appeared thirty-seven years after the Armada. From what we know of the tide and weather on that day, Drake’s casual behaviour may well have been justified, but I believe it’s all part of the myth around Drake’s life, which he had good reason to encourage.
I’d been planning an Elizabethan series for some time, as my aim is to tell the stories of the Tudors from Owen Tudor’s first meeting with Queen Catherine of Valois through to the death of Queen Elizabeth.
I decided to show the fascinating world of the Elizabethan court through the eyes of the queen’s favourite courtiers, starting with Francis Drake. I’ve enjoyed tracking down primary sources to uncover the truth of Drake’s story – and discovering the complex man behind the myths.
The scale of his achievement was brought into focus for me when I visited the replica of the Golden Hinde – Drake’s flagship, and the only one to survive his circumnavigation. Made to the same measurements as the original, the replica is only 121 ft 4 in length, and must have seemed vulnerable in the many storms Drake encountered.
Another popular belief is that Drake was the hero of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Although he was made vice-admiral of the English fleet sent out to fight the Armada, Drake spotted a damaged galleon falling behind, and couldn’t resist boarding her. The first captured ship of the Armada, the Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) was commanded by the Spanish Admiral General Don Pedro de Valdés, and was taken as a prize.
Francis Drake was a self-made man, who built his fortune by discovering the routes used by the Spanish to transport vast quantities of gold and silver. He had a special relationship with Queen Elizabeth, and they spent long hours in private meetings, yet was looked down on by the nobility even after he was knighted. His story is one of the great adventures of Tudor history.
Drake- Tudor Corsair
1564: Devon sailor Francis Drake sets out on a journey of adventure.
Drake learns of routes used to transport Spanish silver and gold, and risks his life in an audacious plan to steal a fortune.
Queen Elizabeth is intrigued by Drake and secretly encourages his piracy. Her unlikely champion becomes a national hero, sailing around the world in the Golden Hind and attacking the Spanish fleet.
King Philip of Spain has enough of Drake’s plunder and orders an armada to threaten the future of England.
Drake – Tudor Corsair continues the story of the Tudors, which began with Owen Tudor in book one of the Tudor trilogy.
Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the history of the Tudors. For more information about Tony’s books please visit his website tonyriches.com and his blog, The Writing Desk and find him on Facebook and Twitter @tonyriches
Drake – Tudor Corsair is available in paperback and eBook editions from:
Writing blog: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com