Guest Post: Understanding the Life of Francis Drake: by Tony Riches, Author of Drake – Tudor Corsair

Statue_of_Drake,_Plymouth_HoeTwo 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.

DrakeMonumentTavistockAnother 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.

DrakeDrake- 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

Tony Riches is a full-time UK author of best-selling historical fiction. He Tony Riches Author (1)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:

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08FCTYQF4
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08FCTYQF4
Amazon CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08FCTYQF4
Amazon AU https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08FCTYQF4

Author Links:

Website: https://www.tonyriches.com
Writing blog: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonyriches
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonyriches.author
Podcasts: https://tonyriches.podbean.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5604088.Tony_Riches

Biography: Sir Francis Walsingham

220px-Sir_Francis_Walsingham_by_John_De_Critz_the_Elder(Born around 1532- Died April 6, 1590)
Son of William Walsingham and Joyce Denny.
Married to Anne Barne and Ursula St. Barbe.
Father of Frances Devereux, Countess of Essex and Mary Walsingham.
Sir Francis Walsingham was Elizabeth I’s “Spy Master” and was one of her primary secretaries. It was Walsingham and his men who discovered the Babington Plot and were able to stop it and protect Elizabeth.

Sir Francis Walsingham was born around 1532 to William Walsingham and his wife Joyce, probably at Foots Cray, near Chislehurst, Kent. His father was a very wealthy lawyer who died in 1534 when Francis was around two years old. After William’s death, Joyce married the courtier Sir John Carey in 1538; Carey’s brother William was the husband of Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn’s elder sister. In 1548 Walsingham enrolled at King’s College, the most Protestant and reformist college of the University of Cambridge, and then in 1552 he was admitted to Gray’s Inn in London to study law. When Mary I became queen after the death of Edward VI, many Protestants fled to the continent, including Walsingham, who continued his law studies at universities in Basel and Padua, where he was elected to the governing body by his fellow students in 1555.

When Mary I died and Elizabeth I ascended to the throne, Walsingham returned to England. In 1559, he was elected to Elizabeth’s first parliament. He would stay a member of parliament throughout the rest of his life. In January 1562, Walsingham married Anne Barne, daughter of Sir George Barne, Lord Mayor of London in 1552–3, and widow of wine merchant Alexander Carleill. She would died two years later leaving her son Christopher Carleill in Walsingham’s care. In 1566, Walsingham married Ursula St. Barbe, widow of Sir Richard Worsley, and became in possession of her estates of Appuldurcombe and Carisbrooke Priory on the Isle of Wight. In 1567, Ursula gave birth to the couple’s first daughter Frances.

Walsingham became active in soliciting support for the Huguenots in France and developed a friendly and close working relationship with Nicholas Throckmorton, his predecessor as MP and a former ambassador to France. By 1569, Walsingham was working with William Cecil to counteract plots against Elizabeth. He was instrumental in the collapse of the Ridolfi plot, which hoped to replace Elizabeth with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots.He is credited with writing propaganda decrying a conspiratorial marriage between Mary and Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk,and Roberto di Ridolfi, after whom the plot was named, was interrogated at Walsingham’s house.

In 1570, the Queen chose Walsingham to support the Huguenots in their negotiations with Charles IX of France. Later that year, he succeeded Sir Henry Norris as English ambassador in Paris.One of his duties was to continue negotiations for a marriage between Elizabeth and Charles IX’s younger brother Henry, Duke of Anjou, but this failed because of religion. A substitute match with the next youngest brother, Francis, Duke of Alençon, was proposed but Walsingham did not like him and Elizabeth was considerably older than the Duke. Walsingham believed that it would serve England better to seek a military alliance with France against Spanish interest and the defensive Treaty of Blois was concluded between France and England in 1572.

The Huguenots and other European Protestant interests supported the revolt in the Spanish Netherlands, which were provinces of Habsburg Spain. When Catholic opposition to this course in France resulted in the death of Huguenot leader Gaspard de Coligny and the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, Walsingham’s house in Paris became a temporary sanctuary for Protestant refugees, including Philip Sidney. Ursula, who was pregnant, escaped to England with their four-year-old daughter. She gave birth to a second girl, Mary, in January 1573 while Walsingham was still in France.He returned to England in April 1573, having established himself as a competent official whom the Queen and Cecil could trust.

In the December following his return, Walsingham was appointed to the Privy Council of England and was made joint principal secretary, or “Secretary of State” with Sir Thomas Smith. Smith retired in 1576, leaving Walsingham in effective control of the privy seal, though he was not formally invested as Lord Privy Seal. He was knighted on 1 December 1577 and was appointed Chancellor of the Order of the Garter from April 22, 1578 until succeeded by Sir Amias Paulet in June 1587. Walsingham’s younger daughter Mary died aged seven in July 1580; his elder daughter, Frances, married Sir Philip Sidney on September 21, 1583, despite the Queen’s initial objections to the match earlier in the year.

Walsingham assembled a far-flung network of spies and news gatherers in France, Scotland, the Low Countries, Spain, Italy, and even Turkey and North Africa. Using prison informants and double agents whose services he secured through bribery, threats, and subtle psychological gambits, he worked to penetrate English Catholic circles at home and abroad, particularly among Mary’s friends and agents in Scotland and France.

A spy in the French embassy in London—who has plausibly been identified as Giordano Bruno, a lapsed Dominican friar who would later achieve renown as a freethinking philosopher of the Italian Renaissance—alerted Walsingham to a correspondence with Mary that was being routed through the embassy. The plot was broken with the arrest of the chief go-between, Francis Throckmorton, in November 1583. In his possession were incriminating documents, including a map of invasion ports and a list of Catholic supporters in England. Under torture, Throckmorton revealed a plan for the invasion of England by Spanish and French troops in concert with a rising by Mary’s followers. The Spanish ambassador was expelled and diplomatic contacts with Spain severed.

The Act for the Surety of the Queen’s Person, passed by Parliament in March 1585, set up a legal process for trying any claimant to the throne implicated in plots against the Queen. The following month Mary, Queen of Scots, was placed in the strict custody of a friend of Walsingham. At Christmas, she was moved to a moated manor house at Chartley. In July 1586, Anthony Babington wrote to Mary about an impending plot to free her and kill Elizabeth.Mary’s reply was clearly encouraging and sanctioned Babington’s plans. Walsingham had Babington and his associates rounded up and fourteen of Babington’s men were executed in September 1586. In October, Mary was put on trial under the Act for the Surety of the Queen’s Person in front of 36 commissioners, including Walsingham.

Walsingham made arrangements for Mary’s execution; Elizabeth signed the warrant on 1 February 1587 and entrusted it to William Davison, who had been appointed as junior Secretary of State in late September 1586. Davison passed the warrant to Cecil and a privy council convened by Cecil without Elizabeth’s knowledge agreed to carry out the sentence as soon as was practical. Within a week, Mary was beheaded.On hearing of the execution, Elizabeth claimed not to have sanctioned the action and that she had not meant Davison to part with the warrant. Davison was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Davison was eventually released in October 1588, on the orders of Cecil and Walsingham.

Walsingham also helped prepare for the inevitable war with Spain. He helped to hide the preparations for Sir Francis Drake’s surprise raid on Cádiz Harbour in April 1587 by feeding a deliberately false report about Drake’s plans to the English ambassador in Paris, who Walsingham had correctly guessed was with the Spanish. Walsingham’s countless spies provided detailed reports of Spanish preparations for the sailing of the Armada against England in July 1588. It was Walsingham and his spy network that helped prepare England for the Armada attack.

Walsingham was a very sick man, starting in the early 1570’s and yet he served his country extremely well. There are many speculations on what Walsingham’s illness was, anywhere from testicular cancer to kidney stones, diabetes to an urinary infection. Francis Walsingham died on April 6, 1590. He was buried at the Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was burned during the Great Fire of 1666 and now a plaque marking where his grave was remains.
Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Walsingham
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Francis-Walsingham
http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/sir-francis-walsingham.htm

Biography: Queen Elizabeth I

220px-Elizabeth_I_in_coronation_robes(Born September 7, 1533- Died March 24, 1603)
Daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
Sister to King Edward VI and Queen Mary I
Elizabeth was known as the “Virgin Queen” because she never married and she never had a child. Elizabeth was one of the greatest rulers in English history.

Elizabeth I was born on September 7, 1533 to Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn at Greenwich Palace. At birth, Elizabeth was declared heir presumptive to the throne of England. Her older half-sister, Mary, had lost her position as a legitimate heir when Henry annulled his marriage to Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, to marry Anne, with the intent to sire a male heir and ensure the Tudor succession. However, things didn’t go as planned. Anne never was able to give birth to the desired son that Henry wanted. Anne would later be accused of adultery and treason. On May 19, 1536, Anne Boleyn was executed; Elizabeth was two years old at the time and she was declared illegitimate, just like her step-sister Mary.

Henry VIII married Jane Seymour shortly after Anne Boleyn’s execution. Jane gave birth to Elizabeth’s step-brother Edward, but died shortly afterward. Elizabeth’s father would marry three more times; Anne of Cleves who was divorced; Katherine Howard who was beheaded; and finally Katherine Parr. During this time, Elizabeth met Catherine “Kat” Ashley who was appointed Elizabeth’s governess in 1537 and remained with Elizabeth until her death in 1565. William Grindal became her tutor in 1544 and after his death in 1548, Roger Ascham became Elizabeth’s tutor. Elizabeth received a very good education and she loved to learn. Elizabeth’s life was somewhat normal at this point, but life was about to change drastically.

Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, when Elizabeth was 13, leaving the throne to his nine year old son Edward VI. Before Henry VIII died, he reinstated his daughters to the line of succession so after Edward VI, Mary would become queen and then Elizabeth. Shortly after Henry VIII’s death, his last wife Katherine Parr married Thomas Seymour, the brother of Jane Seymour and Edward Seymour, Edward VI’s Lord Protector. Elizabeth moved in with Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour at their home in Chelsea where, it is alleged, Thomas Seymour would act inappropriately towards Elizabeth, including bursting into her bedroom while she was barely dress, slap her on the bottom, and one time, shred Elizabeth’s dress. In May 1548, Elizabeth was dismissed from Katherine’s household; Katherine Parr died from childbirth on September 5, 1548 which allowed Thomas to pursue Elizabeth as his wife, but it failed. Thomas was accused of trying to kidnap Edward VI, charged with treason and executed on March 20, 1549. Elizabeth was interrogated during the investigation into Thomas, but she never admitted anything about the nature of their relationship.

Edward VI would die on July 6, 1553, at the age of 15. Under Henry VIII’s Act of Succession, the crown should have passed onto Mary, however Edward did not like that she was Catholic, so before he died, he issued an act that named his heir as Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey would only be queen for nine days since Mary brought an army to place her on the throne. On August 3, 1553, Mary rode into London with Elizabeth by her side. On the outside, it looked like Mary and Elizabeth had reconciled, however they were pulling farther apart.

Mary and Elizabeth kept butting heads over religion, Mary being Catholic and Elizabeth being Protestant. Mary’s popularity began to wan with her people when she announced in 1554 that she wanted to marry Philip II of Spain, a devout Catholic. That same year in January and February, a man by the name of Thomas Wyatt staged a rebellion to put Elizabeth on the throne instead of Mary, which failed. Wyatt was beheaded and Elizabeth was interrogated. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London on March 18th; she would later be transferred to Woodstock on May 22nd where she spent a year under house arrest in the custody of Sir Henry Bedingfield.

Elizabeth returned to court on April 17, 1555 to help Mary with the final stages of her pregnancy. However, months passed and it turned out that it was a false pregnancy. As Mary fell ill, Philip II started to consult with Elizabeth on how to run the country, and in October 1558, Elizabeth began to formulate her own court. On November 6, Mary recognized Elizabeth as her heir and on November 17, 1558, Mary I died and Elizabeth I succeeded to the throne.

Elizabeth I became Queen of England at the age of 25. She was crowned in an elaborate ceremony on January 15, 1559, which was cold winter day; Elizabeth would get sick shortly after her coronation, but once she recovered, she made William Cecil, later Baron Burghley, her Chief Minister. Elizabeth had two pressing matters to solve when she first became queen, resolving the matters of religious division in England and who she would marry. With the religious division, she sought to strike a balance, so that even though Protestantism became the national religion, those who wanted to hear the Roman Catholic mass were able to do so in private. Elizabeth became the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

The other issue that plagued Elizabeth during her reign was who she was going to marry. There were many candidates, foreign and English suitors, but Elizabeth would not commit herself to one man, instead she decided to remain single and considered herself the mother of the English people. The man who probably had the best chance of marrying Elizabeth was Robert Dudley. Dudley was the brother of Guilford Dudley, the husband of Lady Jane Grey. He was married to Amy Robsart, but she died of a fall in 1560 and Dudley was accused of her murder. He was created the Earl of Leicester in 1564. Dudley remarried in 1578 to one of Elizabeth’s Maid of the Privy Chamber, Lettice Knollys. This made Elizabeth angry and she banished Lettice from court. Dudley would die in 1588, shortly after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Robert Dudley tried for over 20 years to convince Elizabeth to marry him and it resulted in a close friendship, but nothing more.

The other serious contender for the Queen’s hand was Francis, Duke of Anjou, who Elizabeth called her “frog”, heir to the French throne. But again, political considerations made the match ultimately impossible. Other suitors included King Philip II of Spain, King Eric XIV of Sweden, Archduke Charles of Austria, and Henry Duke of Anjou (the duke before Francis). Elizabeth had numerous favorites at her court including Sir Christopher Hatton, Robert Devereux earl of Essex, and Walter Raleigh, just to name a few. The problem was that Elizabeth decided not to marry nor would she declare a successor, even when she contracted smallpox in October 1562 and she thought she might die.

Elizabeth’s refusal to marry or name a successor led to one of the most defining conflicts of Elizabeth’s reign. Catholics viewed Elizabeth as illegitimate and had no right to the throne. To them, Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s cousin, had a better claim to the throne. Mary was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret. Elizabeth was persuaded to send a force into Scotland to aid the Protestant rebels, and though the campaign was inept, the resulting Treaty of Edinburgh of July 1560 removed the French threat in the north.When Mary returned to Scotland in 1561 a to take up the reins of power, the country had an established Protestant church and was run by a council of Protestant nobles supported by Elizabeth. Mary refused to ratify the treaty which denied Mary the right to succeed to the English throne.

In 1563 Elizabeth proposed her own suitor, Robert Dudley, as a husband for Mary, without asking either of the two people concerned. Both proved unenthusiastic, and in 1565 Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, who carried his own claim to the English throne. The marriage was the first of a series of errors of judgement by Mary that handed the victory to the Scottish Protestants and to Elizabeth. Darnley quickly became unpopular and was murdered in February 1567 by conspirators almost certainly led by James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. On May 15, 1567, Mary married Bothwell, arousing suspicions that she had been in on the murder of Lord Darnley. This lead to Mary’s fall from grace and she was held captive starting in July 1567.

Forced to flee her own country, having abdicated her throne in favour of her infant son, James, Mary landed in England in May 1568, seeking Elizabeth’s help in restoring her to her kingdom. Because the matter of Darnley’s death was unresolved, Elizabeth placed Mary in prison for around 20 years. Of course, this angered the Catholics who saw Mary as the figurehead of their cause, so there were plots and plans to get Mary out of prison and place her on the throne instead of Mary. The largest plot was the Babington Plot of the summer of 1586, which laid out plans for Elizabeth’s execution and Spain’s invasion of England. Since Mary knew of the plans, she was tried and found guilty of treason. Elizabeth was very reluctant to sign the death warrant, but eventually she did. Mary Queen of Scots was executed on February 8, 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle; her son James VI was declared Elizabeth’s heir to the throne.

Another huge challenge for Elizabeth was her relationship with Spain and her former brother-in-law, Philip II. With the discovery of the new world and the age of exploration in full force, piracy was becoming more popular. In 1572, Sir Francis Drake decided to plunder Spanish ships in Central and South America. In 1577, Drake was introduced to Elizabeth and she unofficially encouraged his activities against the Spanish. In December 1577, Drake travelled around the world plundering Spanish ships; he returned to England in September 1580 as a national hero and in April 1581, he was knighted.

By 1588, Elizabeth and Philip were considered enemies. Philip had spoken of invading England and dethroning Elizabeth for years, but the execution of the Queen of Scots gave him an added incentive. In July 1587, Philip received a treaty from the pope that gave his approval on the conquest of England. Now he could claim the English throne for himself and dethrone Elizabeth to restore England to Catholicism. In 1587, Drake was able to lead a successful raid against Cadiz, which delayed the Spanish Armada from invading by a year. In the summer of 1588 he sent his mighty Armada fleet against England. But by superior tactics, ship design, and sheer good fortune, the English defeated them. This was one of Elizabeth’s biggest achievements and made Elizabeth extremely popular in England.

In Ireland, there was a revolt against the English, led by Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. In spring 1599, Elizabeth sent Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, to put the revolt down. To her frustration,he made little progress, even though he begged to go there, and returned to England in defiance of her orders. He was replaced by Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, who took three years to defeat the rebels. Essex thought that when he returned to England, he would be treated like a hero, but he was treated with contempt. This made Essex upset and in February 1601, the earl tried to raise a rebellion in London. He intended to seize the queen but few rallied to his support, and he was beheaded on February 25, 1601.

After Essex’s death, Elizabeth’s health began to deteriorate. She would die at the age on 69 on March 24, 1603 at Richmond Palace. Elizabeth was interred in Westminster Abbey, in a tomb shared with her half-sister, Mary I.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_I_of_England#Mary,_Queen_of_Scots
http://www.elizabethi.org/contents/biography/
https://www.biography.com/people/queen-elizabeth-i-9286133
Ashley, Michael. A Brief History of British Kings & Queens. Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2008.

Book Review: “The Elizabethans” by A.N. Wilson

When we think of Elizabethan England, we often think of it as the “Golden Age” of 51BiwhXsK0L._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_learning and discoveries. While that is true, like any age, there were good elements and bad elements. We tend to overlook the bad elements with Elizabeth’s “Golden Age” and move on to the good elements. However, we cannot get a full image of the age if we only look at the good elements. That is why A.N. Wilson wrote the book “The Elizabethans”:

 

In this book I hope we shall be basking together in wholehearted appreciation of all of  this[the good elements]; but it is no longer possible to do so without a recognition of the Difficulty- hence my title for the opening chapter. The Difficulty is really a moral one: things which they, the Elizabethans, regarded as a cause for pride, we- the great majority of educated, liberal Western opinion- consider shameful. Things of which they boasted, we deplore.( Wilson, 2).

 

So what was the Difficulty that Wilson was mentioning? To Wilson, that is the issue of Ireland and the “New World” and how the English dealt with the native peoples of these new colonies. These were constant problems in this age that would affect how future generations would view the men and women who made Elizabethan England great. Of course there were the deaths of Mary Queen of Scots and Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, that would affect Elizabeth greatly.

 

Now that we got the bad elements out of the way, let’s dive into what made it good, the “Golden Age”. Wilson decided to break down his book into sections which corresponds with the different decades of the reign of Elizabeth I. Each different decade had elements that made it difficult like the Northern Rebellion, St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, Mary Queen of Scots, and of course the Spanish Armada. What made this era known as the “Golden Age” were the people who took those difficult moments and made the best of the situation. Men like Sir Francis Drake, Sir Francis Walsingham, Sir Philip Sidney, Shakespeare and Spenser. Of course there were also men like  Richard Hakluyt, Robert Dudley, Robert Devereux and John Hawkins, who made the Elizabethan age a bit more interesting.

 

“The Elizabethans” by A.N. Wilson is the story of the age, both the good and the bad. And of course it is the story of Elizabeth and how she herself handled all the changes that were happening in her lifetime. Wilson wrote this book in such a way that it grabs your attention for the age and gives you a better understanding on what it meant to be someone who lived in Elizabethan England. I would highly suggest this book for anyone who wants a great resource into this “Golden Age” of Elizabethan England and the men and women who made this arguably one of  the most complex and interesting times in English history. This is a must read for anyone who has any interests in Elizabeth, the England she ruled, and the effects that it had on the rest of the world not only in her generation, but for generations to follow.