December 13th, 1577 – Around the World with Sir Francis Drake

Today-In-History

On December 13th, 1577Sir Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth, England, on his round-the-world voyage.

Golden Hinde

In 1577, Elizabeth I of England sent Drake to start an expedition against the Spanish along the Pacific coast of the Americas. Drake used the Plans that Sir Richard Greynvile had received the Patent for in 1574 from Elizabeth, which was rescinded a year later after protests from Philip of Spain. He initially set out from Plymouth on November 15th, 1577, but bad weather threatened him and his fleet. They were forced to take refuge in Falmouth, Cornwall, from where they returned to Plymouth for repair.

DRAKE_1577-1580

A map of Drake’s route around the world. The northern limit of Drake’s exploration of the Pacific coast of North America is still in dispute. Drake’s Bay is south of Cape Mendocino.

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake, vice admiral (c. 1540 – January 27th, 1596)

The expedition was full of deadly hazards, but on September 26th, 1580, the Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth with Drake and 59 remaining crew, of six initial ships, aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures. The Queen’s half-share of the cargo surpassed the rest of the crown’s income for that entire year. Drake was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth (and the second such voyage arriving with at least one ship intact, after Elcano‘s in 1520).

The Queen declared that all written accounts of Drake’s voyages were to become the Queen’s secrets of the Realm, and Drake and the other participants of his voyages on the pain of death sworn to their secrecy; she intended to keep Drake’s activities away from the eyes of rival Spain. Drake presented the Queen with a jewel token commemorating the circumnavigation. Taken as a prize off the Pacific coast of Mexico, it was made of enamelled gold and bore an African diamond and a ship with an ebony hull.

The "Drake Jewel"

The “Drake Jewel”

For her part, the Queen gave Drake a jewel with her portrait, an unusual gift to bestow upon a commoner, and one that Drake sported proudly in his 1591 portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts now at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. On one side is a state portrait of Elizabeth by the miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard, on the other a sardonyx cameo of double portrait busts, a regal woman and an African male. The “Drake Jewel”, as it is known today, is a rare documented survivor among sixteenth-century jewels; it is conserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Elizabeth I of England awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581. He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He died of dysentery in January 1596 after unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico.

His exploits made him a hero to the English but a pirate to the Spaniards to whom he was known as El Draque. King Philip II was said to have offered a reward of 20,000 ducats, about £4 million (US$6.5M) by modern standards, for his life.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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