Sir Francis Drake

The truth about Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation

As the queen's buccaneer Sir Francis Drake had invaded the Spanish Empire and taken their galleons at will. He kept ending up back in Queen Elizabeth's court in between those trips. He was so bent on sticking up for Queen Elizabeth's honor at every sly look from a visiting foreigner that she told William Cecil, her chief advisor and treasurer, to 'get him out of here for a few years before he gets himself killed defending my honor'.  It was reported that she actually used the word hell as in, 'get him the hell out of here..' after she got right in his face as he was drawing his sword on some trembling Italian representative, though thankfully not the Italian Ambassador.

It was worse than the Ambassador, it was the prince of a tiny country in Italy, maybe San Marino. The prince was also a  member of Spain's royal family and also one of the Hapsburg family. 

[I am almost certain now that it was the Spanish viceroy of Naples Cardinal Antonio Perrenot and it took place after he was replaced by Hinigo Lopez of Mendoza in 1575. How about buying a medal commemorating him (at right) courtesy of the National Maritime Museum. They have a lot to honor that Spaniard for. It's right that the British should commemorate him since he is one of the main reasons that Drake circumnavigated the earth.]

Antionio PerrenotThus it was requested that Drake should circumnavigate the globe. And leave before 39 million industrialized Catholics waged war on 4 million Anglican farmers, which we all thought was certain to occur if he stayed in England.  

By the time word went back and forth Queen Elizabeth had told their messengers that she had exiled Drake and his crew for the disgrace that he had perpetrated on their royalty. The Spanish saw right through it but instead of invading England they seemed to only want Drake. It was thought they wanted him in a Spanish court of law and not before some English court. 

The Spanish thought they knew right where he was going. So they sent all their ships to the Caribbean to wait for him. Two months went by before Drake sailed from Plymouth where he had been hiding and when he did he was able to sail all the way around South America without ever even seeing a Spanish ship.

The Spanish ships had all gone in the other direction and had set up a 45 ship naval blockade off the coast of Venezuela which is where he had always sighted land before he entered the Caribbean.

And there the Spanish ships sat for a half a year.  Then Spain found out the particulars of the incident when Drake had drawn his sword and challenged Cardinal Antonio Perrenot in the royal court of Queen Elizabeth. Something that had not been included in the earlier communications.

The Spanish had been waiting for at least 15 years for something like that to happen.

Pulling your sword out is like when you slap another person on the cheek. It is a personal challenge to a fight but not when it is allowed to happen in a royal court. Then it's taken as a declaration of war between the two countries unless the person at fault is executed.

Then all their alignments with other countries and even those countries courts will uphold their declaration of war as being fully justified and they will then be obligated by treaty to join their side against your country.

The only problem was that there was a statute of limitations and by the time the royalty of Europe found out fully what had occurred in the English royal court it had expired. 


Anne VavasorUrsula was a first time bit actress in the Queen Elizabeth play called the 'Royal Court' and she was acting the part of a Lady in Waiting (long before she became a refined Lady of the Bedchamber named Anne Vavasor).  She was 16 and just filling in her bodice at the time when she  was asked to fill in for an absent LIW. 

It was fun and it paid a bit of money and besides she got to dress up elegantly in a beautiful dress which made her look like a vixen bombshell. LIW's had to do everything from get water for people to wash snot out of men's handkerchiefs and some how dry it and get it to the man before he left which I never could figure out how to do in so short a time. I later found out that if I liked the man I was supposed to deliver the handkerchief (and me) to him later on where he resided.

Do you want to know what Ursula did immediately when Francis Drake pulled his sword and before the queen got in face? She did something that she hadn't done since she was a man in a previous life and she did it within a split second. Did I prevent the other man from drawing his sword? Did I get between the two men or did I stand up to Drake in order to prevent war? No, for the first time in my life I peed while standing up.

Even though I intuitively knew that it meant war I was consumed with guilt about the pool of yellow water on the floor and was too confused to recall the sword at all clearly. Nobody but the queen guards were supposed be armed in court but trusted Englishmen acted as extra guards so they were allowed to carry any weapons they wanted as long as the weapons stayed inside their clothes. That means the prince was an unarmed man and that made war a certainty.  That alone made Drake's action fall into almost the same category as an attempted assassination of royalty and that meant war.

I finally got a cloth and wipe it up after I pretended that I had spilled a cup I held in my left hand. I need not have worried, everyone was more worried about England's long term survival being suddenly cut short to give a damn about me and whether a pool on the floor was yellow or clear. But at the time it was very important to me.


The Spanish never again had that good of a reason to invade England. The fate of England was signed and sealed by a half a dozen treaties which would have pulled in everyone who was Catholic except for the Swiss. No, wait a minute, I think it also would have pulled them in too. Make that about 40 million industrialized Catholics at war against about 4 million Anglican farmers had they acted sooner.

If William Cecil had not helped Drake then he never would have been able to put together that round the world trip and it never would have happened. Why did the queen command Sir Francis Drake to circumnavigate the world besides the fore mentioned need to get him out of England for a couple of years? The Spanish had a strangle hold on the world and insisted that it was dangerous out in those big oceans. To prove that it was very dangerous only one person's ship had circumnavigated the world, Magellan and even he died along with 220 of the 240 men that went on the voyage.

Queen Elizabeth had heard enough from the Spanish about how poor a sailor Drake was and how he was nothing but a lousy pirate. She realized that if Drake was considered 'a poor or lousy sailor' in everyone's eyes it meant that every other sailor was better than him and that if he could sail around the world and beat up on Spanish galleons off the west coast of America and the Philippines without facing any problems or loss of men then obviously any sailor could do the same thing. It would foment many challenges to Spanish and Vatican authority (who had granted Spain possession of almost the entire New World).

And that is just what happened when he got back. All at once every ship larger than a dingy from about 16 nations all set sail at once for ports around the world and it completely shattered the Spanish strangle hold on the world. Yep, the Spanish hung them selves by their bad mouthing of Sir Francis Drake.

Sir William CecilNone of that would have happened without about a half year of the Lord High Treasurer, William Cecil's, time and a lot of his own money. He slapped the whole expedition together by essentially stealing the supplies from where ever he could. Most of the supplies came straight off the London docks by claiming them for the crown. He had to do so by signing his own name to it all. He had to run all those supplies up to Liverpool, then somewhere on the east coast of England (I never could find out where) where they disappeared. Then he sent them on to Plymouth where Drake was hiding. The cargo changed ships at each port to make sure no one was able to follow the supplies to Drake or trace them backwards to their origin. It cost a lot more than any one thinks and for months after Drake left William Cecil was trying to make everything all right with about 200 outraged businessmen. 

Then until Drake got back William Cecil had to practically barricade himself in his home at Theobalds which unfortunately was not nearly a impregnable fortress. Of course when Drake came cruising in with tons of gold which the Spanish had stolen from the Native American's, which he in return stripped from them, everything was made all right.

I just located an interesting reference to the above (Drake left in 1577)  while looking for wool smuggling involving the Shakespeare family for this page:

1577-1578: Hawkins accuses Sir William Winter of "abuses in the Admiralty touching her Majesty's Navy, of inefficiency, peculation and sabotaging England's defences in return for Spanish gold". Hawkins even accused Sir William of being paid by the Spanish.

He produced a report to William Cecil, Lord Burghley about the condition of the Navy which was highly critical of Sir William Winter saying he kept records of indents for tackle and cordage in his private books and the Navy Office knows nothing about it. It went on to say there were abuses in purchasing and disposing of timber and planks which were used by private individuals. He maintained there was fraud "for Sir William Winter's commodity" and presented details under the heading "matteres that touch Sir William Winter particularly".

1579: A report on the voyage dated 2 June 1579 was found in the British Museum in 1929 with the Prelude and Draft Plan of the Voyage (BM Lansdowne MSS 100 No.2) which show that William and George Winter financially backed the 1577 voyage with £750 and £500 respectively. Here

William Cecil had stolen supplies right off of England's warships. I think Hawkins was complaining to the absolutely worst person possible! It's fascinating what you stumble across while reading old reports like these which I found on the internet. For instance I thought William Cecil had only used privately owned supplies and not navy supplies since these supplies directly tied our government into the operation. No wonder they got transshipped to several different ports to cover up their origin. If the Spanish had traced any of Drakes supplies back to the English Navy then his expedition would have been official and that would have been an act of war.

I can also see why William Cecil had to barricade himself in his home. His name is so commonly found in these pages that they didn't even use his first name until his son Robert (my husband came along). 

Merchant adventurer Sir Lionel Duckett; He had three daughters with dowry of 5000 pounds in Tudor money. Fox-Bourne, Merchant Memoirs. Duckett's staff worked with copper and silver, and in cloth manufacturing. Duckett had a company with Cecil, and the Earls of Pembroke, to construct waterworks to drain mines. Taylor, Tudor Geography, p. 107. Brenner, Merchants and Revolution, p. 81. Here

Why were you not taught this information in school. First, it was a treason to expose the details of any crown operation, that alone meant death. Then to enforce it completely Queen Elizabeth commanded that nobody ever tell what had happened. That sealed the lips forever of everyone who was involved. 

It is no secret that upon Drake's return Queen Elizabeth ordered him and his men not to reveal the particulars of their voyage. Here

None of the men committed treason and none disobeyed Queen Elizabeth's direct command. Each one meant death. Not for 20 years did any of the information get out.  Where did the information come from that everyone assumes is correct? Some of what you got were English embellishments and exaggerations of the highly censored disinformation that were in the few Spanish reports that were made public. Most of what was used was by those who made up history from the highly censored reports that were then sent from the Spanish courts to the Vatican since those were more often made public. The Spanish were very good at hiding the truth especially since it included the genocide of millions of American Natives. They did not want that even getting to the Vatican. Mainly what got out were well established dates of a few of Drakes main attacks which were fabricated into fanciful stories involving gallantry such as trading for spices in Indonesia when he really got those spices off of a Spanish ship that he had captured. The information you got is almost all Spanish in origin. As soon as he got back it was made perfectly clear that nobody in England could tell the truth about what happened or even ask about the truth from those who were on that expedition.

I was able to find out only after I became a maid of honor since I had to know what information I had to hide and what to direct conversations away from. If a foreigner was to mention one of Drakes attacks I had to know whether to ignore the person, to defer them to someone else, to freeze them out, to act ignorant, to find out what the person knew, to immediately go tell the captain of the guards or to tell the person the truth. What I replied differed according to which of Drakes attacks was being asked about, the person who was asking and how many people I was talking with. That was a part (about 1/4) of a maid of honors job, and we had to look good while doing it, so I had to know the truth about what had happened.  

hattonSince I am calling your history teacher a liar it's now pretty tense so I'll just use a funny 'proof' to assure you that what I say is the truth. When he started raiding the Spanish on the west coast of South America Drake renamed his flagship the Golden Hind. You were told only that it was named after the coat of arms of
Sir Christopher Hatton Except as you can plainly see there is nothing on his coat of arms that would have given rise to that name).

Golden Hind was mean't as an outrageous triple entendre. First, it meant the last the Spanish would see of their gold would be the 'hind' end of that ship as it sailed off. The second meaning was that the Spanish made him into a very rich farmer or a bumpkin (the Spanish called the English hind's or hinde's which was a derogatory word for both a farmer (like bumpkin or hick) and a 'rear end' (it means the same as ass and that meant asshole). Third it means that he was a 'very rich ass(hole)'. The last two were actually doubled with the other meaning of the word gold. To the Spanish 'gold' meant royalty. It was Drakes way of letting the Spanish know that he was actually doing it all for Queen Elizabeth. So meanings four and five were 'royal hick' and 'royal ass(hole)'.  I am not sure if the Spanish definition of gold as 'royal' is acceptable but since it sure had the desired effect on the Spanish it certainly should be allowed in this case. Both definitions of hind can be found here in the middle English definitions of hind.  There is also a play on words that I did not include as another entendre out of consideration for our queen. Since everyone knew that Queen Elizabeth liked Drake enormously and hind meant deer then it could also mean that he was the 'queen's dear'. Ok, it was a 6 entendre.

This is clear isn't it? You got told a fib about where the name came from. That bit about it having to do with Christopher Hatton was a rumor that came about around five years after Drake got back and even Drake couldn't correct it or even just tell people it was a lie so it has stood for 400+ years as to why his ship got named the 'Golden Hind'. It's the same thing with much of what was written and much of what you were taught about Sir Francis Drake's around the world trip. By the way guess which chamberlady to the queen came up with that name before Drake sailed off to conquer the world?

The truth makes the history a lot more interesting doesn't it? It sure fills in a lot of blanks and answers questions like 'just how smart was Drake?' TAKE IT FROM ME, DRAKE WAS A GENIUS. 

Why am I telling you this?

I HATE BEING A PARTY TO AN UNWARRANTED DECEPTION. This deception was warranted 400+ years ago but not now. It was never intended to end up deceiving people for this long. We were deceiving about 12 million Spanish that wanted to enslave England. Keeping it all a secret was the deception. It was as if we were keeping the information a secret from other countries because Drake was going to go back to the west coast of America and raid again. That enslaved the Spanish to both continuous fear and having to build and build and build their defenses on the west coast of Central and South America.  It f....d them up.

Now about a half a billion people who should know the truth are enslaved to this deception.  It's not the lack of knowing the truth which enslaves a person, that's just dissatisfying to the soul. What enslaves a person is believing a lie. In the case of Sir Francis Drake the world's children should aspire to be as smart and knowledgeable as he was. Not to want to be as violent as his legend. When they grow up those same children will assume that Francis came out on top since he was more violent than the Spanish when the truth was that he was more intelligent than any of them were. Nobody has ever caught on that it was his intelligence that won out except for you who has just now realized that his intellect was the reason.


I think the Spanish had three warships on the west coast of South America, but you only heard about the one which Drake promptly captured. One other he sent to the bottom of the sea and the other he burned in port. Since he had no reason to leave quickly he stayed around for a year and a half systematically stripping the entire Spanish Empire on the west coast of America. The Spanish sent lots of ships to the rescue but for a year and a half they all had to turn back because of storms at the Strait of Magellan. Drake did not bother to tell them, that in order to kill him, he had just discovered that they could completely avoid the strait and easily just sail around the tip of South America.

What did you think Francis Drake was doing for almost two years along the west coast of South America?  He hit almost 100 Spanish towns, outposts and mines.  He later related that he invaded  'every place with more than 10 Spanish dogs.'

I read up on his expedition and I see the truth never got printed. The history books say that he left America after a few months to putter around Indonesia for a year and a half

making promising commercial contacts, local political alliances and trading for spices Here

There is no evidence that happened. If he did spend 1 1/2 years in Indonesia then the time was entirely wasted because not a single thing came of any of it. There were no alliances made, no treaties signed and no trade with Indonesia resulted. How much more of a waste could it have been? He would have been far better off scooting right by Indonesia after spending that nearly 2 years in America raiding and plundering the Spanish settlements methodically up and down the entire west coast. And that is exactly what he did.

Now that I have again all but called your history teacher a liar I had better tell you why Drake did not spend any time at all in Indonesia. The reason was two fold. One was that his ships were completely filled with gold and jewels so he had no room for spices. However the real reason was time and survival. The Spanish had over 50 ships on the largest manhunt that had ever been organized looking for him. They had four ships just waiting for him at the Strait of Magellan and none waiting off the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. All the Catholic nations (and the Protestant ones because of the reward) were keeping an eye open for him and he had to get back before they figured out or were told that he was going around the world.

If he had spent any significant time dawdling on the way back the word would have gotten back to the Spanish and they would have moved those 50 ships across the Atlantic and nailed him. Most likely if it was summer at the Cape of Good Hope. The message that he was seen in Indonesia or elsewhere in Asia would have been carried by a much faster ship than his gold laden ones and the message would have taken a short cut across where the Suez Canal now is. Since Drake had to go all the way around Africa they would have been waiting for him and got him before he made it home.

ps shipWhen he was returning he usually traveled with his four ships in a flying V (which I only remember it because it was told to me often but I don't what it means) while flying a viceroy's flag and pretending to be a Spanish VIP.  Like the ship that Viceroy of Venice sailed to England on before Drake drew his sword on him which is on the other side of that medal which you might wish to reconsider buying. 

With 3 escorts to protect this alleged  viceroy nobody even considered getting in his way. He went right along the coast of Portugal and Spain like that. Hundreds of ships saw him before he ducked across the channel into English waters.

He said that many of the upper echelon of the Spanish empire had their favorite personal ships which were customized the way they like but were out of shape and laden with barnacles. They were happy with their old ships even though they only went at half speed. Everyone assumed that the largest of Drakes four ships was one such ship but the only reason it went so slow was because of all the stolen Spanish gold that Drake had on board three of the four ships.  The other 4th ship had about 50 cannons all securely fastened directly to the deck and they were placed only 6" apart. They were covered over with tarps. They were all loaded, leveled and aimed for 50 yards. He had about 14 20+ pound cannons that would pivot and cover both sides but the others were too big at over 30 pounds each. He could bring to bear 35 cannons on either side which would provide a point blank broadside. That would have blown anything out of the water that wanted to board them but nobody ever tried. They were loaded with large grape shot, chain shot and some that had an early barbell shaped shot but no regular cannon balls. The cannons were all fused together so that one man would set it all off and within 3 seconds all the cannons would fire slicing the top off of the Spanish ship, de mast it and kill everyone on the ship, even three decks down, everything in three seconds.

The first gun would jump and it took 1/10 second for it come back in place, then the next gun would immediately fire, etc. Each time the ship would list a little more and so the next gun was pointed a little lower, etc for all 35 guns. The last cannon was depressed about 15 degrees more than the first. He could have fired the guns all at once but the recoil would have torn his own ship apart. Even four at once would have torn off the deck.

This way 35 got fired in about three seconds and then he could immediately turn his ship and fire the other 15 heavy guns while the first 35 were being reloaded. He also had the regular compliment of ships cannons that he could adjust the range on.

Drake had tried that set up off of Africa three times to get everything right. They only used full charges and normal ammo for the last trial. They shot it into a jungle and it cut back the under brush about 600 yards taking down twenty coconut trees as well and then tore apart two barrels that had taken them about a day and a half to move 300 and the other 600 yards in the jungle. They mowed the jungle flat for almost a half a mile. It was cut so flat that they were able to just walk straight in and retrieve the two barrels in less than two hours. Except over an hour of it was spent just finding the pieces to the first barrel. The jungle had been cut so cleanly that the men on the ship could watch the other men look for the pieces at either 300 or 600 yards.

Death of the InquisitorHe had a few of the men just standing around on the deck dressed in a black Spanish uniforms that they found in Peru. They looked identical to the clothes that the Spanish Inquisition wore so they took them. They were similar to this one in Death of the Inquisitor (an action that I thoroughly approved of). Then nobody even wanted to talk with them so they never once had to speak Spanish.

Later they found out that the Spanish Inquisition had changed to a different uniform five years before, but guess what? The old uniforms had ended up in Peru so Drakes men had been wearing the old Spanish Inquisition clothes. Even the Spanish were more familiar with those than the new ones so they worked really well.

Francis Drake flew the flags of two other countries when he was east of the Indian Ocean where there were few Spanish ships. One was Dutch but also they raised the flag saying they had plague on board and not to come near. The other flag was that of a very unfriendly person and I think a Moslem Ruler from perhaps the Bengal area or south towards Indonesia who had been outfitted with western ships in trade for their spices.  If you sent messages to his ships and you were not an admiral or a king then it was beneath his dignity to respond. Drake traveled about 5,000 miles that way. 

I think the history books also lost about 3 of the 4 ships and they are missing that 5 years of gold.

The only reason Drake went west in the first place is because the Spanish thought that he was going to go east. Ariel was Drake in my play 'The Tempest'. Prospero was Queen Elizabeth of course and I was her daughter Miranda an heir to her throne.

Drake returned with 43 large chests (and barrels) full of gold. He did not have any room left on his ships for silver except for the 4 tons of silver coinage and six tons of bullion that were used as ballast. Then there was also 4 tons of gold bullion used as ballast. Even the steel cannonballs were scrapped in favor of silver ones at the rate of 30 to each cannon.


It took me about 2 minutes to remember this information, 25 minutes to jot it down and many hours to find all the references. In the middle of researching this I got sidetracked because of some date discrepancies and had to clear that up which took about another 40 or 50 minutes. I did not sit for four days thinking of all the different things 'Golden Hind' could mean, it just came to me as my mind can at times go out in a hundred different directions at once, that's all.  However, I was obviously not on the expedition so this was all told to me and it  is only what I believed and not all of this information is necessarily true. I was young and naive, in my late teens but most of the sources were quite reliable since they were from men who were on board the expedition. Francis Drake was like a father figure and he would kiss my hand and bow like I was older and more than just your typical starry eyed teenage girl.

It was one of Drakes crew that told me about the cannon ship and not Drake himself. I started to wonder if it might have been an exaggeration so I did the math. If you add the poundage of the 20 cannons that that were 30+ pounders and added 15 X 20 pounders and multiplied by 1.5 pounds since they reduced the charge for the closeness it meant they shot over 1,000 pounds of metal (in 3 seconds). That is the same amount of shrapnel that a modern 2,000 pound bomb produces but in all directions. Yet those big bombs produce a comparable amount of destruction. However the cannons were directional so the firing of  1,500 claymore mines all at one time would be a better comparison since that is how many it would take to chuck out 1000 pounds of metal in one direction. I don't think anyone in their right mind would stand in the way of what I am talking about here.

This is what happened when a good person laid their wealth and reputation on the line for Francis Drake. The money that was invested came back 47 fold.

The Queen was astounded by the tremendous quantity of silver, gold and jewels Drake had taken from the Spanish. Because she had personally invested 1,000 crowns in the venture, she received 47,000 crowns in return. This was enough money to pay off England’s foreign debt as well cover future expenses of the country for several years. Here

So it was very natural for us Cecil's to make huge investments in overseas trade and keep at it until we had put almost everything we had into building up England's empire through international trade.

There was also 2 1/2 large chests full of jewels and 1 large chest of the most beautiful gold and gemstone jewelry. You should have seen that mountain of jewelry when he poured it out in front of the queen on her throne. It was a glittering mountain of gold and color that we danced around for most of the afternoon.

Sir Francis Drake stuck it out as the 'temporary' Governor of all of the west coast of both Central and South America for over 1 1/2 years. He had full control of the operating Spanish mines and foundries as well as the treasuries and personal wealth of everyone including the Spanish officials....who he often put to worl in the mines. That was a lot of loot.



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