Sir John Hawkins Portrait

Sir John Hawkins Portrait


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Sir John Hawkins Portrait - History

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The Business of Enslavement

John Hawkins was born in Plymouth, Devon into a trading and seafaring family. His father William was the first Englishman to visit the Guinea coast of West Africa in the 1530s.

By 1561, Hawkins had made several voyages to the Canary Islands and heard about the possibility of trading slaves between West Africa and the Spanish Caribbean colonies. He made a first exploratory voyage in 1562-1563 with financial backing from London merchants and government officials and the support of Elizabeth I. He sailed down the West African coast capturing about 300 people, some from Portuguese slave ships. He then crossed the Atlantic and sold his captives in Hispaniola, and made a handsome profit for his investors.

Hawkins made two further slave trading voyages in 1564-1565 and 1567-1569. Both were semi-official, organised by William Cecil and given royal support. Hawkins chartered Royal Navy ships and sailed under the royal standard. He was given financial backing by London merchants and senior courtiers, including the queen's favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. On his return, Elizabeth granted Hawkins a coat of arms with 'a demi-Moor bound and captive'. On his third voyage, which included the young Francis Drake in the crew, Hawkins enslaved more than 400 people from West Africa. Despite fighting with the Spanish off the coast of Mexico, losing ships and men, and making no profit, Hawkins' reputation did not suffer.

From 1571 to 1581, Hawkins was MP for Plymouth and in 1577 he became treasurer of the navy, a post his father-in-law had held before him. He was knighted in July 1588 for his services against the Spanish Armada. He and Drake took the lead in founding a pioneering scheme of social insurance known as the Chatham Chest, in which a percentage of seamen's wages was used to establish a fund for injured, disabled and elderly sailors.

In 1595 ,Hawkins left England with Sir Francis Drake on another treasure hunting expedition to the West Indies, but he died off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Hawkins had proved that it was possible to extend the triangular trade between Britain, West Africa and Brazil to a new and potentially valuable commodity - African slaves. He also showed that trading in human beings was not an impediment to success in British society. Within a few decades of his death, Britain had joined the Portuguese, Dutch and French as leading European slave traders.


Sir John Hawkins Portrait - History

He died 12 November 1595 while at sea on a voyage to the West Indies

(The original spelling has been retained. As is customary, no punctuation has been used throughout the will)

SIR JOHN HAWKINS of London Knt

I bequeath £50 among the poor householders of Plimouth, £50 to the poor householders of the parish of St. Dunstan's in the East London where I dwell and £50 to the poor householders of Deptford where I dwell

The SUM Of £2000 jointure of my wife Lady Margaret to be first satisfied by my executors, also £1000 which I bequeath to her in augmentation of her jointure & in recompense of her dower I give to her so much of my plate as shall amount to the value of £200 to be chosen at her pleasure, also so much of my household stuff out of my house in Mincing Lane & other my houses in Deptford as shall amount to £300, also all such jewels as heretofore I bestowed upon her

I give and bequeath to my dread Sovereign Ladie the Queen's most excellent Majestie that now is (to be delivered by my said wife) as a testimony of my true zeal and Loyalty a Jewell of the value of 200 marks

To my very good Lord William Lord Burghlie High Treasurer of England the sum of £100

To my very good Lord Charles Lord Howard of Effingham High Admiral of England my best diamond worth £100 or so much money in gold

To Sir John Fortescue Knt. Chancellor of the Exchequer £50

To my very good Cousin Sir Francis Drake Knt my best jewell which is a Cross of Emoroldes

To Sir Henry Palmer Knt. a diamond worth £20

To John Heale £50 to be one of the Overseers of this my will

To Benjamin Gunston my brother-in-law my best bason & ewer of silver & gilt, or in lieu of it £50

To Edward Fenton Esq. & to Thomasine his wife my brother & sister in law £50 which she doth owe me

To Robert Peterson & Ursula his wife my brother & sister in law £20

(A lost list of legacies to servants and friends followed here)

100 marks each to every of the sons (now living) of my late brother Wm Hawkins Esq by Mary his 2nd wife, also £50 to each of the daughters of my said brother by both his wives

To my servant Roger Langforde an annuity of £20 during such term as he shall be employed going through my accounts with her Majestie which accounts I willed him to follow by the direction of my wife and of my son Richard Hawkins

Whereas I have assured all my lands, tenements & hereditaments within the Realme of England to Sir Henry Palmer Knt. Thomas Hughs of Gray's Inn Esq. Hughe Vaughan of the parish of St. Giles without Creplegate London, and Richard Reynell of the Middle Temple Esq. I therefore will & devise them to assure unto my wife my house in London wherein I now dwell for the term of her life the remainder thereof to my son Richard Hawkins & his heirs male for lack of such issue to my wife the Lady Margaret Hawkins & her heirs for ever In like manner I do devise that the said Sir Henry Palmer and his Cobargainzees their heirs shall assure to my said son the moiety of the house with the appurtenances of the garden, stable, cellars, the pallace, the wharf and forge house upon the said wharf in Plymouth that he now occupieth to hold to him & his heirs lawfully begotten the remainder thereof in tail to the heirs of my said brother William Hawkins by Mary his second wife with remainder in tail to the heirs of my said brother by his first wife with re­mainder to my own right heirs for ever

In like manner Sir Henry Palmer & his Cobargainzees shall assure to the eldest son of my late brother by the said Marie the moiety of the dwelling house with the appurtenances in Plymouth wherein Warwick Heale Esq. & the said Marie now or lately dwelt and the moiety of the garden the tower house to it the shop the &lsquo bruehouse&rsquo backhouse, the sellers upon the wharfe before the house, the moietie of the Crane And my parte of the gardeine and Orcharde in the Howe lane And my moitie of the stable to have & to hold to him & his heirs with remainder in tail to the next heir male of my said brother by the said Marie for default of such heir the remainder in tail to my son Richard Hawkins, with remainder to the next heir of my said brother with remainder to my own right heirs for ever

All the rest of my lands in Plymouth I bequeath to my son Richard Hawkins & his heirs males with divers remainders upon condition that my son within one year next after my death doe graunt & assure ten pounds rent charge yearly out of it to the Mayor & Cominaltie of Plymouth, or the Corporation of Plymouth if they may lawfully take it if not to the Overseers of this my last will & to their heirs to the use & to be paid to the poor for the time being in the Almeshouses there for ever

I will that my feoffees do go through with the erection of my hospital at Chatham. & provision of living for the same according to such directions as I shall give them if during mine own life I do not perform & parficte that work

I give & bequeath unto the children of my late brother William Hawkins a full fifth part of all such adventure and portion of mine as shall return to my use profit & benefit from the Seas in mine and Sir Frauncis Drackes viage and the like fifth part of mine adventure & portion which I have at the seas with my said son Richard Hawkins in the ship called the Daintie and in the rest of his shipps And the like fifth part of all mine adventure which I have at seas with Sir Walter Rawleighe Knt in his ship called the Rowbucke or Malcontent the same fifth parts to be equally divided amongst all the children of my said brother by both his wives and delivered to them within convenient time after the return of every of the said adventures And I do referr it to the further discretion of my well beloved wife to enlarge the said portions & to bestow more on the said children as God shall bless the returns of the said adventures which I hope she will liberally do if the same adventures by the death of my said son do happen to come wholly to her

To every child which William Hawkins the eldest son of my said brother shall have living at the time of my decease £100

I will that my Executors do bestow £50 on a " Tumbe " over me & the said Lady Katherine my first wife (if I do it not myself)

The residue of all my lands, tenements, leases & mortgages 1 give to my Executors, & all my leases, goods & chattels whatsoever I give to my wife & my son Richard Hawkins whome 1 doe jointly ordaine & make my executors.

To Judith Hawkins the wife & to Judith Hawkins the daughter of the said Ric. Hawkins the sum of £1500 to be paid to Thomas Heale Esq. of Fleete in Devonshire, to be employed by him to the best benefit of them both

I constitute Lawrence Hussey Dr. of Civil Law, John Heale Serjeant-at-­Law, & Hugh Vaughan to be Overseers of this my will

In witness whereof I have set my hand & seal the 3rd day of March, 37 Eliz. [1594]. Sealed & delivered in the presence of Richard Colthurst, John Wanler, Ed: Fawkner, Walther Wood, Edwa: Lawrance, John Hawkins

Whereas by my will 1 have ordained my wife & my son my Executors forasmuch as the said Richard Hawkins is supposed to be taken detained prisoner in the Indies therefore my mind & will is if the said Richard shall not return into this Realme of England within the space of three years to commence & immediately ensue after the xxth day of December next coming after the date of my said will That then and thenceforth the said Dame Margaret shall be my whole & sole Exequutrix & that then the executorship & all legacies of any of my goods &c. by the said will given to the said Richard shall cease & be void saving only then the sum of £3000 1 will my said Executrix shall pay for & towards his redemption and ransome if therewith only, or otherwith together with other supply or means he may be redeemed & not otherwise

I give to the two eldest sons of the right honorable the Lord Charles Howard Lord High Admiral of England the debt which his Lordship oweth me being near £700

I bequeath a further sum of £50 each to the poor of Plymouth, St. Dunstans, and Deptford

To Judith & Cleere daughters of my said late brother £200 each over above the legacies formerly bequeathed to them


Despite its shaky legal and moral foundation, the practice of privateering formed a key part of Elizabeth’s naval strategy as she developed a ‘supplementary navy’ to help bring piracy on the seas – then in its so-called ‘Golden Age’ – under control. Pirates and freebooters roamed coastal waters virtually unchallenged, plundering ships in the Atlantic, Caribbean and ever-closer to home which resulted in heavy losses for English commerce.

Essentially a privateer was a privately owned merchant ship (or an individual serving aboard it) equipped at their own expense, that had been commissioned by the Crown with a Letter of Marque to legitimately (used in its loosest sense here) take or raid vessels belonging to an enemy government. Proceeds from the captured ships and their loot were then divided between the shipowners, captains and crew with a percentage of the bounty given back to the government.

As Anglo-Spanish relations to deteriorate during her reign, Elizabeth went one step further in authorising a branch of privateers – the Sea Dogs – as a way to bridge the gap between the Spanish and English navies. The Sea Dogs would sail around and attack the Spanish fleets, picking off and looting ships in order to bring back treasure whilst simultaneously significantly reducing the size of the Spanish navy. By 1585 hostilities with Spain had reached boiling point and war was imminent. The Crown lacked sufficient funds to build an efficient navy, but privateering helped subsidise state power by mobilising armed ships and sailors.

Having been authorised by the Crown, the plundering of Spanish ships by the privateers was technically legal in England – despite the countries not officially being at war with one another. Unsurprisingly, the Spanish did not see things the same way. To them Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs were nothing more than lawless pirates.

Here we present some of Queen Elizabeth’s most notable Sea Dogs:

Sir John Hawkins (Hawkyns)

Sea rover John Hawkins (1532-1595) was born in Plymouth into a wealthy and sea-faring family. Hawkins’ father was captain who traded overseas and when he died he left a small fleet of ships to his two sons. As he was growing up Hawkins would sail with his father on trading trips and evidently learned about the sea, but his interest lay in slave trading. Despite being known as ‘England’s first slave trader’, Hawkins was not the first to bring slaves back to England but was one of the first to profit from the Triangle Trade, selling supplies to colonies ill-supplied by their home countries and the demand for African slaves in the Spanish colonies in the Americas. Hawkins made several financially lucrative slave trade voyages in the 1560s and in 1564 Queen Elizabeth I invested in him by leasing the 700-ton ship Jesus of Lübeck along with three smaller ships for a more extensive voyage.

Hawkins sailed with his cousin (and soon-to-be Sea Dog) Francis Drake to the West African coast in order to capture slaves for trade in the Caribbean and South America, privateering along the way. Hawkins’ third voyage began in 1567 he and Drake obtained more African slaves for trade and apparently took and looted seven Portuguese ships. The fleet managed to sell most of the slaves at Spanish ports in the Americas using bribery and force, but on the way home encountered a major storm and had to stop to repair and refit. Whilst anchored in the port of San Juan de Ulúa to carry out this re-provisioning the fleet encountered a strong Spanish escort fleet under the command of Don Francisco Luján. Having been informed of Hawkins’s trade, which the Spanish deemed illegal and systematic, Luján attacked Hawkins’s fleet, considering them to be pirates. The Spanish destroyed all but two of the English ships – Minion and Judith – and t he voyage home was a miserable one with starvation, dehydration and disease all rife.

Despite only being involved in the slave trade for around five years, Hawkins enslaved between 1,200 and 1,400 people and made so much money that Queen Elizabeth I granted him a special coat of arms which prominently featured a bound slave. Following this third and final voyage, Hawkins turned his attention to counter-espionage for the English government and in 1571 entered Parliament as MP for Plymouth and was later appointed Treasurer of the Royal Navy in 1578. Whilst in charge of the Navy, Hawkins instigated financial reforms and was determined that England should have the best fleet of ships in the world, as well as the best seamen. He petitioned and won a pay increase for sailors and made important improvements in ship construction and rigging resulting in faster more manoeuvrable ships, the effects of which were tested against the Spanish Armada in 1588. Hawkins, as Rear Admiral, was one of the main commanders of the English fleet against the Armada alongside Francis Drake and Martin Frobisher and received a battlefield knighthood for his role in the great sea battle.

In the 1590s he and Drake founded a charity and hospitals to care for sick and elderly mariners and in 1595 he accompanied Drake on a treasure-hunting voyage to the West Indies, during which both men fell sick. Hawkins died at sea off Puerto Rico on 12 November 1595.

Sir Martin Frobisher

Born c. 1535, Frobisher is believed to be the son of merchant Bernard Frobisher of Altofts, Yorkshire, but was raised and educated in London by his uncle Sir John York, a merchant of the City of London and Master of the Mint. Having acquainted himself with London seamen and developed an interest in exploration and navigation, Frobisher first went to sea as a cabin boy in 1544.

His travels truly began in the 1550s when he explored Africa’s northwest coast, particularly Guinea. However, in 1554 he was captured by the Portuguese and spent some time in captivity before setting up business as a merchant in Morocco. In 1555 Frobisher became a privateer, authorised by the English Crown to plunder enemy ships. Frobisher soon gained a reputation for preying on French trading ships off the coast of Guinea and was arrested several times on piracy charges, but never tried.

Like many explorers of the time Frobisher’s ultimate goal was to discover the fabled Northwest Passage – a sea route above North America linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans – as a trade route to Cathay (India and China). Frobisher worked on obtaining funding for his expedition for five years, finally convincing the Muscovy Company, an English merchant consortium, to license his journey. With the help of the Muscovy Company’s director, Michael Lok, Frobisher raised enough capital for three vessels – Gabriel, Michael and an unnamed pinnace – and a crew of 35.

Frobisher set sail on the first of three attempts to find the Northwest Passage on 7 June 1576. The pinnace was lost in a storm and Michael later abandoned, but on 28 July 1576, Gabriel sighted the coast of Labrador. Frobisher managed to reach Resolution Island, one of many uninhabited Canadian arctic islands, which he thought might have been the entrance to the passage. Instead he had actually discovered a bay on the south of Baffin Island which is now known as Frobisher Bay. Here the expedition met some local Inuit and five of Frobisher’s men were kidnapped, never to be seen again. Returning home, Frobisher reached London on 9 October. Included in the items he brought back was a piece of black stone, an ore which was believed to contain gold.

The potential discovery of gold was enough for Frobisher’s backers to fund further voyages. For his second voyage in 1577 he had additional funding, ships and men. He returned with 200 tons of the black ore, which turned out to be worthless iron pyrite or ‘fool’s gold’ that was eventually used for road repairs in Kent. Queen Elizabeth I had faith in the fertility of this newly-discovered territory, so sent Frobisher back for a third, much larger, expedition consisting of 15 vessels and items to establish a 100-man colony. It was during this third voyage in 1578 that Frobisher visited Greenland and returned with some iron nails, which suggested that other European sailors had reached Greenland before him. Frobisher and his men failed to establish a settlement due to discontent and dissension and returned to England.

Disillusioned after failing to find anything of value and forced to seek other employment, Frobisher returned to military action. A shrewd leader of men and masterful commander, he was given the command of Primrose on Drake’s attacks on the West Indies between September 1585 and July 1586, where he served as Vice Admiral. In 1587 Frobisher was given the command of the Channel fleet during the Spanish Armada and in 1588 commanded Triumph, leading one of four naval squadrons under Lord Howard of Effingham. He was knighted as a result of his leadership during the Armada.

Between 1589 and 1592 Frobisher made three expeditions to the Azores, capturing a number of valuable Spanish ships and in 1594 he commanded a force sent to aid the Huguenots at Brest. He received a gunshot wound during the Siege of Fort Crozon, a Spanish-held fortress and died on 15 November 1594.

Sir Francis Drake

Born in Crowndale, near Tavistock in Devon c.1540, Francis Drake was one of the most profitable and successful Sea Dogs of all time. The eldest of 12 children, in 1563 Drake made his first voyage to the Americas, sailing with his cousin John Hawkins. He made three voyages with this fleet, attacking Portuguese towns and ships on the coast of West Africa and capturing slaves which were sold to Spanish settlers in the ‘New World’. In 1568 Drake took part in the Battle of San Juan de Ulúa, returning to Plymouth with gold and silver worth over £40,000 and in 1570 and 1571 he made two voyages to the West Indies, seizing gold and silver in the Americas and Atlantic, continuing to attack Spanish treasure ships. The Spanish were to become a lifelong enemy for Drake they in turn considered him a pirate, branding him El Draque (The Dragon).

Drake embarked upon his first major independent enterprise, planning an attack on the Spanish Main at Nombre de Dios, a valuable port target which stored valuable silver and treasures from Peru. Drake left Plymouth on 24 May 1572 with a crew of 73 men in two small vessels, Pascha and Swan. He managed to successfully capture the town in the first raid in July 1572, but he and several of his men were wounded by musket fire and unable to get the treasure. To prevent total failure Drake and his men continued raiding Spanish ships for almost a year. In March 1573 Drake captured the Spanish Silver Train at Nombre de Dios, looting around 20 tons of silver and gold and by 9 August 1573 he had returned to Plymouth. During this expedition he climbed a tree in the central mountains of the Isthmus of Panama, becoming the first Englishman to see the Pacific Ocean.

Drake’s success did not go unnoticed. Capturing the attention of Queen Elizabeth I and her Privy Council members, Drake was enlisted to start an expedition against the Spanish along the Pacific coast of the Americas. Crucially Elizabeth issued no formal commission, so Drake’s exploits were tantamount to piracy. Setting out on 15 November 1577, Drake and his fleet were forced to take refuge in Falmouth due to bad weather. Following the setback, Drake set sail again on 13 December aboard Pelican with four other ships and 164 men. A sixth ship was soon added when they captured Mary (formerly Santa Maria) a Portuguese merchant ship near the Cape Verde Islands. The next landfall was Brazil, but along the way Drake and his co-commander Thomas Doughty became enemies. On 3 June 1578 Drake accused Doughty of witchcraft and charged him with mutiny and treason in a shipboard trial. Doughty was beheaded on 2 July 1578 and Drake apparently held up the head and told the assembled crew: ‘This is the end of traitors.’

Continuing towards the Magellan Strait at the southern tip pf South America, Drake and his remaining convoy made it to the Pacific Ocean in September 1578. Violent storms destroyed the Marigold and caused another, Elizabeth, to return to England. Now reduced to just one ship, Pelican (now re-named Golden Hind in honour of Sir Christopher Hatton), Drake sailed up the Pacific coast of South America, raiding and capturing ships as he went. Landing on the coast of California in June 1579 he claimed the land for the English Crown, calling it Nova Albion (Latin for ‘New Britain’). From here Drake left the Pacific coast and headed southwest reaching the Moluccas, a group of islands in eastern modern-day Indonesia, a few months later. After further adventures Drake and his men made multiple stops on their way towards the tip of Africa. They eventually rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached Sierra Leone on 22 July 1580. Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth on 26 September with Drake, 59 remaining crew and a rich cargo of spices and captured treasures aboard – those who survived the voyage had been away for almost three years. During the expedition Golden Hind had become the first ship to sail into the Pacific Ocean and by the time he returned Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and the voyage became only the second circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition ever (after the Magellan-Elcano expedition). Seven months after his return Queen Elizabeth I knighted Drake aboard the Golden Hind and in September 1581 he became Mayor of Plymouth.

In 1585 Drake sailed to the West Indies in command of 21 ships with 1,800 soldiers under Christopher Carleill to attack the Spanish colonies. On his return voyage he picked up the unsuccessful colonists of Roanoake Island, the first English colony ion the New World. In 1587 war with Spain was imminent and in a preemptive strike Drake sailed a fleet into the ports of Cadiz and Corunna, occupying the harbours and destroying Spanish naval and merchant ships, ultimately delaying the Spanish invasion by a year. In 1588 Drake was a vice admiral in the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada alongside John Hawkins and Martin Frobisher. According to legend, Drake was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when the Spanish fleet was first sighted. In 1595 he joined his cousin Hawkins on an ill-fated voyage to the West Indies, during which he suffered a number of defeats. Drake died of dysentery in January 1596 and was buried at sea.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh) was born into a well-connected family at Hayes Barton, Devon c. 1552. The half-brother of explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert, nephew of Sir Francis Drake (through his first wife Alice) and brother-in-law of sailor Sir Richard Grenville, he attended Oriel College, Oxford, for a time before leaving to volunteer his services fighting with the Huguenots in the French religious civil wars. Finishing his education at the Inns of Court, in 1575 he was registered at the Middle Temple, although at his trial in 1603 he stated that he had never studied law.

Raleigh attempted to sail to North America with his half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1578 but their fleet was hit by storms and forced back to port some six months later. The only vessel to have penetrated the Atlantic by any great distance was Falcon under Raleigh’s command.

Between 1579 and 1583, Raleigh took part in the suppression of the Desmond Rebellions, in the Irish province of Munster. Present at the Siege of Smerwick, Raleigh led the party that beheaded some 600 Spanish and Italian soldiers. He received 40,000 acres upon the seizure and distribution of land following the attainders arising from the rebellion, including the coastal walled towns of Youghal and Lismore. This made him one of the principal landowners in Munster, although he had limited success inducing English tenants to settle on his estates.

Having come to the attention of Elizabeth I following his help in suppressing the uprising in Munster, he rose rapidly in the favour of Queen. In 1584 Raleigh entered parliament for Devon and Elizabeth granted him a royal charter authorising him to explore, colonise and rule settlements in the New World in return for a percentage of all the gold and silver which would be mined there. He never visited North America himself, but was instrumental in paving the way for future English settlements. I n 1585, the same year that he was knighted by the Queen, he sponsored the first English colony in America on Roanoake Island. This colony failed and a further attempt at colonisation also failed in 1587.

Appointed Captain of the Queen’s Guard in 1587, Raleigh was never far from Elizabeth’s side. However, in 1591 he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton , one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. When Elizabeth discovered the marriage in 1592 both he and his wife were imprisoned in the Tower of London . Eventually released, he remained banished from court for a number of years, but returned to Parliament. It was several years before Raleigh returned to favour. In 1595 he set off on an unsuccessful expedition to find El Dorado, the fabled city rumoured to be located beyond the mouth of the Orinoco River.

In 1596, Raleigh took part in, and was wounded at, the Capture of Cadiz . He also served as the rear admiral of a voyage to the Azores in 1597. Chosen as the Member of Parliament for Dorset in 1597, and Cornwall in 1601, Raleigh was unique in the Elizabethan period in sitting for three different counties. In 1600 he became governor of Jersey, doing much to improve the island’s trade. Yet in 1603, following Queen Elizabeth’s death, he was accused of plotting against her successor, James I of England and VI of Scotland, and arrested. After a suicide attempt, Raleigh was tried at Winchester, found guilty and condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment when he was on the scaffold. Sent back to the Tower of London, he turned to writing and scientific study.

In 1616 Raleigh was released again to lead a second expedition to search for El Dorado, but it was a failure and he also defied the King’s orders by attacking the Spanish. Upon his return to England the death sentence was reinstated and Raleigh was executed on 29 October 1618 at Whitehall.


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John Hawkins elder brother and trading partner was William Hawkins (b. c. 1519). He was considered the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade, based on selling supplies to colonies ill-supplied by their home countries, and their demand for African slaves in the Spanish colonies of Santo Domingo and Venezuela in the late 16th century. He styled himself "Captain General" as the General of both his own flotilla of ships and those of the English Royal Navy and to distinguish himself from those Admirals that served only in the administrative sense and were not military in nature. His death and that of his second cousin and mentoree, Sir Francis Drake, heralded the decline of the Royal Navy for decades before its recovery and eventual dominance again helped by the propaganda of the Navy's glory days under his leadership. ΐ]

He became a sea captain and in 1562 became the first Englishman to start capturing people in Sierra Leona and selling them as slaves to Spanish settlers in the Caribbean. The following year his cousin, Francis Drake, joined him in these activities. As it was illegal for the settlers to buy from foreigners, Hawkins and Drake soon came into conflict with the Spanish authorities. Α]

In May to July 1563 he was appointed to the command of the Narrow Seas Squadron as Rear-Admiral of the Narrow Seas. On 2 June 1567, he was appointed to the office of Clerk of the Acts, but did not succeed. From 1577 to 1595 he was appointed Treasurer of Marine Causes in charge of the Navy Pay Office. He was believed to have been appointed Clerk Comptroller of the Navy in 1589[citation needed] of the Royal Navy, Hawkins rebuilt older ships and helped design the faster ships that withstood the Spanish Armada in 1588. One of the foremost seamen of 16th-century England, Hawkins was the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy. Β]

In the battle in which the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588, Hawkins served as a Vice-Admiral. He was knighted for gallantry. He later devised the naval blockade to intercept Spanish treasure ships leaving Mexico and South America. Γ] In November 1595 he was posthumously promoted to the rank of Admiral. Δ]

In 1595 Hawkins accompanied his second cousin Sir Francis Drake on a treasure-hunting voyage to the West Indies. They twice attacked San Juan in Puerto Rico, but could not defeat its defences. During the voyage they both fell sick. Hawkins died on 12 November 1595, and was buried at sea off Puerto Rico. Drake succumbed to disease, most likely dysentery, on 27 January, and was buried at sea somewhere off the coast of Portobelo in Panama. Hawkins was succeeded by his son Sir Richard Hawkins.


Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins: Slave trade story behind Plymouth figures on Britain's Most Historic Towns

Channel 4&aposs &aposBritain&aposs Most Historic Towns&apos fourth episode aired tonight, and it looked at the significance of Plymouth in the Elizabethan era.

It&aposs difficult to look back to that time in Plymouth&aposs history without coming across two names in particular - Sir John Hawkins, and Sir Francis Drake, two cousins from South Devon who became infamous for a number of reasons.

Sir John Hawkins was arguably one of England&aposs first ever slave traders, transporting Africans for enforced labour to the Americas in the 1500s, joined on an early voyage by Francis Drake, who played his own part in the slave trade.

Both Hawkins and Drake&aposs histories were placed under the microscope earlier this year when the Black Lives Matter movement swept across the world following the murder of George Floyd in the USA.

After Edward Colston&aposs statue in Bristol was toppled by protesters, capturing the attention of the nation, people started to look into other famous figures and their true history, which brought the spotlight to Francis Drake.

Back in June the point was made by protesters and petitions that Sir Francis&apos involvement in the slave trade had not been appropriately acknowledged in the history books, or on the statues themselves.

You can stay up to date on the top news near you with PlymouthLive&aposs FREE newsletters – find out more about our range of daily and weekly bulletins and sign up here

Statues of Drake on Plymouth Hoe and in Tavistock town centre came under fire as protesters and petitioners called for the statues to be taken down, but it wasn&apost long before counter petitions opposed the idea, highlighting the fact that Sir Francis had been credited with much more than just his involvement in the slave trade.

Episode four of Britain&aposs Most Historic Towns, which focuses on Plymouth, takes a closer look at the infamous duo, acknowledging them as the heavily flawed individuals that they were, and explored their connection with Queen Elizabeth I - the monarch at that time.

It talks about the fact that John Hawkins&apos actions regarding the slave trade were "effectively sanctioned" by Queen Elizabeth I, who awarded Sir John a coat of arms with a bound slave at the top.

John Hawkins was a cousin of Drake, but has also been credited as his mentor. Thought to be England&aposs first slave trader, Hawkins&apos history also came into the limelight this year, when protesters called for a part of Plymouth named after him to be renamed.

What was formerly known as Sir John Hawkins Square in Plymouth&aposs city centre is now in the process of being renamed. Plymouth City Council wants to drop the name because of Hawkins’ association with the 16th Century slave trade, and call the area after black footballer Jack Leslie, one of Plymouth Argyle&aposs greatest players and scorer of 133 goals.

But there were a number of objections, and Plymouth businessman Danny Bamping submitted an appeal against the decision which was heard at Plymouth Magistrates&apos Court on earlier this month.

The council denies the claims from Mr Bamping, and the court heard evidence setting out its case that it had properly followed its policies, national guidelines and the law governing street naming as laid out in the 1925 Public Health Act.


Portrait of Sir John Hawkins.

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  • any materials distributed outside your organization
  • any materials distributed to the public (such as advertising, marketing)

Because collections are continually updated, Getty Images cannot guarantee that any particular item will be available until time of licensing. Please carefully review any restrictions accompanying the Licensed Material on the Getty Images website, and contact your Getty Images representative if you have a question about them. Your EZA account will remain in place for a year. Your Getty Images representative will discuss a renewal with you.

By clicking the Download button, you accept the responsibility for using unreleased content (including obtaining any clearances required for your use) and agree to abide by any restrictions.


For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

  • Rights Advisory: Rights status not evaluated. For general information see "Copyright and Other Restrictions . " https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/195_copr.html
  • Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-51020 (b&w film copy neg.)
  • Call Number: BIOG FILE [item] [P&P]
  • Access Advisory: ---

Obtaining Copies

If an image is displaying, you can download it yourself. (Some images display only as thumbnails outside the Library of Congress because of rights considerations, but you have access to larger size images on site.)

Alternatively, you can purchase copies of various types through Library of Congress Duplication Services.

  1. If a digital image is displaying: The qualities of the digital image partially depend on whether it was made from the original or an intermediate such as a copy negative or transparency. If the Reproduction Number field above includes a reproduction number that starts with LC-DIG. then there is a digital image that was made directly from the original and is of sufficient resolution for most publication purposes.
  2. If there is information listed in the Reproduction Number field above: You can use the reproduction number to purchase a copy from Duplication Services. It will be made from the source listed in the parentheses after the number.

If only black-and-white ("b&w") sources are listed and you desire a copy showing color or tint (assuming the original has any), you can generally purchase a quality copy of the original in color by citing the Call Number listed above and including the catalog record ("About This Item") with your request.

Price lists, contact information, and order forms are available on the Duplication Services Web site.

Access to Originals

Please use the following steps to determine whether you need to fill out a call slip in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room to view the original item(s). In some cases, a surrogate (substitute image) is available, often in the form of a digital image, a copy print, or microfilm.

Is the item digitized? (A thumbnail (small) image will be visible on the left.)

  • Yes, the item is digitized. Please use the digital image in preference to requesting the original. All images can be viewed at a large size when you are in any reading room at the Library of Congress. In some cases, only thumbnail (small) images are available when you are outside the Library of Congress because the item is rights restricted or has not been evaluated for rights restrictions.
    As a preservation measure, we generally do not serve an original item when a digital image is available. If you have a compelling reason to see the original, consult with a reference librarian. (Sometimes, the original is simply too fragile to serve. For example, glass and film photographic negatives are particularly subject to damage. They are also easier to see online where they are presented as positive images.)
  • No, the item is not digitized. Please go to #2.

Do the Access Advisory or Call Number fields above indicate that a non-digital surrogate exists, such as microfilm or copy prints?

  • Yes, another surrogate exists. Reference staff can direct you to this surrogate.
  • No, another surrogate does not exist. Please go to #3.

To contact Reference staff in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room, please use our Ask A Librarian service or call the reading room between 8:30 and 5:00 at 202-707-6394, and Press 3.


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