The Tudor Society

13 December – Sir Francis Drake sets off

On this day in Tudor history, 13th December 1577, pirate, sea captain, and explorer Sir Francis Drake finally left the port of Plymouth on his circumnavigation of the Globe.

I have spoken about this voyage and Drake's life and career in previous talks (see below), so today I share a letter written by Drake to Sir Francis Walsingham. He really did have a wonderful way with words.

Also on this day in history:

  • 1558 – Death of William Clyffe, civil lawyer and one of the authors of the 1537 “Bishops' Book” or “The Godly and Pious Institution of a Christian Man”. Clyffe's expertise on marriage and divorce law led to convocation seeking his advice regarding Henry VIII's Great Matter.
  • 1561 – Death of Lawrence Dalton, Richmond Herald, Rouge Croix Pursuivant and Norroy King of Arms. He was buried at St Dunstan-in-the-West, London.


On this day in Tudor history, 13th December 1577, pirate, sea captain, and explorer Sir Francis Drake finally left the port of Plymouth, on the south Devon coast, with his fleet of five ships. This voyage would be a historic one and would see him circumnavigating the Globe. He was not the first man to do this, but Drake was the first Englishman to do it.

I give a rundown of this voyage in my talk from 26th September, the anniversary of Drake’s return in 1580, so I’ll give you a link to that, and also my talk on Drake’s life. But today I thought I’d honour this interesting Tudor chap by sharing a letter that Drake wrote to Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth I, in May 1587, following his singeing of the king of Spain’s beard, i.e. his attack on the Spanish fleet in the harbour of Cadiz which meant that Spain had to postpone their planned attack on England. Drake wrote:

“There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory. If Hannibal had followed his victories, it is thought of many he had never been take by Scipio.
God make us all thankful again and again that we have, although it be little, made a beginning upon the coast of Spain. If we can thoroughly believe that this which we do is in the defence of our religion and country, no doubt but out merciful God for his Christ, our Saviour’s sake, is able, and will give us victory, although our sins be reed. God give us grace that we may fear him, and daily to call upon him, so shall neither Satan, nor his ministers prevail against us; although God permit you to be touched in body, yet the Lord will hold his mind pure.”

He had a real way with words, don’t you think?

Here are two more videos on Drake:

Only 1 comment so far Go To Comment

  1. R

    He had a way with words and he did achieve much but he was also a slaver and a rogue and big trouble, but he is still a national hero.

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13 December – Sir Francis Drake sets off