The Tudor Society

27 April – A Tudor and Stuart adventurer

On this day in history, actually in the Stuart period, 27th April 1609, Sir Edward Michelborne, member of Parliament, soldier and adventurer, died.

He'd survived an unsuccessful naval campaign against the Spanish, being implicated in a rebellion, and an attack by pirates, to die a natural death at his home in Hackney.

Find out more about Sir Edward Michelborne in today's talk.

You can find out more about the Japanese pirate attack on the Tiger in my video from 29th December:

On this day in 1536, in the fall of Anne Boleyn, writs were issued summoning Parliament and according to Eustace Chapuys, a bishop was consulted regarding whether Henry VIII could abandon his second wife, Anne Boleyn. What was going on? Find out in my video:

Also on this day in Tudor history, 27th April 1584, civil lawyer and judge, David Lewis, died in London. You can find out more about him in last year’s video:


27 April
On this day in history, actually in the Stuart period, 27th April 1609, Sir Edward Michelborne, member of Parliament, soldier and adventurer, died. He’d become ill in January that year and made his will in March.
Who was this Michelborne? Let me give you an overview of his life and career…
• Sir Edward Michelborne was born in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, in around 1562, and he was the eldest son of landowner Edward Michelborne of Sussex and his first wife Jane Farnfold.
• In 1580, at around the age of 18, Edward entered Gray’s Inn, in London, one of the four inns of the court.
• At some point, Edward married Anne Shelley of Pelham in Sussex and the couple went on to have two sons, Edward and Richard.
• In 1591, he served as a soldier in the Netherlands.
• He served as a Member of Parliament for Bramber in Sussex in 1593.
• In 1597, under the patronage of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and one of the queen’s favourites, Michelborne commanded a warship named the Moone on a voyage which has become known as the Islands Voyage or the Essex-Raleigh Expedition. It was an unsuccessful naval campaign sent to the Azores against the Spanish.
• In 1598, Michelborne was back in the Netherlands serving as a captain. He left there in the spring of 1599 and went to Ireland to serve under Essex, who had been appointed Lord Lieutenant there. Essex knighted him in Dublin the summer of 1599.
• In late 1599, Thomas Sackville, 1st Baron Buckhurst, who also acted as a patron to Michelborne, recommended Michelborne for the post of principal commander for the maiden voyage of the newly formed East India Company, but he was unsuccessful, although Michelborne was allowed to invest.
• His patron Essex led an unsuccessful rebellion against the government in February1601, in which Michelborne was implicated. Essex was executed as a traitor and fortunately for Michelborne he got away with imprisonment and a fine after claiming he had only gone to Essex’s home to hear a sermon.
• After Queen Elizabeth I’d death in 1603, the new monarch, King James I, made Michelborne a gentleman pensioner and in June 1604, the king granted him a royal licence “to discover the countries of Cathay, China, Japan, Corea, and Cambaya, and to trade there”. Michelborne set sail in December 1604 with famous navigator John Davis as his pilot in the Tiger, and taking a second ship, the Tiger’s Whelp. It wasn’t really a voyage of discovery, it was more about plundering. Michelborne plundered Dutch settlements in Indonesia and also a Chinese ship which was on its way to Java. If you remember my talk from 29th December, you’ll know that the Tiger was attacked by Japanese pirates off the coast of Borneo. Davis was killed in hand-to-hand combat before the pirates were driven off by cannon fire. Michelborne then decided to head home, arriving back in England on 9th July 1606.
• Following his return, Michelborne settled in Hackney, where he died on this day in 1609. He was laid to rest at the Church of St John-at-Hackney, which was replaced in the 18th century by a new building.

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