English Sea Dogs

Sir Walter Raleigh
Figure 1.--Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the important figures of the Elizabethan Age. He became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. He was not only hansome and witty, but one of the Sea Dogs. His privateering brought a fortune in Sanish bullion to the Queen. He also organized important expeditions to the New World. Here we see a detail from 'The Boyhood of Raleigh' painted by Sir John Everett Millais in 1870. The original is in the Tate Gallery. We are not sure which boy is Raleigh, but assume it is the boy in green. Click on the image for details on the portrait.

English audacity and technology at sea laid the groundwork for the Royal Navy and command of the seas. The swashbuckling English sea captains of the Elizabethan era were known as "sea dogs". They were a breed apart. They were adventurers who combinined considerable maritime and military skill they allowed them to sucessfully seize Spanish treasure. Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Walter Raleigh, Martin Frobisher, and klesser known names for four decades fought a private war with Spain, the great naval power of the day. Queen Elizabeth was a secret partner, but well known to King Philip. The Queen loaned ships and took her share of the loot from privateering expeditions aimed at Spanish or French shipping. The long conflict with Spain was rooted in an English hunger for Spanish treasure and a commercial and maritime rivalry. The depredations of the Sea Dogs convinced Philip that he must act against England. There best known achievement is defeating the Great Armada and with it the threat of Spanish Catholic absolutism. They bedeveled the Spanish treasure fleet and thus gained for England a share of the Amrican bullion flowing into Europe. The English then formed overseas trading companies and very modest colonization attempts were made in the Caribbean and North America by Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Sir Walter Raleigh. One of these colonies was Jamestown, one of the foundation stones of the future United States.

Sir Francis Drake--El Drago (1545?-96)

Sir Francis Drake (1545?-96) was the greatest English explorers and one of its preminant naval heroes. Drake received his early training from Sir John Hawkins, a realative and participated in the raids on Spanish shipping. On one of thse raids, Drake led a small party accross the Istmus of Panama for his first view of the Pacific Ocean (1572). Queen Elizabeth, depite the fact England was at peace with Spain, approved and helped finance a secret expedition to target Spanish colonies along the Pacific coast of South America (1577). The Pacific at the time a virtual Spanish lake. Drake attacked Spanish cities from Chile north to Mexico and became known as El Drago. Drake and the Golden Hind reached Plymouth having curcumnavigated the globe (1580). The Spanish issued stinging diplomatic protests, but Queen Elizabeth knighted him. These and other privateering attacks led to war with Spain and the Great Armada.

Martin Frobisher (1535?-94)

Martin Frobisher was on of the great Elizabethan seamen r Seaddoigs. He was born around 1535. We know little about his childhood. Frobisher was one of the English explorers who tried to find a northwest passage to Asia. Frobisher went on voyages to the Guinea coast of Africa (1553 and 1554). He preyed on French shipping in the English Channel under a privateering license issued by Queen Elizabeth (1560s). He was arrested on charges of piracy, but never indited and brought to trial. vowing "to make a sacrifice unto God of his life rather than return home without the discovery of Cathay," he led a a three-ship fleet on a quest to discover the Northwest Passage (1576).

Sir John Hawkins (1532-95)

John Hawkins was born in Plymouth (1532). He was the son of a wealthy sea captain. As a boy he sailed with his father on trading trips. He heard of the riches that lay across the sea, floing in part from the fabulous Spanish successes. He sailed to Africa where he captured 300 natives (1562). Africans at the time were much in demand in Spanish colonies for use as slave labor. Spaid forbid its colonies from tradeing with the English, but Queen Elizabeth rescinded Queen Mary's prohibitions on violating Spanish law. A second voyage was also successful (1564). A third trip resuted in a disaster when they were intercepted by a Spanish fleet off Mexico (1568). Of the six English vessels, only the one commanded by Hakins and another commaded by his cousin Francis Drake survived. Hawkins spent the next 20 years in England in the service of Queen Elizabeth. Her served as treasurer and controller of the navy and played an important role in building the English Navy. England at the time was a small country on the perifery of Europe. Under Hawkins oversight, the English ships were more havily armed, but designed for greater speed than the Spanish ships. Practical devices that he personally tested were added to English vessels. These imprivements played a role in the English defeat of the Great Armada (1588). With Drake he served as Vice Admiral and the Queen knighted him for gallantry. He sailed with Drake on their last voyage (1595). He hoped to rescue his only son, Richard, who the Spanish held n Lima, Peru. He died at sea near Puerto Rico (1595).

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618)

Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the important figures of the Elizabethan Age. Historians believe he was He is thought to have been born about 1552 at Hayes Barton, Devonshire. He was a gifted courtier and became a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. He was not only hansome and witty, but one of the Sea Dogs. His privateering was done with his half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert. His privateering brought a fortune in Sanish bullion to the Queen. He also organized important expeditions to the New World. “On March 25,1584, Raleigh received a patent from the Queen granting him title to any lands he might discover and claim in the name of the crown (1584). He duispatched an expedition from Plymouth commanded by Phillip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe. They landed off the coast of what is now known as North Carolina and established the Roanoke coloby. They brought back two Native Americans named Manteo and Wanchese. As a result of this, Raleigh was knighted by the Queen (1585). When the Eglish returned to Roanoke, the colonists had disappeared without a trace. He angered the Queen by secretly marrying Bessie Throckmorton. The queen locked both of them in the Tower, but they eere released by Christmas. When the English learned of King Philip's plans to invade, Raleigh helped lead an Ebglish attack on the Cadiz to disrupt the Spanish preparations. The success of the expedition helped return Raleigh to Elizabeth's good graces. He led an expedition up the Orinoco River in modern Venezuela to find gold (1595). The expedition failed, but a widely exagerted book he wrote about the expedition proved popular. He fought with the French Huguenots (1596). Raleigh's sucess rested in large measure with the favor of the Queen. King James I had no such sentimental attachment. Raleign was captivated with the Guianas and Orionoco. When he disobeyed the King's instructions on his last expeditn, James had his arested. He was found guilty of treasoin and sentenced to death. Instead the King had his confined in the Tower. The King finally ordered his execution (1618).


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Created: 2:05 AM 4/20/2008
Last updated: 2:05 AM 4/20/2008