13 December – A lawyer thrown into prison for refusing to do a favour and Sir Francis Drake sets off on his circumnavigation of the Globe

On this day in Tudor history, 13th December 1558, civil lawyer and dean of Chester William Clyffe died.

Clyffe was one of the authors of the 1537 “Bishops’ Book”, and he was consulted by convocation during Henry VIII’s Great Matter. He was thrown into prison for a time for refusing to do a favour for one of the king’s servants – oh dear!

Find out more about William Clyffe’s life and career in this talk…

Also 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.

In this video, I shared a wonderful letter written by Drake.

You can hear it in this video…

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5 thoughts on “13 December – A lawyer thrown into prison for refusing to do a favour and Sir Francis Drake sets off on his circumnavigation of the Globe”
  1. Sir Francis Drake certainly was eloquent, above all was a legend in his own lifetime, he epitomised everything that was dangerous and exciting and the Spanish feared him whilst his countrymen loved him, El Dracque as they called him, which means in English – dragon and the devil another of his names the Spanish gave him, was born in fairly obscure beginnings yet when he died, his name was known across most of the globe, it was a feat to circumnavigate the globe and he was the first Englishman to do that, the Elizabethan age was a time of great exploration and Drake a firm Protestant, hated Spain and the inquisition that country had inflicted on the people who lived in her territories, once he had landed in Panama and the natives who hated their Spanish masters, led Drake and his men to where their shops were moored in the harbour, he made of with tons of gold and silver, this he took to his beloved queen and of course Elizabeth was delighted, but she could not be seen to openly be encouraging this pirate for she needed good relations with Spain, so she condemned him in public but in secret she gave him her perfumed hand to kiss and ran her fingers through the vast horde of gold coins Drake had stolen from the Spanish galleons, his name is well known in Elizabeth’s reign, for he is associated with the defeat of the armada and whilst the oft told tale that he was playing a game of bowls as the Spanish fleet were sailing up the channel, and he declared he would finish his game first before dealing with the enemy, is probably just that – a tale, it is somehow so like his character that he was so unfazed by the battle that lay ahead it speaks volumes of this mans bravery, I’d like to think this tale is true but more than likely he was all fired up ready to meet the hated Spanish and was quaffing some ale with his fellow sailors on the Golden Hind, that ship he sailed which is just as legendary as he is, Queen Elizabeth knighted him and the people of Devon his own countrymen, built in honour a statue of him which stands to this day in Plymouth, what I find sad about Sir Francis Drake is the miserable death he had, he caught dysentery and died in Portorbelo harbour, it seems a rather mean ending for such a spirited colourful character, I’d like to think he died fighting, like Richard 111 in a valiant battle but it was not to be, he fell a victim to the same malady that killed many of the crusaders centuries before, there have been films about the defeat of the armada and Drake is the subject of many biographies, there is also a life sized portrait of him in the NPG, he wears a huge ruff and is garbed in scarlet, he has a mischievous glint in his eye and he must have loved the fame his exploits brought him, along with the adoration of a grateful queen, and nation.

  2. I used to hold Francis Drake as a hero, now far from it. In fact his statue should be taken down in Plymouth. I really can’t see anything good in what he did. Yes, he circumnavigated the globe, yes, he played a rather exaggerated role in the defeat of the Armada, yes he was an excellent sailor and soldier. He was also a slaver, although not as bad as Hawkins, he committed at least one murder, raped and abandoned a Maroon woman under his protection and his naval activities against Spanish and Portuguese ships were nothing less than state sponsorship of piracy. On the other hand he rescued a Black boy in South America who later accompanied him as a map maker and navigation expert on his voyage around the globe. The boy claimed free soil in England, in other words, freedom. He knew the waters Drake wanted to plunder and explore and therefore he was employed by him. The female in question was his girlfriend. Drake got her pregnant and put her off the ship. Her ultimate fate is unknown and the man he employed left on his return to England.

    Drake was part of the English disease and obsession about Spanish gold. He sailed on several failed expeditions to find Spanish gold and died of dysentery on one of the many counter Armada voyages he took part in. He is still regarded as a hero, but far more people see him as a rogue and recently I have completely gone from hero worship to seeing Drake in a darker way.

    1. I never knew that, I find men who use their physical strength to empower women cruel and he was certainly not chivalric then, of course those were brutal times and he obviously saw the poor woman as a worthless native, that unfortunately was the mind set of the 16th century, I myself do not find him so admirable now, but most hero’s do have many flaws, Douglas Badger for one was said to be thoroughly dislikable, rude and obnoxious but his bravery can never be questioned.

  3. It’s also like Richard The Lionheart, i idolised him as a young girl but later discovered he was a most brutal soldier, raping and killing women as well as men on his many battles in the south of France.

    1. Yes. Richard has a very mixed reputation. He genuinely inspired men in battle, his energy and prowess where legendary, he was respected even by Saladin and vice versa, he really was a lionheart in battle and he cared for the welfare of his men. He was a great warrior, that cannot be overstated. He was feared by his enemies. He kept strict discipline and he was a strict enforcer of that discipline. He was also wreckless but that often paid off. Richard was a visible target and was wounded more than once. But, he was also responsible for a number of atrocities. He ordered the merciless execution of 3000 Muslim prisoners after the victory at Acre and this was against the rules of war. Sources differ on the details but probably there where women as well. A garrison tended to also have families living within the city. It wasn’t unusual to wipe out an entire garrison during the fighting as those who didn’t surrender and where taken in arms could be killed. Women and children were normally seen as civilians and should have been protected. Well, if soldiers lost control as with the destruction of Jerusalem in 1099, that’s unlikely to happen. At Acre the inner city surrendered once the outer walls where breached. The protocol was to ask for a ransom and release them into the custody of an escort back to Jaffa, or to Jerusalem. However, Saladin, for unknown reasons failed to pay the ransom and a few days later the entire garrison where marched out in front of the city and slaughtered. It was a deeply shocking event and some comments where made by his Christian allies. The thing is Richard wasn’t criticised by Saladin or Islamic sources or even independent ones. His reasons are regarded as coldly practical. He wanted to march on to Jerusalem but couldn’t with these prisoners. His choices where, release them without ransom and escort them, leave them behind to starve as his men probably couldn’t feed themselves and 3000 families, kill them or wait for the ransom, losing time. Richard wasn’t heartless, but he had to be here from his point of view as a commander. He could have allowed them to leave in good order but that’s not a good idea in the heat of the Desert. They would die anyway without any escorts. They might arm themselves and attack. Once a ransom was paid, a guarantee of safety was given, both parties worked together to provide food and provisions and an escort took those wanting to leave home. Richard lost patience and took a horrific decision. It tarnished his reputation but it didn’t amongst his men or his enemies, just his rivals. In his many campaigns in France, both as Duke of Aquitaine and as King of England, Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou etc etc, Richard certainly got a reputation for brutality to both sexes. I don’t recall any incidents as famous as this one, which stands out as one of the most traumatic of the Crusading era, although the Turks where no angels either, as the final assaults in 1290s show, but Richard was believed to have been responsible for a number of atrocities, especially in the South of France.

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