The Tudor age was a great time of exploration. People like Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, John Hawkins and John Cabot sailed westward across uncharted oceans in small Galleons to discover new lands and wealth for their Kings and Queens.
Christopher Columbus (1451 - 1506)
Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa Italy in 1451, the son of a wool merchant and weaver.
At the age of 14 he went to sea for the first time and in 1470 became shipwrecked following a battle off the coast of Portugal where he joined his brother Bartholomew a cartographer in Lisbon and married a local girl Fillipa Moriz.
During his time in Portugal he continued to make merchant voyages as far as Iceland in the north and Sierra Leone in the south. In 1484 he devised The Enterprise of the Indies a plan to sail to India west rather than the traditional eastern route, all he needed to fulfil his dream was a patron.
In 1485, after many rejections from possible patrons in France, England and Portugal, Columbus moved to Spain and finally received backing from Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile, his trip to the New World now became a possibility.
On Friday 3rd August 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail with 120 men in three ships: the Santa Maria and two smaller vessels, the Pinta and the Nina. The voyage was long and arduous and the crew near mutiny; but land was finally sighted on the 12th October 1492. The land is now believed to be one of the Bahamas Islands, Columbus had reached what would become known as the New World.
He continued his voyage of discovery, landing at Cuba and Hispaniola (now known as Haiti) where he started a small colony La Navidad. The Santa Maria sank off the coast of Hispaniola and Columbus had to return home in the Nina.
The two ships are separated by fierce storms on the way but eventually on the 4th March 1493 he reaches Lisbon.
His second voyage to the New World began on 25th September 1493 and Columbus following the success of his first trip now heads a fleet of 17 ships. On the 3rd November Dominica in the West Indies is sighted and shortly after Guadeloupe, it wasnt a happy voyage for Columbus, numerous quarrels broke out with the crew and on the way home Columbus himself was laid low by a long illness on Hispaniola. He returned to Spain dejected in 1496.
A third voyage took place in 1498 and with 6 ships he reached Trinidad and mainland South America. In 1502 Columbus embarked on his last expedition to the New World when he sailed with 4 ships finding the Mosquito Coast of what is now Nicaragua. On the return journey on 25th June 1503 the ships became beached on Jamaica and he and his crews had to be rescued. He finally returned to Spain on 7th November 1504 and didnt go to sea again
He died in 1506 in Valladolid, Spain where he was buried in a monastery. In 1536 his remains were taken to Santa Maria in Hispaniola but were brought back to Spain in 1899 and interned in Seville Cathedral in 1902.
Ferdinand Magellan (1480 - 1521)
Magellan was a Portuguese maritime explorer in the service of the Spanish Crown. Columbus had previously sailed West to find an alternate route to Asia but had only made it as far as America. The Spanish needed a trade route to the Indies and Magellan presented King Charles V of Spain with a plan to find that route.
On August 10th 1519 Magellan set out with a small fleet of five ships: Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcin, Victoria and Santiago, and a crew of about 270. By December 6 they were off the coast of South America and sailing south searching for the strait that Magellan believed would lead them to the Pacific ocean. On April 2nd a mutiny broke out and Magellan was forced to have at least one of his captains executed. Further trouble soon followed when the Santiago was wrecked in a storm. Continuing south the remaining four ships reached Cape Virgenes on 21st October 1520 and entered what are now called the straits of Magellan. At this point the San Antonio deserted the other ships and returned home to Spain.
On November 28th the three remaining ships entered the Pacific Ocean, so named by Magellan for it's still waters.
They sailed northwest reaching the Mariana islands on 6th March 1521. After a brief stay they set sail westward once more reaching the Philippines where Magellan was killed on April 17th 1521 during a battle with a local tribe.
Juan Sebastin Elcano now took command; he abandoned the Concepcin due to a lack of crew and continued westward with two ships (Magellan had always intended to return the way he came). Later the Trinidad developed a leak and had to be left behind. It was with a single ship, the Victoria, that the expedition arrived back in Spain almost threes years after it had left. Of the 270 or so men that had started around 230 had died or deserted; only four of the men on the Victoria were originally of that crew.
John Hawkins (1532 - 1595)
John Hawkins, the son of a merchant, was born in Plymouth. By 1562 Hawkins had his own ship and was involved in the slave trade selling people captured in Africa to the Spanish colonies in the new world. His cousin, Francis Drake, joined him in the trade a year later. However, it was illegal for the Spanish colonists to buy from foreigners and Hawkins and Drake were soon at odds with the Spanish authorities.
Hawkins was given the job of Treasurer of the Navy and in 1755 he was one of the people principally involved in introducing a new design of ship into the navy. The new ships were much longer compared to their breadth than earlier ships and the mainsail was further forward; making them much more manoeuvrable than earlier vessels. These new warships were an important factor in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. During the Armada campaign Hawkins, aboard his flagship the Victory, was given command of a squadron of ships and was knighted for gallantry during the battle.
After the Armada had been defeated Sir John Hawkins continued raiding in the Caribbean and died in Puerto Rico in 1595.
Walter Raleigh (1552 - 1618)
Walter Raleigh was born in Devon into a family with strong Protestant beliefs. During Queen Mary's reign his family's lives had been threatened by Catholics on more than one occasion and because of this Walter developed an intense hatred of them.
Raleigh was involved in the suppression of rebellions in Ireland and was given estates there as a result. He tried to introduce English settlers but with little success. He was also involved with unsuccessful attempts at setting up colonies in North America (North Carolina and Virginia). Through his association with these colonies he is credited with introducing the potato and tobacco to England.
Raleigh was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth who favoured him with many rewards including a knighthood in 1585. In 1591 Sir Walter secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen's ladies in waiting; in a fit of jealousy Queen Elizabeth had Sir Walter imprisoned in the Tower of London and Elizabeth was dismissed from Court. Sir Walter was eventually released from prison and retired to his estates.
In 1594 Sir Walter embarked on an expedition to find great riches that had been reported in Spain's South American colonies. He did not find any riches but did come back with an exaggerated account of what he had discovered there.
After Elizabeth died in 1603 Sir Walter was again imprisoned, this time for allegedly being involved in a plot against the new King, James I of England. It was thirteen years later that Sir Walter was released, only because he had promised to return to South America to search for the riches he had previously reported finding there. During this expedition a party under his command had attacked a Spanish settlement and on his return to England the Spanish Ambassador had demanded that Sir Walter be tried and executed as a pirate; king James duly obliged and order Sir Walter to be beheaded on 29th October 1618.
Francis Drake (1540 - 1596 )
Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon. He and his cousin, John Hawkins, were involved in the slave trade, selling African natives to the Spanish colonists in the 'new world'. This was a risky business as the colonists were not allowed to trade with foreigners; their fleet was attacked by a Spanish squadron that sank all but two ships of the expedition.
Between 1570 and 1572 Drake made several voyages to the Caribbean raiding and trading with the Spanish colonists. Returning to England with captured Spanish treasure and a high reputation as a privateer.
In 1577 Drake was given the task of raiding the Spanish colonies on the American Pacific Coast. He set off from Plymouth in 1577 with five ships but by the time he had reached the Pacific Ocean he only had one left, the Golden Hind. Drake intended to return by the 'North West Passage', a northern route connecting the Pacific to the Atlantic. Unable to find the passage he decided to return home westward across the Pacific and Indian Oceans and became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. He arrived back in England in 1581 loaded with treasure and spices and Queen Elizabeth I knighted him for his endeavours.
Drake made another trip to the West Indies looting Spanish towns and settlements and taking whatever treasure he could find.
During the war with Spain Drake attacked Cadiz and destroyed a large number of ships that the Spanish were going to use for their Armada against England. Drake also raided up and down the coast of Spain and Portugal destroying whatever materials he could find that were intended for the Armada. It was through his efforts that the Spanish were short of supplies because they did not have enough barrels to store them in.
During the battle with the Spanish Armada in 1588 Drake was a Vice Admiral in charge of a squadron of galleons. His ship was the Revenge, one of the new designs that his cousin, John Hawkins, had helped to design and introduce into the navy.
In 1595 Drake and is cousin Hawkins were once again raiding the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. This time it did not go so well; the Spanish were prepared for them and the venture turned into a disaster. Both Drake and Hawkins became ill with dysentery off the coast of Puerto Rico and Drake died on the 26th January 1596; his body was buried at sea.