Drake: The Life and Legend of an Elizabethan Hero
Sir Francis Drake was the most dashing of the many ambitious seamen to serve Queen Elizabeth I. His was an age when the world seemed there for the taking, whether in the form of riches, glory or lasting renown. For a God-fearing Protestant of good yeoman stock, turning the highs seas into an English lake seemed nothing less than a birthright -- especially if the only people in one's way were Catholics. In this masterly new biography, Stephen the shows how Drake deliberately and skillfully fashioned himself into the very image of the English Protestant hero -- the little man who took on the might of Spain.
Drake's achievements were truly formidable and a testament to his immense skills as a tactician and a leader of men. He was the first Englishman to sail around the world. He was also the pirate who helped to line many pockets in London, both royal and merchant -- his audacious raids on Spanish ports in the Caribbean often returned handsome profits for their backers, including the Queen herself, who delighted in the spoils won from such state-sponsored terrorism. But Drake's domineering genius was also applied to great issues of national security. The man who "singed his Catholic Majesty's beard" with his devastating attack on Cadiz harbor in 1587 would also play a significant role in the defeat of the Armada a year later.
Stephen the brilliant re-evaluation of this self-made Elizabethan hero is a fascinating portrait of the man and his era. Vividly recreating the key episodes in the construction of teh Drake legend, from the West Indies voyages to the Nombre de Dios expedition, the Armada and, of course, the extraordinary circumnavigation, Coote shows how manipulated for other ends in the centuries following his death.
Was Drake just a rabid anti-papist, a state-sponsored terrorist and slaver? Or was he embodiment of English sangfroid, and empire-builder and hero? Drake was all of these things and more, and this gripping and entertaining biography gives us a picture of the man altogether richer and more interesting than we could have imagined.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Coote's book contains an interesting discussion of the way in which the Victorians edited the history of Drake to conform with their need for heroic early founders of the British empire. He makes clear that the current accepted account (which dates from Victorian times) is very selective, and he convincingly puts this right while respecting Drake's tremendous achievements in for example circumnavigating the globe and mapping the Pacific coast of South America. The author shows that Drake had a giant ego, not permiting anyone to stand in his way, and resulting in one case in the murder (with the thinnest veneer of legality) of his gentleman companion Thomas Doughty on a beach in Patagonia, or for example, ignoring the vital direct order of queen Elizabeth I to destroy the regrouped Armada in Santander, preferring as always to pursue piratery and looting Spanish and Portuguese ports for personal gain. Even in the famous battle with Armada he dropped out to loot an enemy ship, much to Frobisher's disgust. Overall a balanced and readable account of the prototype 16th century English pirate seaman.
Review: Drake: The Life and Legend of an Elizabethan HeroUser Review - Goodreads
I picked up this book after Napoleon and the Hundred Days, hoping for more of the same witty, insightful prose. I did not get it. The problem seems to be that there's such a paucity of hard primary ...