Drake’s Charter

The Box

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Here’s a fascinating document that relates to Sir Francis Drake’s ‘privateering’…

This Elizabethan document from city’s historic collections is dated 1587. It’s a Royal Letters Patent (charter or deed) to Sir Francis Drake committing to him the charge of the fleet about to set sail ‘for the honor and safetie of our Realmes and Domynions’. 

It relates to the voyage during which Drake raided Cadiz and sank or burnt thirty three Spanish ships. It authorises him to punish sedition, disobedience and quarrelsomeness on the voyage.

Although it may not look it at first glance, the document is written in English and there’s a fully typed transcript held within the catalogue at The Box.

It’s one of 18 documents in a collection referring to Drake and Buckland Abbey and makes reference to Richard Grenville and other local Tudor ‘celebs’. Like many of the early documents held in the city’s archives, it’s written on animal skin (parchment or vellum). 

The document has a wonderful wax seal showing Queen Elizabeth I on her throne on one side and on her horse on the other. It’s so detailed, you can even see the ruff on her collar.

There are many references within the city’s (originally borough) archive collection to Drake’s exploits as well as his help bringing fresh water from Dartmoor to Plymouth, via the leat. 

The descriptions to these documents can be read on The Box’s online catalogue using the reference number 277. We’ll be looking at Drake’s Leat in more detail on 29 May. 

Based on an original article written by Deborah Watson, Archivist.

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