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Collection Sir Francis Drake (Kraus Collection)

The Beginning of the End: The Drake-Norris Expedition

The war with the Spaniards continued to be fought after the Armada's defeat; in 1589 it was England's turn to attempt an invasion and to be repelled by Spain. This expedition was under Drake, in command of the ships, and Sir John Norreys (Norris) (1547-1597) in command of the troops. They were assigned several objectives, the first being to seek out and destroy the surviving ships of the 1588 Armada in the ports of northern Spain. The second was to make a landing at Lisbon, to raise a revolt there against Philip II, then King of Portugal as well as Spain, and to supplant him with the Prior of Crato, the last surviving heir of the Aviz dynasty. The third objective was to occupy the Azores, if possible.

The narrative of this expedition by Anthony Wingfield, a participant, is the most detailed account extant [24]. Another important source is the Latin Ephemeris Expeditionis Norreysii et Draki [25].

While at Lisbon, Drake seized a number of German merchant ships carrying wheat and other supplies to Spain. The Declaration of the Causes [26] is a diplomatic "white paper" justifying this seizure on the grounds that the supplies were contraband of war.

The extraordinary expenses incurred in fighting the Armada in 1588 had drained the English treasury, and the Drake-Norris expedition had to be financed as a joint venture. As stated on page 65 (introduction to the circumnavigation section), such ventures usually consisted of financing commercial, military, and colonizing enterprises of that day. In the present instance, the profits to the venturers would have come from seizures of ordinary Spanish merchant or naval ships; from booty or ransom extorted by the soldiers in land actions against towns; and, especially, from the treasure convoy from America if they should be so lucky as to capture it. None of these sources proved to be very productive and the investors sustained a loss.

The two contemporary documents (reproduced on the following two pages) relate to this financial aspect of the expedition. Apparently both are unpublished. The first (Oct. 11, 1588) appoints a committee of three to act as auditors for the investors, the most important of whom was the Queen. It is a contemporary copy, probably official, of the document signed by William Lord Burghley and Sir Francis Walsingham. It reads, in part: "Whereas there is a voyage of good consequence undertaken by Sir John Norris and Sir Fr. Drake, wherein her Majestie together with soundrie of her subjects, do adventure good somes of monie...her Highnes hath made speciall choice of you to whom she thinketh meete to comitt the said care to see how the same monie is from time to time issued and expended about the said service..."

Transcript of the Lines Reproduced Below

shalbe therunto required by the said Sir Jo. Norris and Sir Francis Drake or either of them. And for that it ymporteth greatlie that the said service be accomplished with all expedition, her Highness pleasure is, that you ymploie yourselves most dilligentlie. And carefullie therin: yeldinge all the furtherance [?] you maie to the advancemente therof. And so we do comitt you to God. From the cort at St. James the xith of October 1588.

Your verie lovinge friends  William Burghley  Fra. Wallsinghm

The second document, dated Dec. 17, 1588, is very revealing. It shows that up to that date the Queen had invested the sum of £16,000, and that "Sir Francis Drake knighte and other adventurers" had invested £10,450, this latter figure being written over the cancelled figure £8,356/12/--. It then gives the surplus of the Queen's payment over those of her partners as £50550 (! sic, for £5550).

It may be assumed that this statement was drawn up to bring pressure on the "other adventurers" to pay up their shares, and the document would further imply that the total of the Queen's venture was to be matched by that of the private persons.

Both the present document and the previous one bear notations that they were from the collection of John Evelyn, the noted diarist, who is known to have owned a large number of English historical papers, many of which were dispersed in the 19th century.

Transcript of the Lines Reproduced Above

The xvii of December 1588  There is disboursed as appearith by the Booke of accompte towardes the furnishinge of a voyage intended by Sir John Norreis and Syr Francis Drake knights the Some of  six . . . foure  twentie three thousande three hundreth fiftie six powndes xi sh  wherof  26450-11  £ sh  xxiii ccc lvi xi

Two contemporary double maps, one on paper, the other on vellum, depict the harbors of La Coruña and Santander. They very probably were prepared for use in the Drake-Norris expedition, as it was just these two ports which held the remaining vessels of the Armada. A possible indication of this is to be found on the paper map of Santander, where there is a legend: "The place where the ships be bilded"; this may designate the docks where 40 of the Armada ships were being repaired.

As the destruction of the ships was a principal objective of the expedition, Drake attacked La Coruña and sank a few ships there. But the delays he encountered made it impracticable for him to proceed to Santander, where most of the Armada survivors had been taken, and he then went on to Lisbon, his next objective.

The two maps are from the collection of George Legge, Baron Dartmouth, Master of the Ordnance under Kings Charles II and James II. Dartmouth obtained some of the maps in his collection from the Royal map collection, others from the Ordnance office collection, including a number which dated back to Elizabethan days. The present two maps (reproduced on the following two pages, a detail below) must have come from one of those sources.