DRAKE, Francis (c.1540-96), of Buckland Abbey and Yealmpton, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1540, s. of Edmund Drake. m. (1) 4 duly 1569, Mary Newman (d.1583), s.p.; (2) 1585, Elizabeth, da. of Sir George Sydenham of Combe Sydenham, s.p. Kntd. 4 Apr. 1581.

Offices Held

Mayor, Plymouth 1581-2; j.p. Devon from c.1583, Cornw. from c.1591; v.-adm. at Plymouth against Armada 1586-8, in command Cadiz expedition 1587, Portugal expedition 1589; West Indies 1595.


Drake’s career as navigator and admiral is too well-known to admit of repetition in these pages. A self-made man, his first wife’s origins were as obscure as his own, and his second marriage, into a gentry family, took place after he had made his name. The unofficial, almost clandestine nature of so many of his activities precluded him from receiving rewards from a government always reluctant to distribute them. The knighthood conferred upon him, after some hesitation, following his famous circumnavigation, was the only honour he received, and the fortune he made himself was moderate, sufficient to buy a country estate or two and to enable him to invest in his own voyages, but no more.

Considering the peripheral part that Parliament could have played in Drake’s life, and the scanty nature of the surviving records of the three Parliaments he attended, two of these three are of surprising interest. He first came in at a by-election for an unknown constituency a few months after the conclusion of the voyage round the world. Whether he wished to be at the centre of affairs at a time when his conduct was the subject of official inquiry; whether his friends perhaps thought his attendance a sensible precaution, or whether, having to attend to business in London, Drake thought simply of adding to his experience of life, cannot be known. A vacancy arising—there was one at Camelford, for example—he became a Member during the last session of the 1572 Parliament, which began on 16 Jan. 1581. He is not known to have taken any part in the proceedings, and on 17 Feb. he was granted leave of absence ‘for certain his necessary business in the service of her Majesty’.

Drake came into the next Parliament for Bossiney, probably through the