THE QUEEN'S CORSAIR: Drake's Journey of Circumnavigation 1577-1580 by Alexander McKee

THE QUEEN'S CORSAIR: Drake's Journey of Circumnavigation 1577-1580

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In the 1570s the world was up for grabs and the greediest, most arrogant naval powers were the Spanish and English. Magellan had circumnavigated the globe 50 years earlier (and died en route), but no one since had dared to repeat his feat. On a marauding expedition to the Isthmus of Panama in 1573, Francis Drake climbed an enormous tree and saw the Pacific for the first time. He vowed to return and sail it on a voyage of conquest for Elizabeth. This meant, of course, rounding Cape Horn. In '73 he went home a millionaire and in '77 set out with five ships to raid the treasures in Spain's settlements along the Pacific coast. He abandoned two ships on the Rio de la Plata, lost a third in the storms off the Strait of Magellan, and had a fourth turn back on him, but he continued up the Pacific alone on the Golden Hind, robbing Spanish settlements and pillaging a treasure ship. Loaded with loot, he sought fruitlessly for a Northeast passage back to the Atlantic; then, not daring to return past all the towns he'd plundered, he decided to cross the Pacific and get home with his gains as invisibly as possible. When Spain objected to Elizabeth about Drake's piracy, she hemmed and hawed but kept his loot and even knighted Drake, ""Master Thief of the Unknown World"" in the popular view. McKee writes crisply and keeps us soaked in 16th-century quotations (just slightly modernized) rather than 20th-century scholarship. The feel of the fabulous New World comes through clear and strong.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1979
Publisher: Stein & Day