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Francis Drake, according to this short, sturdy chronicle by the author of Tudor Tapestries (1972), made his 1578 circumnavigation of the globe as a ""voyage of revenge"" against Spain's predations in the Netherlands, not merely as a venture of exploration. Queen Elizabeth, always ""torn between her desire for peace and her equally strong desire for cash;"" secretly instructed Drake to conduct aggressive piracy on his trip. A passionate Protestant, Drake was eager to make trouble for Papist ships and settlements, but he had difficulty gaining the support of fellow commanders and crew for warfare against the Spanish as the ships moved toward unknown waters. Drake finally had to execute one antagonist, an agent of the Queen's pro-Spanish minister Burghley, and put down intermittent mutinies as hardships multiplied. Drake emerges as a true corsair--a combination of pirate and scientific navigator, prone to vendettas and perhaps deliberate tantrums, resourceful and shrewd. He failed to scourge the Spanish-American colonial towns but stole enough Spanish loot to enhance both the Treasury and his own rank; and, though Wilson remarks that he actually opened up no new wave of English exploration, he inspired a burst of nationalist spirit. Drawing on the abundant primary sources, including The Worm Encompassed by Drake's nephew, a participant in the trip, Wilson occasionally puts thoughts into Drake's mind; but he gives an animated sense of Drake's ""secrets of success,"" and an accessible, continuously illustrated account of the circumnavigation which is fuller than G. M. Thompson's in Sir Francis Drake (1972) or Neville Williams' in Francis Drake (1973).

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row