Elizabeth’s Age of Exploration

Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, kingdoms throughout Europe sponsored voyages to find new lands and faster trade routes. Spain and Portugal dominated exploration during during much of this period. In England, there was no significant progress in exploration during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary. It was only with the efforts of Elizabeth I that England became a new major player of exploration. While Elizabeth sponsored voyages, it was in fact Henry VIII’s naval reforms that launched the beginning of Elizabethan exploration. Continue reading

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Sir Francis Drake: Naval Hero or Warmonger?

Sir Francis Drake, c. 1591.
Sir Francis Drake, c. 1591.

Was Sir Francis Drake a pirate or a privateer? Firstly, despite having actually delved into piracy early in his career, Drake has often been referred to as a privateer rather than as a pirate directly. Of course, the terms “privateer” and “pirate” are relatively interchangeable as both employ the same techniques in order to accomplish basically the same goal. In other words, both cases would use seafaring expertise to raid unsuspecting vessels whilst out in the ocean far from land or unwanted naval incursion. The only discernible contrast between both parties was the notion that privateers received private government funding to carry out their raids, especially during wartime.[1] Essentially, privateers are just pirates under the employment of a group that benefits in some way from their actions. Continue reading

A Tudor and His Navy

The Mary Rose as depicted in the Anthony Roll, c. 1545.
The Mary Rose as depicted in the Anthony Roll, c. 1545.

As a unified state completely surrounded by water, England needed a strong navy in order to protect against attacks and invasions. Henry VII established the Royal Navy. His son, Henry VIII, continued to strengthen the navy, adding more ships and equipping them with advanced artillery. A strengthened royal navy was borne out of the diplomatic situation brought on by Henry VIII’s separation from Rome. Because of the diplomatic conflicts, and the need to strengthen the navy and its ships, Henry VIII’s reign revolutionized the Royal Navy with style and power. Continue reading