On This Day in History – Sir Francis Drake Knighted and the Birth of William Strachey

Reconstruction of The Golden Hind

On this day in history, on the 4th April 1581, after a sumptuous banquet, Sir Francis Drake was knighted on the deck of “The Golden Hind” by Queen Elizabeth I for completing his circumnavigation of the world and earning her £160,000 in treasure.

The Queen then consecrated the ship and ordered that it should “be drawn up in a little crecke neare Deptford upon the Thames to be preserved for all posterity”1

Also on this day in history, on the 4th April 1572, the writer William Strachey was born in Saffron Walden in Essex, England. Strachey’s work includes:-

  • “A true reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir THOMAS GATES Knight” – His eyewitness account of the shipwreck of the “Sea Venture”, including a report on the management of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
  • “For The Colony in Virginea Britannia. Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall” – A compilation of the colonial laws put in place by the governors of the Virginia colony.
  • “The Historie of Travaile Into Virginia Britannia” – A more detailed account of life in the Virginia colony which Strachey dedicated to the Earl of Northumberland.
  • “A Dictionary of Powhatan” – There are only two records of the language of the Virginia Powhatan tribe: Strachey’s dictionary and the works of Captain John Smith.

These works are excellent primary sources for the history of the English colonisation of North America and it is thought that they were used by William Shakespeare for his play “The Tempest”.

In 1609, after working for a few years as secretary to the English Levant Company and to the English Ambassador in Turkey, Strachey bought two shares in the Virginia Company and set sail from England to the New World aboard the “Sea Venture” with Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers. The ship was run aground off the coast of Bermuda when it was blown offcourse by a hurricane, and it is this incident, which involved the party being stranded on the archipelago for a year and having to build boats to make their way to Virginia, which was published as “A True Reportory of the Wracke, and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight” in 1625. This work also included a critical report of the management of the Jamestown colony in Virginia, the colony founded in 1607.

William Strachey died in June 1621 at the age of 49. He died in poverty after finding it hard to get his work published because it was critical of the management of the colony. He left the following sad verse:-

“Hark! Twas the trump of death that blew
My hour has come. False world adieu
Thy pleasures have betrayed me so
That I to death untimely go.”

Trivia: Strachey’s signet ring was found in 1996 in the ruins of Jamestown, Virginia.


  1. Summarie of Englyshe Chronicles, John Stowe, 1565