Sir Thomas Cavendish

cavendish Sir Thomas Cavendish "The Navigator"

Born: 19 Sep 1560

Died: 22 Nov 1594, Plymouth, England

Buried: 14 Jan 1595, St. Giles, Cripplegate, England

Father: William Cavendish

Mother: Mary Wentworth

Thomas Cavendish, was the second Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. But was the first who deliberately tried to emulate Sir Francis Drake and raid the Spanish towns and ships in the Pacific and return by circumnavigating the globe. While previous expeditions had preceded Cavendish, it had not been their intent to circumnavigate the globe at the outset. Cavendish had gained much valuable experience when he sailed on an expedition to Virginia with Sir Richard Grenville on April, 9,1585.

Cavendish was born in 1560 at Trimley St. Martin near Ipswich, Suffolk, England. His father was William Cavendish; descendant of Roger Cavendish, brother to Sir John Cavendish from whom the Dukes of Devonshire and the Dukes of Newcastle derive their family name of Cavendish. Thomas Cavendish was related by marriage to Cecils, Frobisher, Brandon, Seckford, Tollemache, Wingfield and Wentworth families - "A charmed circle of famous navigators".

When Cavendish was 12 he inherited a fortune from his deceased father William. He and his mother went to live with Lord Wentworth at Nettleshead, Suffolk. At the age of 15 he attended Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University for two years, but did not take a degree. But after leaving school at age 17, for the next 8 years or so he spent most of it on luxurious living. In 1580, he went to the court of Queen Elizabeth, where his sister Anne became one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting. She later married a mariner, the illegitimate Sir Robert Dudley, son of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and lover Douglas Howard.

Through his family Thomas had easy access to important figures at court; he became a friend of Sir George Carey, son of Lord Hunsdon; of Lord Chamberlain; and of George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, who became the most active aristocratic privateer in the country. Cavendish was a friend of Walter Raleigh who, though unlikely to have had any electoral patronage as early as 1584, was a member of the group surrounding Henry Herbet, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, who controlled the patronage at Shaftesbury and Wilton. Cavendish served as a Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury, Dorset in 1584, and for Wilton, Wiltshire in 1586.

By July 1586 Spain and England were in a war which would later culminate with the Spanish Armada and its threatened invasion of England in 1588. Cavendish was determined to circumnavigate the globe raiding Spanish ports and ships in the Pacific. Through the support or patronage of Lord Hunsdon, Cavendish procured Queen Elizabeth's commission for his proposed raids of Spanish towns and ships.

Cavendish procured every draught, map, chart and history of former navigations that might be useful to him; building a larger 120 ton sailing ship, with 18 cannons, named The Desire. She was joined by the 60 ton, 10 cannon, ship Content, and the 40 ton ship Hugh Gallant. With his three ships and 123 men, he set out from Plymouth, England on 21 Jul 1586.

Cavendish had made stops at the Carribean, continued south along the eastern coast of South America stopping to raid Spanish towns or take on supplies. He reached the Straights of Magellan and emerged into the Pacific on 24 Feb 24, 1587 and sailed up the coast of South America. On the Pacific coast Cavendish sank or captured 9 Spanish ships and looted several towns. He also repaired two of his own ships, Desire and Content, and burned Hugh Gallant because he lacked the men to sail her.

Early on 4 Nov 1587 one of Cavendish's lookouts spotted the Santa Ana, a 600 ton galleon manned with over 200 men. After a several hour chase, the English ships overhauled the Santa Ana, which conveniently had no cannons on board to allow more cargo. After several hours of battle during which Cavendish used his cannon to fire ball and grape shot into the galleon, the Spanish tried to fight back with small arms. The Santa Ana, now starting to sink, finally struck her colors and surrendered.

Because of the great disparity in size the Content and Desire, Cavendish had to pick and choose what rich cargo he wanted to transfer to their ships from the much larger Santa Ana. They loaded about 100 troy pounds of gold and then picked through the silks, damasks, musks (used in perfume manufacture), spices, wines, and ship's supplies for what they could carry. Some in Mexico claimed that the total value of the cargo was about 2,000,000 pesos.

After setting fire to the Santa Ana, the Desire and Content sailed away on 17 Nov 1587 to begin their voyage across the Pacific Ocean. After crossing the Pacific Ocean, Cavendish and the Desire arrived at the island of Guam on 3 Jan 1588, trading iron tools for fresh supplies, water and wood. On further landings in the Philippines, Java and other islands he traded for fresh supplies. His crew of about 48 men replaced their worn out clothing and bedding with uniforms made out of silken damask and collected information about the Chinese and Japanese coasts. Cavendish hoped to use this information to augment existing English knowledge of the area.

By 14 May 1588 he reached the coast of Africa and returned home by way of the Cape of Good Hope. On 9 Sep 1588 the Desire sailed into the harbor at Plymouth, England with only one of the original three ships, and the bulk of the treasure intact. Later she paraded up the River Thames through London, displaying her new sails of blue damask.

The first voyage of Thomas Cavendish was a huge success both financially and otherwise; Cavendish was only 28. The circumnavigation of the globe had been completed in two years and 49 days; nine months faster than Drake. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth who was invited to a dinner aboard the Desire. England celebrated both the return of the Desire and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.