The Hawkins family was very prolific in America and several of our lines lead back to this illustrious family. Three generations of the Hawkins family distinguished themselves in English history for a period of one hundred years. The Hawkins were the founders of the English trade in the south, west and east. An adventurous, bold family involved in trade and politics, the Hawkins family contributed through the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and James I.

The Hawkins name is derived from the village of Hawking. An ancestor Andrew Hawkins of the Hawkins of Nash Court, near Faversham, Kent, was Osbert de Hawking. This Andrew Hawkins married Joan de Nash by whom the Hawkins' claimed Nash Court and became the progenitors of the Hawkins of Nash Court from whom descend the Hawkins of Devon. In the 15th century a branch of the Nash Court Hawkins probably settled in Plymouth.

The progenitor of this line is John Hawkins who was born in 1450 in Tavistock, Devon, England. John married Joan Amados, his cousin, daughter of William Amados and Margaret Hawkins. A member of the Hawkins of Nash Court, John Hawkins held land in Plymouth, England before 1480. John Hawkins died before 1490 when his heirs held the land which had been held by John from before 1480. John had sons: William and Henry and a daughter, Agnes.

William was born probably in Plymouth about 1485. An officer in the Navy of Henry VIII, William became one of the most prominent sea captains in western England, highly favored by the King. It is believed that n 1513 he was Master of the "Great Galley", one of the few Royal ships of the period. William Hawkins was a man of great wealth and property, owning considerable property in Plymouth. In 1524-5, William was receiver for Plymouth and is listed as fifth on the list of extant freemen of Plymouth.

William Hawkins was one of the first explorers to Brazil during the reign of Henry VIII. William Hawkins made at least three voyages.during the years 1528, 1530 and 1532. Each of his voyages was to Brazil, touching the coast of Guinea where he traded in slaves, elephant teeth and other commodities. Hawkins became friendly with the natives of Brazil during his visits, so much so that in 1530, on Hawkin's second trip to Brazil, one of the local Kings joined him on his ship for a visit to England, the first native to visit the English Court. Unfortunately, the king died at sea on the return trip a year later.

Upon returning to Plymouth following his third and last trip to Brazil, William was made mayor of Plymouth 1532-3 and again in 1538-9. In 1539 he was elected to Parliament in which he served again in 1547 and in 1553. In 1544 William purchased the manor Sutton Valetort.

By the mid 1530's, Plymouth had become strongly Puritain. The Huguenots made the port their headquarters and numerous expeditions were led from there against the Spanish. William himself was a strong Puritain.

William married Joan Trelawney, daughter of Roger Trelawney, Esq. and by her had two sons: William and John as well as three daughters.

Sir Admirial John Hawkins, patriarch of the "Sea Dogs" under Queen Elizabeth I, was born in 1532 in Plymouth, Devon, England. John was one of the premier men of his time, serving forty-eight years in her Majesty's Royal Navy. Prior to 1562, John had made several voyages to Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands. John paved the way for trade between Guinea and St.Domingo (Hispaniola).

In October 1562, John made his first voyage, touching on Teneriffe and from there to Sierra Leone where he gathered merchandise to trade in St. Domingo where he gathered hides, ginger, sugar and pearls which he sent to Spain. The cargo was seized and half of John's profits were lost. He returned to England in 1563.

In October 1564, John again departed England in the Queen's ship, "Jesus of Lubek" as well as the "Soloman", "Tiger" and the "Swallow". John sailed to Africa, the West Indies, touched on Florida, and went to Spanish Santa Fe where he gathered potatoes, introducing them into England for the first time. They were first planted in Ireland on Sir Walter Raleigh's estate. John then landed at some of the islands above Mexico including Aruba, Rio de la Llauche, and Cuba, before landing at St.Domingo and Jamaica. He then sailed up the May River in Florida, where he traded with the French there and records the discovery of tobacco. It was probably John, rather than Sir Walter Raleigh, that introduced tobacco into England in 1564. John then sailed up the coast navigating into the coast of Virginia and Newfoundland before returning to England in September 1564.


"Jesus of Lubek"

John made a second voyage in 1566 for which there are no remaining records. He sailed to the relief of the French Protestants in 1567. In October of 1567, John, with six ships, began his third voyage. His voyage began in the Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands from whence he sailed to Guinea and then to the West Indies in spite of the fact that the Spanish King had forbidden trade with the English in the West Indies. A storm prevented their landing in Florida and they were forced to a city in Mexico called St. John de Ulloa where they encountered the Spanish fleet but managed to escape. Suffering a lack of supplies as well as disease, John returned to England, landing in Cornwall in January 1568.

John was twice elected to represent Plymouth in Parliament in 1571 and again in 1572. Most important to the Protestant Hawkins was to attack the centers of Catholic powers such as Spain or Portugal and Hawkins constantly harried the ships of those powers. In 1573, John succeeded his father-in-law, Benjamin Gonson, as Treasurer of the Navy. He was also Treasurer of the Queen's Majesty's Marine Causes as well as Comptroller of the Navy. Using his attention to detail, John created for his Queen, the most powerful Navy in the world.

John saw the need to face Spain in a determined war and as the intention of Spain to invade England became apparant, the English fleet was made ready with Hawkins appointed as Vice-Admiral along with the honor of knighthood.

In 1558, as Queen Elizabeth assumed the throne, England had no colonies. Queen Elizabeth encouraged her subjects to sail the seas to gain colonies for England. Jealous of England's efforts, Philip II of Spain set to conquer England and create a province of Spain. News of Spain's plans reached England and Sir Francis Drake was ordered to sail to Spain and destroy the Spanish vessels. Sir Drake sailed in April 1585 and destroyed over one hundred Spanish vessels, returning to England with great plunder.

Philip II's plans were merely delayed and in 1588, the Spanish Armada sailed for England. Philip planned to justify his claim to the English throne based on the fact that he was descended from a daughter of John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III. Also, Mary Queen of Scots had given up her right to the throne to him, as a means of restoring Popery in England.

Philip's invincible Armada consisted of six squadrons of sixty-five large ships, the smallest of 700 tons. Built like castles, their upper decks were invincible to muskets and with four gigantic galleys, each with fifty guns each, 450 soldiers rowed by 300 galley slaves. Besides these, there were four large galleys, fifty-six armed merchant vessels. The fleet was manned by 21,555 soldiers, 5766 mariners and 2085 galley slaves. Nobles of Spain commanded the ships.

The English navy included only thirty-eight vessels, but due to Sir John's dilligence, they had no match in the world for speed, safety and endurance. Five new ships had been constructed based upon a new principle by Sir John with high sterns and forecastles lowered, keels lengthened and lines finer and sharper. Nettings had been fitted to repulse attack by boarders. These ships lay at their moorings awaiting the Spanish attack. The chief towns sent as many ships as they were able. Hawkins himself provided four or five.

Queen Elizabeth hoped for a rapid treaty and manning the ships was delayed, as were provisions. The English fleet was under the command of Charles Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord High Admiral of England, who had only been to sea once and was not an experienced naval officer. John Hawkins was relied upon for the conduct of the main fleet in which he acted as Vice Admiral.

Sir John knew that the Spanish fleet had an army aboard while England had none. While many desired to board the Spanish ships, Hawkins held back. Sir John alone had the control, responsibility of the outfit of every ship in England's fleet. On the 23 of May, Howard ordered the fleet of near ninety to sail and put to sea. On shore the militia of each county was armed, seaports fortified and orders given to lay the country to waste so that if the Spanish landed, they would not find any food. Three armies were readied.

A violent storm proved disastrous for the Spanish Armada, separating the ships from one another. Rumors were spread that the storm had destroyed the Spanish Armada. On 12 July the Armada again assembled but was overtaken by another storm which again scattered the Spanish fleet, which did not collect itself until within sight of the English coast.

The heavy Spanish ships had no maneuvering ability while the English ships made speedy attacks and then moved quickly away. Defeated and torn, the Spanish Armada ships that remained threw their horses and mules overboard and set sail to return to Spain by way of the northern islands. Several ships were stranded off the coast of Scotland, with 700 men making way to shore and by consent of Elizabeth, delivered by James I to Parma. More ships were wrecked on the Irish coast where their survivors were executed lest they join the rebellious Irish. Sir Geoffrey Fenton observed in a space of five miles, the bodies of 1100 men which the sea had driven to shore. This was also observed in other places, though not to that extent.

Meanwhile the English sailors were starving and boatloads of sailors were carried ashore and laid down to die in the streets. A great sickness had swept through the English ships. The men would sicken one day and die the next. The disorder was traced to poisonous beer which continued to be served. The men had served England in the greatest service ever done by an English fleet by men who had not recieved their wages, their clothes were in rags; there was no prize money, no spoil. The prize was the country for which they had fought. England found herself heavily in debt.

In 1588, following the Armada defeat, John along with Sir Francis Drake, instituted the "Chest of Chatham", a charity to aid those maimed or wounded in service and funded by the sailors themselves. Sir John endowed, during his own lifetime, at his own cost, a hospital at Chatham for poor mariners and shipwrights. This building was completed in 1592. They also are associated with Greenwich Hospital for disabled seamen.

While Treasurer of the Navy, Sir John paid out of his own pocket in a period of 13 years 9659 pounds, a modern sum of 50,000 pounds. He continually prayed to be relieved of this burden but the Queen was so pleased with his service that his prayers were in vain.

In 1590, Sir John suggested an expedition to Cadiz and the South Seas and by the end of that year, he commanded a fleet of fourteen ships. They set sail with orders to harrass the coast of Spain on their voyage. In 1592, the English managed to capture the Madre de Dios, the largest prize which had ever been brought to England. The profit from this prize was estimated by Raleigh and Sir John to be 500,000 pounds. The officers and sailors had procured for themselves the jewels and had obtained considerable booty.


"Mary Rose"


In 1594, Sir John again begged to be released from his position. With his health failing, he now required rest.

In 1593 his only child, Richard Hawkins, had sailed to the South Sea and been captured and was held prisoner by the Spaniards. Sir John determined to go to sea once more to attempt to rescue his son. The fleet was under the command of Sir John and Sir Francis Drake. The Queen was to bear a share of the expenses in return for a third of the profits. Sir John was to provide the victual for the fleet at his own expense. On 23 July 1595, four Spanish galleys arrived off the Cornish coast and set the town of Penzance on fire. As Sir John's fleet was readied for the rescue voyage, they were dispatched to tend to the Spanish attack. Their force consisted of 27 ships and 2500 men. The fleet was detained by the false rumor of a Spanish invasion. The ships departed 29 Apr 1595 with a plan to burn Nombre de Dios, march on to Panama and sieze the treasure there from Peru but various delays allowed the Spanish to be forewarned. The crew of the "Francis" was captured and tortured in order to discover the fleet's plans. This news was so horendous to Sir John that he fell into a sickness and died 21 Nov 1595 as his fleet anchored off of Porto Rico. Sir Francis Drake also fell ill and died a few weeks later. The fleet continued to attempt a landing at Porto Rico but were repulsed with the same result at Nombre de Dios. After a severe fight with the Spanish off the coast of Cuba, the fleet arrived home in May 1596 with very little booty and the expedition was long remembered as a public calamity, having lost two of the greatest sea officers in Europe.



Sir John is remembered as a skilled mathematician and a shrewd tactician. He had the uncanny ability to understand the characters of men and was a strong administrator. For forty-eight years he served his country while always exhibiting personal courage and the ability to deliver himself and others from danger. He was loved by his seamen whom he always put above his own personal disasters. He was the ablest seaman of his day; his name recognized by all of the sea-going countries. He was also the best shipwright that England had ever seen; 'a very wise, vigilant, and true-hearted man' as described by Stow.

Francis Drake, son of Edmund Drake and one of twelve brothers, was brought up at the expense of and support of his relative, Sir Admiral John Hawkins. Francis Drake made his early voyages with Sir John. Sir John was about twelve years Drake's senior.

Sir John was married twice. His first wife was Katherine, daughter of Benjamin Gonson, Esq. of Sebright Hall near Chelmsford, whom he married about 1558. Katherine was the granddaughter of Anthony Hussey, Judge of the Admiralty. With Katherine, Sir John had one son, Richard Hawkins. Katherine Gonson died in 1591. In about 1592, Sir John married Margaret, the daughter of Charles Vaughan, Esq . Lady Margaret served as bedchamber woman to Queen Elizabeth. She survived her husband, dying in 1621.

Sir John Hawkins


Sir John's remains lie buried in the sea off Puerto Rico but a monument was erected in his memory at St.Dunstan's-in-the-East, which was his placeof worship for many years. The plaque on the monument read:

Johannes Hawkins, Eques Auratis, clariss. Reginse Marinarum causarum Thesaurarius. Qui cum xliii annos munus bellicis et longis periculosisque navigationibus, detegendis novis regionibus, ad Patrise utililatem, et suam ipsius gloriam, strenuam et egregiam operam navasset, in expeditione, cui Generalis prsefuit ad Indiam occidentalem dum in anchoris ad portum S. Joannis in insula Beriquena staret, placide in Domino ad coelestem patriam emigravit, 12 die Novembris anno salutis 1595. In cujus memoriam ob virtutem et res gestas Domina Margareta Hawkins, Uxor maestissima, hoc monumentum cum lachrymis posuit.

A table erected by his wife read:

Dame Margaret, A widow well affected This monument Of memory erected, Deciphering Unto the viewer's sight The life and death Of Sir John Hawkins, Knight; One fearing God And loyal to his Queen, True to the State By trial ever seen, Kind to his wives, Both gentlewomen born, Whose counteffeits With grace this work adorn. Darne Katherine, The first, of rare report, Dame Margaret The last, of Court consort, Attendant on The chamber and the bed Of England's Queen Elizabeth, our head Next unto Christ, Of whom all princes hold Their scepters, states, And diadems of gold. Free to their friends On either side his kin Careful to keep The credit be was in. Unto the seamen Beneficial, As testifieth Chatham Hospital. The poor of Plymouth And of Deptford Town Have had, now have, And shall have, many a crown. Proceeding from His liberality By way of great And gracious legacy, This parish of St. Dunstan standing east (Wherein he dwelt Full thirty years at least) Hath of the springs Of his good will a part, Derived from The fountain of his heart, All which bequests, With many moe unsaid, Dame Margaret Hath bountifully paid. Deep of conceit, In speaking grave and wise, Endighting swift And pregnant to devise. In conference Revealing haughty skill In all affairs, Having a worthie's will~; On sea and land, Spending his course and time, By steps of years As he to age did climb. God hath his soul, The sea his body keeps, Where (for a while) As Jonas now he sleeps; Till he which said To Lazarus, Come forth, Awakes this Knight, And gives to him his worth. In Christian faith And faithful penitence, In quickening hope And constant patience, He running ran A faithful pilgrim's race, God giving him The guidance of His Grace, Ending his life With his experience By deep decree Of God's high providence. His years to six times Ten and three amounting, The ninth the seventh Climacterick by counting. Dame Katherine, His first religious wife, Saw years thrice ten And two of mortal life, Leaving the world the sixth, The seventh ascending. Thus he and she Atike their compass ending, Asunder both By death and flesh alone, Together both in soul, Two rnaking one, Among the saints above, From troubles free, Where two in one shall meet And make up three. The Christian Knight And his good ladies twain, Flesh, soul, and spirit United once again; Beholding Christ, Who comfortably saith, Come, mine elect, Receive the crown of faith. L'ENVOY. Give God, saith Christ, Give C~sar lawfull right, Owe no man, saith St. Paul, ne mine, ne mite Save love, which made this chaste memoriall, Subscribed with Truths testimoniall.

This church was burned and the monument lost in the fire.

Sir Richard Hawkins, the only child of Sir John Hawkins and his first wife, Katherine, was born at Plymouth about 1560. As a boy, he was his father's constant companion. In 1582, he made his first voyage to the West Indies with his uncle, William Hawkins. He sailed with Drake and Frobisher in 1585 in a fleet of twenty-five ships with 2300 sailors and soldiers of which 750 died of disease during the voyage. They took San Iago, San Domingo, Carthagena and San Augustine in Florida.

Richard Hawkins commanded the "Swallow" which sailed to Rio Janeiro against the Armada. The "Swallow" suffered more damage than any of the Queen's ships during the fight.

About 1592, Richard married Judith Hele in Plymouth, Devon, England.

In 1590 Sir John obtained a commission for his son to make an expedition against Philip II. For this purpose, Richard had built the "Dainty". In June 1593, Richard departed amidst the noise of trumpets and shots of ordinance. Richard touched at Madeira, the Canary Isles and Cape de Verdes when the men on his ship began to suffer from scurvy. He anchored in the port of Victoria in Brazil whereupon the governor of that city said they could not remain there due to the war between Spain and England, but allowed them three days of courtesy. Richard then sailed to Santa Anna and the men began to recover. In their course for the Straits of Magellan, they took a Portugese ship and gained some prize. Off the coast of Chili, they seized four ships laden with provisions and timber as well as another vessel containing gold. The Spanish sent six ships to engage Richard but Richard managed to escape. Again Spanish ships were sent to engage Richard and heavy fighting ensued. Richard had been wounded in the skirmish with a heavy loss of blood. Richard suffered two gunshot wounds, one in the neck and one in the arm. The captain of the ship came to Richard with news of the many wounded and slain aboard the ship, as well as an offer by the Spanish to be returned to England should they surrender. Richard reminded the captain of the many broken promises of surrender having been historically practiced by the Spanish. The fighting continued and on the third day, 22 Jun 1594, the sails torn and masts gone, the ship underwater, many men slain; it was determined to surrender before the ship sunk. The Spanish again promised to immediately send them to England.

Richard was received by Don Beltran, who took Richard to his own cabin and gave him medical attention such as was available. After much labor, the Spanish managed to save the "Dainty" from sinking. All of the wounded English were given medical care and none of them died. English surgeons also saw to the wounded Spanish as the Spanish surgeons were unskilled.

In spite of the promises made by the local Spanish government, Spain sent orders for the prisoners to be detained and in 1597, Richard was sent to Spain, where he was thrown into prison. In September 1598, Richard managed to escape but was caught and thrown into a dungeon where he was chained. While imprisoned, Richard wrote several letters to Queen Elizabeth and also to the English ambassador in Paris begging for their intervention, citing his father's service as well as his own. Most of his men had been freed long before. It is said that during his imprisonment, he won the heart of a Spanish lady, later the subject of Percy's "The Spanish Lady's Love". Finally, after almost ten years, Richard was released due to the Count of Miranda who declared that if a prisoner was detained whose liberty had been promised, no faith in Spanish honor would remain. Richard returned to England in Jan 1603.

Richard returned to find his father dead, the estates of both ruined and years of prime life wasted. However, in reward for his valor, Richard was knighted by King James I and made Vice-Admiral of Devon and a Privy Counsellor. The esteem to which he was held in Plymouth was immediately apparant in that he was chosen Mayor 1603-4 immediately upon his return. In 1604, Sir Richard was elected senior representative of the town in Parliament.

Sir Richard purchased a home in Slapton, but his duties as Vice Admiral required his presence in Plymouth where most of his children were born.

In July 1620, Richard was put in command of the Vanguard as Vice-Admiral of twenty ships to suppress Algerine pirates and in October a special commission was made to Hawkins to be Admiral in case of Admiral Sir Robert Mansell's death. However, in 1622 the Lord Chamberlain wrote that Sir Richard had died of "vexation", "having been seized with a fit, when actually in the chamber of the Privy Council..."

Sir Richard Hawkins was the sixth captain who sailed around the world, obtaining the name, "Complete Seaman".

Sir Richard Hawkins

Sir Richard's will is dated 16 Apr 1622. He left his Manor of Poole in Slapton, Devon to his wife, Judith. In the event of her death, those properties would fall to son, John Hawkins who was to reside with his mother until her death. To his son, Richard, he left the lands in Alverstoke in County of Southt. He also mentions daughters Margaret, Joane and Mary. He leaves his wife, Judith as exectrix of his will.

Sir Richard was survived by his wife, Judith, who died 30 May 1629 and is buried in Slapton Church.


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