Richard Hawkins

Richard Hawkins

Sir Richard Hawkins (c. 1562 – April 17, 1622, London) (also spelled "Hawkyns") was a 17th century English seaman, explorer and Elizabethan "Sea Dog",and was the only son of Admiral Sir John Hawkins by his first marriage.

He was from his earliest days familiar with ships and the sea, and in 1582 he accompanied his uncle, William Hawkins, to the West Indies. In 1585 he was captain of a galliot in Drake's expedition to the Spanish main, in 1588 he commanded a queen's ship against the Armada, and in 1590 he served with his father's expedition to the coast of Portugal.

In 1593 he purchased the "Dainty", a ship originally built for his father and used by him in his expeditions, and sailed for the West Indies, the Spanish Main and the South Seas. It seems clear that his project was to prey on the oversea possessions of the king of Spain. Hawkins, however, in an account of the voyage written thirty years afterwards, maintained, and by that time perhaps had really persuaded himself, that his expedition was undertaken purely for the purpose of geographical discovery. After visiting the coast of Brazil, the "Dainty" passed through the Straits of Magellan, and in due course reached Valparaíso.

Having plundered the town, Hawkins pushed north, and in June 1594, a year after leaving Plymouth, arrived in the Bay of San Mateo. Here the "Dainty" was attacked by two Spanish ships. Hawkins was hopelessly outmatched, but defended himself with great courage. At last, when he himself had been severely wounded, many of his men killed, and the "Dainty" was nearly sinking, he surrendered on the promise of a safe-conduct out of the country for himself and his crew.

Through no fault of the Spanish commander this promise was not kept. In 1597 Hawkins was sent to Spain, and imprisoned first at Seville and subsequently at Madrid. He was released in 1602, and, returning to England, was knighted in 1603.

In 1604 he became Member of Parliament for Plymouth and Vice-Admiral of Devon, a post which, as the coast was swarming with pirates, was no sinecure. In 1620 to 1621 he was vice-admiral, under Sir Robert Mansell of the fleet sent into the Mediterranean to reduce the Algeriar corsairs. He died in London on 17 April 1622.

See his "Observations" in his "Voiage into the South Sea" (1622), re-published by the Hakluyt Society.


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