DRAKE, Sir Francis, 1st Bt. (1588-1637), of Buckland Abbey, Buckland Monachorum, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. 16 Sept. 1588,1 o.s. of Thomas Drake of Buckland Abbey and Elizabeth, da. of one Gregory of Plympton St. Mary, Devon and wid. of John Elford of Sheepstor, Devon.2 educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1604; L. Inn 1606.3 m (1) 22 Sept. 1602 (with £660), Jane (bur. 26 Feb. 1613), da. of Sir Amias Bampfield† of Poltimore, Devon, 1da. d.v.p.; (2) lic. 5 Oct. 1615, Joan, da. of Sir William Strode* of Newnham, Plympton St. Mary, 5s. 4da.4 suc. fa. 1606;5 cr. bt. 2 Aug. 1622.6 d. 11 Mar. 1637.7 sig. Fra[ncis] Drake.

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Devon 1619-20, 1624, 1630,8 j.p. 1624-d.,9 commr. billeting, Devon and Cornw. 1625-6,10 martial law, 1625-6, 1627-8,11 Forced Loan, Devon 1627,12 sheriff 1632-3,13 commr. sewers 1634,14 incorporation of maltsters 1636.15


Drake’s ancestors settled in Devon no later than Henry III’s reign. The family subsequently divided into several distinct lines, including a gentry branch at Ash which supplied three Members of the Commons in the early Stuart period. Drake’s own immediate forebears were of yeoman status as late as the early sixteenth century, when they leased property from Tavistock Abbey, but they rose to prominence through the exploits of Drake’s uncle and namesake, the famous Elizabethan seadog. Sir Francis, who served in Parliament three times, built up a moderate landed estate, including Buckland Abbey barton and three Devon manors, all of which eventually passed to Drake’s father, Thomas.16 Drake himself inherited these properties in 1606, but being then only 17 he found himself a ward of the Crown. In the event this did not prove disastrous. As he was already married, his wardship was of little value or interest to prospective buyers, and it was therefore leased to his father-in-law.17 On coming of age, Drake managed his resources astutely. In 1614 he acquired a 600-acre estate near Launceston, Cornwall, for £2,900, while five years later he bought out Thomas Gewen’s* interest in the nearby Werrington barton for another £2,600. He entered local government in July 1619, and in 1622 further enhanced his local standing by securing a baronetcy. He must have found favour with the Crown, since he was excused the customary fee.18

In 1624 Drake was returned for Plympton Erle, where one of the patrons was his second wife’s father, Sir William Strode. He made little impact on the Commons, being named to a single legislative committee, concerned with abuses in binding people over to keep the peace (9 March).19 Added to the Devon bench later that year, he was also appointed, in 1625, to manage the billeting of the troops mustered at Plymouth ahead of the Cadiz expedition. His attitude to the war with Spain was initially enthusiastic. In 1626 he published a contemporary account of his uncle’s Caribbean raid of 1572-3, under the title Sir Francis Drake Revived, and called on ‘this dull or effeminate age to follow his noble steps for gold and silver’.20 However, as an active billeting commissioner he was simultaneously grappling with an increasingly volatile situation in the Plymouth region, where the remnants of the Cadiz force were stationed without adequate funding. In July, along with Strode and Sir George Chudleigh*, his brother-in-law, he wrote to the Privy Council urging the troops’ withdrawal to other counties, the first stage in a sustained protest by Devon’s elite which forced the government to relocate the soldiers later that year.21

Drake was elected as Devon’s junior knight of the shire in 1628, presumably on the strength of his track record in dealing with billeting problems. The fact that he was then a commissioner for martial law did not count against him in the Commons, and on 21 May he was added to the select committee established to double-check the precedents cited by John Selden* in defence of the liberties of the subject. He seems also to have been regarded as one of the godly Members, since he was named to the committee for the bill for the continuance of peace and unity in church and commonwealth (7 Apr.), and added to the select committee to consider Michael Sparkes’s petition alleging censorship of puritan publications by High Commission (3 June). His final nomination, on 4 June, was to the legislative committee concerned with the restitution in blood of Carew Ralegh, a West Country issue. If he attended the 1629 session, there is no record of the fact.22

In the latter months of 1628 Drake published a sequel to his first book, The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake, the text this time culled from eye-witness accounts of the epic circumnavigation. This volume was pointedly dedicated to Robert Rich*, 2nd earl of Warwick, the leading advocate of a privateering war on Spain.23 In the following decade Drake continued to develop his estates, obtaining a licence in 1631 to establish a deer park at Werrington. He served as sheriff of Devon in 1632-3, and received a reprimand from the assize judges for failing to organize the customary j.p.s’ certificates in time. Along with Sir William Strode and Sir George Chudleigh, he was summoned before the Privy Council in 1635 for protesting against the county’s Ship Money burden.24 Drake died intestate in March 1637, administration of his property being granted on 14 Apr. to his widow, who later married John Trefusis*. His son Francis, the second baronet, a staunch Parliamentarian, was returned for Bere Alston in 1646 and for Newport after the Restoration.25

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. C142/292/180.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 299.
  • 3. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.
  • 4. Vivan, 299, 301; E. F. Eliott-Drake, Fam. and Heirs of Sir Francis Drake, i. 170.
  • 5. C142/292/180.
  • 6. CB.
  • 7. C142/550/96.
  • 8. C181/2, f. 348; 181/3, ff. 2, 130; 181/4, f. 52v.
  • 9. C231/4, f. 164v; C193/13/2, f. 14.
  • 10. APC, 1625-6, pp. 55-6, 396-7.
  • 11. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 1, p. 181; APC, 1627-8, p. 79.
  • 12. C193/12/2, f. 10; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
  • 13. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 37.
  • 14. C181/4, f. 163v.
  • 15. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 16. Eliott-Drake, 3-4; Vivian, 293, 297; J. Sugden, Sir Francis Drake, 160-3, 288-9, 316-17; PROB 11/87, ff. 1-2v; C142/292/180.
  • 17. Eliott-Drake, 199.
  • 18. Ibid. 208; Cornw. RO, WW640; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 432.
  • 19. CJ, i. 680b.
  • 20. Sugden, 322; K. R. Andrews, Ships, Money and Politics, 6.
  • 21. SP16/31/80; HMC Cowper, i. 275-6; Vivian, 719; M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War, 112-13.
  • 22. CD 1628, ii. 323; iii. 511; iv. 59, 84.
  • 23. The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake ed. W.S.W. Vaux (Hakluyt Soc. xvi), 3; Andrews, 6.
  • 24. CSP Dom. 1629-31, p. 519; 1633-4, p. 270; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 372; C115/106/8445, 8448; PC2/44, p. 440.
  • 25. PROB 6/16, f. 71v; Vivian, 299, 301.