DRAKE, Sir John (c.1592-1636), of Ash, Musbury, 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. c.1592, 1st s. of John Drake* of Ash and Dorothy, da. of William Button of Alton Priors, Wilts.1 educ. Broadgates Hall, Oxf. 1607, aged 15; I. Temple 1609.2 m. 18 May 1616, Eleanor (d. 9 Oct. 1666), da. of Sir John Boteler*, 1st Bar. Boteler of Brantfield, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 8da. (2 d.v.p.).3 kntd. 7 Sept. 1616;4 suc. fa. 1628. d. 25 Aug. 1636.5 sig. John Drake.

Offices Held

Freeman, Lyme Regis, Dorset 1614;6 commr. impressment, Devon 1620;7 collector (jt.), Admlty. tenths, Bristol, Glos. 1625-8, Devon and Som. 1625-8, (sole) 1628-32, Dorset by 1627-32;8 acting v.-adm. (jt.), Devon 1626-at least 1628;9 commr. inventory of French prize goods, Plymouth, Devon and Saltash, Cornw. 1627,10 victualling, Cornw., Devon and Dorset 1627,11 swans, West Country 1629,12 col. militia ft. Devon by 1633-?d.13


Compared with his father, who was a prominent and forceful local governor, Drake seems to have been of only average ability. Consequently, he relied heavily during his public career on the patronage of his kinsman by marriage, the royal favourite Buckingham, who doubtless arranged his knighthood in September 1616. Drake served in Parliament just once, securing a seat in 1624 at Lyme Regis, where his father owned property. Conceivably he already possessed business ties with a leading corporation member, Richard Alford, though these cannot be documented until several years later.14 Drake presumably backed Buckingham’s efforts during this session to win agreement for war with Spain, but he made no recorded speeches on this or any other topic. The three legislative committees to which he was named concerned the estates of William Seymour*, 2nd earl of Hertford, the establishment of three divinity lectures endowed by Thomas Whetenhall, and the reversal of outlawries (10 Mar., 10 and 12 April). He was replaced at Lyme Regis by his father at the next general election, and is not known to have stood again.15

In October 1625 Buckingham appointed Drake and his father joint collectors of Admiralty tenths in Devon, Somerset and Bristol, with Dorset added to their brief subsequently. Now responsible for ensuring that the duke received the share owing to him as lord admiral from the cargoes of prize ships, Drake soon generated protests from other interested parties, such as Bristol’s merchants, who found him too diligent for their liking.16 He also clashed with (Sir) James Bagg II*, who was both collector for the neighbouring jurisdiction of Cornwall, and Buckingham’s principal West Country agent. Despite these tensions, in November 1626 the duke appointed Drake and Bagg joint vice admirals of Devon, following the sequestration of (Sir) John Eliot*. Drake insisted at the time that he could work successfully with Bagg, and indeed in the following spring they collaborated over the provisioning of the fleet being prepared for the forthcoming expedition to the Ile de RĂ©. Nevertheless, their relationship remained strained, with Bagg in April 1627 claiming that Eliot, whose conduct as vice admiral was now under investigation, was being helped by one of Drake’s deputy collectors. Six months later, Drake, who was no friend of Eliot, alleged in return that Bagg was withholding some of the Cornish Admiralty tenths.17 In March 1628 Buckingham again requested that Drake assemble provisions for the latest naval campaign against France, but the difficulties that he experienced in transporting stores to the rendezvous at Plymouth led to unfavourable comparisons between him and Bagg. Despite these problems, the duke seems not to have doubted Drake’s loyalty, turning to him for financial help in July when he urgently needed extra funding for the fleet.18 There is no evidence that Drake sailed in any of these military ventures, but in 1628 he twice obtained letters of marque for ships out of Devon ports, on the first occasion acting jointly with Sir Edward Seymour*.19

Drake’s career went into a gradual decline following the deaths of both his father and Buckingham during 1628. His local standing must have suffered from his failure to take on any of his father’s major offices except a militia command. He was reportedly ‘weary’ of the Devon vice-admiralty in September 1628, and was probably replaced in this role soon afterwards by Seymour. Drake initially retained his Admiralty collectorships, though he handed his duties at Bristol to his brother William. However, in October 1632 he sought to resign from these offices as well, and seems to have secured his discharge by the end of the year, though he had still not entirely cleared his accounts in April 1634.20 In his will, drawn up on 16 Aug. 1635, Drake provided dowries of 1,000 marks for each of his unmarried daughters, and made generous provision in both lands and livestock for his wife. He died just over a year later, and was buried at Musbury. His wife obtained the wardship of their eldest son, John, who held local office during the Interregnum, and sat for Bridport in 1660.21

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 297.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; I. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Vivian, 297.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 159.
  • 5. Vivian, 297.
  • 6. Dorset RO, B7/B6/11, p. 11.
  • 7. APC, 1619-21, p. 248.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 282-3; 1631-3, pp. 331, 431; SP16/231/53.
  • 9. Add. 37816, f. 183v; SP16/117/71.
  • 10. APC, 1627, p. 87.
  • 11. Ibid. 148.
  • 12. C181/4, f. 2.
  • 13. T. Westcote, View of Devonshire, 72.
  • 14. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 68-9; C142/444/76; SP16/138/11; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 48.
  • 15. CJ, i. 681a, 762b-3a.
  • 16. HMC Cowper, i. 221; CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 383, 407, 413.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 474; 1627, pp. 147-9; 1627-8, pp. 60, 151, 412; Add. 37816, ff. 29, 36, 183v.
  • 18. CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 29, 45, 48, 91, 93, 227; APC, 1627-8, p. 389.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1628-9, pp. 305, 309.
  • 20. Ibid. 318; 1631-3, pp. 331, 431, 520; 1633-4, p. 564.
  • 21. PROB 11/173, ff. 40v-3; Vivian, 297; C142/538/113; WARD 9/163, f. 75v; HP Commons, 1660-90, ii. 235.