Sir Richard Hawkins: Last of a Dynasty
The epic voyage of this Elizabethan adventurer to Peru and his subsequent capture by its Spanish masters inspired Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho! An article by A.L. Rowse.
Sir Richard Hawkins wrote the most delightful of Elizabethan seafaring books. He was also the last member of the remarkable dynasty that made Plymouth what it became in the sixteenth century: the leading port for oceanic voyages – of trade, discovery, war, privateering – into the Atlantic and beyond. In voyages of discovery to the New World Bristol took premier place at first; but in a few decades this status shifted further west around the coast, to a port jutting out more conveniently into the Atlantic.
Of the Hawkins family three generations produced men of mark. 'Old' William Hawkins, who flourished in the reign of Henry VIII, began it all with the first English voyages into the South Atlantic, to Guinea and Brazil. Of his sons the elder, another William, carried on the family business, developing trade and the port, made remarkable voyages of his own, and was Mayor of Plymouth in Armada year. The younger, Sir John, was the man to whom Elizabeth's Navy owed most: he built the ships that defeated the Armada. Sir Richard Hawkins was his son by his first wife, Katherine Gonson, daughter of the previous Treasurer of the Navy.