Drake, Bernard (DNB00)

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DRAKE, Sir BERNARD (d. 1586), naval commander, was the eldest son of John Drake of Ashe, in the parish of Musbury, Devonshire, by his wife Amy, daughter of Sir Roger Grenville, knight, of Stowe, Cornwall. He is the subject of a well-known and oft-repeated anecdote by Prince (Worthies of Devon, p. 245). His story is that Sir Bernard Drake meeting Sir Francis Drake at court, gave him a box on the ear for assuming the red wyvern for his arms, and that the queen, resenting the affront, bestowed on Sir Francis ‘a new coat of everlasting honour,’ and, to add to the discomfiture of Sir Bernard, caused the red wyvern ‘to be hung up by the heels in the rigging of the ship’ on Sir Francis's crest. This story received some final touches at the hands of Miss Agnes Strickland, who transformed the solitary wyvern into three (Queens of England, iv. 451). Barrow first discredited it (Life of Sir Francis Drake, 1843, pp. 179–81), and it has since been demolished by H. H. Drake in the ‘Archæological Journal,’ xxx. 374, and in the ‘Transactions of the Devonshire Association,’ xv. 490. The simple fact is that Sir Francis Drake asked his kinsman for the family arms, of which he was himself ignorant. On 20 June 1585 Drake was commissioned ‘to proceed to Newfoundland to warn the English engaged in the fisheries there of the seizure of English ships in Spain, and to seize all ships in Newfoundland belonging to the king of Spain or any of his subjects, and to bring them into some of the western ports of England without dispersing any part of their lading until further orders’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581–90, p. 246). He performed his mission so successfully that the queen knighted him at Greenwich 9 Jan. 1585–6 (Metcalfe, A Book of Knights, p. 136). On his return he had captured off the coast of Brittany ‘a great Portugal ship’ called the Lion of Viana, and brought her into Dartmouth (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581–90, p. 295). The crew were sent to the prison adjoining Exeter Castle, in order to be tried at the ensuing spring assizes. On the day appointed a ‘noisom smell’ arose from the dock, ‘wherof died soone after the judge, Sir Arthur Bassett, Sir John Chichester, Sir Barnard Drake, and eleven of the jury.’ Drake had just strength to reach Crediton, and, dying there 10 April 1586, was buried in the church (Transactions of Devonshire Association, xv. 491 n.) Administration of his estate was granted in P. C. C., 3 May 1587, (Administration Act Book, 1587–91, f. 18). By his wife, Gertrude, daughter of Bartholomew Fortescue of Filleigh, Devonshire, he had six children: John, his heir, of Ashe; Hugh, whose estate was administered in the prerogative court on the same day as that of his father; another son; and Margaret, married to John Sherman; Mary; and Ellen, married to John Button. Lady Drake was buried 12 Feb. 1601 at Musbury. Their monument is the middle one of the three in the church of Musbury (inscription in the Antiquary, ii. 238).

[Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), iii. 1547–8; Prince's Worthies of Devon. pp. 244–6; The Antiquary, ii. 237–8; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, pp. 167–8; Westcote's Devonshire, p. 467.]

G. G.