Hawkins, John (1532-1595) (DNB00)
HAWKINS or HAWKYNS, Sir JOHN (1532–1595), naval commander, second son of William Hawkyns (d. 1553) [q. v.], and younger brother of William Hawkyns (d. 1589) [q. v.], was born at Plymouth in 1532, a date which seems established by the evidence of the legend on a contemporary portrait (Hawkins, frontispiece), and of the inscription formerly on a tablet in the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East, in which his years, at his death in 1595, are said to have amounted to ‘six times ten and three’ (Stow, Survey of London, vol. i. lib. ii. p. 45). He was admitted a freeman of Plymouth in 1556 (Worth, p. 251). He was bred to the sea, and while quite a young man made ‘divers voyages to the isles of the Canaries,’ where he learned ‘that negroes were very good merchandise in Hispaniola, and that they might easily be had upon the coast of Guinea.’ The last of these voyages was probably in 1561. He had already, in or about 1559, married Katharine, daughter of Benjamin Gonson, treasurer of the navy, the son of William Gonson, treasurer of the navy before him and captain of the Mary Grace in 1513, when Hawkyns's father was presumably master of the Great Galley. With the assistance of his father-in-law and of other influential friends, including Wynter, another principal officer of the navy [see Wynter, Sir William], who became ‘liberal contributors and adventurers,’ he fitted out three good ships, and sailed from England in October 1562. After touching at Teneriffe, he passed on to Sierra Leone, and there obtained, ‘partly by the sword and partly by other means,’ which included the plundering of Portuguese vessels (Portuguese depositions in State Papers, For., July 1568), ‘three hundred negroes at the least, besides other merchandises which that country yieldeth,’ and ‘with that prey he sailed over the Ocean sea unto the island of Hispaniola,’ at the several ports of which, ‘standing always upon his guard, and trusting the Spaniards no farther than that by his own strength he was able still to master them,’ he sold his English wares, and all his negroes. ‘He received, by way of exchange, hides, ginger, sugars, and some pearls,’ with which he loaded his own three ships, besides freighting ‘two other hulks with hides and other like commodities which he sent into Spain.’ He arrived in England in September 1563 (Hakluyt, Principal Navigations, iii. 500).
The Spanish laws against unlicensed trading to the Spanish colonies were very stringent, and the two ships which Hawkyns sent to Seville were seized as smugglers. Hampton, the companion of Hawkyns's voyage, who had taken charge of them, would have been thrown into prison had he not hastily fled the country. Hawkyns and his friends were anxious to recover the ships and their confiscated cargoes, and did not scruple to assert that they ‘were driven to San Domingo by force of weather, where they had desired license of the judges of the island to sell certain slaves, to victual themselves, and to pay their men’ (Cal. State Papers, For. 1563, No. 1465, 8 Dec.) All this, however, availed them nothing. Six months later the English ambassador at Madrid wrote to Hawkyns, advising him to come to terms with some favourite of the king, by the promise of four thousand or five thousand ducats (ib. 1564–5, No. 545, 5 July 1564); but nothing seems to have been recovered. Hawkyns estimated the loss at about 20,000l.; but the profits of the voyage were still very large.
A second expedition on a larger scale was speedily set on foot. Foremost among the adventurers were the Earl of Pembroke and Lord Robert Dudley, afterwards Earl of Leicester. The queen was induced to lend the Jesus, a ship of seven hundred tons, which had been bought from Lubeck in the reign of Henry VIII (Derrick, Memoirs of the Royal Navy, pp. 9, 11), a loan which probably involved an interest in the expedition. In the Jesus, with his former ship the Solomon, and two smaller vessels, Hawkyns sailed from Plymouth on 18 Oct. 1564, and arrived at Teneriffe on 7 Nov. Here the Spaniards were no longer friendly, and it was with difficulty that the ships were permitted to refit. Coming on the coast of Africa, the natives were everywhere hostile. On 27 Dec. Hawkyns attacked a town, where he hoped to make many prisoners, but was repulsed with the loss of seven men slain and twenty-seven wounded, taking away only ten negroes. Other attempts were more fortunate, and on 29 Jan. 1564–5 the ships sailed from Sierra Leone, having on board a ‘great company of negroes,’ but ill provided with water. Calms and baffling winds made the voyage long. When at last, on 9 March, they came to Dominica and landed in search of water, they ‘could find none but rain-water and such as fell from the hills and remained as a puddle in the dale, whereof they filled for the negroes.’ At Burburata, on the coast of Venezuela, where they first attempted to trade, leave was refused, strict orders having been sent from Spain prohibiting all traffic with any foreign nation. Hawkyns wished to argue the point, but the orders were positive; so on 16 April he landed ‘a hundred men well armed, … with the which he marched to the town wards,’ and so constrained the governor to come to terms; after which a satisfactory trade was opened, and a good many of the negroes were disposed of. At Rio de la Hacha they were met by the same prohibition. Hawkyns again attempted argument, not unmixed with falsehood; he said that ‘he was in an armada of the queen's majesty's of England, and sent about other her affairs, but, driven besides his pretended voyage, was enforced by contrary winds to come into those parts.’ As the Spaniards still refused, Hawkyns sent them word ‘to determine either to give him license to trade, or else stand to their arms.’ On 21 May he landed ‘one hundred men in armour’ with two small guns, the fire of which produced the desired effect, without any actual collision. After this the traffic proceeded quietly enough, and the whole cargo was disposed of within ten days. They then sailed northwards, passed the west end of Cuba, through the Gulf of Florida, and so along the coast of the mainland, looking for some place to water.
In the river of May, now St. John's River (Winsor, Hist. of America, ii. 264–5), they found a French colony, commanded by M. Laudonnière, in a state of destitution. Hawkyns relieved their immediate wants, and offered to carry them to France; but Laudonnière declined, not knowing, he says, ‘how the case stood between the French and the English,’ and doubting also lest Hawkyns might ‘attempt somewhat in Florida in the name of his mistress.’ Finally, he agreed with Hawkyns for the purchase of one of his small vessels, with a quantity of provisions and stores, giving a bill for the price agreed on; for he was afraid, he says, to pay in silver, ‘lest the queen of England, seeing the same, should be encouraged to set footing there.’ At the same time he bears witness that Hawkyns ‘won the reputation of a good and charitable man, deserving to be esteemed as much of us all, as if he had saved all our lives’ (Markham, p. 69). By doing this, however, Hawkyns had incurred a serious risk; the homeward voyage was prolonged by contrary winds; they ran short of provisions, and were for a time in great danger, from which they were relieved by a large take of cod on the banks of Newfoundland, and afterwards by falling in with a couple of French ships, from whom they purchased sufficient for their needs. On 20 Sept. they arrived at Padstow, after a voyage described as ‘profitable to the venturers, as also to the whole realm, in bringing home both gold, silver, pearls, and other jewels great store’ (ib. p. 64). On 23 Oct. the Jesus was received again into the charge of the queen's officers, the Earls of Pembroke and Leicester paying 500l. for the expense of refitting her. No mention is made of the further profit which accrued to the queen.
The success of these two voyages brought repute to Hawkyns as a skilful and prudent commander, and won him favour in influential quarters. Arms were granted to him: sable, on a point wavy a lion passant or; in chief three bezants: and for a crest, a demi-Moor, proper, in chains. The enormous profits suggested new voyages. The Spaniards, keenly sensible of the danger which these expeditions caused to their monopoly, represented the matter so strongly to the queen, that she was compelled to put on the appearance, at least, of prohibiting them. Hawkyns had intended to sail again in the following year, but was prevented by the council, who bound him over not to go near the West Indies nor to break the laws of the king of Spain (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 13, 31 Oct. 1566). He accordingly gave up the intended voyage, though possibly his ships went under some other commander. De Silva, the Spanish ambassador, alleged that they did go; trafficked, smuggled, and plundered, and returned ‘loaded with gold and silver’ (Froude, viii. 67); but the statement was based on vague rumours, and seems extremely doubtful. In 1567 Hawkyns resolved upon another voyage, and this time met with no hindrance. The queen, indeed, seems to have been personally one of the adventurers, so far, at any rate, as lending the Jesus for the voyage; but this assuredly did not confer on Hawkyns any claim to be considered an officer in the queen's service.
While Hawkyns was at Plymouth preparing for his voyage, some Spanish ships from the Low Countries came into the Sound and stood on, apparently meaning to go into Catwater, where Hawkyns, with his ships, was lying. Hawkyns considered that in the small and already crowded harbour there was no room for them, and, not to lose time in expostulation, stopped their advance by firing at them. They immediately struck their flag and anchored outside, where the next day some private ship, Dutch or English, laying the admiral on board, rescued a number of prisoners who were being carried to Spain; but of this Hawkyns protested he had no knowledge till afterwards. The Spaniard wrote to his ambassador; the ambassador sent an angry representation to the queen; Hawkyns was called on to explain, and the affair was smoothed over diplomatically. But from first to last, no mention was made of the insult to the English flag, which, according to the incorrect story written many years afterwards by Hawkyns's son, was the immediate cause of the dispute (Markham, p. 119; cf. State Papers, For., De Silva to the Queen, 6 Oct. (? N.S.) 1567; ‘De Wachene to — 23 Oct. (? Sept.) 1567; State Papers, Dom. xliv. 13; Hawkyns to Cecil, 28 Sept. 1567; Froude, viii. 68–9). Long before the question was settled, Hawkyns sailed from Plymouth on 2 Oct. in command of a squadron consisting of, besides the Jesus, the Minion, another queen's ship, and four smaller vessels; one of the latter was the Judith, commanded by Francis Drake [q. v.], a kinsman, possibly a nephew of Hawkyns, with whom he was now for the first time associated.
As in the previous voyages, Hawkyns went to Sierra Leone, took part in native wars, assaulted and set fire to a native town of eight thousand inhabitants, plundered Portuguese vessels to the amount, it was deposed, in wares and negroes, of more than seventy thousand gold pieces (State Papers, For., December 1568, f. 90); and finally, having obtained some five hundred negroes, sailed for the West Indies. Again he had a tedious voyage to Dominica; again he forced his trade on the Spaniards at Rio de la Hacha, where he sold two hundred of the negroes. Without any further resort to arms he and his companions disposed of their wares along the Spanish main. At Cartagena the governor proved more strict, and as their ‘trade was so near finished,’ and the hurricane season coming on, they left the coast on 24 July (Markham, p. 73), intending, it is implied, to pass up the coast of Florida, as in the former voyage, and so home. But early in August, off the west end of Cuba, according to Hawkyns's own story, a storm lasting four days ‘so beat the Jesus that we … were rather upon the point to leave her than to keep her any longer; yet, hoping to bring all to good pass, sought the coast of Florida, where we found no place nor haven for our ships because of the shallowness of the coast.’ ‘A new storm, which continued other three days,’ finally drove them into ‘the port which serveth the city of Mexico, called San Juan de Lua’ (ib.)
The truth of Hawkyns's explanation of his going to San Juan de Lua is extremely doubtful. Several times before he had attributed his presence in a Spanish port to ‘force of weather,’ as soon as it appeared likely that he might be called to account for being there. It is far from improbable that he again did so on this occasion, when it was more than ever necessary for him to make out a plausible case. For so far from ‘their trade being near finished’ when they reached Cartagena, we know that they had on board at San Juan de Lua fifty-seven negroes ‘optimi generis,’ each valued at 160l., or a total of 9,120l. (Schedule of property lost, State Papers, Dom. Elizabeth, liii.), and that they had previously made inquiries as to the price of slaves at Vera Cruz. The inference is that Hawkyns had predetermined to sell the negroes there, and that the storm—if there was one—merely gave colour to his usual pretext.
On 16 Sept. he anchored his squadron in the narrow harbour, now more familiarly known as Vera Cruz, which is formed by the low-lying little island of San Juan, opposite to the town, and backed by wide-extending shoals (cf. Dampier, Voyages, vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 125). The next day the fleet of Spain, consisting of thirteen great ships, appeared outside, and Hawkyns sent word to the general that he would not suffer him to enter the port without a pledge for the maintenance of peace. He was, he says, quite able to have kept him out, but did not venture to do so, ‘fearing the Queen's Majesty's indignation in so weighty a matter.’ The Spanish fleet represented a value of nearly two million sterling, and there was no other port on the coast in which it could shelter in the stormy season. After three days' negotiation and the interchange of pledges of peace and amity, the Spanish fleet entered the port on the 20th (Markham, p. 76; Hawkyns's Deposition, State Papers, Dom. Eliz. liii.) Unfortunately we have only Hawkyns's own account of this negotiation, as well as of what followed. According to him the English scrupulously observed the conditions, while the Spaniards' hearts were filled with treachery from the first. He admits, indeed, that he thoroughly mistrusted the Spaniards; and it is certain that the Spaniards looked on Hawkyns and his men as dangerous smugglers and pirates. It is thus impossible to say exactly how the quarrel broke out; but on the morning of the 24th a fierce encounter began. Hawkyns, caught in the crowded harbour at a terrible disadvantage, defended himself most stubbornly, but the odds against him were too great. The Spaniards landed large numbers of men on the island, made themselves masters of the battery which Hawkyns had constructed there, and turned its fire against the English ships. One of the smaller vessels was sunk, two others were captured, the Jesus was dismasted and helpless; Hawkyns's one hope was to defend her till nightfall, and then in the dark to get her treasure and provisions on board the Minion and put to sea. The Spaniards anticipated him; they sent down two fireships, which threatened both the Jesus and Minion with instant destruction. The Minion, which was at the time alongside the Jesus, made sail without waiting for orders. Hawkyns and some of his shipmates sprang and got on board her; others apparently managed to reach her in a boat; the rest, remaining on board the Jesus, were made prisoners when the Spaniards took possession of the ship and all the treasure on board, amounting to about 100,000l., the result of the previous traffic. The Minion and Judith alone succeeded in getting to sea. Their rigging was shattered, they had lost their anchors, and they were short of provisions. The two ships parted company in the dark, each apparently having as much as she could do to look out for herself. The Minion had about two hundred men crowded together on board, with insufficient provisions, clothes, and bedding; and, after enduring extreme privations for about three weeks, finding no relief nor possibility of obtaining supplies, ‘our people, being forced with hunger, desired to be set a land; whereunto,’ says Hawkyns, ‘I concluded’ (Markham, p. 79). A hundred of them were therefore landed in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico; and having taken on board some water, the Minion with the others and ‘the little remains of victuals’ put to sea on 16 Oct. As she ran into colder weather ‘our men, being oppressed with famine, died continually; and they that were left grew into such weakness that we were scantly able to manœuvre our ship; and the wind being always ill for us to recover England, determined to go with Galicia in Spain’ (ib. p. 80). On the last day of December they arrived at Ponte Vedra, near Vigo. There the men ‘with excess of fresh meat … died, a great part of them;’ but Hawkyns, getting the Minion round to Vigo, was assisted by some English ships lying there, entered some fresh hands, and sailed on 20 Jan. 1568–9. On the 25th he anchored in Mount's Bay; Drake, in the Judith, had arrived with the news five days earlier.
Hawkyns's first idea was to fit out another expedition to the Spanish main, to release his comrades left behind at San Juan de Lua and in the Gulf of Mexico, and to avenge his own losses. But his reputation was under a cloud; the adventurers had lost their money; the queen had lost her ship; and neither were prepared to send him out again, at any rate until his conduct had been strictly inquired into. Cecil, too, looked with no friendly eye on the trade in negroes, or the semi-piratical adventure of which Hawkyns was accused; and Elizabeth realised that Spain would not always be tolerant of her connivance at this illegal traffic. Hawkyns was forbidden to go on his proposed voyage or to attempt the release of his friends by force. He was compelled, therefore, to search for other means.
The Spaniards, enraged at the stoppage of the Genoese ducats on their way to the Duke of Alva, were at this time meditating an invasion of England; they believed that a great many English were disaffected to the queen's government, and were anxious to find out what support they might expect from the malcontents. At least as early as August 1570, and probably some months earlier, Hawkyns made overtures to Don Gueran de Espes, the Spanish ambassador, spoke bitterly of the ingratitude of the government, and asked Gueran to interest himself in obtaining the release of the prisoners. Gueran suggested to the Spanish government that it might be worth their while to win this man to their side by acceding to his request. The suggestion met with no response; but Hawkyns, still hoping to gain his end, led Don Gueran to believe that he was willing to enter the Spanish service, and to carry over with him the best of the queen's ships and of the English sailors. Finding that his negotiations did not advance, he despatched George Fitzwilliam, who had been with him in his second voyage (ib. p. 64), into Spain, to communicate directly with the king. Fitzwilliam was authorised to say that Hawkyns was a faithful son of the church, that he was looking forward to the time when the queen should be overthrown, that he was ready to pass over to the king's service, bringing with him the English fleet; the men would follow where he led; the king need only pay their usual wages, and advance the money necessary for the equipment of the ships; for himself he desired nothing beyond the release of a few prisoners at Seville who were not worth the cost of keeping (Froude, ix. 510–11). Philip, at first incredulous, began at last to entertain Hawkyns's offers. He desired Fitzwilliam, as a proof of his sincerity, to bring him a letter from the Queen of Scots, explaining what she wanted done. With the connivance of Burghley, with whom Hawkyns was in communication all along, Fitzwilliam had an interview with Mary, and received the requisite papers, which enabled Burghley to track out the Ridolfi plot. Philip's suspicion was disarmed. He liberated the prisoners at Seville, and gave them ten dollars each that they might not arrive in England penniless; he sent Hawkyns 40,000l. for the equipment of the promised ships, together with a patent constituting him a grandee of Spain. The whole intrigue was dirty enough; and though Hawkyns entered into it primarily to recover the liberty of his imprisoned shipmates, and secondarily, to further Burghley's political ends, he was also keenly sensible of the value of the 40,000l., which he regarded as part compensation for his losses (ib. ix. 509–520). While this negotiation was going on, Hawkyns seems to have been engaged in another with an exactly opposite purpose. On 25 May 1571 Walsyngham, then ambassador at Paris, wrote to Burghley that he was desired by Count Louis of Nassau to move the queen ‘to license Hawkyns underhand to serve him with certain ships,’ and this was repeated in almost the same terms on 12 Aug. (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1569–71, Nos. 1729, 1920; Digges, Compleat Ambassador, pp. 103, 126). There can be little doubt that Count Louis had a previous understanding with Hawkyns; but it does not appear that the queen gave the requisite license, or that Hawkyns engaged in this service.
It was about this time that Hawkyns received an augmentation to the arms already granted in 1565—on a canton or, an escallop between two palmer's staves sable. He was also member for Plymouth in the parliament of 1572. On 11 Oct. 1573 he had a narrow escape of his life, being stabbed, as he was riding along the Strand in company with Sir William Wynter, by one Peter Burchett, a gentleman of the Middle Temple, who, in a fit of fanatical fury, mistook him, as he said, for Sir Christopher Hatton [q. v.] Hawkyns was dangerously wounded. The queen sent her own surgeon to attend him, and was desirous of having Burchett hanged forthwith by martial law; but that, she was persuaded, was illegal. On 12 Nov., however, he was hanged on a gibbet erected on the spot where he had stabbed Hawkyns, his right hand being previously cut off and nailed overhead (Stow, Annals, ed. Howe, p. 677; Strype, Annals, Oxford edit. vol. ii. pt. i. p. 427; Strype, Life of Parker, Oxford ed. ii. 327; Wright, Queen Elizabeth and her Times, i. 492; Soames, Elizabethan Religious History, p. 197).
Shortly before this Hawkyns had succeeded to the office of treasurer of the navy, previously held by his father-in-law, Benjamin Gonson, the reversion of which had been secured to him some years before. To this were presently added the duties of comptroller of the navy; and these important functions he exercised during the remainder of his life. His experience as a seaman and shipowner enabled him to appreciate and adopt many improvements in the building and rig of the ships of the navy. He made them more weatherly, by lowering the huge castles at the bow and stern, and faster, by increasing their length, and so giving them finer lines. He also introduced chain pumps, boarding nettings, a new sheathing, the use of the bowline, and the method of striking topmasts. Of some of these improvements he was possibly the inventor. Others were probably due to, among others, Richard Chapman, a private shipbuilder at Deptford, whose yard was in close proximity to that of the navy, and with whom Hawkyns was for many years more or less directly in partnership. This partnership, and the almost uncontrolled power then exercised by the treasurer of the navy, gave rise to a suspicion that, with two yards so conveniently situated, Hawkyns worked them both to his pecuniary advantage. It was alleged that ships in Chapman's yard were built of government timber, and fitted out with government stores; that Hawkyns bought timber at a low rate, and sold it to the queen at a considerable advance; that he passed off inferior hemp and other articles as the best, and entered them as such in his accounts; that when at the point of death, after he had been stabbed by Burchett, he had made his will, and at that time had not above 500l. to dispose of, and that since then he ‘was greatly enriched by his underhand management,’ and had accumulated a considerable fortune by his ‘unjust and deceitful dealings’ (State Papers, Dom. Eliz. cciv. 16, 17, 18, 21; Lansdowne MS. vol. lii. cap. 43). It is not correct to say that these charges were put aside as idle calumnies (Markham, p. xiii). They were not, indeed, formally inquired into; but Burghley quietly satisfied himself that they were not unfounded, and drew up a set of stringent regulations, intended to prevent such abuses in future, noting on the rough draft in his own hand, ‘Remembrances of abuses past: John Hawkyns was half in the bargain with Peter Pett and Matthew Baker,’ the mastershipwright and storekeeper respectively in Deptford dockyard (Cotton MS. Otho E. viii. 147; cf. State Papers, Dom. Eliz. cciv. 18; D'Ewes, Compleat Journal … throughout the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, p. 519 a). It seems very probable, however, that these charges, irresponsibly made, were much exaggerated. Monson, who knew a great deal of what was going on, refers to Hawkyns as ‘perfect and honest in his place,’ in comparison with the reformed administrations of the succeeding reign (Churchill, iii. 332); and in 1588 the ships fitted out by Hawkyns were equal to the very severe service they were called on to perform. On 21 Feb. of that year Lord Howard wrote to Burghley that, as Hawkyns was ordered to the court ‘to answer in the matter of his bargain for the navy, he could testify that the ships were in excellent condition’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom.); and in the August following, the thorough efficiency of the ships afforded undoubted proof that they were not, as had been alleged, caulked with rotten oakum, or rigged with twice-laid rope.
When the fleet was mustered for the defence of the country against the Spanish Armada, Hawkyns was captain of the Victory, one of the new ships which had been built at Deptford under his own supervision. While at Plymouth he commanded in the third post under the lord admiral and Drake, and was a member of the council of war which the admiral consulted ‘on every question of moment’ (State Papers, Dom. Elizabeth, ccxi. 37, Howard to Walsyngham, 19 June). When the fleet was extended from Scilly to Ushant in three divisions, Hawkyns had command of the inshore squadron towards Scilly (ib. ccxii. 18, Howard to Walsyngham, 6 July). As rear-admiral he took an active part in the several engagements with the Spanish fleet in the Channel, beginning 21 July; and especially in that off the Isle of Wight on the 25th, on the evening of which day, in acknowledgment of his gallant conduct, he, together with Frobisher (or Frobiser) and Lord Thomas Howard, was knighted by the lord admiral on the deck of the Ark. When on the next day the fleet was joined by the squadron of the Narrow Seas under Lord Henry Seymour [q. v.], Hawkyns, falling into the fourth place, became vice-admiral of Howard's division, and in the early part of the decisive action off Gravelines on the 29th would appear to have had the actual command of the centre during Howard's temporary absence [see Howard, Charles, Earl of Nottingham]; beyond all question the Victory fully shared in the glories of the day.
When the accounts for wages, provisions, and equipment had to be settled, Hawkyns obtained the assistance of his brother-in-law, Edward Fenton, who was appointed his deputy ‘to enable him to draw up his accounts’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 14 Dec. 1588). It is true enough that Hawkyns complained of the work as burdensome, and that Elizabeth and her ministers exercised a supervision which he thought offensive; but those who have condemned the queen's conduct in this matter have apparently not known that she had clear reasons for doubting Hawkyns's integrity. That the payments were made out of Hawkyns's own pocket is contrary to certain fact (ib. 16 Jan. 1589; Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. i. p. 12, October 1588).
About this time Hawkyns, in conjunction with Drake, is commonly said to have instituted the fund long known as ‘The Chest at Chatham.’ As treasurer of the navy he would naturally be consulted in such a business, and Drake was the right hand of the lord admiral; but their share in the matter has been much exaggerated. Instituted the fund certainly was, and was continued as a distinct charity for the relief of maimed and wounded seamen, till the beginning of the present century; in 1814 its revenues were finally united with those of Greenwich Hospital. The chest, from which it derived its name, was moved to Greenwich in 1845, and is still preserved in the museum of the Royal Naval College. Early in 1590 Hawkyns was associated with Frobiser in the command of a squadron sent to the coast of Portugal ‘to do all possible mischief’ to the enemy, and especially to look out for the annual Plate fleet. This, however, having timely warning, did not appear; and the expedition returned to Plymouth without having accomplished anything, ‘and thus,’ wrote Hawkyns to Burghley on 31 Oct., ‘God's infallible word is performed in that the Holy Ghost said, “Pawle dothe plant, Apollo dothe watter, but God gyvethe the increase”’ (State Papers, Dom. Elizabeth, ccxxxiii. 118). It is said that the queen on reading the letter ejaculated, ‘God's death! This fool went out a soldier and has come home a divine.’
Hawkyns passed the years immediately following on shore. In November 1591 he was one of the commissioners ‘for taking account of the prizes taken at sea during the summer … and of the proper proportions to be assigned to her Majesty’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom.); proof sufficient that he had not forfeited the queen's confidence. On 8 July 1592 he wrote to Burghley that he had his leg hurt at the launch of the Swiftsure (ib.) He was at this time also engaged in the building and organising the still existing ‘Sir John Hawkyns's Hospital’ at Chatham, which was built in 1592, though the charter was not granted till two years later. Towards the end of 1594 he was again called on to serve at sea, in an expedition ordered to the West Indies, under the command of Sir Francis Drake, and fitted out at the joint cost of the queen, Hawkyns, Drake, and possibly other minor adventurers. After many delays this fleet left Plymouth in August 1595, by which time the Spaniards were well informed of its destination and its force. It thus disappointed expectation; but Hawkyns did not witness the failure. He died at sea off Porto Rico on 12 Nov. 1595. His death was doubtless due to the effect of the West Indian climate on a man no longer young, and with a constitution already weakened by former hardships and by attacks of fever and ague, one of which in 1581 had brought him to death's door (Hawkins, p. 43n.) Four days before his death, feeling his strength failing, he added a last codicil to his will, in which, after directing restitution to be made to any man whom he had injured, he continued: ‘For the faults or offences which I have or might have committed against her Majesty, I do give unto her 2,000l. (if she will take it), for that she hath in her possession of mine a far greater sum which I do release unto her. This I mean with God's grace to perform myself, if he of his mercy send me home.’
Hawkyns was buried at sea, but in accordance with his will a monument was erected to his memory in the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East, in which parish he had resided for thirty years, and to the poor of which, as well as a Plymouth and of Deptford, he bequeathed a sum of 50l. In addition to the Latin inscription on the monument, another in English was shown on a mural tablet. These with the church perished in the great fire; but the inscriptions have been preserved by Stow (Survey of London, vol. i. lib. ii. p. 45). In the English verses there is an error, presumably of transcription, which makes them unintelligible. According to Stow—
Dame Katharine his first religious wife
Saw years thrice ten and two of mortal life,
Leaving the world the sixth, the seventh ascending.
Married should probably be read for mortal in the second line, the third line implying that at her death she was between 42—6 times 7—and 49—7 times 7. Sir Richard Hawkyns [q. v.], her son, was born in or about 1561 or 1562, and Dame Katharine died after a lingering illness in the first days of July 1591 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. pt. i. pp. 14, 15). By the special permission of her husband she executed a will on 23 June 1591 (Drake, p. xi; Hawkins, p. 72). Hawkyns married secondly Margaret, daughter of Charles Vaughan of Hergest Court in Herefordshire, but had by her no issue. She died in 1619. Besides his son Richard, a ‘base son’ is spoken of as captain of the ship sent out to countermand Drake's orders in 1587 (Lansdowne MS. vol. lii. cap. 43). Neither the name of this ship nor of her captain can now be traced, nor yet any other mention of this ‘base son;’ and it has been suggested that the expression merely refers to Richard, the legitimate son, whose conduct may have been disapproved of by the writer of the manuscript, a man full of rancour towards Hawkyns and his family.
Hawkyns's reputation no doubt stands higher than it otherwise would have done by reason of his association with Drake, not only in the last voyage, which proved fatal to both, but in the defeat of the Armada and in their cruel experience at San Juan de Lua. But the characters of the two men were very different. While Drake was winning fame and fortune by unsurpassed feats of daring, Hawkyns was enriching himself as a merchant, shipowner, and admiralty official, whose integrity was suspected. ‘He had,’ says a writer who claims to have known him well, ‘malice with dissimulation, rudeness in behaviour, and was covetous in the last degree’ (R. M., probably Sir Robert Mansell, in Purchas his Pilgrimes, iv. 1185; Lediard, Naval History, p. 312). But, whatever his faults, history has condoned them, rightly considering him one of the great men who broke the power of Spain, and established England's maritime supremacy.
So-called portraits of Hawkyns are not uncommon, but few seem genuine. Of these one is in the Sir John Hawkyns's Hospital at Chatham, where it is said to have hung ever since the hospital was first built. Another now in the possession of Mr. C. Stuart Hawkins of Hayford Hall, Buckfastleigh, Plymouth, has not an unbroken tradition, but is believed to be genuine: it bears the arms of Sir John Hawkyns and the date ‘Ætatis suæ 58; Anno Domini 1591.’ It was exhibited in the Armada exhibition at Drury Lane Theatre in October 1888, and is reproduced as a frontispiece to Miss Hawkins's ‘Plymouth Armada Heroes.’ A group, said to be Drake, Hawkyns, and Cavendish, ascribed to Mytens, has been at Newbattle, the seat of the Marquis of Lothian, for at least 250 years. A copy, presented by the seventh Marquis of Lothian, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich. Other portraits, such as the miniature ascribed to Peter Oliver, now belonging to the Countess of Rosebery, or the ivory bust belonging to the Rev. B. D. Hawkins (Hawkins, pp. 17, 76), both of which were lent to the Drury Lane exhibition of 1888, cannot be identified with Hawkyns, and are, more especially the miniature, utterly unlike the better authenticated portrait. The name, though now commonly written Hawkins, was by Sir John himself, as well as by his brother William, his son Richard, and his nephew William, invariably written Hawkyns. The Spaniards, their contemporaries, preferred Aquinas or Achines, or occasionally Acle: in Portuguese Latin it appears as de Canes.
[The several lives of Hawkyns are meagre and unsatisfactory. They include Campbell's in Lives of the Admirals, i. 410; Southey's, in Lives of the British Admirals, vol. iii.; Worth's, in Transactions of the Devonshire Association for 1883, and Miss Hawkins's, in Plymouth Armada Heroes. This last, however, gives some interesting copies or abstracts of original papers, including the wills of Hawkyns and his two wives; but the author seems not to have known of Hawkyns's last codicil, dated 8 Nov. 1595. The will was proved twice; once in 1596, as he had left it in England, and a second time in 1599, with this later addition. Hakluyt's accounts of the three voyages to the coast of Africa and the West Indies are included in the Hawkins' Voyages, edited for the Hakluyt Society by C. R. Markham, under whose name they are here referred to; Froude's Hist. of England (cabinet edit.); Drake's Introduction to Hasted's Hist. of Kent; Western Antiquary (passim). The writer would also acknowledge some notes supplied by Dr. H. H. Drake.]