Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/219

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Fenner
Fenner
207

28th he was required to give bonds that he would not 'spoil any of the queen's subjects, nor traffic into India, or any other places privileged by the king of Spain' (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547--80, pp. 279, 280; Cal. Simancas MSS. 1558-67, pp. 588, 593). Fenner probably interpreted his engagements somewhat freely, and in the Azores he was treated by the Portuguese like a pirate ; he was attacked by a royal squadron consisting of a galleon of four hundred tons and two caravels. He beat them off three times, and when on the following day the Portuguese were joined by two more caravels, Fenner handled them so roughly that they drew off and allowed him to escape ; this action is claimed as the first revelation of the superiority of English gunnery (Corbett, Drake and the Tudor Navy, i. 93-5 ; Drake's Successors, pp. 172, 254).

After his return Fenner occupied himself with trading in the Low Countries, and in 1570 he petitioned Elizabeth for redress for the pillage of his ships by the Spaniards ; again, in 1575, he complained of similar conduct on the part of the Flushingers. He was, however, given to freebooting on his own account, and in November of the latter year he captured two French ships and brought them into Portsmouth, where they were seized by the government. In September 1584 he complained of the pillage of his ships while lying in the harbour of Havre-de-Grace, but in March 1590-1 he was summoned before the council for robbing Captain Boileau of Rochelle and neglecting to deliver up the goods, as he had promised, to the French ambassador.

Fenner does not appear to have accompanied Drake on any of his expeditions, but in 1588 he commanded the galleon Leicester under Howard, whom, in 1591, he was ordered to join in command of the Lion in the proposed expedition to the coast of Brittany. In May 1593 he was sent by the council to report on the condition of Boulogne, which was threatened by the Spaniards and the catholic league. In 1597 he accompanied Essex on the Islands voyage, Essex being commanded to seek his advice in certain contingencies. In 1597, during the alarm of the 'invisible' armada, Fenner was ordered to cruise off the north coast of Spain to pick up intelligence of Spanish movements, and on 14 July he brought into Plymouth news of the approach of the armada, which occasioned the famous naval mobilisation of that year. The news was false, the only force threatening England being Federigo Spinola's six galleys. To intercept these Fenner sailed in the Dreadnought on 31 July for La Hogue Bay, but Spinola had left before Fenner started, and in the chase up the channel Fenner was days behind Spinola's galleys. This appears to have been Fenner's last service at sea, and he probably died soon afterwards.

[Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547-1601 ; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent; Cal. Hatfield MSS. ii. 122, vii. 109; Hakluyt's Principall Navigations ; Corbett's Drake and the Tudor Navy, ii. 226, 356-7, and Drake's Successors, passim.]

A. F. P.

FENNER, THOMAS (d. 1590?), naval commander, came of a Sussex family which produced several well-known seamen in the sixteenth century, the most notable of whom, besides Thomas, were George Fenner [q. v. Suppl.] and William Fenner (d. 1589), who was rear-admiral in Drake and Norris's expedition to Corufia in 1589, and died on his way home of his wounds. Thomas and George were both apparently natives of Chichester, but the family was a numerous one, and it is hardly safe to assume that the naval commander was the Thomas Fenner, a victualler, who was on 28 Jan. 1579-80 committed to the Fleet prison for exporting ordnance to Spain, was released on 7 Feb. following, and on 10 Nov. 1584 was returned to parliament for New Shoreham (Acts P.C. 1578–80, pp. 332, 380, 383; Off. Ret. Members of Part. i. 415). It is also probable that the exploits of Captain Fenner in the Azores in 1566, which Mr. Corbett ascribes in his 'Drake and the Tudor Navy' to Thomas, really belong to George Fenner.

Thomas Fenner, however, who is described as 'one of the most daring and experienced officers of the time' (Corbett, Drake and the Tudor Navy, ii. 12, 13), accompanied Drake as his flag-captain on board the Elizabeth Bonaventure on the Indies voyage of 1585, and he and Frobisher led the boat attack on Cartagena which was successful. In 1587, probably as rear-admiral, he commanded the Dreadnought in Drake's expedition to Cadiz, and in June was sent back to London with news of the burning of Philip's fleet. In the year of the armada he was placed in command of the Nonpareil and appointed Drake's vice-admiral and one of Howard's inner council of war. He strongly approved of Drake's design, early in July 1588, of taking advantage of the north wind and attacking the armada on the coast of Spain, and his memorandum embodying these views is still extant (State Papers, Dom. Eliz. ccxii. 10). The north wind failed, however, before the coast of Spain was reached, and on the way back Fenner was detached to cruise off the coast of