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Letter from Elizabeth I to Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake concerning the Earl of Essex

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Letter from Elizabeth I to Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake concerning the Earl of Essex

Author
Elizabeth I
Date
4 May 1589
Medium
Manuscript

On 18 April 1589 Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake set sail from England at the head of an expedition raised to strike a retaliatory blow against Spain for the Armada attack of the previous summer (MS. Tanner 79, fol. 48). Having failed to take Spanish Corunna, the English fleet sailed for Portugal on 8 May, their aim to free the country from Spanish control by placing the pretender Dom Antonio on the throne (MS. Tanner 79, fol. 48v). En route to Portugal, Norris and Drake rendezvoused with the Swiftsure on which the royal favourite Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, had secretly left England without the Queen's permission (Wernham, Expedition of Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake, p. 189). Essex had been aided in his escape by Sir Roger Williams (MS. Tanner 79, fols. 46-7; Nolan, Sir John Norreys, pp. 141-2). In her letter, of which this is a contemporary copy, an outraged Elizabeth orders Norris and Drake to remove Williams from his command and place him under arrest. The Queen also demands the return of Essex, warning Norris and Drake that they will "answer deeply" should they fail to comply. The Queen's warning passed unheeded and Essex remained with the expedition.

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