Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sir Francis Drake’s Drum

Francis Drake lived during the Elizabethan era in England. Within his lifetime he was a sea captain, navigator, privateer, slaver, and politician. Elizabeth l knighted him in 1581. 

Drake was the second captain to circumnavigate or sail around the world. He was the second-in-command of the English fleet, which sailed against the Spanish Armada in 1588.

He was a great enemy of the Spanish who considered him a pirate. They dubbed him El Draque, and the Spanish King Philip ll placed 20,000 ducats upon his head—the equivalent of $6.5 million today. 

All of Drake's exploits guaranteed him a place as an honored hero in English history.

But despite Drake's active life upon the world's seas, the legend that he is most remembered for is connected to a snare drum that he owned and sailed with for many years. This legend came into play many years after his death.

His drum, emblazoned with Drake’s coat of arms circumnavigated the world with him. It also went into battle with him on more than one occasion. 

Shortly before he died, off the coast of Panama in 1596, he ordered that this drum be returned to England where in times of trouble it should be beaten. Drake proclaimed that he would then return from the grave to defend his beloved country.

Following Drake’s death, his drum was returned to his family home, Buckland Abbey located in Buckland Monachorum, Devon. Today the drum is on public display at this Abbey under the care of the National Trust. 

It is said the drum is still remembered today because Drake’s last promise according to the legend has indeed come true. This drum is heard at times when England is at war or when some significant national event has taken place.

The drum was heard beating when the Mayflower left Plymouth for America in 1620, it was heard when Admiral Lord Nelson was made a freeman of Plymouth, it also sounded when Napoleon was brought to Plymouth Harbour as a prisoner. And finally when both the First and Second World wars began it was heard.

In 1918, aboard the HMS Royal Oak, a victory roll was heard when the German Navy surrendered. This ship was searched twice by officers and then again by the captain, but neither drum nor drummer was found on board. 

During World War ll in 1938 Drake’s home Buckland Abbey was partially destroyed by fire. 

The drum was rescued and removed to a safe place. Plymouth was then devastated by air raids, but when the residents remembered that the drum's legend stated, “If Drake's Drum were moved from its rightful home, the city would fall.” 

So these residents insisted the drum should be returned to Buckland Abbey. After this, the city remained safe for the rest of the war. 

The drum was most recently heard in 1940 at the Dunkirk evacuation during World War ll.

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