Thanks to the painstaking efforts of Susan Jackson, the Society can present the most accurate transcription of Drake’s will. The editor typed the version that was published in 1863. Susan has combed through the will, word by word. Her minor corrections and insertions of the deleted text, make her work virtually definitive. To the best of our knowledge, Susan is the second person to make such a transcription. Few Drake scholars have examined the document in full. Hence, it is now within easy reach of all members. Authors have referred to the professionally copied version, which is easier to read, than the original draft, as dictated by Sir Francis to Jonas Bodenham. The copied version is back-dated to August 1595. In pursuit of being close to Drake’s thoughts, the editor has had photographed the original draft, so that the deletions could be included. The will occupies two and a half folios: each a little larger than A3. The will was modified by a codicil dated 27 January 1596. Both documents were witnessed by Drake’s associates. The wills are housed at the Public Record Office, Buskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU. Tel. 0181 392 5225. Their references are: PROB 1/2 f-1, 2 & 3.
Lady Elizabeth Drake
The will was drawn up to satisfy Lady Elizabeth Drake, her family, William Strode and Anthony Rouse, the executors of the marriage settlement. Drake’s marriage settlement required him to bequeath all his properties to his wife. At this time in 1585, Drake’s younger brother Thomas was a bachelor. By 1595, Thomas had a son called Francis. Sir Francis had no children and desired that his estates remained in the Drake lineage. Sir Francis was now in a position where he could not please everybody. He dictated the will to his secretary Jonas Bodenham, whom he treated like a son. However, Drake did not sign the will. This was probably because Drake did not want to leave Buckland to his wife, unless they were to have a child. Hence the will would break up his Buckland estate. There is no mention of his manor houses of Sampford Spiney, Sherford and Yarcombe. Jonas Bodenham was only left £100 and there were no personal bequests to friends, nor to uncle John, who resided in Plymouth. Hence, it was likely that Drake did not intend to honour the will and that it was a temporary measure to appease his wife before setting out on the pending West Indies voyage. No doubt Sir Francis intended to rewrite the will after his return.
The codicil written during the voyage was designed to amend and validate the will. This document reflects Drake’s true wishes and is thus the more important of the three. The will and not the codicil was upheld in the county court judgement of 1598. However, subsequently the will and the codicil were upheld in their respective lawsuits.
The document which for several years, was displayed at Buckland Abbey, has always been mistakenly known as the codicil. This document is an indenture and was signed by Drake and his witnesses. This gave Thomas the required legal powers to act as Drake’s executor and to override the earlier powers of attorney given to executors: Harris, Rowse and Strode. If Thomas were not given this document, the executors and Dame Elizabeth would have succeeded in overturning the terms of the codicil. This would have validated the "first" will and the terms of the marriage settlement.
Thomas was involved in litigation for most of his life. It was his executive powers which were finally upheld in the courts, rather than those of the executors.
It is evident from the deletions and omissions, that both the will and the codicil were hurriedly written. It is also obvious from the syntax and terminology that, the three documents were written by a man who had legal knowledge, or a legal education. I would suggest that this was Jonas Bodenham. Hence I present the following hypothesis.
Bodenham was the son of Margaret Newman, sister of Mary, Drake’s first wife. Drake raised Bodenham like a son, which Thomas Drake’s comments substantiate. Drake would probably have given Bodenham a "gentleman’s" education. This would have included a year or so, at the Inns of court. This body acted almost as an unofficial "finishing school" for young gentlemen in Elizabethan England. This groomed them for the duties compatible with their social status, such as Justices of the Peace. This experience would have provided Jonas with the necessary jargon to write a will. Since he did not produce a copied neater version, indicated that he was aware that the document was a temporary measure.
Buckland Abbey, Devon
© Michael Turner 1997-2007
© Michael Turner 1997-2007
Sampford Spiney, Devon
© Michael Turner 1997-2007
© Michael Turner 1997-2007
In the name of god Amen 18 daie of August in the yeare of our lorde god, according to the computation of the church of England, one thowsande five hundred ninetie five, and in the seaven and thirtith yeare of the raigne of our soveraigne Ladie Elizabeth, by the grace of god of England, Fraunce, and Irelande Queene, Defender of the Faithe, &c. Forasmuch as all men are borne to die, that the time of our departure out of this mortall life is most uncertaine, and for that we are here but stewardes for the time to dispose of such thinges as god hath lent us as maie be best for the glorie of his heavenlie majestie and the welfare of our owne soules, as well in consideration whereof as also for that I, Sir Francis Drake, of Bucklond, in the countie of Devon, knighte, am now called into action by her majestie, wherein I am to hazard my life aswell in the defence of christes gospell as for the good of my prince & countrie And for that I have an intent and meaneinge that not onelie such debtes as I owe should be truelie paide if god should call me before I returne out of th’action and journey now in hand her majesties service now in hand, but also to give and dispose of divers of my frendes and servantes sondrie sommes of monie, goodes, and chattells, and to leave behinde me all thinges in a good and decent order, to th’intent noe controversie or discention shoulde after my decease arise or growe touchinge anie of my landes, tenementes, leases, and hereditamentes, plate, household stuffe, jewells, goodes, or chattells whatsoever, whereof I now stand possessed and seised; I the said sir Francis Drake, haveinge advisedlie considered of the premisses, being nowe in bodilie health and bodie perfect mynde and remembrance, thankes be given to almightie god for the same, do make this my testament conteininge herein my last will in manner and forme followeinge, viz.: first, I bequeath my soule to almightie god, my onelie maker and redeemer, and my bodie to the earth to be buried and intombed at the discretion of myn executours in this my testament hereafter to be appointed nominated and appointed, at such time as it shall please god to call me to his mercie, in sure and certaine hope to rise againe to life eternall. Item, I give and bequeath to the poore people of the towne and parishe of Plymouth the somme of fortie poundes of lawful monie of England, twentie poundes whereof to be distributed to the poore people in the almes house there by sixe poundes, thirtene shillinges, fouer pence yearelie, tenne poundes thereof to be distributed to the poore people in the Mawdlyn houses at Plymouth aforesaid by fiftie shillinges yeerlie, and tenne poundes residue to be distributed to other poore people of the saide towne and parishe by the discretion of the maior there for the time beinge and his bretheren (which saide fortie poundes after my debtes are satisfied to be paide by tenne poundes yerelie). Item, I give & bequeath to Dame Elizabeth my wife all my furniture, goods, ymplementes, & houshold stuffe whatsoever standinge & beinge within the dores of my mansion House of Bucklond (my plate & one cuppe of golde onelie excepted to bee sould towardes the paiement of my debtes). And whereas I am nowe possessed of the milles of Plymouth for tearme of dyvers yeares yet endureing and to come, as in and by the same lease more plainelie maie appeare; and of and in other milles named Widie milles lyinge and beinge neare Plymouth aforesaid; I doe hereby grante and devise, and my meaneing and intent is, towardes the better advancement of the joyneture of the saide Dame Elizabeth my wife, that my executours hereafter to be named shall graunte, demise, lease, and sett over within one quarter of a yeare next after my decease to the saide Dame Elizabeth my wife and her assignes all and singuler the milles of Plymouth aforesaide with two little closes lyinge neare and adjoyneing to the same milles, and the foresaide milles called Widie milles, together with all customes, proffittes, and advantages whatsoever unto the same milles belonginge or apperteninge, for anie reasonable tearme of yeeres to be determinable uppon the life of the saide Dame Elizabeth, by the which lease soe to be made Dame Elizabeth shall covenant for her selfe, her executours and assignes, to and with my saide executours, and with the survivours and survivour of them, to paie such rent yearelie to the saide maior and the commonaltie of the towne of Plymouth and theire successors of Plymouth and to repaire the premisses in such sorte, as I by the saide originall deede am bounde to yelde, paie, make, and doe. And further my intent and meaneinge and will is that after the decease of the saide Dame Elizabeth my said executours and the survivours and survivour of them, shall graunte, lease, transferre, assigne, and sett over all and singular the foresaid milles with the saide closes of lande and appurtenances whatsoever, and all the interest, title, estate, and tearme of yeeres
yeers which shalbe then to come of and in the same, to my brother Thomas Drake, his executours, and assignes. Item, I doe give, graunte, lease, and demise to my brother Thomas Drake and his assignes all that capitall messuage or tenement, with all houses, shoppes and sellors, gardens, yardes, backsides, commodities, and easementes whatsoever with th’appurtenances to the same messuage or tenement belonginge or in anie wise apperteininge, scituate lyinge and beinge in the High Streete within the borrowghe of Plymouth aforesaide, and now in the teanure or occupation of the saide Thomas Drake, his assignes or assignee, to have and to hould to the said Tomas Drake his executours and assignes, ymediatlie from and after my decease, for and dureinge the tearme of fouer score and tenne yeeres then next followinge fullie to the compleate and ended, yf the saied Thomas Drake, Elizabeth his wife, and Frauncis and Elizabeth their children, or anie of them, so longe doe happen to live, yealding and payinge therefore yeerlie fouer pence sterlinge at the feaste of Sainct Michaell the Archangell if the same be demaunded. Item, I give and bequeath to my servant Jonas Bodenham one hundred poundes sterlinge. Item, I give and bequeath to my servant William Spencer one hundred poundes of lawfull monie of England. Item, I give and bequeath to my servant Thomas Rattenburie fiftie poundes of like money. Item, I give and bequeath to my servantes George Hewes, George Doable, William Baker, Roger Pley, and to Dorothie the wife of Richard Lane, to each of them the somme of twentie poundes of like monie. Item, I give and bequeath to the residue of my servantes beinge of the better sorte, to each of them the somme of tenne poundes of lawfull Englishe monie; and to others being of the second sorte of my servantes, to each of them five poundes of like monie; and to the residue of all my common servantes, both men and women, which shalbe serveing in my house at the time of my death and departure, to each of them the somme of fortie shillinges. Item, I give and bequeath to Thomas Toser, servant to my brother Thomas Drake, the somme of tenne poundes of like money. And my meaneing and intent is that the one halfe of all the legacies before given to my said servantes shalbe paied and delivered to them by my saide executours, or the survivours or survivour of them, at th’end and retourne of this action and jorney now in hand, yours faithfully my saide executours, or the survivours or survivour of them, may then convenientlie make so much monies of the same; and the other halfendale thereof within shorte time after my debtes are paide, and so soone as my saide executours, or the survivours or survivour of them, maie convenientlie make monies for payment with my goods of my saide goodes and chattells. And whereas, by a deede indented beareing date the day and yeare of this my last will and testament, I have, for the better satisfaction of debtes and paiement of my legacies, given and graunted to Anthonie Rowse, William Strode, and Christofer Harris, esquiers, all my leases, goodes, and chattells whatsoever, and also have authorized them to receive all such debtes as are anie waie oweinge unto me, and in the like manner to have the goverment, order, and disposition of all my landes, tenementes, leases, and hereditamentes aswell in my absence as also for five yeeres next after my decease, yours faithfully I happen to die before I retourne out of th’action and jorney aforesaide, with a proviso in the same deede conteined that at th’end of the same five yeeres they and everie of them should aswell for the said landes, tenementes, leases, and hereditamentes, as for the surplusage of all other thinges remaineinge in theire handes, be accomptable and dispose as I by my last will and testament in writeing under my hand and scale should appoint and not otherwise, as in and by the same deede more plainelie appeareth. And for that I have a greate confidence, trust, and fidelitie in the said Anthonie Rowse, William Strode, and Christofer Harris, touching the paiement of debtes and accomplishinge of this my last will and testament, the residue of all my goodes, chattells, and plate, not before given or bequeathed, I doe in trust give and bequeath to the saide Anthony Rowse, William Stroade and Christofer Harris, whome I doe make and ordaine to be my executours of this my last will and testament, to see my debtes and legacies to be trulie paide and performed accordinge to the trust and confidence which I repose in them; in accomplishinge whereof I no waye doubte but that they and the survivours and survivour of them will imploy their uttermost endevors. And further I doe here by this my testament appoint and make knowen to my saide executours that my meaneing, will and intent Yours sincerely that after my debtes and legacies are paied and discharged they and the survivors and survivor of them shall yealde a true and just accompte to my saide brother Thomas Drake, his executors or assignes, aswell of all the foresaide landes, tenementes, leases, goodes, and chattells, as of the surplusage of all other thinges whatsoever which shall be then remaineinge after my debtes and legacies are trulie paid. And my further meaneinge and intent is that my saide executors and the survivors and survivor of them shall, uppon such accompte or accomptes soe to be past as aforesaide, and uppon request to them or anie of them, to be made by the said by the said Thomas Drake, his executors or assignes, or anie of them, reassure, render, give over, deliver, or paie to the saide Thomas Drake, his executors or assignes, all the forsaide landes, tenementes, leases, goodes, and chattells, or such somme or sommes of monie as shalbe then made of the same or anie parte thereof, which the saide Thomas Drake, his executors and assignes, shall have and take his and theire owne proper use and comoditie benefitt and behoofe, for ever. And, finallie, I have appointed my trustie and welbeloved frendes and cosens, Master Richard Drake esquier, one of th’esquires (sic) of her majesties stable, and Thomas Barret, archdiacon, to be rulers and overseers of this my last will and testament, and allsoe to be aideinge and assistinge to my saide executors, and the survivors and survivor of them, touchinge the better accomplishement of the same; and I give to each of them for their paines herein to be taken the somme of of lawfull monie of England. In witnes whereof, I the said Sr Frauncis Drake have hereunto set my seale and subscribed my name, theis beinge witnesses. FRA. DRAKE. Sealed, signed, and delivered in the presence of those whose names followe: Charles Mannors, Jonas Bodenham, Thomas Webbs, Roger Langsford, George Watkins, William Maynard.
In the name of god, amen. The seaven and twenteth day of Januarie, in the eight and thirteth yere of the raigne of our soveraigne Ladie Elizabeth, by the grace of god of England, Fraunce, and Ireland Queene, Defender of the Faith, &c. I Frauncis Drake, of Bucklond Monachorum in the countie of Devon, knighte, generall of her majesties fleete nowe in service for the west Indyes, beinge perfect of minde and memorie (thankes be therefore unto god) although sick in bodie, doe make and ordaine my last will and testament in manner and forme followeinge, viz.: First, I commend my soule to Jesus Christ, my savour and redeemer, in whose righteousness I am made assured of everlastinge felicitie; and my bodie to the earth to be entombed at the discrecion of my executors. Item, I give, devise, and bequeath unto my welbeloved cosen Frauncis Drake, the sonne of Richard Drake of Eshire in the countie of Surrey esquier, one of the quires of her majesties stable, all that my mannor of Yarckombe scituate lyinge and beinge within the countie of Devon, with all the members rightes, members, and appurtenances to the same belonging or in anie wise apperteininge.To have and to hould all and singuler the saied mannor of Yarckomb, with all the rightes, members, and appurtenances unto the same belonginge, unto the saied Frauncis Drake, sonne of the saied Richard Drake, his heires and assignes for ever: Provided alwaies, and my will and intent is, that, if the saide Richard Drake and Frauncis Drake his sonne, theire heires, executors, or administrators, or anie of them, doe not well and trulie content and paie, or cause to be contented and paide, unto Thomas Drake of Plymouth in the asaide countie of Devon gentleman, his executors or assignes, the somme of two thousande poundes of lawfull monie of England, within two yeeres next after the death of me the saide Frauncis Drake, that then this my present legacie and devise of the said mannor of Yarckombe, with its appurtenances, unto the saide Frauncis Drake, sonne of the saide Richard Drake, and to his heires, to be utterlie frustrate, voide, and of noe force. But my will, intent, and meaninge is that, uppon defalte of payment thereof within two yeeres next after my decease, all and singuler the saide mannor called Yarckcomb, with all his rightes, members, and appurtenances, shall whollie discend, remaine, come, and be to my saide brother Thomas Drake, and to his heires and assignes for ever, to the only use and behoofe of the saide Thomas Drake, his heires and assignes for ever more; haveinge this will, intent, and meaneing, that the saide two thowsand poundes before expressed shalbe onelie and whollie imployed towardes the paiement and discharge of my debtes and performance of this my present will and testament, and not otherwise. Item, I give, devise, and bequeath unto Jonas Bodenham, gentleman, all that my mannor of Sampford Speney scituate lyinge and beinge within the saide countie of Devon, with all the rightes, members, and appurtenances to the saide mannor of Sampford Spyney belonginge, to have and to hould all and singuler the saide mannor of Sampford Spyney, with all the rightes and members and appurtenances to the same belonginge, unto the saide Jonas Bodenham, his heires and assignes, for evermore. Furthermore, I doe make constitute and ordaine my saide brother Thomas Drake to be my full and sole executor haveing an assured truste and confidence in him that he will have a brotherly care to see my will performed in all thinges accordinge to the trust in him reposed. As touching all the resydue of landes, goodes, and chattells whatsoever not herein willed devised legacied bequeathed nor disposed of, my will and intent is that a former will made by me the saide Frauncis Drake, under my hand and scale, bearing date the (sic) daie of August, in the seaven and thirteth yeare of the raigne of our saied soveraigne ladie Queene Elizabeth, shall stand remaine and be observed in all pointes, in such manner and forme as in and by the same I have devised willed limited and bequeathed, In witnes whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seale of this daie and y Yeoven the daie and yeare first above written, FRA. DRAKE. Sealed, signed, and delivered, in the presence of those whose names are subscribed: Charles Mannors, Jonas Bodenham, Thomas Webbs, Roger Langsford, George Watkins, William Maynard.
Thanks to the efforts of the late James Barber, Curator of Plymouth City Museum & Art Galleries who transcribed the document, the Society pays tribute to James’s memory by including his valuable work in the first edition. James was the first person to help me with field work and to point me towards the primary sources and to the Drake Navigators Guild. He is remembered with great affection. In 1992 the Drake Navigators Guild wrote that they have lost a good contact. The indenture has frequently been confused with the will: even by Admirals and journalists. The latter was written before Drake’s last voyage and the codicil, on the eve of Drake’s death during the voyage.
Drake died childless and the main purpose of the codicil was to ensure that the bulk of his considerable property was inherited by his brother Thomas, the companion of his voyages, in consideracion of the brotherlie love and affection which he [Sir Frauncis] hath & beareth to the said Thomas Drake his brother and for the advancement of his owne name & posteritye, and because Drake wished his estates "to remayne and contynew in his name & Blood." This document is in the form of an Indenture between Sir Francis on the one part and William Strode of Newenham, co. Devon, and Thomas Drake of Plymouth, brother to Sir Francis, on the other part.
"Fra Drake" declaring that his estates of Buckland Monachorum and Sherford and all his other property in England (with the exception of the manors of Yarkcombe and Sampford Spiney) are to remain in his own use and that of the heirs of his body, and in default of such issue they are to be inherited by his brother Thomas Drake and his children, and in default of such issue by "the Right heires of the said Sir Francis Drake forever," Endorsed by Thomas Drake "A Dede made by my brother Sr. Francys Drake of all his lands in England to me" (etc.)
27 January, 38 Elizabeth I 
[Taken from the Southerby & Co sale catalogue Mon 5th / Tues 6th Nov 1962.]
The indenture dated 27th January named Thomas Drake the full and sole executor. Drake wanted to pass on his estates intact and wished to avoid them being split up. Sir Francis signed the indenture the day before he died aboard his flagship the Defiance. A note on the reverse of the document, is written by Drake’s brother Thomas and reads:
"A dede made by my brother
Sr Francis Drake of
all his lands in England
to me the XXXIIth daye
of January in the XXXVIIIh
year of the Queens Mats
This indenture made the XXViith daye of Januarye in the XXXViiith yeare of the Raigne of our Sov aigne Ladye Elizabeth by the grace of god of Ingland Fraunce & Ireland queene defender of the faith etc Between Sr Fraunces Drake
knight of th one ptie And William Strode of Newenham in the Countie of Devon Esquier and Thomas Drake of Plymouth in the Countie of Devon gentleman Brother of the said Sr Fraunces Drake of th other ptie Witnesseth that the said Sr Fraunces Drake for and in consideracion of the brotherlie love & affeccon wch he hath & beareth to the said Thomas Drake his brother and for th advancemt of his owne name & posteritye, And to th entent that the said Sr Fraunces would have his Mannors Lands & tenemts hereafter named & expressed to remayne and contynew in his name bloud to the good pleasure of the almightie god doth conenant promise and grant for him his heires executors & administrators & for ev~ry of them to & wth the said William Strode and Thomas Drake there heires executors administrators & assignes and to & wth ev~ry of them by theise presents that he the said Sr Fraunces Drake & his heires shall and will stand & be seised from henceforth of and in all that the mansion house Barton & demeanes of Buckland Monachoru~ in the said Countie of Devon and of & in all lands tenemts & hereditamts belongin ge to the same And of and in the Mannor Barton & demeanes of Shirford in the said Countie of Devon wth all his Rights Members & app tenn
cs And of and in all other the Mannors messuags Lands tenemts Rents Rev –cons Srvices & hereditamts wth whatsoever ^ of the said Sr Fraunces Drake wthin the Realme of Ingland (The Mannor of Yarckcomb wth all his rights members & appurtennacs in the said Countie of Devon, and the mannor of Sampford Spiney wth all his rights members & app^tenancs in the said Countie of Devon only xcepted and foreprised) To the uses intents & purposes hereafter expressed & declared, That is to say to the use of himself the said Sr Fraunces Drake and of the heires of his bodye laufullye begotten and to be begotten And for th default of such issue to the use of the said Thomas Drake and the heires of his bodye laufullye begotten & to be begotten, And for default of such issue to the use of the Right heires of the said Sr Fraunces Drake for evr And to none other use intent or purpose In witnes whereof the pties abovesaid to theise present Indentures interchangeablie have put their hands & seales yeoven the daye & yeare above written.
The indenture names Drake’s solicitors to grant Dame Elizabeth Drake, widow of Sir Francis, the remainder of a lease in certain properties which Drake has leased from the mayor and Corporation of Plymouth, 3 August 1596.
The Will also reveals that the bequest to the poor of Plymouth was supposed to be a yearly payment. Furthermore, Drake’s care for his most junior to most senior servants was as meticulous as his care for his crews.
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