Sir Richard HAWKINS

Born: ABT 1562, Plymouth, England

Died: 17 Apr 1622, Slapton, England

Father: John HAWKINS (Sir) (See his Biography)

Mother: Catherine GONSON

Married: Judith HELE BEF 1590, Plymouth, England


1. Judith HAWKINS


3. Margaret HAWKINS



6. Richard HAWKINS

English admiral, only son of Sir John Hawkins by his first wife, Catherine, dau. of Benjamin Gonson, Treasurer of the Navy frorn 1549 to 1573. After an early voyage to Brazil with his uncle, William Hawkins, he served under Sir Francis Drake and Martin Frobisher in the 158586 expedition to the West Indies, in command of the Duck. The fleet consisted of twenty-five ships, with 2300 soldiers and sailors, of whom 750 died, chiefly of disease, during the voyage. They took San lago, San Domingo, Cartagena, and San Augustine in Florida.

Richard Hawkins commanded the Swallow in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and he is mentioned as greatly distinguishing himself during the many engagements which ended in the total destruction of that great fleet. The Swallow received more damage than any of the Queen's ships during the fight, in which she suffered severely.

He was admitted to the freedom of Plymouth in 1589-90 as 'Ricus Hawkins genrosus', when "...he contributed towards the fund raised to reimburse Drake for bringing in the water...". The previous year he provided the Corporation with a silver cup, value 12, for presentation to Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Warden of the Stannaries, also "...four demi culverins and three sakers..." for the defence of the town.

Richard also served under his father in 1590 in an unsuccessful expedition against Portugal. In 1590 Sir John Hawkins obtained the grant of a commission for his son Richard, to attempt, with a ship, bark, and pinnace, an expedition against Felipe II of Spain. This commission assigned to Richard Hawkins and his patrons whatever they should take; reserving one-fifth of the treasure, jewels, and pearls, to the Queen. The voyage was intended to be made by way of the Straits of Magellan and the South Sea, the object being to discover and survey unknown lands, and to report upon their inhabitants, governments, and produce; returning by way of Japan, China, and the East Indies.

In 1593 he set out on an expedition in the ship Dainty, sailed down the Brazilian coast and through the Strait of Magellan, plundered Valparaiso, and took a number of prizes. Having raided Valparaiso (in what is now Chile), the Dainty was attacked in the Bay of Atacames by six Spanish ships. Vastly outnumbered, Hawkins and his crew of 75 held out for three days in a fierce battle; finally, a badly wounded Hawkins surrendered on condition that his surviving men would be sent back to England. He was imprisoned in Peru for three years, then transferred to Spain.

Richard Hawkins was sent to Spain in 1597. The galleon in which he sailed touched at Terceira, in the Azores, where she was chased by a fleet in command of the Earl of Essex, and several Spaniards killed and wounded by the English shot; but the galleon escaped, and arrived at Seville, where Sir Richard was thrown into prison, and dishonourably detained in captivity.

In May, 1598, a letter to Cecil reported Richard Hawkins in the castle at San Lucar as a hostage for Spaniards in England, and a second letter from Lisbon reported that he escaped out of the Castle of Seville in Sep 1598, but was taken, thrust into a dungeon, and great store of irons put upon him. The next year he was enabled to send word to England by Deacon, his servant, who was passed over by De Marsenal from San Jean de Luz, and got on board an English ship in the port of Conquet, Aug 1599. In Apr 1600, Richard Cook, another messenger, again brought news home of the prisoner.

There are extant some most pathetic and touching letters written by Hawkins from his prison to Queen Elizabeth, and also to Sir Henry Neville; the English Ambassador at Paris, asking for compassion in the name of his father's services, who sacrificed his life for his Queen. That he himself had spent fifteen years in her service without pay or recompense, knowing that she had infinite charges while he had a good estate; and that he was in danger of perpetual imprisonment unless her powerful hand was reached out, expressing deep concern for the welfare of his wife and child who were living at Plymouth, and conveying to the Queen and her Council all that he could glean of the intentions of Spain towards England. At the hazard of his life, in this way, if in no other, he was determined to serve his country.

In his letter to Sir Henry Neville, he tells him "that he is the unfortunate son of Sir John Hawkins; that he fought for three days and nights, and was wounded in six places; that most of his men were killed and wounded, and that he surrendered when the ship was ready to sink. The Spanish general sent his glove as a pledge to give life and liberty, but he had been detained lest he should return and molest the Spaniards. Most of his people had been freed long ago". He entreated the Ambassador to intercede with the Queen for him. "I and my father", he concluded, "ever since we could bear arms, spent time and substance in her service".

At last, in 1602, after almost ten years' captivity, he was set free -his ransom being 12,000, a great sum in those days, 3000 of which had been left in his father's will for that purpose paid with some reluctance by his stepmother after his father's death -and he returned to Engand in Jan 1603. The credit of his release is due to the Count of Miranda, who declared that if a prisoner was detained whose liberty had been promised, no future agreement could ever be made, because faith in Spanish honour would be destroyed.

It was a sad home-coming. The brave old father gone, the estates of both ruined, and long years of the prime of life utterly wasted. But in reward for his valour Richard Hawkins was knighted by King James I (1603), served in Parliament (1604), and made Vice-Admiral of Devon and a Privy Councillor. As vice admiral of Devon was active in defending the Devonshire coast from pirates.

Sir Richard was chosen Mayor of Plymouth after his return (1603-4). The following year (1604) he was elected senior representative of the town in Parliament, with Sir James Bagge. Subsequently we find him and Sir James Bagge multed in 3s. 4d. each for being late at mayor choosing, coming "tarde on St. Lambert's daye".

In 1604 one Walter Matthews was Mayor of Plymouth, and an amusing incident is reported to have taken place; for Matthews was servant unto Sir Richard, as was his wife unto the Lady Hawkins, who disdaining to sit below one that had been her maid endeavoured to keep the upper hand which the other attempting, the Lady struck her a box on the ear. It made a great disturbance at the time, but at length it was composed, and Sir Richard gave the town a house somewhere in Market Street for satisfaction.

Sir Richard purchased, the house and manor of Poole and Slapton from the Amerideths. It is situated between Dartmouth and the Start Point The residence, surrounded with many fine trees, was about three-quarters of a mile from the church; but the ruins of the old mansion were pulled down about 1880, and the site is now occupied by a modern farm-house.

No doubt Sir Richard found Slapton a convenient centre for the discharge of his duties as Vice-Admiral of Devon, in the exercise of which he was, however, constantly at his house in Plymouth, where most of his children were born. In Mar 1605, we find him sequestering a Spanish prize, which was driven into Salcombe Bay. In Jun 1608, he had some correspondence with the Earl of Nottingham respecting some pirates, so discussing a question of Admiralty jurisdiction; and in the following Sep mention is made of his active prosecution of pirates.

In Mar 1614, there was a project for a new voyage of discovery, to send a ship to the Solomon Islands, and that Sir Richard Hawkins should have the command, as he was held to be of "courage, art, and knowledge", to attempt such enterprise. In a letter written by him he refers to a discovery he fortierly made, and to his desire to undertake another voyage to the Straits in person; and offers to adventure 20,000 for a voyage to the South Sea. This idea was not carried out, but it serves to show that Sir Richard was still as keen as ever for discovery.

In Jul 1620, he was put in command of the Vanguard; as Vice-Admiral of twenty ships under Admiral Sir Robert Mansell, to suppress Algerine pirates; and in Oct a special commission was issued to Hawkins to be Admiral in case of Mansell's death. At the age of 58, he led an expedition to the Mediterranean against the Barbary (North African) pirates, but failed to make an impression.

His will, proved 13 Jun 1622, by his wife Judith, said:

In the name of God Amen the 16th day of April 1622 in the twentieth yeare of the raigne of our Sorraigne Lord James by the Grace of God Kinge of England Fraunce and Ireland Defender of the Faith and of Scotland the fyve and fyftith I Sir Richard Hawkins of Slapton in the Countye of Devon Knight beinge sicke and weake in bodye but of pfect mynde and memory blessed be God therefore doe hereby make ordayne and declare this to be my last wrn and Testament in manner and forme followinge. First and principalle I commend my soule unto Almightie God my Maker Redeemer and Sanctifier hoping and beleeving assuredly that through the only merritts death and resurrection of Jesus Christ I shall obtayne full and free remission and pardon of all my sinnes and be made ptaker of eternall life and happiness in the kingdome of heaven with God's elect for ever. And I comitt my body to the earthe from whence it came and after my bodye buried my will and minde is that all suche debts as I shall owe to any p'son or p'sons at the tyme of my decease be first well and trulie satisfied

And touching the orderinge and disposinge of all such lands grounds tenements goods and chattells as it hathe pleased Almightie God to blesse mee with in this life I give and bequeathe the same in manner and forme following Item I give unto Judith my well beloved wife (for and duringe the terme of her natural life) all that my Mannor or Lordshipp of Poole in the Parishe of Slapton in the County of Devon with all mills lands grounds messuages cottages tenements and hereditaments with their and every of their appurtennes to the said Mannor or Lordshipp of Poole now belonging or in any wise app'teyninge And likewise I give and bequeath unto the said Judith my wife (for and duringe the tearme of her naturall life) all other my lands and tenements cottages and hereditaments with the appertennes situate lyeinge and being in or about Plymouth in the Countye of Devon Neverthelesse and uppon this condition followeinge tbat she shall yearelye duringe soe longe tyme as my sonne John Hawkins shall remaine and dwell with his said mother allowe and paie unto my said sonne twentie pounds per annum of lawfull money of England And if it shall happen that he shall hereafter be minded to lyve from her and betake himself to some other place of aboade or otherwise to travaile or to betake himself to lyve either at the Innes of Courte or at the universities of Oxford or Cambridge then to paie unto my said sonne John and his assignes during all such time as hee shall live from her as aforesaid the yearlie some of fortie pounds of lawfull money of England at fower of the most usual feests or termes in the yeare by even and equall por'cons Item I give and bequeath ymediatlie from and after the decease of my said wife Judith all the said Mannor howse or Lordship called Poole with all mills lands grounds messuages cottages tenements and hereditaments with the ire and every of theire appurten'ces in the Parish of Slapton and all other my said lands tenements cottages and hereditaments with th'app'tences lyeinge and being in or about Plymouth in the County of Devon af~resaid with the reverc'on and rever'cons thereof unto my said sonne John Hawkins with all and singular my goods chattells utensils and household stuffe whatsoever Provided always that my said wife may have and enjoy use occupie and possesse the same goods and chattells 'during her life without any interup'con or lett of my said sonne John or of any others by his pcurement Item I give and bequeathe to my sonne Richard Hawkins and to his heires for ever all that messuage or tenement with th'app'tences called Pryvitt scituate lyeinge and being in Alverstoke in the Countye of Southt with all lands and grounds thereunto belonginge or in any wise apperteyninge

Item I give and bequeathe to Margaret Hawkins my daughter (over and above a hundred pounds legacie given her by her grandmother and a jewell of twentye pound value) the some of one hundred pounds of lawfull money of England Item I give and bequeathe to my daughter Joane Hawkins one hundred and twenty pounds and to my youngest daughter Mary the like some of one hundred and twentye pounds All which said three severall legacies of somes of money by me given unto my said three daughters as afforesaide I will shal be paid them at sixteene yeares of age or daye of marriage which shall first happen and to be receaved and had out of my owne entertaynmt due to me from the King's Ma'tie for my last service and imployment don by me at Argeire And if any of my said daughters shall happen to decease or dep'te this transitorie lyfe before they shall happen to come or attayne to their severall ages of sixteene yeares or daye of marriage as aforesaid then I will that the parte and porc'on of any of them so dyeinge or deceasinge as aforesaide shall remayne and come unto the others surviving and overlyving p'te and p'te alike by even and equall por'cons also for the further advancement and encrease of my said daughters porcons as aforesaide I doe equallie give to amongst my said daughters the some of one hundred and fiftie pounds due to me by Sir Henry Thynn Knight to be paid them when and so soone as my Executrix hereafter named shall happen to recover and receave the same And I make and ordayne the said Judith my lovinge wife sole and only Executrix of this my last Will and Testament and I renounce and revoke all former Wills by me formerly made In witness whereof I the said Sir Richard Hawkins have here- unto sett my hand and seale the said sixteenth day of Aprill 1622 in the twentieth yeare of the raigne of our said Soveraigne Lord King James over England France and Ireland RICHARD HAWKINS Sealed and delyvered in the presence of us Thos Button Jo Gifford Josias Shute and Robert Holyland Sr

He died in 1622, just as his Observations were being published for the first time. They live on after him a vivid account of life at sea and the discovery of new lands in the Elizabethan age.

His wife, Judith, survived him, dying on 30 May 1629. Her will of, dated on 27 May 1629, and proved at London 5 Feb 1629 by John Hawkins, says:

In the name of God Amen. I Judith Hawkins sicke of body but sound and perfect of mynde and memorie, doe ordaine and make this my last will and testament in manner and forme followinge. first my Soule which is heavenly redeemed through the sufferings of Christ I commend into the hands of God. for my bodie which is dust and ashes I commend to Christian buriall. Item I give unto my daughter Joane my two leases of Plimouth after two yeares, after my decease and in the meane while ten poundes a yeare for her maintenance, for the land (whereas my son John is at sea) if it please God he doe not returne home with life, it is my will that it should remaine unto my sonne Richard. Item I give unto my daughter Mary one hundred poundes to be paid her on her marriage daie, and ten poundes a yeare for her maintenance in the meane while Item I give unto my daughter Margarett one gold ring. Item I give unto my son Richard one gold ringe. Item I give unto my brother Lewes Heale twentie shillinges. Item I give unto Mr John Cowte twentie shillinges. Item I give to the poor of Slopton [Slapton] ten shillinges to bee distributed at the discretion of Mr Cowte, and some one or two of the Overseers of the poor of the same parish of Slopton. For all the rest of my goods not given and bequeathed I give unto my sonne John whom I doe make my sole Executor. Provided allwaies that if my son John refuse to bee my Executor it shalbe lawfull for my brother Lewes Heale and my brother Nicholas Heale and my brother Nicholas Gilbert, whom I doe appoint my Overseers to sell any or all my goods and Chattells for payment of my debts and legacies, and then what remaines I doe give unto my two daughters Joane and Mary. In witnes whereof I have hereunto sett my hand the daie and yeare first written. JUDETH HAWKINS in the presence of Joh. Cowt. Sign William Bastard.

She was buried in Slapton Church. On a slate-stone slab over the vault, near the screen, on the floor by the Poole pew, to the right of the altar, is the following in- scription:

"lyeth the body of Lady Judith Hawkins wife unto Sir Richard 1629"

The rest is obliterated. Village tradition still tells of how Lady Judith Hawkins walked from the old house of Poole to church -a distance of nearly a mile -on a red velvet carpet, which a servant unrolled before her.


The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2004, Columbia University Press

Mary W. S. Hawkins: The Hawkins Family  1888 - Book converted for the Web Paul Welbank, 1997

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