Sir John Hawkins

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Sir John Hawkins
Sir John Hawkins - Privateer (1532 - 1595)

Sir John Hawkins was a Privateer and the first English slave trader. Along with his cousin, Sir Francis Drake, he took part in several expeditions to attack the Spanish and took part in the battle against the Spanish Armada, for which he was knighted. He served as the Treasurer of the Royal Navy and designed ships that improved the impact of the Navy.

This page details facts about Sir John Hawkins's life and the events that shaped his history.

Sir John Hawkins the Privateer - Fun Facts for Kids !
Sir John Hawkins Fact   1: John Hawkins was born in Plymouth, Devon in England, in 1532. His father, William Hawkins, was a merchant, a sea captain and had served in Parliament.
Sir John Hawkins Fact   2: Little is known of his early life although he was well educated and followed the family trade by going to sea.
Sir John Hawkins Fact   3: By 1562 John Hawkins had formed a syndicate of wealthy merchants who wanted to invest in the trading of slaves. He set sail for Guinea with three ships and attacked a Portuguese ship loaded with slaves. In the same year he married Katherine Gonson, the daughter Benjamin Gonson, the Treasurer of the Royal Navy. His son, Sir Richard Hawkins, was born c1592.
Sir John Hawkins Fact   4:

John Hawkins sailed for the Caribbean with his valuable load and, following his arrival at Santo Domingo in Hispaniola, sold them in the Spanish colonies. This act established John Hawkins as the first English slave trader.

Queen Elizabeth I
Sir John Hawkins Fact   5:

The venture was very profitable so a second expedition was planned for 1564. Backed by investors which included Queen Elizabeth I, Hawkins set sail with the Queen’s carrack ‘Jesus of Lubeck’ and three other ships.

Sir John Hawkins Fact   6:

John Hawkins, accompanied by his cousin, Sir Francis Drake, headed for the west coast of Africa. He captured in excess of 400 slaves and crossed the Atlantic where, once again, he traded them with the Spanish.


Picture of Queen Elizabeth I

Sir John Hawkins Fact   7: The same year, accompanied once again by Francis Drake, John Hawkins began his third slaving expedition. While on this expedition, his fleet sailed to San Juan de Ulua (modern day Vera Cruz) to shelter from a storm. A Spanish fleet of 13 ships appeared and destroyed all but 2 of the English ships.
Sir John Hawkins Fact   8: The ‘Minion’, commanded by Hawkins, and the ‘Judith’, commanded by Drake, managed to escape and headed for Plymouth where they arrived on 20 January 1569. This incident led to the bitterness that arose between England and Spain and resulted in the deploying of the Spanish Armada.
Sir Martin Frobisher Sir John Hawkins Fact   9:

In 1571 Hawkins tricked the Spanish Ambassador when he appeared to take part in a plot to replace Queen Elizabeth I with Mary, Queen of Scots. He acquired the details of the plan, known as the ‘Ridolfi Plot’ and informed the government. Subsequently the plotters were arrested and the plot foiled.

Sir John Hawkins Fact 10:

In c1577/8, following the death of his father in law, Hawkins was designated Treasurer of the Royal Navy. Using the skills he had learned from his family business, he set about improving the design and construction of the naval ships.

Sir John Hawkins Fact 11:

In 1588 the newly designed ships, which were faster and more manoeuverable, played a major part in defeating the Spanish Armada. Hawkins took part in the battle, alongside Drake and Sir Martin Frobisher, and was knighted for his actions.

Picture of Sir Martin Frobisher

Sir John Hawkins Fact 12:

In 1589 Sir John Hawkins, accompanied by Drake, made an unsuccessful attempt to prevent Spain re-arming by attacking their treasure ships on their return from Mexico.

Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins Fact 13:

In 1591 his wife Katherine died and he married Margaret Vaughan.

Sir John Hawkins Fact 14:

In 1595 Sir John Hawkins joined Drake on an expedition to attack Spanish ships in the West Indies. During the expedition they both fell fatally ill. Sir John Hawkins died at sea off the coast of Puerto Rico on 12 November 1595.


Picture of Sir Francis Drake

Sir John Hawkins the Privateer (1532 - 1595) Fun Facts Info for Kids !

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