Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration

Privateers > English Sea Dogs > Thomas Cavendish

Thomas Cavendish


Thomas Cavendich [Candish] (1555?-1592) was the third circumnavigator of the globe and a famous privateer. He born at Trimley St Martin, Suffolk. On quitting Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (without a degree), he almost ruined himself by his extravagance as a courtier. To repair his fortune he turned to maritime and colonial enterprise, and in 1585 accompanied Sir Richard Grenville to Virginia. Soon returning to England, he undertook an elaborate imitation of Drake's great voyage. On the 21st of July 1586, he sailed from Plymouth with 123 men in three vessels, only one of which (the “Desire,” of 140 tons) came home.

By way of Sierra Leone, the Cape Verde Islands and C. Frio in Brazil, he coasted down to Patagonia (where he discovered “Port Desire,” his only important contribution to knowledge), and passing through Magellan's Straits, fell upon the Spanish settlements and shipping on the west coast of South and Central America and of Mexico. Among his prizes were nineteen vessels of worth, and especially the treasure-galleon, the “Great St Anne,” which he captured off Cape St Lucas, the southern extremity of California (November 14, 1587).

After this success he struck across the Pacific for home; touched at the Ladrones, Philippines, Moluccas and Java; rounded the Cape of Good Hope; and arrived again at Plymouth (September 9-10, 1588), having circumnavigated the globe in two years and fifty days. It is said that his sailors were clothed in silk, his sails were damask, and his top-mast covered with cloth of gold. Yet by 1591 he was again in difficulties, and planned a fresh American and Pacific venture. John Davis (q.v.) accompanied him, but the voyage (undertaken with five vessels) was an utter failure, much of the fault lying with Cavendish himself, who falsely accused Davis, with his last breath, of deserting him (May 20, 1592). He died and was buried at sea, on the way home, in the summer of 1592.


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 5

See Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, (a) edition of 1589, p. 809. (N. H.'s narrative of the voyage of 1586-1588); (b) edition of 1599-1600, vol. iii. pp. 803-825 (Francis Pretty's narrative of the same); (c) edition of 1599-1600, vol. iii. pp. 251-253 (on the venture of 1585); (d) edition of 1599-1600, vol. iii. pp. 845-852 (John Lane's narrative of the last voyage, of 1591-1592); also Stationers' Registers (Arber), vol. ii. pp. 505-509; the Molyneux Globe of 1592, in the library of the Middle Temple, London, and the Ballads in Biog. Brit.,vol. i. p. 1196.

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