Desirous to See the Strange Things of the World: Part Three

horePart Three. [Or start at the beginning.]

Despite the first-hand witnesses and Hakluyt’s declaration of the saga’s accuracy, incongruities begin to present themselves upon further investigation into Hore’s account as published by Hakluyt. There are no British Admiralty court records of a band of Frenchmen seeking compensation for a pirated vessel, let alone proof of King Henry’s alleged largesse. Contemporary reactions to this report of cannibalism, sensational as it seems, do not appear. And the narrative itself is choppy and vague, very much out of character with the methodical style demonstrated in the rest of the narratives in Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations. Some of this can be attributed to the style in which the tale was collected: Richard Hakluyt and his elder cousin, Richard Hakluyt of Middle Temple, each interviewed one of the surviving expedition members. The two narratives were not combined until after the elder Hakluyt’s death, which may partially account for the abrupt transition in the middle of the narration.

Title page of Hakluyt's  "The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation" (London: Imprinted by George Bishop and Ralph Newberie, deputies to Christopher Barker, printer to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majestie).

Title page of Hakluyt’s “The Principall Navigations, Voiages, and Discoveries of the English Nation” (London: Imprinted by George Bishop and Ralph Newberie, deputies to Christopher Barker, printer to the Queen’s Most Excellent Majestie).

Richard Hakluyt the Younger met with Thomas Buts, the “sonne of Sir William Buts knight, of Norfolke,” claiming to have ridden over 200 miles to record the man’s account.20 Buts’ account provides a mostly cheerful view of the voyage. His words constitute the first half of Hakluyt’s narrative, which conveys a pervasive sense of wonder. In tone, his version of the story sounds very similar to the faintly awestruck tone commonly found in contemporary European encounters with the New World. Buts – or Hakluyt’s interpretation of Buts’ account – marveled at the “great foules white and gray, as big as geese” whose “skinnes were very like hony combes full of holes being flead off” but whose meat made “very good and nourishing” food.21 Interestingly, Buts does not specifically mention any hardships in his version of the voyage. The alleged starvation and subsequent cannibalism appear only in Oliver Dawbeney’s part of the tale. The sole suggestion that Buts did not thoroughly enjoy his trip appears at the very end of Hakluyt’s narrative, when the party had returned to England and was making their way overland back to London. Here, Buts (or Hakluyt) gives almost as a throwaway line the statement that “sir William his father and my Lady his mother knew him not to be their sonne, vntill they found a secret marke… vpon one of his knees.”22 This is not elaborated upon, and since Buts himself made no remarks to indicate any particular privations, the authenticity of this statement is somewhat dubious.

From Thomas Buts, Hakluyt learned the names of many gentlemen “of good account” who had come on the voyage.23 Of the 120 gentlemen and seamen on the two vessels, we know the names of thirteen gentlemen, not counting Richard Hore himself. Several of them were quite well off at the time or would become well known later on. Master Weekes, “a gentleman of the West countrey,” was listed as having an income of five hundred marks per annum.24 The interestingly named Master Joy is mentioned as going on to become a “gentleman of the Kings Chappell.”25

Probably the contemporarily most famous gentleman accompanying Hore on his trip was Armigil Wade. Armigil Wade (or Armagil Waad, as his name is more commonly spelled) was a physician to Henry VIII and “afterwards Clerke of the Counsailes of king Henry the 8 and king Edward the sixth.”26 Wade fell out of favor with the accession of Queen Mary, but was later reinstated into the government by Queen Elizabeth. According to a handwritten note found in the English National Archives, he may have been the anonymous author of The Distresses of the Commonwealth, published in 1558.27 Distresses of the Commonwealth is a fairly accurate if rather pessimistic analysis of the state of England at the time of Elizabeth’s accession. A number of secondary sources refer to Wade as a British Columbus or make similar reference to his heroic-traveler status. This reputation may be based on the fact that Wade is said to have written a book about his travels, although H. G. R. Taylor asserts that “no trace of such a work is to be found.”28

18th century image of Sir William Waad after a 16th century original.

18th century image of Sir William Waad after a 16th century original.

Armigil Wade’s son, William (who is mentioned in passing in the Hakluyt narrative), was an MP and a clerk of the Privy Counsel from 1583 until his retirement in 1613. A number of scholars, including Giles Milton, list William Wade as also having gone on the Hore expedition, but this is clearly due to a misinterpretation of Hakluyt’s narrative. William Wade was not born until 1546, some ten years after the voyage. However, it is worthwhile to note that an interest in the New World seemed to run in the family: William Wade went on to be a shareholder in the Virginia Company’s 1606 settlement attempt.29

The Wades were not the only family to have a multigenerational involvement in the New World. John Rastell, listed as “M. Rastall Serieant Rastals brother,” had grown up in a household affected by a failed journey. Rastell’s father, also named John, had made a farcical attempt at a voyage to Newfoundland in 1517.30 The details of his voyage, as gleaned from contemporary court records, reveal a series of misadventures almost on par with Hore’s calamities. Rastell Senior had organized an expedition in collaboration with Richard Spicer and William Howting, two other London citizens. Unlike Hore’s trip, Rastell seems to have been making plans for a colony – his inventory of ship’s goods included supplies for carpenters and masons. However, the voyage was undermined by the purser of one of the vessels, a man named John Ravyn who was apparently acting in the employ of the Earl of Surrey. Ravyn derailed the expedition by providing false reports of the ships’ seaworthiness until it was too late in the season to sail, as well as abusing his position as purser by embezzling ship’s stores. The fleet finally did manage to get underway, but the sailors mutinied off Ireland. The crew forestalled any further westward sailing by locking William Howting in his cabin and sailing directly for England.31

According to Giles Milton, Rastell does not seem to have ever gotten over the betrayal of his dream. Perhaps this soured family legacy may have been imparted into the younger Rastell, stirring his own ambitions to see the lands across the sea. This is speculation, however. Nevertheless, the allure of the New World was present throughout all strata of society. As Theodore Rabb mentions in his article, “Investment in English Overseas Enterprise, 1575-1630,” the later colonial companies found financial sponsors in all classes of English society, not just the wealthy classes as would seem to be expected. The fact that so many sponsors came from the classes who least could afford it is perhaps an indication of just how strong an effect the appeal of the New World had.32

Many of the gentlemen’s backgrounds remain unknown. There is simply not enough information given to enable a researcher to track them down. As little as can be discerned about the gentlemen, the sailors are given even shorter shrift. No sailor is mentioned by name anywhere in the narrative published in Principal Navigations, including either of the captains. The few crewmen whose names can still be traced after more than 450 intervening years appear only as deponents in the court cases with which Hore was slapped upon his return. In testimony, Richard Elyot, a 60 year old captain from Fareham, Hampshire, was revealed to have been in command of the William. William Butler, of the parish of Saint Dunstan in east London, served as master’s mate.33 Christopher Lorde, from All Hallows (or All Saints) Berkyng, London, was hired as a mariner.34 Another mariner, John Christenmas, was from the parish of Saint Olair in Southwark.35 The Trinity does not appear in the lawsuits, so her captain and crew remains unknown.

The major player in the behind-the-scenes aspect of the Hore fiasco was William Dolphyn. Listed as a “citizen and draper of the City of London” in the first court case of the suit, Dolphyn was the man from whom Hore had rented the William and possibly the Trinity also.36 The focal point of Dolphyn’s lawsuit was to seek retribution for Hore’s failure to keep the terms of the charter; namely, that Hore had been negligent with the vessel’s maintenance while under his care and had failed to return the ship promptly as the charter required. During the course of these investigations, a number of crewmen appear as witnesses or as the accused party for other crimes.

First and foremost of the crewmen to be so charged was Alan Moyne, a Breton man who was hired as the carpenter and pilot for the expedition. Pilots are arguably the single most vital person aboard a ship – they are trained to be familiar with specific waters and the hazards therein. It is their task to navigate a vessel safely from one port to the next without mishap. And in the days of wooden ships, the role of carpenter was also very important. In 1535, Moyne signed an agreement with William Dolphyn “to be pylott of his sayd shippe for oon hole yere.”37 The next year, Moyne’s name showed up in a formal complaint. According to William Dolphyn, Moyne had accompanied the William to Newfoundland. During the voyage and the subsequent stay in Newfoundland – so we know this much is true of Hore’s tale – the vessel was “sore beaten with the water and wether and otherways perysshed So that she had grete nede of the helpe and socour and also warkmanship” of Alan Moyne.38 Moyne allegedly responded carelessly, “saying that he was not hired for a carpenter nor pilott,” and instead went off drinking with his countrymen.

This is a remarkable accusation. Obviously such actions require a good sized population of Bretons or other Frenchmen for Moyne to have been able to go drinking with them. This record is not clear as to where this insubordination took place, but since there is no specific indication to assume otherwise, it appears as though the William was in fact still in Newfoundland at this point. Christopher Lorde, mariner, supported this accusation and its location by testifying that “the same Alen at his beyng in New founde lande wolde goe and make mery with the Bryttons his cuntrey men somtyme a day or ii to gethers.” Throughout all the depositions, there is no indication that any of the Englishmen were fraternizing with the French. In addition to negligence, Moyne was also accused of theft – William Butler accused the Frenchman of having stolen new canvas from the ship’s stores to make himself a new jerkin and pair of trousers. This was seconded by William Dolphyn, who ultimately managed to persuade the courts to find Moyne guilty, but for goods only worth a trifling sum. It hardly seems worthwhile for Dolphyn to have gone through so much trouble for so little effort. It is difficult to determine whether Moyne’s comrades’ negative opinions of him are related more to his allegedly shoddy workmanship and avoidance of duty or to his French nationality. Perhaps the answer is a mixture of both.

Finally, there are the backgrounds of the two primary witnesses to consider. Oliver Dawbeney was a prosperous merchant of London, possibly with familial ties to the barony of the same name. He was a close friend of the elder Hakluyt – the two had had a professional relationship since Hakluyt had assisted Dawbeney in the latter’s enforcement of customs duties on beer in 1571.39 The elder Hakluyt interviewed Dawbeney in 1578, while doing background research for Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s 1578 or 1583 voyages to Newfoundland.40 Dawbeney’s text is the more sensational of the two; it is difficult to determine whether the old man was embellishing a tale for his friend’s sake or had other motivations.

Portrait of Sir William Butts, father of Thomas Buts. Portrait by Hans Holbein, 1543.

Portrait of Sir William Butts, father of Thomas Buts. Portrait by Hans Holbein, 1543.

The other of the Hakluyts’ witnesses was Thomas Buts (or Butts). As he told Hakluyt, Buts was the son of Sir William and Lady Margaret Butts of Futham.41 Thomas was the second son, thus he did not stand to inherit his father’s titles upon Sir William’s death in 1545. Thomas himself left little in the way of a written legacy, but it is possible to interpret something of his circumstances through his immediate family. His father, like Armigil Wade, had also been a court physician to the chronically ill Henry VIII. The Butts family supported church reform, William being an ally of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The family appears to have been rather powerful, or at least, frequently rubbed shoulders with those who were. Thomas and his two brothers all married daughters of Robert De Bures.42 Despite this, only one child was born to continue the family line, to Thomas’ youngest brother Edmund. Buts was interviewed by the younger Hakluyt in 1589, while the latter was accumulating material for the Principal Navigations.43 At that point in time, Thomas Buts was in his seventies. He did not live to see his story published, nor did Oliver Dawbeney.44

Last but certainly not least, there is “M. Hore” himself. Although no first name is listed in Hakluyt’s narrative (a peculiar piece of oversight), subsequent documentation reveals his proper name to be Richard Hore. Hore was a “citizen and leatherseller of London” whose financial status is difficult to determine, although he must have been fairly wealthy in order to promote and organize such a lengthy expedition.45 The only source in which Hore’s name shows up repeatedly is in court documents. The portrait of Hore as seen through the lens of his confrontations with the law is one of a very shrewd man, almost a con man. On a previous occasion, Hore had arranged to operate a ferry service from Lisbon to London, taking on a complement of Portuguese passengers. Instead of sailing directly for London, however, Hore made for Wales, where he held the passengers hostage and attempted to extort money from them. This little escapade earned him the confiscation of his then-current vessel and a visit to court.46 Clearly, Hore was not above attempting to profit by the vulnerabilities of others, which casts an interesting light on his motivations for the Newfoundland voyage.

20 Hakluyt, “The Voyage of M. Hore,” Principal Navigations.
21 ibid
22 Hakluyt, “The Voyage of M. Hore,” Principal Navigations.
23 ibid
24 ibid
25 ibid
26 Hakluyt, “The Voyage of M. Hore,” Principal Navigations.
27 The National Archives (Public Record Office), Kew, Richmond, Surrey: SP/12/1, 66: 146-154.
28 Taylor, E. G. R. “Master Hore’s Voyage of 1536,” The Geographical Journal, Vol. 77, No. 5 (May, 1931), 469-470. Page 470
29 “Sir William Wade (or Waad),” 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, <> (December 12, 2005.)
30 Williamson, James A. The Voyages of the Cabots and the Discovery of North America. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970. Page 268.
31 Williamson, The Voyages of the Cabots and the Discovery of North America, 245-246.
32 Rabb, Theodore K., “Investment in English Overseas Enterprise, 1575-1630,” in The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 19, No. 1 (1966), 70-81.
33 “Willelmus Butler parochie Sancti Dunstani in oriente civitatis London…” HCA 13/3, reproduced in D. B. Quinn, New American World, volume 1. New York: Arno Press, 1979. Page 212-213. Translation mine.
34 “Christoferus Lorde Omnium Sanctorum Berkyng London marinarius…” HCA 13/3, reproduced Quinn, New American World, page 212. Translation mine.
35 “Johannes Christenmas parochie Sancti Olair in Burge Southewerke marinarius…” HCA 13/3, reproduced Quinn, New American World, page 213. Translation mine.
36 Quinn, David B. New American World, volume 1. New York: Arno Press, 1979. Page 209.
37 The National Archives (Public Record Office), Kew, Richmond, Surrey: High Court of the Admiralty records 13/2, fols. 61-3.
38 HCA 24/3,15. Reproduced in D. B. Quinn’s New American World, volume 1. Page 210-211.
39 Parks, George Bruner. Richard Hakluyt and the English Voyages. New York: American Geographical Society, 1928. Pages 31-33.
40 Parks, 52-53.
41 Castelli, “Tudor Place.”
42 ibid
43 Taylor, E. G. R. The Original Writings and Correspondence of the Two Richard Hakluyts. Liechtenstein: The Hakluyt Society, 1935. (Reprinted 1967). Page 393.
44 Castelli, “Tudor Place.”
45 Quinn, New American World, 209.
46 National Archives: STAC 2/21: 11, 60.

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