John Hawkins

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Admiral Sir John Hawkins
Admiral Sir John Hawkins.jpeg
Portrait of John Hawkins at the National Maritime Museum, London
Plymouth, Devon, England
Died12 November 1595(1595-11-12) (aged 62–63)
at sea off Puerto Rico
Somewhere off the coast of Puerto Rico
Allegiance England
Service/branchTudor Ensign 1485-1603.svg, Navy Royal
Years of service1562–1595
Commands heldHMS Victory
HMS Nonpareil
HMS Elizabeth Bonaventure
Rear-Admiral of the Narrow Seas (1563)
Treasurer of Marine Causes (1577-1595)
Vice-Admiral of the Fleet (1588)
Battles/warsSpanish Armada
English Armada
Battle of San Juan de Ulúa

Admiral Sir John Hawkins or Hawkyns, (1532 – 12 November 1595) was an English slave trader, naval commander and naval administrator, merchant, navigator, shipbuilder and privateer he served as both a member of the Council of the Marine then later the Navy Board that were responsible for the civil administration of the Navy Royal.[1]

Naval Career

John Hawkins elder brother and trading partner was William Hawkins (b. c. 1519). He was considered the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade, based on selling supplies to colonies ill-supplied by their home countries, and their demand for African slaves in the Spanish colonies of Santo Domingo and Venezuela in the late 16th century. He styled himself "Captain General" as the General of both his own flotilla of ships and those of the English Royal Navy and to distinguish himself from those Admirals that served only in the administrative sense and were not military in nature. His death and that of his second cousin and mentoree, Sir Francis Drake, heralded the decline of the Royal Navy for decades before its recovery and eventual dominance again helped by the propaganda of the Navy's glory days under his leadership.[2]

He became a sea captain and in 1562 became the first Englishman to start capturing people in Sierra Leona and selling them as slaves to Spanish settlers in the Caribbean. The following year his cousin, Francis Drake, joined him in these activities. As it was illegal for the settlers to buy from foreigners, Hawkins and Drake soon came into conflict with the Spanish authorities.[3]

In May to July 1563 he was appointed to the command of the Narrow Seas Squadron as Rear-Admiral of the Narrow Seas. On 2 June 1567, he was appointed to the office of Clerk of the Acts, but did not succeed. From 1577 to 1595 he was appointed Treasurer of Marine Causes in charge of the Navy Pay Office. He was believed to have been appointed Clerk Comptroller of the Navy in 1589[citation needed] of the Royal Navy, Hawkins rebuilt older ships and helped design the faster ships that withstood the Spanish Armada in 1588. One of the foremost seamen of 16th-century England, Hawkins was the chief architect of the Elizabethan navy.[4]

In the battle in which the Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588, Hawkins served as a Vice-Admiral. He was knighted for gallantry. He later devised the naval blockade to intercept Spanish treasure ships leaving Mexico and South America.[5] In November 1595 he was posthumously promoted to the rank of Admiral.[6]

In 1595 Hawkins accompanied his second cousin Sir Francis Drake on a treasure-hunting voyage to the West Indies. They twice attacked San Juan in Puerto Rico, but could not defeat its defences. During the voyage they both fell sick. Hawkins died on 12 November 1595, and was buried at sea off Puerto Rico. Drake succumbed to disease, most likely dysentery, on 27 January, and was buried at sea somewhere off the coast of Portobelo in Panama. Hawkins was succeeded by his son Sir Richard Hawkins.


  1. "John Hawkins Admiral, Privateer, Slave Trader". Royal Museums Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site In London. London: Royal Museums Greenwich. 17 July 2018. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  2. Royal Museums Greenwich.
  3. Royal Museums Greenwich.
  4. Royal Museums Greenwich.
  5. Royal Museums Greenwich.
  6. Harrison, Simon (2010–2018). "Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595): Appointments". S. Harrison. Retrieved 18 July 2019.