April 15, 2013


The Execution of Thomas Doughty by Francis Drake (David Wesley Hill, 4/08/13, English Historical Fiction Authors)

I learned of the trial and execution of Thomas Doughty from The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake, a history of the second circumnavigation of the globe.  Despite its title this book was not written by Drake himself but by a nephew thirty years after Drake's death.

According to The World Encompassed, Doughty and Drake were good friends and companions, but even so, Doughty apparently had been plotting against Drake since "before the voyage began, in England" and sought not only to murder "our general, and such others as were most firm and faithful to him, but also [sought] the final overthrow of the whole action."

Eventually Doughty's transgressions became so egregious that Drake was forced to take action.  He ordered Doughty into custody and convened a formal trial.  Forty men were chosen as jurors.  "Proofs were required and alleged, so many and so evident, that the gentlemen himself [Doughty], stricken with remorse of his inconsiderate and unkind dealing, acknowledged himself to have deserved death ... "

Thomas Doughty was convicted of treason by unanimous vote.  After the verdict was returned, Drake offered the guilty man three options.  "Whether you would take," he asked Doughty, "to be executed in this island? Or to be set a land on the main? Or to return into England, there to answer for your deeds before the lords of her majesty's council?"

Doughty, however, refused this leniency, replying:

"Albeit I have yielded in my heart to entertain so great a sin as whereof now I am condemned, I have a care to die a Christian man . . . If I should be set a land among infidels, how should I be able to maintain this assurance? . . . And if I should return into England, I must first have a ship, and men to conduct it . . . and who would accompany me, in so bad a message? . . . I profess with all my heart that I do embrace the first branch of your offer, desiring only this favor, that you and I might receive the holy communion again together before my death, and that I might not die, other than a gentleman's death."

Drake granted Doughty's request.  The next day they celebrated communion with Francis Fletcher, pastor of the fleet, and afterward Drake and Doughty dined together, "each cheering up the other, and taking their leave, by drinking each to other, as if some journey only had been in hand." Then "without any dallying or delaying" Doughty knelt down, preparing his neck for the blade. His final words were instructions to the executioner to "do his office, not to fear nor spare."

My immediate reaction to this story was that it simply was not credible.  I could not believe any man would choose death when given the alternative choice of a sea voyage home. 

...because the ebook version of Mr. Hill's novel, At Drake's Command: The Adventures of Peregrine James During the Second Circumnavigation of the World, will be free for download on Amazon the next couple days (4/15 & 4/16 or immediately if you're a Prime member).  We're about halfway through and enjoying it thoroughly.  If you're a fan of Forester, O'Brian, et. al, you'll love it.

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Posted by at April 15, 2013 11:59 PM

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