Select Drake Miscellany

Here are some Drake stories and accounts over the years:

Drake Name Origins

The name Drago or Draco, the Latin for Drake, was in use among the Romans and signifies "one who draws or leads," a leader.  Their standard bearers were called draconarii.  The Romans obtained the name from the Greeks among whom it is found as early as 600 BC when Draco, the celebrated Athenian legislator, drew up the code of laws for the government of the people which bore his name.

Soon after the conquest of Wessex by the Saxons, a family or clan called Draco or Drago appear to have taken possession of an old Roman and British encampment in what is now Musbury in Devon.  This encampment subsequently became known as Mount Drake.   

These Drakes in Devon predated the Norman Conquest.  The Domesday Book of 1086 contained six references to Drakes, including the following mention: "Honitou, one of them, was well known to the Romans and was held by Drago the Saxon before the Conquest."  The name Drake appeared in English records in the 13th century.   1n 1272 John Drake held lands there by grant of Edward I.

Sir Bernard and Sir Francis Drake

John Drake of Ashe had died in 1558, his wife in 1578, and they were commemmorated by one of the three groups of sculpture on the large Drake monument in Musbury church.  Of their six sons only three survived them, Bernard, Robert and Richard.  But from these three are descended a large clan.

Sir Bernard inherited the estate at Ashe.  He was a Lord High Admiral in Queen Elizabeth's navy, but was also, like Sir Francis Drake, described as a pirate.  His greatest accomplishment was probably to solidify the English claims to Newfoundland by destroying the Spanish fishing fleets there.

There was a rivalry between the older Sir Bernard and the upstart Sir Francis.  But Sir Francis was the wealthier of the two from his years of plunder.  In 1585 Sir Bernard sought and borrowied £600 from him, using as security a mortgage on the Ashe estate.  Sir Bernard died a year later of jail fever caught at the Exeter assizes and the principal was not repaid until ten years later.

The outstanding debt caused rancor between the two families.  Sir Francis's side put out the story that Sir Bernard had resented the assumption by the new knight of the Drake arms and had grossly insulted him.  The Queen heard of the spat and took sides with Sir Francis.  She bestowed on him a new coat of arms.  There was a ship on the crest; and attached to the riggings was a red wyvern, the arms of the jealous Sir Bernard.

Devon Drakes of the 1600's

John Drake
died at Whitchurch
Francis Drake
born.  Later emigrated to New Hampshire.
Francis Drake
born.  Drake heir of Buckland Abbey.
John Drake
born.  First baronet of Ashe.
Thomas Drake
born in Colyton.  Later emigrated to Weymouth, Mass.
Moses Drake
born in Childe.  His sons emigrated to America.
Edward Drake
born in Churchstanton.
William Drake
born.  Last male heir of Ashe.

Sir Francis Drake Inheritance

Sir Francis Drake himself died wihout heirs.  His succession passed through one of his brothers until 1794 when the line became extinct.  However, there was a Sir Francis Drake who died in 1717.  He had a brother named John and his descendants have made claims that they should be entitled to the Drake inheritance.

The claims were made by a Mr. Jenkins, a resident of New Zealand who was the grandson, through his mother Mercy, of the settler Thomas John Drake from Kent and descendant of the earlier John.  

In their family's possession was a horn drinking cup, believed to have come from the Devon Drakes, and a gold plate, as well as a ring and a metal plate, bearing the Drake coat of arms.  There were two mottos on the escutcheon:

  • one, auxilio divino, means "by divine assistance."
  • and the other, sic. parvis magna, means "thus great things from small." 
Alongside the words auxilio divino was a hand intended to draw the ship safely around the world.

Reader Feedback - Sir Francis Drake Descendants in America

I just wanted to touch base and let you know that Sir Francis Drake’s line did not become extinct in America.  His line continued through his brother Thomas.  I am a direct descendant. 

Our lineage and history has been recorded in The Golden Hindsight by my uncle William Drake.  Benjamin Drake fought in the Revolutionary War. Our family is located mostly in Ohio...but definitely is not extinct.  My brother's name is Thomas Francis Drake. 

Patricia Lavatai (

The Shardeloes Drakes at Amersham

From the early 17th to the mid 20th century, the town of Amersham of Buckinghamshire was dominated by the Drake family of Shardeloes.  It was said that these Drakes “increased their family fortune by securing valuable sinecures and by marrying wealthy heiresses.” 

Most of the work to make the present-day Shardeloes House took place in the 18th century under William Drake.  He had gone on the Grand Tour of Europe from 1742 to 1746.  The next year he married Elizabeth Raworth, an heiress, and the injection of her funds enabled him to rebuild Shardeloes between 1758 and 1766.  A young Robert Adam provided designs for the interior including chimney pieces, woodwork and plasterwork.  Adam later designed a large portico on the north side, as part of his first country house commission. 

The family fortunes changed in the early 19th century when the Drakes discovered fox hunting, described by their biographer as “a costly pastime which diverted the Drakes from the care of their estates and which led to their being attracted to women who were good riders rather than wealthy heiresses.” 

Thomas Tyrwhitt Drake who inherited the estate in 1933 was the last of the Drake family to live at Shardeloes.  He later moved to Little Shardeloes on Amersham High Street where he died in 1956

Francis Marion Drake

The Drakes had come originally from Virginia.  John Adams Drake, born in North Carolina, was a great friend of Alexander Campbell, one of the early Church reformers.  In 1830 he took his church zeal to Schuyler county, Illinois where Francis Marion was born in 1830.  Seven years later, the family had moved onto Iowa, first to Fort Madison in Indian territory and then to Davis county where they founded the village of Drakeville.

In 1852 Francis Marion - at the age of twenty two - crossed the plains to Sacramento in California with a train of ox teams.  He returned after a fair degree of success and then re-crossed the plains two years later with a drove of cattle.  This time he almost didn't make it back.  He was on a steamer running through a dense fog when the vessel struck a reef and broke apart.  He succeeded in reaching a barren coast and was picked up five days later.   He didn't go to California a third time.  Instead, he entered the pork packing and livestock business with his father and brothers and stayed there until the Civil War broke out in 1861.

Francis Marion was a Union army officer during the Civil War, later rose to become a railroad president, and was elected Governor of Iowa in 1895.  He died in 1903.  Drake University in Des Moines is named after him.


The Clare Drake Arena

The Clare Drake Arena is a 3,000 seat multi-purpose arena in Edmonton, Alberta.  It is home to the University of Alberta Golden Bears ice hockey team.  The stadium is named after the former Golden Bears coach Clare Drake.  He had led the Bears to 697 career wins. 

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