Sir Humphrey Gilbert

Humphrey Gilbert

Sir Humphrey Gilbert - Privateer & Explorer (c1539 - 1583)

Sir Humphrey Gilbert was a Privateer, explorer and soldier during the Elizabethan era. His broader family included other well known people of the time, including Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Grenville. His exploits in Ireland earned him a knighthood, and he made several voyages to North America to expand the Crown’s territories.

This page details facts about Sir Humphrey Gilbert's life and the events that shaped his history.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert the Privateer - Fun Facts for Kids !

1: Humphrey Gilbert was born in Compton, Devonshire, England. He was the fifth son of Otho Gilbert and Catherine Champernowne. His half-brothers were Carew Raleigh and Sir Walter Raleigh, his cousin was Sir Richard Grenville.

2: Educated in Eton and Oxford, Humphrey Gilbert studied navigation and war, and learned to speak French and Spanish. In 1563 Humphrey Gilbert was injured while serving under the Earl of Warwick at Le Havre, Normandy.

3: In 1566 Humphrey Gilbert wrote a thesis on the search for the North West Passage. This document, ‘A discourse of a discouerie for a new passage to Cataia’ helped inspire Sir Martin Frobisher to search for the North West Passage. The Thesis was published in 1576.

4: Humphrey Gilbert served under Sir Henry Sidney in Ireland from 1567 to 1570. During this period he mercilessly quelled a revolt and, in 1570, was knighted by Sidney, on behalf of Queen Elizabeth I, for his actions. Later that year he returned to England and married Anne Aucher.

5: In 1571 Sir Humphrey Gilbert was elected to parliament as the representative for Plymouth, however in 1572 he led 1500 men in an unsuccessful effort to assist the Netherlands in their revolt against Spain.

6: Sir Humphrey Gilbert was one of the investors who financed Sir Martin Frobisher’s expeditions to search for the North West Passage (1576 -78).

7: In 1578 Queen Elizabeth I granted a patent, to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, to establish new colonies in America and prey on Spanish ships. In November 1578 he set sail with a small fleet of seven ships, which included the ‘Falcon’ commanded by Sir Walter Raleigh. The fleet was badly equipped and ill-disciplined which led to the failure of the expedition.

8: Sir Humphrey Gilbert was commissioned, in the summer of 1579, to help supress a rebellion led by the Irishman James (Fitzmaurice) Fitzgerald and intercept a Spanish fleet heading for Ireland. Gilbert’s fleet was forced to seek shelter from heavy seas and the Spanish slipped past him.

9: By 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert wanted to return to America with a view to claiming land for the British Crown. He sailed from Plymouth on 11 June 1583 with a small fleet of 5 ships and headed across the ocean.

10: One of the ships, commanded by Sir Walter Raleigh, was forced to turn back through a lack of provisions, however the rest of the fleet arrived at St. John’s in Newfoundland on 3 August 1583. Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed the land for the British Crown on 5 August 1583.

11: Sir Humphrey Gilbert made no attempt to establish a colony, and within 2 weeks had begun his return journey. On 29 August the largest ship of the fleet, the ‘Delight’, was lost with most of its crew after running aground.

12: Sir Humphrey Gilbert was aboard the ‘Squirrel’ when, on 9 September 1583, they encountered storms near the Azores. Later that night Sir Humphrey Gilbert was drowned when the ‘Squirrel’ was lost with all hands.

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