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Tilbury Docks


21 March 1607

Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury Fort

Queen Elizabeth at Tillbury Port

We are at Tilbury on the river Thames, which I am told is where the Queen Elizabeth made a very famous speech to the men about to fight the Spanish, saying that though she had the body of a weak and feeble woman, she had the heart and stomach of the king. This was in 1588, seven years before I was born. She died four years ago and we have a new King called James who wants peace instead of war. I wish I was as brave as Elizabeth, though, as I am nervous about the voyage ahead, even if it supposed to be peaceful. There are many men on these two ships, hundreds I think, and I am the youngest and the smallest, except for the animals we are carrying. I hear we are going to the ends of the earth to get pepper and other things wanted by rich people here in England, and I hear that many of us will die before the ships return – not just the animals, which we will eat, but also men, who get sick or fall off the ship. I do not know how to swim so I hope I do not fall in. I am told the dangers come in storms and also when we are near land and might ‘run aground’. This is why the men are always measuring the depth of the water in ‘fathoms’ and writing about it in their books. I looked at one of these books today. It said:

Day the winde beinge West Southwest, wee departed from Tylberi Hoope and in the eveninge anchored Eastwarde to the shoare under the Cante in seaven fathome at low of water. This night did the winde increase and in the morning blewe very hard a sea, continuing moste parte of the morninge, but towardes Noone abated.

Ship's boy



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The Hector journal, 21 March 1607: cited in Richmond Barbour, The Third Voyage Journals (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), p. 36

W. Belch, 1820: Queen Elizabeth at Tillbury Port, Bodelian Library, Oxford, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

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