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The Drake Exploration Society

Drake and Dee

Information by Valerie Barber obtained from the Astrological Lodge of London
augmented by Susan Jackson,
compiled by Michael Turner

Dr John Dee was England's leading cosmographer and was the queen's astronomer. He was at court in 1576 and 1577. His staunch friends at court included Sir Christopher Hatton, Drake's main backer for the pending world voyage. Consequently at this time, Drake would have received an introduction. Also, Drake most likely attended Dee's seminars that were held at his house in Mortlake at the beginning of 1577. Drake's voyage had the unlimited potential of turning theory into fact and providing discoveries that were beyond the present theoretical thinking. The main focus of theory, would be how best to seek a homeward passage once in the Pacific. Dee wrote the proposal for the circumnavigation that went before the Privy Council.



On 17 September 1580, the queen visited Mortlake to consult Dee about "her titles to countries in other parts of the world." This may have been if a message had emanated from Drake with reference to Nova Albion. Therefore, Susan suggests that the arrival of the Golden Hind in Plymouth Sound may have been somewhat earlier, contrary to what we are told.

Dee's house had originally belonged to his mother. The house was already considered old. He added to it after her death by purchasing adjacent property. His enormous library continued to grow. Therefore, anybody who was somebody, visited it. Dee's diary reveals a visit by John Hawkins "who had bin with Sir Francis Drake." In 1582 Dee began dabbling in the Black arts, which Drake being a devout Christian, would have abhorred. To escape the mob that raised his home, Dee fled to Holland and then to Bohemia. Therefore, Drake must have visited Mortlake before 21 September 1583 and before he would have disassociated himself from Dee's practices. Drake most likely made his last visit in 1581. There were already plans for a follow-up voyage to the West Indies in which Dee was interested.

The area of Dee's house was overlaid by much commercial activity in the 17th and 18th centuries, so no trace remains above ground. A recent archaeological dig revealed nothing. Dee was buried under the chancel in St Mary's in Mortlake at the expense of Elias Ashmole. In the absence of any remnant of his house, or a very definite indication of its precise location, the church that he and Drake may have attended, is a suitable place of pilgrimage.

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