Elizabethan Sea-Dogs: A Chronicle of Drake and His Companions

By William Wood | Go to book overview
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APPENDIX
NOTE ON TUDOR SHIPPING

IN the sixteenth century there was no hard-and-fast distinction between naval and all other craft. The sovereign had his own fighting vessels; and in the course of the seventeenth century these gradually evolved into a Royal Navy maintained entirely by the country as a whole and devoted solely to the national defence. But in earlier days this modern system was difficult everywhere and impossible in England. The English monarch, for all his power, had no means of keeping up a great army and navy without the help of Parliament and the general consent of the people. The Crown had great estates and revenues; but nothing like enough to make war on a national scale. Consequently king and people went into partnership, sometimes in peace as well as war. When fighting stopped, and no danger seemed to threaten, the king would use his men-of-war in trade himself, or even hire them out to merchants. The merchants, for their part, furnished vessels to the king in time of war. Except as supply ships, however, these auxiliaries were never a great success. The privateers built expressly for fighting were the only ships that could approach the men-of-war.

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