Golden Hind was an English galleon best known for her circumnavigation of the globe between 1577 and 1580, captained by Sir Francis Drake. She was originally known as Pelican, but was renamed by Drake mid-voyage in 1578, as he prepared to enter the Strait of Magellan, calling her Golden Hind to compliment his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose armorial crest was a golden ‘hind’ (a female deer). Hatton was one of the principal sponsors of Drake’s world voyage.
In 1577, Elizabeth I of England chose Sir Francis Drake as the leader of an expedition intended to pass around South America through the Strait of Magellan and to explore the coast that lay beyond. The queen’s support was advantageous; Drake had official approval to benefit himself and the queen as well as to cause the maximum damage to the Spaniards. This would eventually culminate in the Anglo–Spanish War. Before setting sail, Drake met the queen face-to-face for the first time and she said to him, “We would gladly be revenged on the King of Spain for divers injuries that we have received.” The explicit object was to “find out places meet to have traffic.” Drake, however, acted as a privateer, with unofficial support from Queen Elizabeth.
He set sail in December 1577 with five small ships, manned by 164 men, and reached the Brazilian coast in the spring of 1578. Drake’s flagship, Pelican, which he renamed Golden Hinde, displaced only about 100 tons.
On 1 March 1579, now in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Ecuador, Golden Hind challenged and captured the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de la Concepción. This galleon had the largest treasure captured to that date: over 360,000 Pesos. The six tons of treasure took six days to trans ship.
On 26 September 1580, Francis Drake sailed his ship into Plymouth Harbour with only 56 of the original crew of 80 left aboard. Despite his piratical conduct on his voyages, Queen Elizabeth I herself went aboard Golden Hind, which was lying at Deptford in the Thames Estuary, and personally bestowed a knighthood on him; her share of the treasure came to almost £160,000: “enough to pay off her entire foreign debt and still have £40,000 left over to invest in a new trading company for the Levant. Her return and that of other investors came to £47 for every £1 invested, or a total return of 4,700%.”
After Drake’s circumnavigation, Golden Hind was maintained for public exhibition in Deptford. This is the earliest known example of a ship being maintained for public display because of her historic significance. Golden Hind remained there for nearly 100 years before she eventually rotted away and was finally broken up.
A table, known as the cupboard (pronounced “cup-board”), in the Middle Temple Hall (in London) is reputed to have been made from the wood of Golden Hind, as is a chair in the Great Hall, Buckland Abbey, Devon. Upon the cupboard is placed the roll of members of Middle Temple, which new members sign when they are called to the Bar. The ship’s lantern also hangs in the vestibule of Middle Temple Hall.