Biography

Sir Martin Frobisher was born at Altofts, an estate near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, around 1535, the thirdson of Bernard Frobisher, gentleman farmer, and Margaret Yorke of Gowthwaite. His education was rudimentary, and in 1549 he was placed in the household of his uncle, London merchant Sir John Yorke, where he exhibited scant aptitude for the details of business, but eventually found his calling as a mariner and fearless leader. He accompanied the first two English trading voyages to Africa's Guinea coast, and ended the latter voyage as a prisoner of the Portuguese. In addition to his three Arctic expeditions (1576, 1577, and 1578), he commanded the Primrose as Vice-Admiral on Drake's West Indies expedition and assault on Cartagena. His fame rests primarily upon his naval service, during which he helped suppress the Munster rebellion in 1580, served as a Vice-Admiral in the Armada campaign, and led fleets to attack and harass Spanish shipping and land forces. For his courageous action against the Armada, he was knighted at sea by the Lord High Admiral, Lord Howard of Effingham on July 26, 1588. Although Frobisher, who was nearly illiterate, left no formal account of his Arctic voyages, several of his companions did so. On September 30, 1559, Frobisher wed Isobel (died 1588), widow of Thomas Rigatt of Snaith. He contracted a second marriage, c. 1590, to Dorothy, daughter of Baron Wentworth and widow of Sir Paul Withypole. Both unions were childless. On November 7, 1594, Frobisher was wounded while leading an assault against the Spanish fortress of El Leon at Crozon, near Brest. He died of gangrene at Plymouth on November 22, 1594, and was buried in London.

Merrill Distad See also North West Passage, Exploration of

Further Reading

Alsford, Stephen (editor), The Meta Incognita Project: Contributions to Field Studies, Hull, Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, in Collaboration with the Arctic Studies Center, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, 1993

Fitzhugh, William W. & Jacqueline S. Olin (editors), Archeology of the Frobisher Voyages, Washington, District of Columbia: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993 Hogarth, D.D., P.W. Boreham & J.G. Mitchell, Martin Frobisher's Northwest Venture, 1576-1581 : Mines, Minerals and Metallurgy, Hull, Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1994 Hulton, P.H. & D.B. Quinn, The American Drawings of John White, 1577-1590, With Drawings of European and Oriental Subjects, 2 volumes, London: British Museum, 1964 Kenyon, Walter Andrew, Tokens of Possession: The Northern Voyages of Martin Frobisher, Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1975

McDermott, James, Sir Martin Frobisher: Elizabethan

Privateer, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001 Quinn, David Beers (editor), Voyages and Colonising Enterprises of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 2 volumes, London: Hakluyt Society, 1940, reprinted Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint, 1967 Ruby, Robert, The Unknown Shore: The Lost History of

England's Arctic Colony, New York: Holt, 2001 Symons, Thomas H.B. (editor), Meta Incognita: A Discourse of Discovery: Martin Frobisher's Arctic Expeditions, 1576-1578, 2 volumes, Hull, Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1999 Waters, David W., The Art of Navigation in England in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Times, London: Hollis and Carter, 1958, (2nd edition), Greenwich: National Maritime Museum, 1978

Woolley, Benjamin, The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, New York: Holt, 2001

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