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
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