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Kathryn Gillett, Elizabethan HistorianTours > Sir Francis Drake > Canterbury

In Search of Sir Francis Drake
by Kathryn Gillett, Elizabethan England on Britannia

16 Miles North-West of Dover

After loading up on memorabilia and information from the Mary Rose Museum gift shop, I returned to my car, and headed east on the A27. My destination was Dover, where Drake took ship to Plymouth before his raid on Cadiz - a daring feat that would make him famous - and infamous - for 'singeing the King of Spain's Beard.' I eventually decided against Dover, however, since traveling this lovely, winding coastal route that slowed through one seaside village after another, was taking much longer than I'd anticipated, so I cut northeast on the A28 to arrive at Canterbury before nightfall.

Although I have seen nothing to document that Drake visited the Cathedral there, it was such an important place in his day, he must certainly have gone at least once in his life. And, since I saw this journey of mine as being a bit of a pilgrimage, I thought it appropriate to stop and pay my respects.

In 597, St. Augustine arrived in Kent and established the first Cathedral in Canterbury. Since then various additions, destructions, and re-buildings have shaped both the place and its legends. Even though I am not of any of the Christian religions, as I walked into the Cathedral, the place immediately embraced me with what felt like the prayers of the ages. As a lonely voyager, it was beguiling, the safety I felt in this sanctuary. And it was in that feeling of complete safety that I came upon the site of Thomas Becket's gruesome murder. I don't want to get into the details, but suffice it to say that Becket's murder was a grisly one. I was shaken that a ghastly attack could happen in such a sacred place. And yet it somehow clarified for me how in Drake's day - a time of belief in a literal heaven and hell - such places as this must have stood as a lesson on the dangers of evil - a power that could invade even the holiest of places.

Next Stop: Plymouth's Barbican District

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