The Claiming of Nova Albion


A Love Your Parks Tour “English Connection” Story by Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid, assigned by Glynn Burrows of Norfolk Tours UK

From the 30-foot tall steel statue on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Larkspur to Drakes Estero, Drakes Bay, Drakes Cove, Drakes Beach and Sir Francis Drake Historical Monument in Point Reyes National Seashore, it’s evident that Sir Francis Drake, the English sea captain and explorer, made his mark in Marin County, California.

It was in the summer of 1579, during his circumnavigation of the world, of which he famously completed in a single expedition between 1577 to 1580, that Drake came ashore what is now known as the Point Reyes headlands. He needed to repair the hull of his ship, the Golden Hinde. It was here, the ancient home of the Coast Miwok, that Drake and his crew claimed California as Nova Albion, “New Britain,” for Queen Elizabeth I. While exploring America’s west coast, he also managed to kick off an era of conflict with the Spanish.

It’s interesting to note, that the name Drake is derived from the Old Norse byname Draki or the Old English byname Draca both meaning “dragon.” Drake’s privateering led the Spanish to brand him a pirate, known to them as El Draque, “The Dragon.”

The Spanish had been sailing the Pacific Coast and exploring North America to expand their territory for a number of years. On January 6, 1603, Point Reyes officially became part of Spanish maps when the soldier Sebastian Vizcaino saw the region. It was during the Roman Catholic feast day of the three wise men, so the foggy coastal headlands were traditionally named after the religious figures, “la Punta de los Reyes,” the Point of the Kings.




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