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no. 343

Saturday, 10 April 2004

Louis N. Parker's pageant play
His Majesty's Theatre, London, 3 September 1912

Amy Brandon-Thomas and Lyn Harding

Amy Brandon-Thomas as Elizabeth Sydenham (Lady Drake) and Lyn Harding as Sir Francis Drake
in Louis N. Parker's Drake, His Majesty's Theatre, London, 3 September 1912

A chromotype poster for Drake after original artwork by Charles A. Buchel (1872-1950).

(printed and published by David Allen & Sons Ltd, London and Belfast, 1912)

Louis N. Parker's pageant play, Drake, produced by the author and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, opened at His Majesty's Theatre, London, on 3 September 1912. The cast was headed by Lyn Harding in the title role, Amy Brandon-Thomas as Elizabeth Sydenham and Phyllis Neilson-Terry as Queen Elizabeth, Herbert Waring as John Doughty and Philip Merivale as Thomas Doughty. During the play's 221 performance run the part of Drake was also played by Frederick Ross, Harding's understudy. The costumes, designed by Seymour Lucas, were supplied by B.J. Simmons and L. & H. Nathan.

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'If serious plays have been scarce [during 1912] there is still room for melodrama in London, especially if it be of a polite and picturesque type. Mr. Louis N. Parker's Drake has been one of the great successes of the year, for instance. Its subject has, of course, topical interest at the present moment, but, apart from that, Mr. Parker has done his work well. Those playgoers who remember Henry Hamilton and Augustus Harris's Armada, nearly a quarter of a century ago [Drury Lane, 22 October 1888], will be able to gauge how much better we do these things now.'
(E.A. Baughan, 'Drama of the Year', The Stage Year Book, London, 1913, p.10)

Amy Brandon-Thomas and Lyn Harding

Amy Brandon-Thomas as Elizabeth Sydenham (Lady Drake) and Lyn Harding as Sir Francis Drake
in Louis N. Parker's Drake, His Majesty's Theatre, London, 3 September 1912

(photo: Daily Mirror Studios, London, 1912)

The Story of the Play

'Drake, the sailor, the pirate, the lover, the patriot, the knight, the idol of England and the champion of her freedom! That is the Drake we look upon and hear in Louis N. Parker's play.
'"Who in the name of Heaven is Drake?" asked Queen Elizabeth. And before long the whole world had answered her question. He was a common marauding sailor, with a lust for fighting and justice, a man of indomitable will, a man with the heart of a child and the power of a king.
'Next to his country, Drake loved Elizabeth Sydenham. For her sake and her "thank you kindly," he singed the Spanish King's beard, captured his treasure, and destroyed for ever his great Invincible Armada that was to put a yoke on England.
'Drake's career was traced from that chamber at Hampton Court where he first met and spoke to his Queen, threatening revenge against the Spaniards in spite of the protestations of the Queen's advisers.
'He crossed the Isthmus of Darien, fell upon the Spaniards, and returned to hear the shouts of welcome on the quay at Plymouth; to learn that his love for Elizabeth Sydenham had not been in vain, and to marry her in secret.
'Once more Drake started on his voyage of revenge, in the knowledge of his Queen. But there was treachery on board the "Golden Hind," and treachery must be punished. A traitor must die, even though he be the oldest and dearest friend of his judge. Thomas Doughty heard his sentence of doom pronounced by a man to whom justice was more than friendship.
'After three long years the "Golden Hind" lay alongside the quay at Deptford. Drake had established the right of the English sailor to traverse the seas in safety. He had plundered the Spanish ships and driven them from the Southern seas.
'Crowds lined the quayside to wait the arrival of the Queen, who was to honour the valiant commander of the "Golden Hind" with a visit. Drake appeared on the quay some time before his royal visitor, and the welcome given him by his countrymen was a genuine as it was loud.
'The dainty Elizabeth rushed into the arms of her husband, and shortly after the Queen, with her ladies and court attendants, were seen wending their way towards the weather-worn, battered little vessel.
'Queen Elizabeth was proud of her subject. She complimented him upon his success, and what he had done for his country. But the Spanish ambassador interfered, haughtily demanding the cessation of Drake's voyages.
'In reply the Queen handed a sword to the emissary of the Duke of Alençon, and bade him confer the honour of knighthood upon the astonished Drake.
'Philip of Spain determined to crush the English. He prepared the Fortunate and Invincible Armada and sent it up the Channel to wreak bloodshed and slaughter on his foes. But he had reckoned without Drake.
'Drake was playing bowls when the news of the approaching fleet arrived. "There is time," said he, "to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too!"
'And Drake did both.
'Led by Drake in the "Revenge," the undermanned little ships of England's first navy went out to meet heir powerful enemy. With what result is known to every Englishman! Hampered and disheartened by the small English ships, one by one the great Spanish vessels struck and surrendered. Others sank or were burned to the water's edge. Others, again, turned and fled, some to the westward, some to the eastward, there to meet destruction on the rocks and to pound their huge times to fragments n the story shores of their enemy.
'The great Armada was destroyed. The Spanish yoke was cast off for ever, England was mistress of the seas, and she was proud of Sir Francis Drake.
'There were, however, courtiers who still envied and hated him, and who conspired to kill him. A great thanksgiving service was being held at Old St. Paul's. There the Queen and her great ladies, the nobles and the people of her land, would offer thanks to God for mercies vouchsafed.
'Just as Drake advanced towards the Queen an assassin struck him. But the blow miscarried, leaving only a rent in his coat. Calmly he walked up the steps of the Cathedral. Elizabeth knelt and prayed while all heads were bowed.
'Then shouts for Drake grew loud and long.
'Slowly he left his wife's side and face the people.
'"The little spot ye stand on," he said, "has become the centre of the earth. Men of England! Hitherto we have been too much afraid! Henceforth we will fear only God!"'
(The Playgoer and Society Illustrated, vol. VI, new series, no.36, London, Tuesday, 15 October 1912, p.154)

Phyllis Neilson-Terry

Phyllis Neilson-Terry as Queen Elizabeth
in Louis N. Parker's Drake, His Majesty's Theatre, London, 3 September 1912

(photo: Daily Mirror Studios, London, 1912;
coloured by The Playgoer and Society Illustrated, London, 1912)

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