Drake’s enslaving history plays only a minor role in Bergreen’s epic of adventure and empire, which looks in far, far greater detail at the mariner’s circumnavigation of the globe, his defeat of the Armada, and, as the subtitle suggests, how his relentless plundering on behalf of Queen Elizabeth I helped fuel Britain’s rise ... Despite Bergreen’s best efforts, Drake remains a rather remote, often contradictory figure. Drake’s ultimate renunciation of slavery receives little attention ... Occasionally, Bergreen minimizes Drake’s excesses ... Bergreen aptly captures the times Drake lived in, as well as the perils and wonders of the circumnavigation ... One disappointment from a local perspective is that the book never addresses the questions of where (or even whether) Drake landed in California ... Bergreen’s book is unlikely to change the opinions of those who have already made up their minds about Drake, whether they regard him as a hero or an oppressor. But for anyone open to a comprehensive look at Drake, in all his contradictions, In Search of Kingdom is a lively and compelling history of a man whose blend of audacity, piety and cruelty changed the world.
The Elizabeth-Drake combination is fascinating, but perhaps unavoidably it results in a patchy telling. Events at sea and court unfold separately, with few actual interactions between queen and captain ... There are oddities, too. The Golden Hind was named after the whole of a female red deer, not its rear legs. Galicia is not due south of London. Flurries of repetitions and recapitulations trip up the narrative. After being sent back once more into the thick of an apparently concluded story line, for this reader it felt like déjà vu all over again ... This is a shame, as Drake’s story is both dramatic and timely.
The narrative jumps back and forth between accounts of Drake’s career and discoveries and the background of his and Elizabeth’s lives. Far from being jarring, this juxtaposition highlights motive and context for their actions and creates a cliffhanger-style pace that keeps the reader turning the page. Still, there are few new revelations about Elizabeth I that haven’t already been covered in other biographies, and readers can find a more complete examination of her court politics and intelligence services in the work of Stephen Alford. The great pleasure of In Search of a Kingdom is the revelation of Drake as a man of apparent contradictions that helped rather than hindered his ambitions. Readers in search of a story of how a clergyman’s son gained the support of a queen and helped found the British Empire will not be disappointed.
... vivid ... Mr. Bergreen is determined to argue that 'Drake became the catalyst in England’s great transition from an island nation to the British Empire,' and he sees Elizabeth’s reign as the time from which that empire supplanted Spain’s. There is some truth in this, but it is still an exaggeration ... is most entrancing when it concentrates on Drake himself and his remarkable exploits. Elsewhere it is less satisfactory. There is some padding—do we really need another account of Henry VIII’s disgusting marital history?—and there are a few careless mistakes, such as the repeated assertion that James VI was reared as a Catholic. But all this is venial. The accounts of Drake’s circumnavigation and his subsequent naval career are very good indeed. They will surely delight aficionados of imperial history and anyone keen on real-life adventure stories.
Elizabeth is as much a force in the narrative as Drake, with Bergreen recounting the machinations of her court to give full historical context to Drake’s marauding. Unfortunately, the book as a whole is marred by inconsistencies in chronology and repetitions that detract from an otherwise compelling story ... An intriguing-but-flawed exploration of an often-overlooked aspect of Elizabethan history.
With a keen sense of adventure and a sharp grasp of personalities on sea and land, Bergreen details Drake’s round-the-world adventures as well as political intrigues and mutinous sailors. Includes maps and bibliography.
Demonstrating his deep knowledge of the era, the author energetically recounts Drake’s action-packed journey ... The narrative is long but never boring, as Bergreen masterly portrays the principal characters in this drama ... A smooth, dramatic, and well-fleshed world history perfect for library collections.