Anthony Sherley was a rogue in the strictest sense of the word. He was born
into a wealthy family but was forced to find his own way after his families
property went into bankruptcy. He had an Oxford education, but had to take to
soldiering, forgoing his education.
In 1591 he went to Normandy as one of the Earl of Essex's soldiers. While
there he was knighted by the French. In 1593 he was imprisoned until he
renounced his foreign title. Striving to rise in stature, he married a cousin of
the earl, but soon found his wife intolerable. Seeing nothing for him to gain by
staying in England, he left to seek his fortune elsewhere. Sherley used his
relation to the earl to aquire funds for an expedition to capture Sâo Thomé, a
Portuguese island off the coast of Africa.
In May 1596 Sherley assembled eight ships carrying about 400 soldiers. The
expedition was struck by disease early in the voyage. Sherley was forced to
change his course to the north. Sherley took Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands
but the booty was very sparse. His force much depleted, Sherley then attacked
and took Santa Marta, Colombia. In early 1597, they sacked the poor Jamaican
settlement of Santiago de la Vega. Their main purpose in the attack was to
replenish supplies. So far the sum total of booty for his raids was pretty
While in Jamaica, Sherley met Captains William Parker and Michael Geare. The
two joined with Sherley in an attack upon Trujillo (Honduras), but were
unsuccessful. Next they tried their luck in attacking Puerto Caballos, and after
taking it, found it to be destitute. Geare left to seek his fortune. Sherley and
Parker, decided to try to march across the Guatemala mountains to the Pacific.
Once again they were daunted by the severity of the trip and chose to take their
remaining men through the Strait of Magellan. By this time Sherley's men have
lost faith in their captain and deserted him. With his remaining ship, Sherley
went back to England and also to tremendous debts.
Toward the end of 1597, Sherley was sent to Ferrara, Italy in the company of
English troops. By the time they arrived the differences between Italy and
England were settled and Sherley was faced with unemployment. Sherley, once
again using his relationship with the Earl of Essex, managed to raise enough
money to sail to Persia. He planned to establish diplomatic relations (without
the consent of the crown) with the new shah. The shah made Sherley his
ambassador and enlisted him to gain allies against the Ottoman Empire. When
Sherley returned to England his plan was condemned and he was forbade to return
to Persia. Sherley then made his rounds from royal court to court and conned
nobles out of funds.
In 1607, Sherley managed to become an agent of the Spanish. During this time
he wrote to Simon Simonson and John Ward trying to sway them to make attacks
upon the Ottoman Empire. Two years later, in 1609, the Spanish had Sherley
assemble ships in Sicily to attack the Barbary corsairs. It was planned that
Sherley would join in a Spanish attack on Tunis, but instead Sherley attacked
European merchantmen and looted the Greek Islands. After Sherley's failure to
support Spain's attack on Tunis, he lost all influence in the Spanish courts but
stayed in Spain constantly trying to gain political stature. He died destitute
in Spain circa 1637.