The expedition was financed as a joint venture, the investors being such high officials as Privy Councilors Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Sir Francis Walsingham; the Earl of Lincoln, Lord High Admiral of England; also, Sir Christopher Hatton; Sir William Winter, Surveyor and Master of Ordnance of the Navy; and John Hawkins, Drake’s former commander. Queen Elizabeth herself may have been an investor, though this is not quite certain; what is certain is that she appropriated the lion’s share of the proceeds of the voyage. Drake himself participated to the tune of ?1000, a good sum for that time.
These joint venture companies, partnerships, or associations were a common method of organizing and financing commercial voyages, military expeditions, and colonizing activities, from the Middle Ages onwards. They are explained by J. H. Parry (The Age of Reconnaissance , pp. 49-50) as «Partnerships for conducting commercial enterprises…usually not corporations but rather ad hoc devices for uniting a number of capitalists…or a number of partners…or active participants in an enterprise…All these types of associations under various names—commenda, societas, compagnia, and so forth—were employed in seaborne trade». Parry mentions also «associations of individuals formed to undertake particular enterprises—military expeditions for example—on behalf of the State». The examples cited by Parry are Italian, but he remarks that «the Dutch and English were to emerge as the Italians’ aptest pupils in this respect».
The enormous treasure he brought back was put under safeguard in Plymouth. Drake quietly informed the Queen and the investors of the amount of profit which had been earned by the voyage—this has been stated to be 4600 percent (?47 for each ?1 invested). On April 4, 1581, Elizabeth had Drake knighted, on the occasion of a visit to the Golden Hind . He certainly deserved this honor. According to the economist J. M. Keynes, the English foreign debt was paid off from the Queen’s share of the proceeds, and there was enough left over (?42,000) for her to capitalize a new venture, the Levant Company, a firm which played an important part in the development of British foreign trade (see Keynes, Treatise on Money ).