English privateers are captured in Panama by the Spanish and made galley slaves but escape to warn Queen Elizabeth about the armada.
In 1585 Spain's King Philip II (Montagu Love) sends Don Alvarez (Claude Rains) to his adversary England. Captain Lopez (Gilbert Roland) transports Alvarez and his niece Maria (Brenda Marshall). Albatross buccaneers led by Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) attack them, and after a fight Lopez surrenders. English slaves are freed, and all leave the sinking ship. Maria calls Thorpe a thief but finds he returned her jewels.
Lord Wolfingham (Henry Daniell) presents Alvarez to Queen Elizabeth (Flora Robson). Six sea hawk captains precede Thorpe, who says Spain is at war with the world. Elizabeth forbids attacking the Spaniards. Thorpe gives Elizabeth a monkey and urges her to build a fleet. Thorpe proposes plundering Spanish gold in Panama; she does not approve but winks at it. In a rose garden Maria forgives Thorpe. Samuel Kroner (Francis McDonald) tries to find out where Thorpe is going for pay from Wolfingham and Alvarez, who visit Thorpe's chart-maker and learn of Panama. John Burleson (Donald Crisp) advises Thorpe to sail soon. Maria hears Kroner tell Alvarez that Lopez left for Panama. She rushes to Dover but sees the Albatross sailed.
The Spaniards expect Thorpe, who leads men in the jungle and captures the convoy easily. Spanish soldiers ambush them, and they flee in the swamps. Thorpe and a few men get back to the ship and are captured by Lopez. Thorpe is tried in Spain on 39 charges, and they are made galley slaves. Maria sings for Elizabeth. When Alvarez tells the Queen of Thorpe, Maria faints. Alvarez accuses Elizabeth of an act of war and demands she disband the sea hawks. Elizabeth gets angry but orders all privateers confiscated. Maria pleads with Alvarez for Thorpe. A new prisoner tells Thorpe the armada is ready. Thorpe and others refuse to row but are forced to resume. At Cadiz Thorpe uses a knife to get free and to free others. Carl Pitt (Alan Hale) strangles the sleeping guard. They jump sentries and board another ship. Thorpe overhears the captain's plans to attack England before they overcome him. The English sail the ship.
In a coach Maria tells Alvarez she is staying in England. Thorpe orders men to take Alvarez on board and enters Maria's coach. She tells Thorpe that she loves him. He gets in without a pass, and Kroner fails to arrest him. Maria's maid Martha (Una O'Connor) helps Thorpe, who fights off guards with his sword and finds Wolfingham. They duel until Thorpe kills him. Elizabeth saves Thorpe from the guards. Thorpe shows the Queen the Spanish dispatches. In the final scene Elizabeth knights Thorpe and says free men must fight.
This fictional drama was designed with an appropriate
historical analogy that would inspire the English in their current
fight against Germany.