- early years
- slave trade
- British Crown Privateer
- drake circumnavigates the globe
- the Spanish army
- last years
Sir Francis Drake participated in some of the first English slave voyages to Africa and earned a reputation for his privateering, or piracy, against Spanish ships and possessions. Sent by Queen Elizabeth to South America in 1577, he returned home via the Pacific and became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. the queen rewarded him with a knighthood. In 1588 Drake served as second in command during the English victory over the Spanish armada. The most famous sailor of the Elizabethan era, he died off the coast of Panama in 1596 and was buried at sea.
Born sometime between 1540 and 1544 in Devonshire, England, Francis Drake was the son of a tenant farmer on the estate of Lord Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford. He was raised in Plymouth by the Hawkins family, relatives who worked as merchants and privateers (often referred to as pirates).
Drake first went to sea around the age of 18 with the Hawkins family fleet, and by the 1560s had earned command of his own ship.
did you know? When he died off the coast of Panama in 1596, Sir Francis Drake was buried at sea, clad in full armor and encased in a lead-lined coffin. Divers, treasure hunters, and dragon enthusiasts continue to search for his final resting place.
In 1567, Drake and his cousin John Hawkins sailed to Africa to join the fledgling slave trade. When they sailed to New Spain to sell their captives to settlers there (which was against Spanish law), they were caught up in a Spanish raid in the Mexican port of San Juan de Ulúa.
many of his crewmates were killed in the incident, though drake and hawkins escaped, and drake returned to england with what would become a lifelong hatred of spain and its ruler, king philip ii.
British Crown Privateer
After leading two successful expeditions to the West Indies, Drake caught the eye of Queen Elizabeth I, who granted him a privateer’s commission, effectively giving him the right to plunder Spanish ports in the Caribbean. Drake did just that in 1572, capturing the port of Nombre de Dios (a delivery point for silver and gold brought from Peru) and crossing the Isthmus of Panama, where he first saw the vast Pacific Ocean. He returned to England with a large amount of Spanish treasure, an achievement that earned him a reputation as a leading privateer.
In 1577, Queen Elizabeth commissioned Drake to lead an expedition across South America through the stormy Strait of Magellan. The voyage was plagued with conflict between Drake and the other two men tasked with sharing command.
When they arrived off the Argentine coast, Drake had one of the men, Thomas Doughty, arrested, tried, and beheaded for allegedly planning a riot. of the five-ship fleet, two ships were lost in a storm; the other commander, john wynter, turned his back on england and another disappeared. Drake’s 100-ton flagship, the Pelican (later renamed the Golden Hind), was the only ship to reach the Pacific in October 1578.
drake circumnavigates the globe
After pillaging Spanish ports along the west coast of South America, Drake headed north in search of a return passage to the Atlantic. he claimed to have traveled as far north as 48 degrees north (in parallel with vancouver, canada) before extreme cold conditions caused him to turn back. Drake anchored near present-day San Francisco and claimed the surrounding land, which he named New Albion, for Queen Elizabeth.
in july 1579, returning west across the pacific, he stopped in the philippines and bought spices in the moluccan islands. She then sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and returned to the English port of Plymouth in September 1580.
Despite complaints from the Spanish government about his piracy, Drake was honored as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe and became a folk hero. Several months after his return, Queen Elizabeth personally knighted him aboard the Golden Hindu.
the Spanish army
in 1585, with hostilities between england and spain intensifying, the queen gave drake command of a fleet of 25 ships. He sailed to the Antilles and the Florida coast and ruthlessly plundered the Spanish ports there, taking Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands, Cartagena in Colombia, St. Agustina in Florida and San Domingo (now Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic).
On the return voyage, he rescued a failed English military colony on the island of Roanoke off the Carolinas in 1586. (The ill-fated island was later the scene of a mysterious disappearance of some 100 English colonists, none of whom It was found).
Drake then led an even larger fleet (30 ships) into the Spanish port of Cádiz and destroyed a large number of ships being prepared for the Spanish armada. In 1588, Drake served as Admiral Charles Howard’s second-in-command in the English victory over the supposedly invincible Spanish fleet.
After an unsuccessful expedition to Portugal in 1589, Drake returned to England for several years, until Queen Elizabeth recruited him for one more voyage, against the Spanish possessions in the West Indies in early 1596.
The expedition turned out to be a complete failure: Spain repelled the English attacks and Drake contracted fever and dysentery. He died in late January 1596 at the age of 55 off the coast of Puerto Bello (now Portobelo, Panama).
Mr. Francisco Drake. National Park Service. Sir Francis Drake (c.1540 – c.1596). bbc.sir francis drake facts. royal museums tours of greenwich.roanoke. the lost colony.