Born in 1540
Died on 27th of January 1596
British hero of the week September 24th 2009
Francis Drake was born around 1540 and died 27th January 1596. He was an English sailor and navigator of the Elizabethan era and the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon, the eldest of 12 sons of Edmund Drake, a farmer and Protestant preacher, and his wife Mary. During the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549, the Drake family fled to Chatham in Kent and Drake went to sea at the early age of 13. In 1567 he made one of the first English slaving voyages as part of a fleet led by his cousin, John Hawkins, bringing African slaves to work in the 'New World'. All but two ships of the expedition were lost when attacked by a Spanish squadron. The Spanish subsequently became a lifelong enemy for Drake, and they in turn considered him a pirate. In 1569 Drake married Mary Newman. The couple had no children and Mary died 12 years later. In 1570 and 1571, Drake made two profitable trading voyages to the West Indies. In 1572 he commanded two vessels in a marauding expedition against Spanish ports in the Caribbean. He spotted the Pacific Ocean from a tree he had climbed in the central mountains of Panama, becoming the first Englishman to see the Pacific Ocean and hoping one day to sail it. He then captured the port of Nombre de Dios on the Isthmus of Panama, returning to Plymouth, England in August 1573 with a cargo of Spanish treasure and a reputation as a brilliant privateer. However, Queen Elizabeth who had up to this point sponsored and encouraged Drake's Spanish raids, signed a temporary truce with King Philip II of Spain and was unable to officially acknowledge Drake's accomplishment. In 1577, Drake was secretly commissioned by Elizabeth I to set off on an expedition to the Spanish colonies on the American Pacific coast. He sailed with five ships but by the time he reached the Pacific Ocean in October 1578, only one was left, Drake's flagship The Pelican, renamed the Golden Hind. Drake became the first Englishman to navigate the Straits of Magellan, and was able to reach the Pacific. He travelled north, up the west coast of South America, plundering Spanish ports along the way, and hoping to find a route across to the Atlantic. He ended up sailing further up the west coast of America than any European had done before, but unable to find a passage, he turned south. After attempting to establish a colony for the English called 'Nova Albion' somewhere north of Spain's northern-most claim in Point Loma, in July 1579 he went west across the Pacific, to the Moluccas, Celebes, Java and then round the Cape of Good Hope, reaching Sierra Leone by July 22nd 1580. He arrived back in Plymouth, England in September 1580 with a rich cargo of spices and Spanish treasure and the distinction of being the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. Seven months later, Queen Elizabeth I knighted him aboard the Golden Hind and in September 1581, he became the Mayor of Plymouth. In 1580, Drake had purchased Buckland Abbey, near Yelverton in Devon, and he lived there for 15 years with his second wife, Elizabeth Sydenham. He was also an MP in 1581, and in 1584 for Bossiney. In 1585, war broke out between Spain and England. Drake sailed to the West Indies and the coast of Florida where he sacked and plundered Spanish cities. On his return voyage, he picked up the unsuccessful colonists of Roanoke Island, the failed English colony of the New World, off the coast of the Carolinas. In 1587, the Spanish were planning to invade England, and Drake entered the port of Cadiz and destroyed 30 of the ships the Spanish were assembling against the British. In 1588, he was a vice admiral in the fleet that defeated the Armada. Drake's last expedition, with John Hawkins, was to the West Indies in 1595. The Spanish were prepared for him this time, and the venture was a disaster. Drake died of dysentery off the coast of Puerto Bello, Panama. Drake's body was buried at sea in a lead coffin, near Portobelo.
internal link A replica of the Golden Hinde
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