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Sir Francis Drake, Vice Admiral, was an English privateer, navigator, slave trader, and politician of the Elizabethan era. Drake was knighted by the Queen in 1581. He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He died of dysentery after unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1596.
His exploits were semi-legendary and made him a hero to the English but to the Spaniards he was a simple pirate. He was known as "El Draque" (from the old Spanish meaning "the Dragon" derived from the Latin draco, an obvious play on his family name which in archaic English has the same etymological root) for his actions. King Philip II was claimed to have offered a reward of 20,000 ducats (about $10 million by 2007 standards) for his life. Many a city in the 16th century was ransomed for less.
Francis Drake was born in the parish of Crowndale, a mile south of Tavistock, Devon, in February or March 1540. He was the eldest of five known children of Edmund Drake (1518–1585), a Protestant farmer who later became a preacher, and his wife Mary Mylwaye. The elder Drake is sometimes confused with his cousin John Drake (1573–1634), who was the son of Edmund's older brother, Richard Drake. His maternal grandfather was Richard Mylwaye.
Francis was reportedly named after his godfather Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, and throughout his cousins' lineages are direct connections to royalty and famous persons, such as Sir Richard Grenville, Ivor Callely , Amy Grenville, and Geoffrey Chaucer. However, James Froude states, "He told Camden that he was of mean extraction. He meant merely that he was proud of his parents and made no idle pretensions to noble birth. His father was a tenant of the Earl of Bedford, and must have stood well with him, for Francis Russell, the heir of the earldom, was the boy's godfather."
During the Roman Catholic uprising of 1549, the family was forced to flee to Kent. At about the age of thirteen, Francis took to the sea on a cargo barque, becoming master of the ship at the age of twenty. He spent his early career honing his sailing skills on the difficult waters of the North Sea, and after the death of the captain he became master of his own barque. At age twenty-three, Drake made his first voyage to the New World under the sails of the Hawkins family of Plymouth, in company with his second cousin, Sir John Hawkins.
In 1569 he was with the Hawkins fleet when it was trapped by the Spaniards in the Mexican port of San Juan de Ulua. He escaped along with Hawkins but the experience led him to his lifelong revenge against the Spanish.
In 1577 Drake was sent by Queen Elizabeth to start an expedition against the Spanish along the Pacific coast of the Americas. He set out from Plymouth on the 15th of November on his expedition, but terrible weather threatened him and his fleet, who were forced to take refuge in Falmouth, from where they returned to Plymouth for repair. After this minor setback, he set sail once again from England on December 13, aboard the Pelican, with four other ships and 164 men. He soon added a sixth ship, the Mary (formerly Santa Maria) which had been captured off the coast of Africa. More importantly, he added its captain, Nuno da Silva, a man with considerable experience navigating in South American waters.
Drake's fleet suffered great attrition; he scuttled both the Christopher and the flyboat Swan due to loss of manpower on the Atlantic crossing. At San Julian, Argentina, the Mary was found to be rotten and was burned. After the trial and execution of Thomas Doughty, Drake decided to remain the winter in San Julian before attempting the Straits of Magellan.
The three remaining ships departed for the Magellan Strait at the southern tip of the continent. This course established "Drake's Passage" but the route south of Tierra del Fuego around Cape Horn was not discovered until 1616. Drake crossed from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Magellan Strait. After this passage a storm blew his ship so far south that he realized Tierra del Fuego was not part of a southern continent, as was believed at that time. This voyage established Drake as the first Antarctic explorer, because the southernmost point of his voyage was at least 56 degrees according to astronomical data quoted in Haklyut's "The Principall Navigators" of 1589. Until James Cook's voyage of 1773, this was the furthest south any seafaring explorer had ventured.
A few weeks later Drake made it to the Pacific, but violent storms destroyed one of the ships and caused another to return to England. He pushed onwards in his lone flagship, now renamed the Golden Hind in honour of Sir Christopher Hatton (after his coat of arms). The Golden Hind sailed north alone along the Pacific coast of South America, attacking Spanish ports and rifling towns as it went. Some Spanish ships were captured, and Drake made good use of their more accurate charts.
In one of his most notable seizures, Drake captured a Spanish ship, laden with riches from Peru, which held 25,000 pesos of pure, fine gold, amounting in value to 37,000 ducats of Spanish money. Near Lima, they discovered news of a ship sailing towards Panama, The Cacafuego. They gave chase and eventually captured her, which proved to be their most profitable capture. They found 80lb of gold and a golden crucifix, countless jewels, 13 chests full of royals of plate and 26 tons of silver.
On June 17, 1579, Drake landed somewhere north of Spain's northern-most claim at Point Loma. He found a good port, landed, repaired and restocked his vessels, then stayed for a time, keeping friendly relations with the natives. He claimed the land in the name of the Holy Trinity for the English Crown as called Nova Albion - Latin for "New Britain." Assertions that he left some of his men behind as an embryo "colony" are founded merely on the reduced number who were with him in the Moluccas.
The precise location of the port was carefully guarded to keep it secret from the Spaniards, and several of Drake's maps may even have been altered to this end. All first hand records from the voyage, including logs, paintings and charts were lost when Whitehall Palace burned in 1698. A bronze plaque inscribed with Drake's claim to the new lands, fitting the description in Drake's own account, was discovered in Marin County, California. ThisDrake's Plate of Brass was later declared a hoax.
Another location often claimed to be Nova Albion is Whale Cove (Oregon), although to date there is no evidence to suggest this, other than a general resemblance to a single map penned a decade after the landing.
Bawlf argues that Drake's ship reached 56°N, much farther north than was recorded. The reason for this false record, Bawlf writes, was for political reasons: competition with the Spanish in the Americas. Queen Elizabeth wanted to keep any information on the Northwest Passage secret, with the result that the location of Nova Albion and the highest latitude the expedition reached is still a source of controversy today.
Drake's brother endured a long period of torture in South America at the hands of Spaniards, who sought intelligence from him about Francis Drake's voyage.
His voyage to the west coast of North America is important for a number of reasons. When he landed, his chaplain held Holy Communion; this was one of the first Protestant church services in the New World (though French Huguenots had founded an ill-fated colony in Florida in the 1560s). Drake was seen to be gaining prestige at the expense of the Papacy.
What is certain of the extent of Drake's claim and territorial challenge to the Papacy and the Spanish crown is that his port was founded somewhere north of Point Loma; that all contemporary maps label all lands above the Kingdoms of New Spain and New Mexico as "Nova Albion", and that all colonial claims made from the East Coast in the 1600s were "From Sea to Sea". The colonial claims were established with full knowledge of Drake's claims, which they reinforced, and remained valid in the minds of the English colonists on the Atlantic coast when those colonies became free states. Maps made soon after would have "Nova Albion" written above the entire northern frontier of New Spain. These territorial claims became important during the negotiations that ended the Mexican-American War between the United States and Mexico.
Drake now headed westward across the Pacific, and a few months later reached the Moluccas, a group of islands in the south west Pacific, in eastern modern-day Indonesia. While there, the Golden Hind became caught on a reef and was almost lost. After three days of waiting for expedient tides and dumping cargo, the barque was miraculously freed. Drake and his men befriended a sultan king of the Moluccas and involved themselves in some intrigues with the Portuguese there.
He made multiple stops on his way toward the tip of Africa, eventually rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and reached Sierra Leone by July 22, 1580. On September 26 the Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth with Drake and 59 remaining crew aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures. The Queen's half-share of the cargo surpassed the rest of the crown's income for that entire year. Hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth (and the second such voyage arriving with at least one ship intact, after Elcano's in 1520), Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth aboard the Golden Hind on April 4, 1581, and became the Mayor of Plymouth and a Member of Parliament.
The Queen ordered all written accounts of Drake's voyage to be considered classified information, and its participants sworn to silence on pain of death; her aim was to keep Drake's activities away from the eyes of rival Spain.
On his return Drake presented the Queen with a jewel token commemorating the circumnavigation. It bore a ship with an ebony hull, enameled gold taken from a prize off the Pacific coast of Mexico, and an African diamond. For her part, the Queen gave Drake a jewel with her portrait, an uncommon gift to bestow upon a commoner, and one that Drake sported proudly in his portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts, 1591. On one side is a state portrait of Elizabeth by the miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard, on the other a sardonyx cameo of double portrait busts, a regal woman and an African male. The "Drake Jewel", as it is known today, is a rare documented survivor among sixteen-century jewels; it is conserved at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
War broke out between Spain and England in 1585. Drake sailed to the New World and sacked the ports of Santo Domingo and Cartagena. On the return leg of the voyage, he captured the Spanish fort of San Augustín in Spanish Florida. These exploits encouraged Philip II of Spain to order the planning for an invasion of England.
In a pre-emptive strike, Drake "singed the beard of the King of Spain" by sailing a fleet into Cádiz and also A Coruña, two of Spain's main ports, and occupied the harbours destroying the thirty-seven naval and merchant ships. The attack delayed the Spanish invasion by a year. Over the next month, Drake patrolled the Iberian Coasts between Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent intercepting and destroying Spanish supply lines. Drake estimated that he captured around 1600-1700 tons of staves to make barrels which is enough to make 25,000 to 30,000 barrels that can contain provisions.
Drake was vice admiral in command of the English fleet (under Lord Howard of Effingham) when it overcame the Spanish Armada that was attempting to invade England in 1588. As the English fleet pursued the Armada up the English Channel in closing darkness, Drake put duty second and captured the Spanish galleon Rosario, along with Admiral Pedro de Valdés and all his crew. The Spanish ship was known to be carrying substantial funds to pay the Spanish Army in the Low Countries. Drake's ship had been leading the English pursuit of the Armada by means of a lantern. By extinguishing this for the capture, Drake put the fleet into disarray overnight. This exemplified Drake's ability, as a privateer, to suspend strategic purpose if a tactical profit were on offer.
On the night of 29 July, along with Howard, Drake organised fire-ships, causing the majority of the Spanish captains to break formation and sail out of Calais into the open sea. The next day, Drake was present at the Battle of Gravelines.
In 1589, the year after defeating the Armada, Drake and Sir John Norreys were given three tasks. They were ordered to first seek out and destroy the remaining ships, second they were to support the rebels in Lisbon, Portugal against King Philip II (king of Spain and Portugal then), and third they to take the Azores if possible. Drake and Norreys destroyed a few ships in the harbor of A Coruña in Spain. This delayed Drake and he was forced to skip the rest of hunting the rest surviving ships and head on to Lisbon.
Drake's seafaring career continued into his mid-fifties. In 1595, following a disastrous campaign against Spanish America, where he suffered several defeats in a row, he unsuccessfully attacked San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Spanish gunners from El Morro Castle shot a cannonball through the cabin of Drake's flagship, but he survived. In 1596, he died of dysentery, at age 56 while anchored off the coast of Puerto Bello, Panama where some Spanish treasure ships had sought shelter. He was buried at sea in a lead coffin, near Portobelo.
Cabo Verde, 2006, Francis Drake
Cabo Verde, 2006, Francis Drake, compas
Cabo Verde, 2006, Francis Drake, ships
Cabo Verde, 2006, Francis Drake, map
Ciskei, 1993, Sir Francis Drake
Ecuador, 2006, Sir Francis Drake, Holy Roger Drake
Gambia, 2000, Francis Drake, «Golden Hind»
Great Britain, 1968/1970, «Golden Hind»
Great Britain, 1973, Sir Francis Drake
Great Britain, 1982, «Golden Hind»
Great Britain, 2009, Francis Drake
Guinea, 2001, Francis Drake
Guinea Bissau, 1981, Francis Drake, «Golden Hind»
Hungary, 1978, Sir Francis Drake
Isle of Man, 2003, Elizabeth I and Francis Drake
Liberia, 2000, Sir Francis Drake's voyages
Madagaskar, 1991, «Golden Hind»
Marshall Islands, 2000, «Golden Hind»
Marshall Islands, 2008, «Golden Hind»
Norfolk Island, 1994, «Golden Hind»
Norfolk Island, 1994, Sir Francis Drake
Palau, 1992, Frencis Drake
Palau, 1992, «Golden Hind»
Penhryn, 1981, «Golden Hind»
Penhryn, 1981, «Golden Hind»
Penhryn, 1984, «Golden Hind»
Qatar, 1967, «Golden Hind»
Sao Tome e Principe, 1982, Francis Drake, «The Golden Hind»
Seychelles, 2009, Francis Drake
Sierra Leone, 1984/1985, «Golden Hind»
St. Helena Island, 2005, Francis Drake, «The Golden Hind»
St. Kitts, 1985, Map of St. Kitts
St. Kitts, 1985, «Golden Hind»
St. Kitts, 1985, Sir Francis Drake
St. Kitts, 1985, Drake's heraldic shield
St. Kitts-Nevis, 1970/1976, Francis Drake and John Hawkins
St. Vincent, 1988, English fleet and Drake's dial
St. Vincent, 1988, «Revenge» and Drake's Drum
Tanzania, 1999, Sir Francis Drake, spanish Armada
Tristan da Cunha, 1980, «Golden Hind»
Tristan da Cunha, 1980, Drake's Route
Tristan da Cunha, 1980, Sir Francis Drake
Turks & Caicos, 1972, Richard Grenville and «Revenge»
Turks & Caicos, 2001, «Golden Hind» (1577)
Umm al Quiwain, 1972, Francis Drake, «Golden Hind»
Virgin Islands, 1970/1974, «Elizabeth Bonaventura»
Virgin Islands, 1974, Francis Drake
Virgin Islands, 1975, «Golden Hind»
Virgin Islands, 1980, Sir Francis Drake
Virgin Islands, 1980, Queen Elizabeth I
Virgin Islands, 1980, Drake receiving knighthood
Virgin Islands, 1980, «Golden Hind»
Virgin Islands, 1997, Sir Francis Drake
Great Britain, 1978.09.20, Postal Service of British forces. Operation Drake
Great Britain, 1988.07.18, Plymouth. Drake's monument
Great Britain, 2009.04.21, Tavistock. Sir Francis Drake
USA, 1980, «Golden Hind»