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1542 - 1596

Francis Drake was born when King Henry the VIII of England was adopting the protestant religion. The death of Henry VIII in 1547 saw his son Edward VI uphold the protestant religion.

In 1553, Edward died aged 16 of consumption. He was succeeded by his half sister Mary, a strong catholic. The marriage of Mary to Philip II of Spain, led to the persecution of protestants in England.

At that time, Drake's family, who were protestants, were forced to move from their home in Devon because of religious tensions in that area. Their arrival in Chatham/Kent saw Drake's father become a protestant preacher.

Drake first started going to sea around the age of 13 as an apprentice on a small trading ship that was left to him when its master died. After selling that ship, Drake returned to Devon to sail with his relative, John Hawkins.

Francis Drake image

Francis Drake

The death of Queen Mary in 1558 saw her successor, Queen Elizabeth I, return England to protestantism. At that time, Philip II of Spain had inherited the crown of Portugal. Phillip was then in control of the two catholic countries that were leading the discoveries of new lands.

In the 1560s, Drake and Hawkins made several voyages to the Caribbean, smuggling goods to the Spanish colonies. That practice enraged Philip of Spain who ordered his ships to destroy any English trading ships they came across.

On their third voyage, Hawkins fleet of six ships were damaged in a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. The English ships put into the Spanish port of Vera Cruz to make repairs. The following day, a larger Spanish treasure fleet arrived to pick up Spanish gold and silver accumulated in the stores of Vera Cruz. Within a few days, the Spanish attacked the English smugglers, killing most of them. Only the ships of Drake and Hawkins made it back to England with around 70 survivors.

Drake's hate for the Spaniards led to him securing the support of Queen Elizabeth to help finance a voyage to raid the Spanish ships and colonies in South America.

Late in 1577, Drake left England with five ships, traveled to West Africa, then crossed the Atlantic via the Cape Verde Islands to the Brazilian coast. Before rounding the tip of South America, he abandoned two ships and renamed his flagship, Pelican, the Golden Hind. After they sailed through the Magellan Strait, they emerge into storms in the Pacific Ocean. The Marigold went down with all hands and the Elizabeth turned back to England.

Drake spent five and a half months raiding Spanish treasure ships and colonies along the South American Pacific coast of Chile and Peru. He then sailed north where he claimed the Californian coastline in the name of his queen.

To avoid meeting the enraged Spanish, he returned home by sailing across the Pacific and Indian oceans, around the southern tip of Africa, and arrived back in England in the autumn of 1580. That voyage covered approximately 36,000 miles.

Drake shared the Spanish treasure with Queen Elizabeth. The queen showed her appreciation for his services by dining on his ship. After being knighted, Sir Francis Drake, he returned to attacking Spanish settlements in the Americas and West Indies.

In 1587, Drake attacked Spanish ships in the port of Cadiz/Spain that were being prepared for the invasion of England. He damaged so many ships with fire, the planned invasion was put back a year.

In July 1588, when the Spanish Armada reached England, Lord Howard and Sir Francis Drake, led the English ships into a week long battle that ended with the Spanish ships either wrecked, captured or fleeing.

The defeat of the Spanish Armada saw Drake return to privatering raids against the Spanish colonies.

During a raiding trip to the West Indies, he contracted a fever. On January 28th 1596, on board his flagship Defiance, Drake die peacefully. He was buried at sea off Puerto Bello/ Panama in a lead coffin.

Francis Drake statue Plymouth image

Francis Drake statue Plymouth

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Drake People List