Sir Francis Drake was born 1540 in Tavistock, County Devon. He was the eldest of 12 sons of Edmund Drake, a Protestant farmer and his wife Mary Mylwaye. Due to religious charges during the Prayer Rebellion in 1549, the entire Drake family had to move to Kent. He was ordained a deacon there and became the pastor of the Upnor Church. Drake’s father recommended his son to his neighbor who owned a barge and traded in coal. He accepted him as his ward and having Francis’s great progress in shipping in mind, decided to leave ship to him after his death, because he didn’t have any children.
At the age of 18 he became a steward on a ship sailing to the Bay of Biscay. When he was 20 he went on a trip to Guinea. In 1563, he sailed for the first time to America, where he accompanied his cousin John Hawkins, who came from a family with a whole fleet and is considered the first British slave dealer.
The first major success of Francis Drake
In 1568, Drake took part in the third Hawkins expedition. While negotiating the donation and repair of the ship in a Spanish port in Mexico they were attacked by Spanish warships. Only two British ships survived. Fortunately, Drake and Hawkins survived. It is believed that this incident was the catalyst for Drake’s hostility towards the Spaniards, and after the battle in San Juan de Ulua he swore revenge.
Two years later, in 1570, a British sailor commanded two ships during a trip to West Indies. In 1572 he set out on the first of his significant expeditions. He planned to attack the Panama Isthmus. It was a place where silver and gold treasures from Peru were unloaded to be transported further by land to the Caribbean Sea, from where Spanish galleons collected them in the city of Nombre de Dios.
On May 24, 1572, Drake and 73 crew members on two ships, one 70-ton Pascha and another 25-ton Swan, set out to take over Nombre de Dios. The first raid took place in July. Drake and his men managed to take over the treasure. When the crew of Drake noticed that their captain was bleeding, they decided to retreat and abandon the treasure to save the life of the commander. Drake, however, did not abandon the government of revenge and remained in the vicinity of Nombre de Dios for about a year regularly raiding Spanish ships and trying to take over the load.
One of the more successful actions was the takeover in 1573 of the Spanish route, which transported valuables to Nombre de Dios. Drake was watching over the waters around modern Panama. He also traced the trail near the port of the already mentioned city. After attacking him, the British realized that they had acquired about 20 tons of silver and gold. Most of the treasure was buried because the crew had no way to take that amount of precious metals, so they left with a fortune in gold.
A handful of people, motivated by the desire to get rich, decided that it was worth taking as much gold and silver as they could carry during an 18-mile return journey in a mountainous jungle area. When they arrived at the anchorage of the boat, it turned out that the ships had disappeared.
Exhausted, hungry and depressed the British had nowhere to go, and the Spaniards were still on their heels. Drake shook off his people and decided to bury the treasure on the beach and build a raft to sail two volunteers 10 miles along the coast to where they left the flagship. When Francis Drake climbed aboard his people were overwhelmed by the gray look of his captain. The crew realized that something must have gone wrong and they asked Drake how the ambush went. He laughed, removed a Spanish gold necklace from his neck and exclaimed “Comrades! Managed to”. On August 9, 1573, they returned to Plymouth.
During this expedition Drake climbed a tall tree and mountains near the Panama Isthmus, and thus became the first Englishman to see the Pacific Ocean. As he later pointed out, when he saw the waters of the Pacific, he hoped that one day a British man would be able to swim on it someday. He did it a few years later. After Francis Drake’s return to England, the government decided to sign a temporary truce with King Philip II so that he would not be able to find out about the merits of the British captain. In England, Drake was considered a hero, while in Spain as a pirate, due to regular invasions of the Spaniards.
In 1575, a British sailor was present during the Rathlin island massacre on the North Channel. Drake obeyed the instructions of Sir Henry Sidney and Count Essex. Sir John Norreys and Drake rounded up the castle. The attacked surrendered, but Norreys’s army killed all 200 soldiers and over 400 civilians, including women and children. In the meantime, Francis Drake was tasked not to let Irish and Scottish peoples go ashore.
Trip around the Earth
After the success of the takeover of the Panama isthmus, Queen Elizabeth I commissioned Drake to set off on an expedition against the Spaniards along the American coast from the Pacific. He left Plymouth on November 15, 1577, but from the company he immediately encountered severe and frightening weather conditions. They were forced to stop Falmouth in Cornwall, from where they had to return to the starting point to repair the ship.
A step back, the British sailor once again set sail to the high seas aboard a ship called Pelican. The crew consisted of 164 men deployed in total on five ships. Soon after, the sixth ship, Santa Maria, joined the company, which was taken over near Cape Verde and previously served as a Portuguese merchant ship. Captain Nuno da Silva, a man with extensive experience in navigating Latin America, also joined the crew.
Due to the deaths of many crew members while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, Drake was forced to sink two ships – Swan and Christopher. He went ashore in what is now Argentina, where he followed the example of Ferdinand Magellan and killed the rebel Thomas Doughty. In the meantime, the crew noticed the rot of some parts of Santa Maria, so they decided to burn the ship.
Winter found the San Julian crew, so Drake decided to wait it out before attempting to defeat the Strait of Magellan. The other three ships eventually departed from San Julian and set off for the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of South America. A few weeks later, in September 1578, Drake finally reached the vast Pacific waters.
The misfortune, however, still clung to the captain, because during the storm one of the other three ships suffered, Marigold commanded by John Thomas. The whole situation had already taken place in the Strait of Magellan and also caused faults to the ship Elizabeth, which had to take a return course to England. As a result, only Pelican survived.
After crossing the strait, the ship pushed south, which contributed to Drake’s discovery of the island he called Elizabeth’s Island. While they were crossing the Strait of Magellan, Drake and the crew got into a battle with the natives of Patagonia. During a stop in these areas, the ship’s crew found that the infusion of the bark of Drimys winteri could be used as a remedy for scurvy.
West Coast Pirate of South and North America
Francis Drake continued his journey on his flagship, now lonely, whose name was changed to Golden Hind. Galleon sailed north along the Latin American coast on the way attacking Spanish ports and plundering cities. Some Spanish ships were also seized and maps were used that were more accurate than those used by the British. Before Drake reached Peru, he arrived for a moment on the island of Mocha, where he was seriously wounded by one of the Araucans, one of the tribes of South America.
After this incident, the British plundered the port of Valparaiso in Chile, where they won min. ship full of Chilean wine. Near Lima, they also took over a ship with 25,000 pesos. The run of luck continued because Drake tracked another Spanish ship, Nuestra Senora de la Concepción, which was sailing westward towards Philippine Manila.
Drake decided to chase the ship and finally managed to catch up with him and allow boarding. It turned out to be the right decision because the ship was full of wealth. Drake was so pleased with the booty that he decided to show grace to the crew, even ate dinner with them, then blew up and gave them according to rank. After looting the Spanish warship, Golden Hind set course to north.
Sir Francis Drake was hoping to encounter another life-filled ship returning from Manila to Acapulco. Although no target was found, on June 17, 1579 Drake reached California. There, the Golden Hind was repaired and the supply was replenished. The crew entertained moments in the area by maintaining friendly relations with the locals.
He also recognized the land as the property of Great Britain in the name of the Holy Trinity and baptized it as “Nova Albion” or “New Britain”. On September 26, Golden Hind arrived at the port of Plymouth with the captain and 59 other crew members and lots of booty. After this journey, Drake was baptized as The First Englishman to circumnavigate Earth.
Wars with Spain
The British queen decided to keep the journey secret from the Spaniards, and the participants themselves swore for life that they would not reveal any secrets. On April 4, 1581, the Queen knighted Drake aboard the Golden Hind at the port of Deptford.
Drake was also an extremely cunning politician. It was also a secret secret that he often acted to his advantage. Even so, he was quite an influential figure on the British political scene of the time, there is also some evidence that he was active in Westminster despite being a member of parliament. After returning from his last trip, he even became mayor of Plymouth.
In 1580, Francis Drake bought the Buckland Abbey estate in Devon. He lived in it for 15 years until his last trip, then the house was occupied by subsequent generations of his family. As the Spanish King Philip II declared war, Elizabeth I gave Francis Walsingham an order to Drake to embark on an expedition to attack the Spanish colonies. The expedition left Plymouth in September 1585.
Drake commanded 21 ships with 1,800 soldiers under Christopher Carleill. Vigo was first attacked, then Santiago was plundered in Cape Verde, then the port of San Domingo was attacked, and the city of Cartagena de Indias in today’s Colombia was taken over. On June 6, 1586, when they returned to England, the British invaded the fort in San Augustin. On July 22, the expedition returned to Portmouth harbor, and Drake was hailed as a hero. However, this was not the end of the disputes with the Spaniards.
In 1587, Drake occupied two main Spanish ports – Cadiz and Corunna. He destroyed as many as 37 military and commercial ships. The whole attack delayed the Spanish-planned invasion by a whole year! The next month, Drake patrolled the shoreline of the Iberian Peninsula between Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent notoriously oppressing and destroying supply ships. Drake served as vice-admiral of the British fleet, Admiral was Charles Howard, First Count of Nottingham, during the battles with the Great Armada to invade England in 1588.
During the pursuit of the Spanish fleet in the British waters, Drake managed to take over Galario Rosario, along with his commander and crew. It was an extremely valuable move, because the galleon carried money to pay for the Spanish army. A year after the defeat of the Great Armada, Drake and Sir John Norrey were to find and destroy the remaining ships, support rebels in Lisbon and take over the Azores if possible. And although it was possible to destroy a few ships in the port of A Coruna, they paid for it with huge losses, because about 12 thousand were killed. soldiers and 20 ships destroyed. Drake had to save the other ships and head towards Lisbon.
Drake’s sailing career lasted until the end of his life. In 1595 he failed during an attempt to attack the port of Las Palmas. Then he suffered a few more defeats and eventually lost the Battle of San Juan. Spanish cannonmen from the Castillo de Moro fortress shot through a cannonball wall to Drake’s cabin, but the captain managed to survive. The British sailor once again wanted to launch an attack on San Juan, but a few weeks later, in January 1596, at the age of 56, he died of dysentery, a common disease in the tropics.
After the death of Sir Francis Drake, the British fleet withdrew. Just before his death, Francis Drake wished to be buried in full armor. He was buried at the bottom of the sea near Portobelo, near the wrecks of two British ships – Elizabeth and Delight.