Francis Drake

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Sir Francis Drake
1590 or later Marcus Gheeraerts, Sir Francis Drake Buckland Abbey, Devon.jpg
Sir Francis Drake in Buckland Abbey
16th century, oil on canvas, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
Born c. 1540 (1540)
Died28 January 1596 (1596-01-29) (aged 55)
Spouse(s)
Mary Newman
(m. 1569;died 1581)

Elizabeth Sydenham(m. 1585)
Piratical career
NicknameEl Draque (Spanish), Draco (Latin, "The Dragon")
Type Privateer
Allegiance Kingdom of England
Years active1563–1596
Rank Vice admiral
Base of operations Caribbean Sea
Commands Golden Hind (previously known as Pelican)
Bonaventure
Revenge
Battles/wars Anglo–Spanish War
Battle of Gravelines
WealthEst. Equiv. US$133.8 million in 2018; [1] #2 Forbes top-earning pirates [2]
Signature
Francis Drake Signature.svg

Sir Francis Drake (c.1540 – 28 January 1596 [3] ) was an English sea captain, privateer, slave trader, pirate, naval officer and explorer of the Elizabethan era. Drake carried out the second circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition, from 1577 to 1580, and was the first to complete the voyage as captain while leading the expedition throughout the entire circumnavigation. With his incursion into the Pacific Ocean, he claimed what is now California for the English and inaugurated an era of conflict with the Spanish on the western coast of the Americas, [4] an area that had previously been largely unexplored by western shipping. [5]

Sea captain Commander of a ship or other sea-going vessel

A sea captain, ship's captain, captain, master, or shipmaster, is a high-grade licensed mariner who holds ultimate command and responsibility of a merchant vessel. The captain is responsible for the safe and efficient operation of the ship‍—‌including its seaworthiness, safety and security, cargo operations, navigation, crew management, and legal compliance‍—‌and for the persons and cargo on board.

Privateer private person or ship authorized by a government to attack foreign shipping

A privateer is a private person or ship that engages in maritime warfare under a commission of war. Since robbery under arms was a common aspect of seaborne trade, until the early 19th century all merchant ships carried arms. A sovereign or delegated authority issued commissions, also referred to as a letter of marque, during wartime. The commission empowered the holder to carry on all forms of hostility permissible at sea by the usages of war. This included attacking foreign vessels and taking them as prizes, and taking prize crews as prisoners for exchange. Captured ships were subject to condemnation and sale under prize law, with the proceeds divided by percentage between the privateer's sponsors, shipowners, captains and crew. A percentage share usually went to the issuer of the commission.

Officer (armed forces) member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority

An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority.

Contents

Elizabeth I awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581 which he received on the Golden Hind in Deptford. As a Vice Admiral, he was second-in-command of the English fleet in the battle against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He died of dysentery in January 1596, [6] after unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico. Drake's exploits made him a hero to the English, but his privateering led the Spanish to brand him a pirate, known to them as El Draque. [7] King Philip II allegedly offered a reward for his capture or death of 20,000  ducats, [8] about £6 million (US$8 million) in modern currency. [9]

Elizabeth I of England Queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until 24 March 1603

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.

Knight An award of an honorary title for past or future service with its roots in chivalry in the Middle Ages

A knight is a man granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch, bishop or other political or religious leader for service to the monarch or a Christian church, especially in a military capacity.

<i>Golden Hind</i> 1577 galleon, flagship of Francis Drakes circumnavigation

Golden Hind was an English galleon best known for her privateering circumnavigation of the globe between 1577 and 1580, captained by Sir Francis Drake. She was originally known as Pelican, but was renamed by Drake mid-voyage in 1578, in honour of his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose crest was a golden 'hind'. Hatton was one of the principal sponsors of Drake's world voyage. A full-sized, still sailable reconstruction exists in London, on the south bank of the Thames.

Birth and early years

Portrait miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, 1581, reverse of "Drake Jewel", inscribed Aetatis suae 42, An(n)o D(omi)ni 1581 ("42 years of his age, 1581 AD") Sfdrake42.jpg
Portrait miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, 1581, reverse of "Drake Jewel", inscribed Aetatis suae 42, An(n)o D(omi)ni 1581 ("42 years of his age, 1581 AD")

Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon, England. Although his birth date is not formally recorded, it is known that he was born while the Six Articles were in force. His birth date is estimated from contemporary sources such as: "Drake was two and twenty when he obtained the command of the Judith" [10] (1566). This would date his birth to 1544. A date of c.1540 is suggested from two portraits: one a miniature painted by Nicholas Hilliard in 1581 when he was allegedly 42, so born circa 1539, while the other, painted in 1594 when he was said to be 53, [11] would give a birth year of around 1541.

Portrait miniature very small painting

A portrait miniature is a miniature portrait painting, usually executed in gouache, watercolor, or enamel. Portrait miniatures developed out of the techniques of the miniatures in illuminated manuscripts, and were popular among 16th-century elites, mainly in England and France, and spread across the rest of Europe from the middle of the 18th century, remaining highly popular until the development of daguerreotypes and photography in the mid-19th century. They were usually intimate gifts given within the family, or by hopeful males in courtship, but some rulers, such as James I of England, gave large numbers as diplomatic or political gifts. They were especially likely to be painted when a family member was going to be absent for significant periods, whether a husband or son going to war or emigrating, or a daughter getting married.

Nicholas Hilliard 16th and 17th-century English artist

Nicholas Hilliard was an English goldsmith and limner best known for his portrait miniatures of members of the courts of Elizabeth I and James I of England. He mostly painted small oval miniatures, but also some larger cabinet miniatures, up to about ten inches tall, and at least two famous half-length panel portraits of Elizabeth. He enjoyed continuing success as an artist, and continuing financial troubles, for forty-five years. His paintings still exemplify the visual image of Elizabethan England, very different from that of most of Europe in the late sixteenth century. Technically he was very conservative by European standards, but his paintings are superbly executed and have a freshness and charm that has ensured his continuing reputation as "the central artistic figure of the Elizabethan age, the only English painter whose work reflects, in its delicate microcosm, the world of Shakespeare's earlier plays."

He was the oldest of the twelve sons [12] of Edmund Drake (1518–1585), a Protestant farmer, and his wife Mary Mylwaye. The first son was alleged to have been named after his godfather Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford. [13] [14]

Godparent person who sponsors a childs baptism

A godparent, in many denominations of Christianity, is someone who bears witness to a child's christening and later is willing to help in its catechesis, as well as its lifelong spiritual formation. In the past, in some countries, the role carried some legal obligations as well as religious responsibilities. In both religious and civil views, a godparent tends to be an individual chosen by the parents to take an interest in the child's upbringing and personal development, to offer mentorship or claim legal guardianship of the child if anything should happen to the parents.

Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford English politician

Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, KG of Chenies in Buckinghamshire and of Bedford House in Exeter, Devon, was an English nobleman, soldier, and politician. He was a godfather to the Devon-born sailor Sir Francis Drake. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Devon (1584-5).

Because of religious persecution during the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549, the Drake family fled from Devon to Kent. There Drake's father obtained an appointment to minister the men in the King's Navy. He was ordained deacon and was made vicar of Upnor Church on the Medway. [15] Drake's father apprenticed him to his neighbour, the master of a barque used for coastal trade transporting merchandise to France. [15] The ship's master was so satisfied with the young Drake's conduct that, being unmarried and childless at his death, he bequeathed the barque to Drake. [ when? ] [15]

The Prayer Book Rebellion, Prayer Book Revolt, Prayer Book Rising, Western Rising or Western Rebellion was a popular revolt in Devon and Cornwall in 1549. In that year, the Book of Common Prayer, presenting the theology of the English Reformation, was introduced. The change was widely unpopular – particularly in areas of still firmly Catholic religious loyalty such as Lancashire. Along with poor economic conditions, the enforcement of the English language liturgy led to an explosion of anger in Devon and Cornwall, initiating an uprising. In response, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset sent Lord John Russell to suppress the revolt.

Devon County of England

Devon, also known as Devonshire, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the north east, and Dorset to the east. The city of Exeter is the county town. The county includes the districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon. Plymouth and Torbay are each geographically part of Devon, but are administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 and its population is about 1.1 million.

Kent County of England

Kent is a county in South East England and one of the home counties. It borders Greater London to the north-west, Surrey to the west and East Sussex to the south-west. The county also shares borders with Essex along the estuary of the River Thames, and with the French department of Pas-de-Calais through the Channel Tunnel. The county town is Maidstone.

Marriage and family

Francis Drake married Mary Newman at St. Budeaux church, Plymouth, in July 1569. She died 12 years later, in 1581. In 1585, Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham—born circa 1562, the only child of Sir George Sydenham, of Combe Sydenham, [16] who was the High Sheriff of Somerset. [17] After Drake's death, the widow Elizabeth eventually married Sir William Courtenay of Powderham. [18]

Combe Sydenham Grade I listed building in West Somerset, United Kingdom

Combe Sydenham is an historic manor in Somerset, England. The 15th-century manor house, called Combe Sydenham House is in the parish of Stogumber, Somerset and is situated just within the boundary of Exmoor National Park. It is a grade I listed building.

The Office of High Sheriff of Somerset, until 1974 called Sheriff of Somerset, is an ancient shrievalty which has been in existence for over one thousand years.

William Courtenay (died 1630) Member of the Parliament of England for Devon

Sir William Courtenay, Knight, of Powderham in Devon was a prominent member of the Devonshire gentry. He was Sheriff of Devon in 1579–80 and received the rare honour of having been three times elected MP for the prestigious county seat (Devon) in 1584, 1589 and 1601.

Career at sea

Drake Jewel, on loan at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London Drake Juwel.JPG
Drake Jewel, on loan at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

At the age of eighteen he was purser of a ship which sailed to the Bay of Biscay. At twenty he made a voyage to the coast of Guinea. [19] In 1563, Drake, aged 23, made his first voyage to the Americas, sailing with his second cousin, Sir John Hawkins, on one of a fleet of ships owned by his relatives, the Hawkins family of Plymouth. He made three voyages with this fleet, attacking Portuguese towns and ships on the coast of West Africa. [20] They then sailed to the Americas and sold the captured cargoes of slaves to Spanish plantations. [21] John Hawkins is considered to have been the first English slave-trader. [22] Hawkins made three such expeditions, the first in 1563, second in 1564 and the third expedition ending in the ill-fated 1568 incident at San Juan de Ulúa. [23] [24] [25]

In 1568, Drake was on his third expedition with the Hawkins fleet when, whilst negotiating to resupply and repair at a Spanish port in Mexico, the fleet was attacked by Spanish warships, with all but two of the English ships lost. He escaped along with John Hawkins, surviving the attack by swimming.

Drake's hostility towards the Spanish is said to have started with this incident. Following the defeat at San Juan de Ulúa, Drake vowed revenge. [26] In 1570, his reputation enabled him to proceed to the West Indies with two vessels under his command. He renewed his visit the next year for the sole purpose of obtaining information. [19]

In 1572, he embarked on his first major independent enterprise. He planned an attack on the Isthmus of Panama, known to the Spanish as Tierra Firme and the English as the Spanish Main. This was the point at which the silver and gold treasure of Peru had to be landed and sent overland to the Caribbean Sea, where galleons from Spain would pick it up at the town of Nombre de Dios. Drake left Plymouth on 24 May 1572, with a crew of 73 men in two small vessels, the Pascha (70 tons) and the Swan (25 tons), to capture Nombre de Dios.

His first raid was late in July 1572. Drake and his men captured the town and its treasure. When his men noticed that Drake was bleeding profusely from a wound, they insisted on withdrawing to save his life and left the treasure. Drake stayed in the area for almost a year, raiding Spanish shipping and attempting to capture a treasure shipment.

The people of quality dislike him for having risen so high from such a lowly family; the rest say he is the main cause of wars.

— Gonzalo González del Castillo, letter to King Philip II, 1592 [27]

The most celebrated of Drake's adventures along the Spanish Main was his capture of the Spanish Silver Train at Nombre de Dios in March 1573. He raided the waters around Darien (in modern Panama) with a crew including many French privateers including Guillaume Le Testu, a French buccaneer, and African slaves (Maroons) who had escaped the Spanish. Drake tracked the Silver Train to the nearby port of Nombre de Dios. After their attack on the richly laden mule train, Drake and his party found that they had captured around 20 tons of silver and gold. They buried much of the treasure, as it was too much for their party to carry, and made off with a fortune in gold. [28] [29] (An account of this may have given rise to subsequent stories of pirates and buried treasure). Wounded, Le Testu was captured and later beheaded. The small band of adventurers dragged as much gold and silver as they could carry back across some 18 miles of jungle-covered mountains to where they had left the raiding boats. When they got to the coast, the boats were gone. Drake and his men, downhearted, exhausted and hungry, had nowhere to go and the Spanish were not far behind.

At this point, Drake rallied his men, buried the treasure on the beach, and built a raft to sail with two volunteers ten miles along the surf-lashed coast to where they had left the flagship. When Drake finally reached its deck, his men were alarmed at his bedraggled appearance. Fearing the worst, they asked him how the raid had gone. Drake could not resist a joke and teased them by looking downhearted. Then he laughed, pulled a necklace of Spanish gold from around his neck and said "Our voyage is made, lads!" By 9 August 1573, he had returned to Plymouth.

It was during this expedition that he climbed a high tree in the central mountains of the Isthmus of Panama and thus became the first Englishman to see the Pacific Ocean. He remarked as he saw it that he hoped one day an Englishman would be able to sail it—which he would do years later as part of his circumnavigation of the world. [30]

When Drake returned to Plymouth after the raids, the government signed a temporary truce with King Philip II of Spain and so was unable to acknowledge Drake's accomplishment officially. Drake was considered a hero in England and a pirate in Spain for his raids. [31]

Rathlin Island massacre

Drake was present at the Rathlin Island massacre in 1575. Acting on the instructions of Sir Henry Sidney and the Earl of Essex, Sir John Norreys and Drake laid siege to Rathlin Castle. Despite their surrender, Norreys' troops killed all the 200 defenders and more than 400 civilian men, women and children of Clan MacDonnell. [32] Meanwhile Drake was given the task of preventing any Gaelic Irish or Scottish reinforcements reaching the island. Therefore, the remaining leader of the Gaelic defense against English power, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, was forced to stay on the mainland. Essex wrote in his letter to Queen Elizabeth's secretary, that following the attack Sorley Boy "was likely to have run mad for sorrow, tearing and tormenting himself and saying that he there lost all that he ever had." [33]

Circumnavigation of the Earth (1577–1580)

A map of Drake's route around the world. The northern limit of Drake's exploration of the Pacific coast of North America is still in dispute. Drake's Bay is south of Cape Mendocino. DRAKE 1577-1580.png
A map of Drake's route around the world. The northern limit of Drake's exploration of the Pacific coast of North America is still in dispute. Drake's Bay is south of Cape Mendocino.

With the success of the Panama isthmus raid in 1577, Elizabeth I of England sent Drake to start an expedition against the Spanish along the Pacific coast of the Americas. Drake used the plans that Sir Richard Grenville had received the patent for in 1574 from Elizabeth, which was rescinded a year later after protests from Philip of Spain. He set out from Plymouth on 15 November 1577, but bad weather threatened him and his fleet. They were forced to take refuge in Falmouth, Cornwall, from where they returned to Plymouth for repair.

After this major setback, Drake set sail again on 13 December aboard Pelican with four other ships and 164 men. He soon added a sixth ship, Mary (formerly Santa Maria), a Portuguese merchant ship that had been captured off the coast of Africa near the Cape Verde Islands. He also 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 Christopher and the flyboat Swan due to loss of men on the Atlantic crossing. He made landfall at the gloomy bay of San Julian, in what is now Argentina. Ferdinand Magellan had called here half a century earlier, where he put to death some mutineers. Drake's men saw weathered and bleached skeletons on the grim Spanish gibbets. Following Magellan's example, Drake tried and executed his own "mutineer" Thomas Doughty. The crew discovered that Mary had rotting timbers, so they burned the ship. Drake decided to remain the winter in San Julian before attempting the Strait of Magellan.

Execution of Thomas Doughty

Bronze statue in Tavistock, in the parish of which he was born, by Joseph Boehm, 1883. DrakeStatueTavistock.jpg
Bronze statue in Tavistock, in the parish of which he was born, by Joseph Boehm, 1883.

On his voyage to interfere with Spanish treasure fleets, Drake had several quarrels with his co-commander Thomas Doughty and on 3 June 1578, accused him of witchcraft and charged him with mutiny and treason in a shipboard trial. [34] Drake claimed to have a (never presented) commission from the Queen to carry out such acts and denied Doughty a trial in England. The main pieces of evidence against Doughty were the testimony of the ship's carpenter, Edward Bright, who after the trial was promoted to master of the ship Marigold, and Doughty's admission of telling Lord Burghley, a vocal opponent of agitating the Spanish, of the intent of the voyage. Drake consented to his request of Communion and dined with him, of which Francis Fletcher had this strange account:

And after this holy repast, they dined also at the same table together, as cheerfully, in sobriety, as ever in their lives they had done aforetime, each cheering up the other, and taking their leave, by drinking each to other, as if some journey only had been in hand.

Drake had Thomas Doughty beheaded on 2 July 1578. When the ship's chaplain Francis Fletcher in a sermon suggested that the woes of the voyage in January 1580 were connected to the unjust demise of Doughty, Drake chained the clergyman to a hatch cover and pronounced him excommunicated.

Entering the Pacific (1578)

A replica of the Golden Hind Sfec goldenhind02crop.jpg
A replica of the Golden Hind

The three remaining ships of his convoy departed for the Magellan Strait at the southern tip of South America. A few weeks later (September 1578) Drake made it to the Pacific, but violent storms destroyed one of the three ships, the Marigold (captained by John Thomas) in the strait and caused another, the Elizabeth captained by John Wynter, to return to England, leaving only the Pelican. After this passage, the Pelican was pushed south and discovered an island that Drake called Elizabeth Island. Drake, like navigators before him, probably reached a latitude of 55°S (according to astronomical data quoted in Hakluyt's The Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation of 1589) along the Chilean coast. [35] In the Magellan Strait Francis and his men engaged in skirmish with local indigenous people, becoming the first Europeans to kill indigenous peoples in southern Patagonia. [36] During the stay in the strait, crew members discovered that an infusion made of the bark of Drimys winteri could be used as remedy against scurvy. Captain Wynter ordered the collection of great amounts of bark – hence the scientific name. [36]

Despite popular lore, it seems unlikely that Drake reached Cape Horn or the eponymous Drake Passage, [35] because his descriptions do not fit the first and his shipmates denied having seen an open sea. The first report of his discovery of an open channel south of Tierra del Fuego was written after the 1618 publication of the voyage of Willem Schouten and Jacob le Maire around Cape Horn in 1616. [37]

Drake 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 along the Pacific coast of South America, attacking Spanish ports and pillaging towns. Some Spanish ships were captured, and Drake used their more accurate charts. Before reaching the coast of Peru, Drake visited Mocha Island, where he was seriously injured by hostile Mapuche. Later he sacked the port of Valparaíso further north in Chile, where he also captured a ship full of Chilean wine. [38]

Capture of Spanish treasure ships

Near Lima, Drake captured a Spanish ship laden with 25,000  pesos of Peruvian gold, amounting in value to 37,000  ducats of Spanish money (about £7m by modern standards). Drake also discovered news of another ship, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción , which was sailing west towards Manila. It would come to be called the Cacafuego . Drake gave chase and eventually captured the treasure ship, which proved his most profitable capture.

Aboard Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, Drake found 80 lb (36 kg) of gold, a golden crucifix, jewels, 13 chests full of royals of plate and 26 tons of silver. Drake was naturally pleased at his good luck in capturing the galleon, and he showed it by dining with the captured ship's officers and gentleman passengers. He offloaded his captives a short time later, and gave each one gifts appropriate to their rank, as well as a letter of safe conduct.

Coast of California: Nova Albion (1579)

Drake's landing in California, engraving published 1590 by Theodor de Bry Drake CA 1590.jpg
Drake's landing in California, engraving published 1590 by Theodor de Bry

After looting the Cacafuego, Drake turned north, hoping to meet another Spanish treasure ship coming south on its return from Manila to Acapulco. Although he failed to find a treasure ship, Drake reputedly sailed as far north as the 38th parallel, landing on the coast of California on 17 June 1579. He found a good port, landed, repaired and restocked his vessels, then stayed for a time, keeping friendly relations with the Coast Miwok natives. He claimed the land in the name of the Holy Trinity for the English Crown, called Nova Albion Latin for "New Britain". Assertions that he left some of his men behind as an embryo "colony" are founded on the reduced number who were with him in the Moluccas. [39]

The precise location of the port was carefully guarded to keep it secret from the Spaniards, and several of Drake's maps may 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 – Drake's Plate of Brass – fitting the description in his account, was discovered in Marin County, California but was later declared a hoax. Now a National Historic Landmark, the officially recognised location [40] of Drake's New Albion is Drakes Bay, California.

Across the Pacific and around Africa

Drake left the Pacific coast, heading southwest to catch the winds that would carry his ship across the Pacific, and a few months later reached the Moluccas, a group of islands in the western Pacific, in eastern modern-day Indonesia. While there, Golden Hind became caught on a reef and was almost lost. After the sailors waited three days for convenient tides and had dumped cargo, they freed the barque. Befriending a sultan king of the Moluccas, Drake and his men became involved 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 22 July 1580.

Return to Plymouth (1580)

On 26 September, 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. Drake was 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). [41]

The Queen declared that all written accounts of Drake's voyages were to become the Queen's secrets of the Realm, and Drake and the other participants of his voyages on the pain of death sworn to their secrecy; she intended to keep Drake's activities away from the eyes of rival Spain. Drake presented the Queen with a jewel token commemorating the circumnavigation. Taken as a prize off the Pacific coast of Mexico, it was made of enamelled gold and bore an African diamond and a ship with an ebony hull. [41]

For her part, the Queen gave Drake a jewel with her portrait, an unusual gift to bestow upon a commoner, and one that Drake sported proudly in his 1591 portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts now at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. 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 sixteenth-century jewels; it is conserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. [41]

Award of knighthood

Drake receives his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth I. Bronze plaque by Joseph Boehm, 1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock. DrakeKnightedTavistockMonument.jpg
Drake receives his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth I. Bronze plaque by Joseph Boehm, 1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock.
Sir Francis Drake with his new heraldic achievement, with motto: Sic Parvis Magna, translated literally: "Thus great things from small things (come)". The hand out of the clouds is labelled Auxilio Divino, or "With Divine Help" Sir Francis Drake And His Coat Of Arms.gif
Sir Francis Drake with his new heraldic achievement, with motto: Sic Parvis Magna, translated literally: "Thus great things from small things (come)". The hand out of the clouds is labelled Auxilio Divino, or "With Divine Help"

Queen Elizabeth awarded Drake a knighthood aboard Golden Hind in Deptford on 4 April 1581; the dubbing being performed by a French diplomat, Monsieur de Marchaumont, who was negotiating for Elizabeth to marry the King of France's brother, Francis, Duke of Anjou. [43] [44] By getting the French diplomat involved in the knighting, Elizabeth was gaining the implicit political support of the French for Drake's actions. [45] [46] During the Victorian era, in a spirit of nationalism, the story was promoted that Elizabeth I had done the knighting. [44] [34]

Award of arms

After receiving his knighthood Drake unilaterally adopted the armorials of the ancient Devon family of Drake of Ash, near Musbury, to whom he claimed a distant but unspecified kinship. These arms were: Argent, a wyvern wings displayed and tail nowed gules, [47] and the crest, a dexter arm Proper grasping a battle axe Sable, headed Argent. The head of that family, also a distinguished sailor, Sir Bernard Drake (d.1586), angrily refuted Sir Francis's claimed kinship and his right to bear his family's arms. That dispute led to "a box in the ear" being given to Sir Francis by Sir Bernard at court, as recorded by John Prince (1643–1723) in his "Worthies of Devon", first published in 1701 [48] . Queen Elizabeth, to assuage matters, awarded Sir Francis his own coat of arms, blazoned as follows:

Sable a fess wavy between two pole-stars [Arctic and Antarctic] argent; and for his crest, a ship on a globe under ruff, held by a cable with a hand out of the clouds; over it this motto, Auxilio Divino; underneath, Sic Parvis Magna; in the rigging whereof is hung up by the heels a wivern, gules, which was the arms of Sir Bernard Drake. [49]

The motto, Sic Parvis Magna, translated literally, is: "Thus great things from small things (come)". The hand out of the clouds, labelled Auxilio Divino, means "With Divine Help". The full achievement is depicted in the form of a large coloured plaster overmantel in the Lifetimes Gallery at Buckland Abbey [42]

Nevertheless, Drake continued to quarter his new arms with the wyvern gules. [50] The arms adopted by his nephew Sir Francis Drake, 1st Baronet (1588–1637) of Buckland were the arms of Drake of Ash, but the wyvern without a "nowed" (knotted) tail. [51]

Political career

Drake was politically astute, and although known for his private and military endeavours, he was an influential figure in politics during the time he spent in Britain. Often abroad, there is little evidence to suggest he was active in Westminster, despite being a member of parliament on three occasions.

After returning from his voyage of circumnavigation, Drake became the Mayor of Plymouth, in September 1581. [12] He became a member of parliament during a session of the 4th Parliament of Elizabeth I, [52] on 16 January 1581, for the constituency of Camelford. He did not actively participate at this point, and on 17 February 1581 he was granted leave of absence "for certain his necessary business in the service of her Majesty". [53]

Drake became a member of parliament again in 1584 for Bossiney [12] on the forming of the 5th Parliament of Elizabeth I. [54] He served the duration of the parliament and was active in issues regarding the navy, fishing, early American colonisation, and issues related chiefly to Devon. He spent the time covered by the next two parliamentary terms engaged in other duties and an expedition to Portugal. [53] He became a member of parliament for Plymouth in 1593. [53] He was active in issues of interest to Plymouth as a whole, but also to emphasize defence against the Spanish. [55] [53]

Purchase of Buckland Abbey

In 1580, Drake purchased Buckland Abbey, a large manor house near Yelverton in Devon, via intermediaries from Sir Richard Greynvile. He lived there for fifteen years, until his final voyage, and it remained in his family for several generations. Buckland Abbey is now in the care of the National Trust and a number of mementos of his life are displayed there.

Great Expedition to America

Map of Drake's Great Expedition in 1585 by Giovanni Battista Boazio Boazio-Sir Francis Drakes West Indian Voyage.jpg
Map of Drake's Great Expedition in 1585 by Giovanni Battista Boazio

War had already been declared by Phillip II after the Treaty of Nonsuch, so the Queen through Francis Walsingham ordered Sir Francis Drake to lead an expedition to attack the Spanish colonies in a kind of preemptive strike. An expedition left Plymouth in September 1585 with Drake in command of twenty-one ships with 1,800 soldiers under Christopher Carleill. He first attacked Vigo in Spain and held the place for two weeks ransoming supplies. He then plundered Santiago in the Cape Verde islands after which the fleet then sailed across the Atlantic, sacked the port of Santo Domingo, and captured the city of Cartagena de Indias in present-day Colombia. On 6 June 1586, during the return leg of the voyage, he raided the Spanish fort of San Augustín in Spanish Florida.

After the raids he then went on to find Sir Walter Raleigh's settlement much further north at Roanoke which he replenished and also took back with him all of the original colonists before Sir Richard Greynvile arrived with supplies and more colonists. He finally reached England on 22 July, when he sailed into Portsmouth, England to a hero's welcome.

Spanish Armada

Angered by these acts, Philip II ordered a planned invasion of England.

Cádiz raid

In another pre-emptive strike, Drake "singed the beard of the King of Spain" in 1587 by sailing a fleet into Cadiz and also Corunna, two of Spain's main ports, and occupied the harbours. He destroyed 37 naval and merchant ships. The attack delayed the Spanish invasion by a year. [56] .

Over the next month, Drake patrolled the Iberian coasts between Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent, intercepting and destroying ships on the Spanish supply lines. Drake estimated that he captured around 1600–1700 tons of barrel staves, enough to make 25,000 to 30,000 barrels (4,800 m3) for containing provisions. [57]

Defeat of the Spanish Armada

Sir Francis Drake whilst playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe is informed of the approach of the Spanish Armada. Bronze plaque by Joseph Boehm, 1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock DrakeMonumentTavistock.jpg
Sir Francis Drake whilst playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe is informed of the approach of the Spanish Armada. Bronze plaque by Joseph Boehm, 1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock
The Spanish Armada. Loutherbourg-Spanish Armada.jpg
The Spanish Armada.

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 broke off and captured the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora del 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.

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. He wrote as follows to Admiral Henry Seymour after coming upon part of the Spanish Armada, whilst aboard Revenge on 31 July 1588 (21 July 1588 O.S.): [58]

Coming up to them, there has passed some common shot between some of our fleet and some of them; and as far as we perceive, they are determined to sell their lives with blows.

The most famous (but probably apocryphal) anecdote about Drake relates that, prior to the battle, he was playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe. On being warned of the approach of the Spanish fleet, Drake is said to have remarked that there was plenty of time to finish the game and still beat the Spaniards. There is no known eyewitness account of this incident and the earliest retelling of it was printed 37 years later. [37] Adverse winds and currents caused some delay in the launching of the English fleet as the Spanish drew nearer, [37] perhaps prompting a popular myth of Drake's cavalier attitude to the Spanish threat. It might also have been later ascribed to the stoic attribute of British culture.

Drake–Norris Expedition

In 1589, the year after defeating the Armada the English sent their own to attack Spain, Drake and Sir John Norreys were given three tasks: seek out and destroy the remaining ships, support the rebels in Lisbon, Portugal against King Philip II (then king of Spain and Portugal), and take the Azores if possible. In the Siege of Coruña Drake and Norreys destroyed a few ships in the harbour of A Coruña in Spain but lost more than 12,000 lives and 20 ships.[ citation needed ] This defeat in all fronts delayed Drake, and he was forced to forgo hunting the rest of the surviving ships and head on to Lisbon. [57]

Defeats and death

Drake's burial at sea off Portobello. Bronze plaque by Joseph Boehm, 1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock. BurialOfDrakeTavistockMonument.jpg
Drake's burial at sea off Portobello. Bronze plaque by Joseph Boehm, 1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock.

Drake's seafaring career continued into his mid-fifties. In 1595, he failed to conquer the port of Las Palmas, and following a disastrous campaign against Spanish America, where he suffered a number of defeats, he unsuccessfully attacked San Juan de Puerto Rico, eventually losing the Battle of San Juan.

The Spanish gunners from El Morro Castle shot a cannonball through the cabin of Drake's flagship, but he survived. He attempted to attack over land in an effort to capture the rich port of Panamá but was defeated again. A few weeks later, in January 1596, he died (aged about 56) of dysentery, a common disease in the tropics at the time, while anchored off the coast of Portobelo where some Spanish treasure ships had sought shelter. Following his death, the English fleet withdrew. [59]

Before dying, he asked to be dressed in his full armour. He was buried at sea in a sealed lead-lined coffin, near Portobelo, a few miles off the coastline. It is supposed that his final resting place is near the wrecks of two British ships, the Elizabeth and the Delight, scuttled in Portobelo Bay. Divers continue to search for the coffin. [60] [61] Drake's body has never been recovered.

Cultural impact

This portrait, circa 1581, may have been copied from Hilliard's miniature--note the similar shirt--and the somewhat oddly-proportioned body, added by an artist who did not have access to Drake. National Portrait Gallery, London. Francis Drake, por un artista anonimo.jpg
This portrait, circa 1581, may have been copied from Hilliard's miniature—note the similar shirt—and the somewhat oddly-proportioned body, added by an artist who did not have access to Drake. National Portrait Gallery, London.
1591 portrait, also by Gheeraerts the Younger, wearing the "Drake Jewel" suspended from a strap, and displaying new arms Gheeraerts Francis Drake 1591.jpg
1591 portrait, also by Gheeraerts the Younger, wearing the "Drake Jewel" suspended from a strap, and displaying new arms

In the UK there are various places named after him, especially in Plymouth, Devon. Places there carrying his name include the naval base HMS Drake, Drake's Island, and a shopping centre and roundabout named Drake Circus. Plymouth Hoe is also home to a statue of Drake.

In the United States Drakes Bay and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard of Marin County, California are both named after him, as well as the high school in San Anselmo, California. The boulevard runs between Drakes Bay at Point Reyes to Point San Quentin on San Francisco Bay. A large hotel in Union Square, San Francisco also bears his name. Additionally, the Sir Francis Drake Channel in the British Virgin Islands bears his name.

In British Columbia, Canada, where some theorize he may also have landed to the north of the usual site considered to be Nova Albion, various mountains were named in the 1930s for him, or in connection with Elizabeth I or other figures of that era, including Mount Sir Francis Drake, Mount Queen Bess, and the Golden Hinde, the highest mountain on Vancouver Island.

Drake's will was the focus of a vast confidence scheme which Oscar Hartzell perpetrated in the 1920s and 1930s. He convinced thousands of people, mostly in the American Midwest, that Drake's fortune was being held by the British government, and had compounded to a huge amount. If their last name was Drake they might be eligible for a share if they paid Hartzell to be their agent. The swindle continued until a copy of Drake's will was brought to Hartzell's mail fraud trial and he was convicted and imprisoned. [63]

Drake's Drum has become an icon of English folklore with its variation of the classic king in the mountain story.

Drake was a major focus in the video game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune where the main character, a supposed descendant of Drake, searches for the treasure of El Dorado.

See also

Related Research Articles

The 1580s decade ran from January 1, 1580, to December 31, 1589.

Thomas Cavendish English explorer and privateer

Sir Thomas Cavendish was an English explorer and a privateer known as "The Navigator" because he was the first who deliberately tried to emulate Sir Francis Drake and raid the Spanish towns and ships in the Pacific and return by circumnavigating the globe. While members of Magellan's, Loaisa's, Drake's, and Loyola's expeditions had preceded Cavendish in circumnavigating the globe, it had not been their intent at the outset. His first trip and successful circumnavigation made him rich from captured Spanish gold, silk and treasure from the Pacific and the Philippines. His richest prize was the captured 600 ton sailing ship the Manila Galleon Santa Ana. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I of England after his return. He later set out for a second raiding and circumnavigation trip but was not as fortunate and died at sea at the age of 31.

John Hawkins (naval commander) English navigator, admiral, privateer and slave trader

Admiral Sir John Hawkins was an English slave trader, naval commander and administrator, merchant, navigator, shipbuilder and privateer. His elder brother and trading partner was William. He was considered the first English trader to profit from the Triangle Trade, based on selling supplies to colonies ill-supplied by their home countries, and their demand for African slaves in the Spanish colonies of Santo Domingo and Venezuela in the late 16th century. He styled himself "Captain General" as the General of both his own flotilla of ships and those of the English Royal Navy and to distinguish himself from those Admirals that served only in the administrative sense and were not military in nature. His death and that of his second cousin and mentoree, Sir Francis Drake, heralded the decline of the Royal Navy for decades before its recovery and eventual dominance again helped by the propaganda of the Navy's glory days under his leadership.

Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) 1585–1604 war between the kingdoms of Spain and England.

The Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) was an intermittent conflict between the kingdoms of Spain and England that was never formally declared. The war was punctuated by widely separated battles, and began with England's military expedition in 1585 to what was then the Spanish Netherlands under the command of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in support of the resistance of the States General to Spanish Habsburg rule.

Thomas Doughty was an English nobleman, soldier, scholar and personal secretary of Christopher Hatton. His association with Francis Drake, on a 1577 voyage to rob Spanish treasure fleets, ended in a shipboard trial for treason and witchcraft, and Doughty's execution.

English Armada battle

The English Armada, also known as the Counter Armada or the Drake-Norris Expedition, was a fleet of warships sent to Spain by Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1589, during the undeclared Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604) and the Eighty Years' War. It was led by Sir Francis Drake as admiral and Sir John Norreys as general, and failed to drive home the advantage England had won upon the destruction of the Spanish Armada in the previous year. The Spanish victory marked a revival of Philip II's naval power through the next decade.

Spanish Armada Fleet of Spanish ships, intended to attack England in 1588

The Spanish Armada was a Habsburg Spanish fleet of 130 ships that sailed from Corunna in late May 1588, under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, with the purpose of escorting an army from Flanders to invade England. Medina Sidonia was an aristocrat without naval command experience but was made commander by King Philip II. The aim was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I and her establishment of Protestantism in England, to stop English interference in the Spanish Netherlands and to stop the harm caused by English and Dutch privateering ships that interfered with Spanish interests in the Americas.

Bonaventure was a 47-gun galleon purchased by the Royal Navy in 1567. She was the third vessel to bear the name. She was commanded by Sir Francis Drake during his 1587 attack on Cadiz, and a year later was part of the fleet to face the Spanish Armada.

Drake's Venture is a 1980 film depiction of Francis Drake's voyage of circumnavigation. Produced by Westward Television to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the event, it nevertheless focuses on the voyage's most controversial aspect, the execution of the gentleman Thomas Doughty for mutiny. The film has only been aired twice: once in the UK on 28 December 1980, and once in the US, on Masterpiece Theatre, 27 March 1983.

Singeing the King of Spains Beard battle in April and May 1587 in the Bay of Cádiz

Singeing the King of Spain's Beard is the derisive name given to the attack in April and May 1587 in the Bay of Cádiz, by the English privateer Francis Drake against the Spanish naval forces assembling at Cádiz. Much of the Spanish fleet was destroyed, and substantial supplies were destroyed or captured. There followed a series of raiding parties against several forts along the Portuguese coast. A Spanish treasure ship, returning from the Indies, was also captured. The damage caused by the English delayed Spanish plans to invade England by more than a year.

Battle of San Juan (1595)

The Battle of San Juan (1595) was a Spanish victory during the Anglo–Spanish War. This war broke out in 1585 and was fought not only in the European theatre but in Spain's American colonies. After emerging from six years of disgrace following the resounding defeat of the English Armada at Lisbon in 1589, Francis Drake embarked on a long and disastrous campaign against Hispanic America, suffering several consecutive defeats there. On 22 November 1595 Drake and John Hawkins tried to invade San Juan with 27 ships and 2,500 men. After failing to be able to land at the Ensenada del Escambron on the eastern end of San Juan Islet, he attempted to sail into San Juan Bay with the intention of sacking the city. Unable to capture the island, following the death of his comrade, John Hawkins, Drake abandoned San Juan, and set sail for Panama where he died from disease and received a burial at sea after failing to establish an English settlement in America.

Sea Dogs

The Sea Dogs were a group of sea-raiders,, who were authorised by Queen Elizabeth I of England, and also engaged in slave trading.

William Parker was an English captain and privateer, and also Mayor of Plymouth.

Battle of Pinos

The Battle of Pinos was a naval engagement between a Spanish fleet under Admiral Bernardino Delgadillo y Avellaneda and the surviving ships of Francis Drake's expedition to the Spanish West Indies, now in command of Drake's lieutenant, Sir Thomas Baskerville, which took place off the Island of Pinos during the Anglo-Spanish war of 1585. The Spanish squadron was victorious, capturing two English ships.

Battle of Santo Domingo (1586)

The Battle of Santo Domingo (1586) or the Capture of Santo Domingo was a military and naval action fought on 1 January 1586, of the recently declared Anglo-Spanish War that resulted in the assault and capture by English soldiers and sailors of the Spanish city of Santo Domingo governed by Cristóbal de Ovalle on the Spanish island of Hispaniola. The English were led by Francis Drake and was part of his Great Expedition to the raid the Spanish New World in a kind of preemptive strike. The English soldiers then occupied the city for over a month and captured much booty along with a 25,000 ducat ransom before departing on 1 February.

Capture of Santiago (1585)

The Capture of Santiago was a military event that took place between 11–28 November 1585 during the newly declared Anglo-Spanish War. An English expedition led by Francis Drake captured the port town of Cidade Velha in the Cape Verde islands that had recently belonged to the Crown of Portugal. He sacked it and then marched inland before doing the same at São Domingos and Praia. Afterwards Drake left and continued his expedition to successfully raid the Spanish possessions in the Americas.

3rd Spanish Armada Fleet of Spanish ships, intended to attack England in 1597

The 3rd Spanish Armada, also known as the Spanish Armada of 1597, was a major naval event that took place between October and November 1597 as part of the Anglo–Spanish War. The armada, which was the third attempt by Spain to invade or raid the British Isles during the war, was ordered by King Philip II of Spain in revenge for the English attack on Cadiz following the failure of the 2nd Spanish Armada months before due to a storm. The Armada was executed by the Adelantado, Martín de Padilla, who was hoping to intercept and destroy the English fleet under Robert Devereux the 2nd Earl of Essex as it returned from the failed Azores expedition. When this was achieved, the Armada would go on to capture either the important port of Falmouth or Milford Haven and use those places as a base for invasion.

Azores Voyage of 1589

The Azores Voyage of 1589, also known as Cumberland's Third Voyage, was a series of conflicts in the Azores islands between August and September 1589 by an English military joint stock expedition led by George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland during the Anglo–Spanish War. All the islands were attacked either for provisions and the attainment of Spanish and Portuguese prizes. A number of Portuguese and Spanish ships were captured and also included a battle at Faial which resulted in the capture of the fort and the main town, which was subsequently sacked and burned. The English were able to return home unmolested with a total of thirteen prizes - the expedition was a success and with a good profit for the investors although many lives were lost to disease and storms.

Newfoundland expedition (1585)

The Newfoundland Expedition also known as Bernard Drake's Newfoundland Expedition was an English naval expedition that took place during the beginning of the declared Anglo-Spanish War in the North Atlantic during summer and Autumn of 1585. The area of conflict was situated mainly in an area known as the Grand Banks off present day Newfoundland. The aim of the expedition was to capture the Spanish and Portuguese fishing fleets. The expedition was a huge military and financial success and virtually removed the Spanish and Portuguese from these waters. In addition the raid had large consequences in terms of English colonial expansion and settlement.

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Bibliography