Francis Drake – English navigator
Sir Francis Drake was an English navigator, corsair, vice-admiral. He was the first Englishman who circumnavigated the world (in 1577-1580). He opened the Pacific Ocean to English ships. He also defeated the Spanish fleet (Invincible Armada) in the Battle of Gravelines (1588). Thanks to the skillful actions of Drake, the British managed to gain an advantage over the superior firepower of the enemy forces.
Francis Drake was born in 1540 in Devonshire in the family of farmer Edmund Drake, who later became a priest. The family had twelve children, Francis was the eldest. In 1549 the Drake family moved to Kent. At the age of 12, he became a cabin boy on a merchant ship. His distant relative was the owner of the ship and after his death 18-year-old Drake became a captain.
When he was 23 he joined his cousin Sir John Hawkins and for the first time voyaged to the New World. In association with Hawkins, he undertook the initial English slave-trading expeditions to the New World.
On November 15, 1577 Drake was sent by Queen Elizabeth on an expedition to the Pacific coast of America. The official purpose of the trip was the discovery of new lands, in particular, Australia. In fact, Drake had to rob as much as possible Spanish gold and return with this cargo to England. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope and eventually returned on September 26, 1580, to Plymouth, laden with treasure. In April 1581 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth on the deck of the Golden Hind.
In 1581 Drake became mayor of Plymouth.
In 1588 he was one of the English admirals who defeated the Spanish Invincible Armada.
His last expedition to the West Indies was in 1595-1596 together with John Hawkins.
Francis Drake died of dysentery on January 28, 1596 near Puerto Bello (modern Portobello in Panama). He was buried in the ocean in a leaden coffin.
Drake was married twice – in 1569 and 1585 (his first wife died in 1581). He had no children and all his possession went to his nephew.
Drake’s life was one of adventure and determination, which helped enrich England with his plunder. He established claims to the New World and made England a recognized naval power.
The strait between Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica is called the Drake Passage.