Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake's Story
Sir Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon in around 1540 and went to sea at an early age. In 1567, Drake made one of the first English slaving voyages as part of a fleet led by his cousin John Hawkins, bringing African slaves to work in the 'New World'.
All but two ships of the expedition were lost when attacked by a Spanish squadron. The Spanish became a lifelong enemy for Drake and they in turn considered him a pirate.
In 1577, Drake was secretly commissioned by Elizabeth I to set off on an expedition against the Spanish colonies on the American Pacific coast. He sailed with five ships, but by the time he reached the Pacific Ocean in October 1578 only one was left, Drake's flagship the Pelican, renamed the Golden Hind.
He travelled up the west coast of South America, plundering Spanish ports. He continued north, hoping to find a route across to the Atlantic, and sailed further up the west coast of America than any European. Unable to find a passage, he turned south and then in July 1579, west across the Pacific. His travels took him to the Moluccas, Celebes, Java and then round the Cape of Good Hope. He arrived back in England in September 1580 with a rich cargo of spices and Spanish treasure and the distinction of being the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. In 1581, Elizabeth I knighted Drake onboard his famous ship, the Pelican, in recognition of his achievement. Drake was now one of the most celebrated and respected seamen of his time, and became Mayor of Plymouth in September 1581. He then went on to become a member of parliament in 1581, 1584 and 1593.
Popular legend has it that it was on Plymouth Hoe, on 20th July 1588, that the Elizabethan Sea-Captain Sir Francis Drake was playing bowls when first news of sightings of the invading "Spanish Armada" was brought to him. Thereupon Drake ostensibly signified his wish merely to continue his game of bowls undisturbed, a cool reaction fabled as an act of English heroism. In reality, however, Drake and his fellow captains probably knew full well that the wind and tide conditions at that particular moment precluded the English Fleet from putting to sea immediately from Plymouth!
When he eventually went out to sea, he defeated the Spanish Armada and this is what possibly he is best known for.
Drake's last expedition, with John Hawkins, was to the West Indies. The Spanish were prepared for him this time, and the venture was a disaster. Drake died on 28 January 1596 of dysentery off the coast of Portobelo, Panama. Hawkins died at the same time, and their bodies were buried at sea.
Sir Francis Drake Statue
There is a statue commemorating Drake and his circumnavigation of the Globe stands overlooking the Hoe.