Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540 – 27 January 1596) was an English captain, privateer, navigator, slave trader, explorer, and politician of the Elizabethan era. Drake was the first Englishman who circumnavigated the world, constantly harassing Spanish ships and ports at the same time. His exploits were legendary, making him a hero to the English but a pirate to the Spaniards to whom he was known as El Draque.
Francis Drake, eldest of twelve children, was born in Crowndale, near Taverstock, in about 1540. His father, Edmund Drake (1518–1585), was a passionate supporter of Martin Luther and during the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1548, he was forced to flee with his family to Chatham in Kent.
Drake was apprenticed to a captain trading between the Thames River and the Channel ports. In 1563 he joined his cousin, John Hawkins, on a voyage to Africa. The two men started capturing people in Sierra Leone and selling them as slaves to Spanish settlers in the Caribbean. As it was illegal for the settlers to buy from foreigners, Hawkins and Drake soon came into conflict with the Spanish authorities.
Drake's first command was in 1567 when he took part in a successful attack on Spanish ships in the port of San Juan de Ulua. He returned to Plymouth with gold and silver worth over £40,000. Drake, a committed Protestant, saw himself as an instrument of God in his crusade against Philip II and the Spanish Empire. This was followed by voyages to the West Indies and in 1572 he seized gold and silver in the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean.
At some point during his operations against the Spanish in the Caribbean, Drake discovered Isla Cueva, a rocky island in Caribbean Sea. Drake loved that island so much that he decided to hide his treasure there. Among the treasure were two magical stones, one purple that protects from curses, and the other white that brings fortune and eternal glory. Drake's men transported the treasure to the grotto deep inside the island, and put several traps on the way to it.
However, Drake's First Mate, Sam Johnson, greedy and thirsting for power, attempted to betray Drake so he could take his place and keep the treasure for himself. The ensuing battle resulted in the deaths of at least two members of Drake's crew. But Johnson's attempt eventually failed, and he ended up dead and beheaded. His corpse was left to rot in the treasure cavern, but Drake's men took Johnson's head with them. Because of his betrayal, Johnson's bones magically became black just like his soul.
Later, in England, Drake was introduced to Sir Francis Walsingham, and this association led to a plan for Drake to take a fleet into the Pacific Ocean and raid Spanish settlements there. Investors included Walsingham, Elizabeth I, Christopher Hatton, John Wynter and John Hawkins. Drake's ship was the 150 ton Pelican, double-planked, lead-sheathed, and armed with 18 guns. Wynter contributed his own 80 ton Elizabeth, which carried 11 guns. Another 12 guns were distributed among the 50 ton Marigold, the 30 ton Swan, and the 15 ton Benedict.
Around the worldEdit
The journey began in November 1577. By the end of the following month six Spanish and Portuguese ships were taken, then looted and eventually set free. Drake also abandoned the Benedict and took one of the Spanish vessels, which was renamed Christopher. The following month they captured a Portuguese merchant vessel, Santa Maria. The commander was Nuño de Silva, who knew the coast of South America. Drake took Silva to serve as pilot of his own fleet.
In June 1578 the fleet arrived at Puerto San Julián, where Drake put Thomas Doughty on trial for mutiny. He was beheaded on 2nd July 1578. Drake feared that others would rebel and so he called the captains and crew together, then announced that all the officers, who held their appointments from the owners of the ships, were relieved of command. He then reappointed them or most of them as officers responsible only to him.
When Drake finally led his fleet through the Strait of Magellan and into the Pacific Ocean, Captain John Wynter took advantage of a storm to leave Drake and took his ship back to England. The Marigold, commanded by Doughty's friend John Thomas, also disappeared, and the Mary was abandoned at Puerto San Julián. Drake, who was left with only the Pelican, renamed it the Golden Hind. Drake now sailed up the Pacific coast. On 1st March he captured the richest ship of all, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, carrying valuable cargo and 362,000 pesos in silver and gold. Sailing along the coast of Mexico, Drake took a few more ships and raided several more ports. However, the Golden Hind was leaking badly and needed to be careened. On 17th June 1579 Drake landed in an unknown bay and claimed the land for England, naming it Nova Albion. Turning west, the Golden Hind crossed the Pacific Ocean and reached the Moluccas.
At Java Drake and his crew loaded plenty of food before they sailed through the Indian Ocean, and around the Cape of Good Hope. The provisions lasted until 20 July 1580 when they reached Sierra Leone on the African coast. When Drake arrived in Plymouth on 26th September 1580, he became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world. Drake return to England as a very wealthy man and he was able to purchase the Buckland Abbey estate. In 1581 Queen Elizabeth knighted Drake and later that year he was elected to the House of Commons.
Raid on Cádiz and destruction of the ArmadaEdit
In 1585, Drake sailed to the West Indies and the coast of Florida where he sacked and plundered Spanish cities. On his return voyage, he picked up the unsuccessful colonists English colonists in Virginia and returned to Portsmouth in 1586. He also led the expedition which wrecked the Spanish fleet at Cádiz in 1587.
In July 1588 131 ships in the Spanish Armada left for England. The large Spanish galleons were filled with 17,000 well-armed soldiers and 180 Catholic priests. The plan was to sail to Dunkirk in France where the Armada would pick up another 16,000 Spanish soldiers that were under the command of Alessandro Farnese, the Duke of Parma.
On July 19, 1588, the Spanish Armada was sighted off Plymouth. Sailing that night, the English fleet, led by Lord Howard of Effingham pursued the Spanish up the Channel. During the pursuit, Drake captured the galleon Rosario and led a major attack on the Armada off the Isle of Wight. On August 7, Drake aided in organizing a fireship assault on the Spanish off Calais. The next day, he played a key role in the English victory at the Battle of Gravelines, which forced the Armada to retreat north, ending the threat of invasion.
After the Armada rounded Scotland it headed south for home. However, a strong gale drove many of the ships onto the Irish rocks. Thousands of Spaniards drowned and even those who reached land were often killed by English soldiers and settlers. Of the 25,000 men that had set out in the Armada, less than 10,000 arrived home safely.
Following the defeat of the Armada, Queen Elizabeth sent Drake to Spain as the leader of the "English Armada." Tasked with supporting an uprising in Portugal and establishing a base in the Azores, the endeavor collapsed when the English failed to take Lisbon and many of their men fell ill with disease. After serving as the mayor of Plymouth (1593), Drake again sailed for the Caribbean in 1595. Early in the cruise, he attempted to sack San Juan, but was driven off by the city's defenders. On January 27, 1596, while anchored near Porto Bello, Panama, Drake died of dysentery at the age of 56. His body was placed in a lead coffin and was buried at sea.
Behind the scenesEdit
- Francis Drake currently doesn't appear in the POTC universe, but he was mentioned in several POTC products, including the reference book The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook, the Disney Adventures comic book The Black Skull!, and Giladoga's profile for Pirates of the Caribbean Online.
- One of the Below Deck: An Interactive History Of Pirates featurettes on the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl DVD/Blu-Ray edition is about Sir Francis Drake.
- The Black Skull! (Mentioned only)
- Below Deck: An Interactive History Of Pirates
- Pirates of the Caribbean Online
- The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook