Francis Drake

Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake is possibly the most illustrious pirate in world history. Adored for his innumerable exploits and legendary feats of daring-do in England, he was the arch-nemesis of the Spanish under Philip II, and more responsible than any other individual for the decline of Spanish naval power during the late sixteenth century. He was an Admiral in the English navy and second in command during the Great Armada, but most of his career was spent robbing, pillaging and wreaking havoc on Spanish war fleets, Spanish merchant fleets, and Spanish colonies in the new world.

Drake was born into a sea-faring family in a coastal town, and went aboard ship at an early age. He was still a young man when he accompanied his cousin, Sir John Hawkins on a trading/slaving/pirating expedition to the new world. On his third voyage with Hawkins, the fleet was attacked by the Spanish and Drake and Hawkins scarcely escaped with their lives. Drake spent much of the next ten year plundering and robbing Spanish colonies and merchant fleets in revenge for this abuse, and during this period had numerous terrific adventures. On several of his forays into the Spanish main, he allied himself with disgruntled native tribes and attacked the treasure cargo both on land and at sea.

In 1577, having made a great name for himself, Drake was outfitted with a fleet of five ships by Queen Elizabeth in order to enable him to carry on his private war against Spain. She sought to enrich herself by sharing in his spoils, and also to use 'privateers' to wage a naval war with Spain while the countries were officially at peace. Drake did not intend to circumnavigate the globe on this trip, but he ended up being pursued down the coast of South America and doubled Cape Horn, losing most of his fleet in the process. He eventually found himself alone, with a single surviving ship, on the western coast of South America, and decided to make the best of the difficulty. The Spanish treasure ships carrying gold and silver from the mines in Peru to the isthmus of Panama had no idea they might be attacked on the Pacific, and Drake was therefore able to continue his plundering as he passed the Spanish colonies on his way North. He followed the west coast of the Americas at least as far as San Francisco, and wintered with California Indians before continuing his journey across the Pacific. When Drake returned to England in 1580, three years after starting out, in the Golden Hind he had an immense treasure and won enormous renown.

As the years passed the brewing conflict between Spain and England worsened and war between the two countries became inevitable. Rather than wait to be attacked, Drake, who had recently been knighted, led a naval raiding expedition right into the Spanish port of Cadiz and burned a fleet that was being fitted for a raid on England. He did much other damage to the Spaniards and managed to delay Spain's naval attack on England for at least a year. When the Great Armada finally sailed, Drake was second in command and led the effort to harass and exhaust the Spanish fleet, and succeeded brilliantly.

Drake continued to lead naval forays against Spain and its colonies for the rest of his life, but did not achieve any further resounding successes. Spanish treasure fleets were now heavily guarded and much harder for an audacious pirate to attack, and another expedition, outfitted by Elizabeth to capture Lisbon was not successful. The important colonies in the new world were also more heavily fortified than they had been twenty years previously, and Drake's final assault on the Island of Puerto Rico, was also repulsed. He died in 1596 on a raiding expedition and was buried at sea.

Key events during the life of Sir Francis Drake:

Francis Drake is born
Begins sea-faring as a cabin boy off.
Drake's first trip to the new world under Sir John Hawkins.
Barely escaped a treacherous attack by a Spanish fleet in the West Indies.
Drake leads his first raiding mission to the new world.
Sets off on a major pillaging expedition, outfitted by Queen Elizabeth.
Drake rounds Cape Horn; all of his ships other than the Golden Hind are lost.
Pillages Spanish merchant fleets off the coast of Peru.
Returns to Plymouth, having completed a circumnavigation of the globe.
Sails into Cadiz harbor and burns a Spanish fleet.
The Spanish Armada is defeated in the English Channel. .
Launches a failed expedition on the town of Lisbon.
Attacks San Juan, Puerto Rico, but suffers a defeat.
Drake dies on a raiding expedition to the New World, and is buried at sea.

Book Links
Story of Sir Francis Drake  by  Mrs. O. Elton

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Invincible Armada  in  Queen Elizabeth  by  Jacob Abbott
Upon a Peak in Darien—Second Story  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
In the Western Seas  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Great Armada  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Early European Intercourse with the Indians  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
Sir Francis Drake  in  Boys' Book of Sea Fights  by  Chelsea Curtis Fraser
Around the World  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  H. A. Guerber
Sir Francis Drake  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
Story of How England was Saved From the Spaniards  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Drake and the Spanish Treasure Ships  in  Historical Tales: Spanish American  by  Charles Morris
Sir Francis Drake  in  American History Stories, Volume I  by  Mara L. Pratt
Singeing of the King's Beard in  Stories from English History  by  Hilda T. Skae
Elizabeth's Sailors  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge
Drake's Famous Voyage Round the World  in  A Book of Discovery  by  M. B. Synge
Spain and the Sea Rovers  in  The Tudors and the Stuarts  by  M. B. Synge
Invincible Armada is Defeated  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Spanish Armada  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Image Links

Sir Francis Drake
 in Queen Elizabeth

Drake abord the Golden Hind
 in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold

I myself will make him a knight.'
 in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold

Drake's ship in the Pacific
 in Panama: Peeps at Many Lands

Sir Francis Drake
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Queen Elizabeth knighting Drake on board the Golden Hind at Deptford
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

Drake Carrying to Court the News of his Voyage
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

The Maroon Chief showing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from the tree-top
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

Drake at Bowls on Plymouth Hoe
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

Fighting the Great Armada
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake, KT. : From the engraving by W. Holl, after F. Zucchero's picture
 in Boys' Book of Sea Fights

Drake at Cadiz
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Drake's ships returning from Cadiz
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

At Close Quarters
 in Famous Men of Modern Times
Sir Frances Drake
Sir Frances Drake
 in Back Matter
The Admiral of the Spanish Armada Surrenders to Drake
The Admiral of the Spanish Armada Surrenders to Drake
 in Back Matter

'There is time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too.' said Drake.
 in Our Island Story

Drake making his request of the Queen
 in Stories from English History

Sir Francis Drake
 in Builders of Our Country: Book I

On Board the Golden Hind: Queen Elizabeth
 in Builders of Our Country: Book I

Sir Francis Drake, : The first Englishman to sail round the world
 in A Book of Discovery

Queen Elizabeth knighting Drake on board the Golden Hind.
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

Short Biography
Elizabeth I Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Humphrey Gilbert Sea-faring adventurer. Founded the first English colony in Canada.
Philip II Catholic king of Spain during Netherland revolt and Anglo-Spanish Wars. Great enemy of Protestant Reformers.
Walter Raleigh Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
Martin Frobisher Explored much of Canada in seach of the Northwest Passage. Fought in the Armada.
John Hawkins Second cousin of Francis Drake. Well known merchant, ship-builder and slave-trader.