Sir Francis Drake

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Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake - Privateer & Explorer (c1540/4 - 1596)

Sir Francis Drake was a Privateer for Queen Elizabeth I. He was the scourge of the Spanish with his constant attacking and plundering of their ships and towns. Well known for helping to defeat the Spanish Armada, he was also an explorer and became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth.

This page details facts about Sir Francis Drake's life and the events that shaped his history.

Sir Francis Drake the Privateer & Explorer - Fun Facts for Kids!
Sir Francis Drake Fact   1: Francis Drake, the eldest of twelve sons, was born in Tavistock, Devon, sometime between 1540 and 1544.
Sir Francis Drake Fact   2:

His father, Edmund Drake, was a farmer and an ardent Protestant. When Queen Mary came to the throne, the Catholics in Devon rose up against the Protestants. This caused Edmund and his family to leave and go to Kent, where they settled in Medway. Edmund went on to become a protestant minister.

Queen Mary I of England
Sir Francis Drake Fact   3:

While Francis Drake was still young, somewhere between the ages 10 and 13, he was an apprentice to the master of a small trading vessel operating around the coast and transporting merchandise to France. The master, who was unmarried and childless, was so pleased with the attitude and work of the young Francis Drake, that he left the boat to him in his will.


Picture of Queen Mary I of England

Sir John Hawkins Sir Francis Drake Fact   4:

Francis Drake went on to sell this boat and moved back to Devon to sail with his cousin, Sir John Hawkins.

Sir Francis Drake Fact   5:

Francis Drake made several voyages, with Hawkins, taking slaves from Africa to the New World (America) and trading them with the Spanish.

Sir Francis Drake Fact   6:

In 1567 there was tension between England and Spain. While on trading voyage, Francis Drake and Hawkins were sailing from Cartagena to Florida when they were hit by a storm. They were forced to shelter in a port called San Juan de Ulua in Mexico. While there, their small fleet consisting of the Jesus, the Minion, the Angel, the William and John, the Swallow and the Judith (Francis Drake’s ship), was attacked by a fleet of 13 Spanish ships. Only the Judith and the Minion escaped. Francis Drake landed back in Plymouth on 20th January 1569.

Picture of Sir John Hawkins

Sir Francis Drake Fact   7: Francis Drake, now a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, married Mary Newman in June 1569. The marriage was not to last as Mary died 12 years later.
Sir Francis Drake Fact   8: Francis Drake made two more voyages to the West Indies in 1570 and 1571, however, little is known about them.
Sir Francis Drake Fact   9:

In 1572, Francis Drake set off for the Isthmus of Panama having obtained a privateer’s commission from Queen Elizabeth I. He had two ships under his command, the Pascha and the Swan.

Queen Elizabeth Ist
Sir Francis Drake Fact 10:

In July 1572, Francis Drake attacked the town of Nombre de Dios, where the Spanish dropped off silver and gold from Peru. The raid was going well until it was seen that Drake had received a serious wound. They withdrew and left the treasure behind.

Sir Francis Drake Fact 11:

Francis Drake stayed in the area to recover, attacking several ships while there. Having decided that Nombre de Dios was now too heavily fortified, he switched his attention to attacking the mule trains carrying gold, silver and jewels from Panama. As they were low in numbers, they enlisted help from the Cimarrones (African slaves who had escaped the Spanish and lived as outlaws).


Picture of Queen Elizabeth Ist

Sir Francis Drake Fact 12: After an unsuccessful first attempt, Francis Drake teamed up with Guillaume Le Testu, a French buccaneer, and made a second attempt. This time the ambush worked and they captured a substantial amount of gold, silver and jewels. The treasure was divided equally between the English and the French, however Le Testu was captured during the raid. Francis Drake arrived back in Plymouth on 9th August 1573.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 13: Francis Drake was then sent to serve with the Navy in Ireland. In 1575 he returned to England with a new friend, Thomas Doughty.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 14: In 1577 Queen Elizabeth I sent Francis Drake to the Pacific coast of America to go up against the Spanish. He was given shared responsibility for the expedition with Thomas Doughty and a John Wynter. He left Plymouth on 15th November 1577 with a fleet of 5 ships. Francis Drake added a Portuguese ship, captured off the Cape Verde islands, to the fleet. The ship was named the Mary, formerly the Santa Maria.
Ferdinand Magellan Sir Francis Drake Fact 15:

By the time he'd arrived at San Julian in modern day Argentina, Francis Drake had already lost many crew and ordered the sinking of two of his ships. He also discovered that the Mary had rotting timbers, so the Mary was burned leaving him with the Pelican, the Elizabeth and the Marigold. Francis Drake also came across some bleached Spanish skeletons in Gibbets. These were believed to be the mutineers executed by Ferdinand Magellan more than 50 years earlier.

Sir Francis Drake Fact 16:

Francis Drake took on the role of sole commander of the fleet which caused tension between Drake and Doughty. While at San Julian, Francis Drake became aware that Doughty was stirring up the crew so put him on trial for mutiny. He was found guilty, and on 2nd July 1578 was beheaded.

Picture of Ferdinand Magellan

Sir Francis Drake Fact 17: Francis Drake headed for the Strait of Magellan where they were hit by storms that destroyed the Marigold and caused the Elizabeth, commanded by John Wynter, to return to England. The Pelican was forced south where Francis Drake discovered an island which he named Elizabeth Island.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 18:

Francis Drake renamed his ship the 'Golden Hind'. Thomas Doughty had been the personal secretary of Sir Christopher Hatton, one of the major backers of the expedition. The armorial crest of Hatton was a golden hind, so this renaming appears to have been carried out as a compliment, to quell Hatton's anger at the death of Doughty.

Golden Hind
Sir Francis Drake Fact 19:

When Francis Drake entered the Pacific, he worked his way north along the coast of America, plundering and pillaging as he went. On one of the ships he plundered, he got the news that a great Spanish treasure ship, ‘Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion’, was headed for Panama. He chased the ship and eventually caught and took it.


Picture of Golden Hind

Sir Francis Drake Fact 20: Francis Drake continued his way up the Pacific coast of America and eventually landed in northern California. He claimed the land for the English Crown and named it ‘Nova Albion’. The bay where he landed is now known as Drake’s Bay.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 21: Francis Drake left the American coast and headed across the Pacific, reaching the Indonesian Moluccas islands a few months later. Drake worked his way through the islands until he became trapped on a reef. He had to dump some of the cargo to make the ship light enough to sail free.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 22: Eventually Francis Drake rounded the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, and headed north towards England. On the 26th September 1580, Francis Drake sailed into Plymouth becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 23: Having gained enormous wealth from his venture, Francis Drake purchased Buckland Abbey, near Yelverton in Devon. The Queen’s share of the cargo was said to have been greater than the crown’s income for the whole year.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 24: On 4th April 1581, Francis Drake was knighted on board the Golden Hind. In September of the same year, he became mayor of Plymouth. He also married his second wife Elizabeth Sydenham.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 25: In September 1585, under the orders of the Queen, Sir Francis Drake headed for the West Indies to attack the Spanish Colonies. On the way he attacked and plundered towns in Spain and the Cape Verde islands. He then crossed the Atlantic and raided Santo Domingo, Cartagena de Indias and the Spanish fort of San Augustin.
Sir Walter Raleigh Sir Francis Drake Fact 26:

On his return he stopped at Sir Walter Raleigh’s (a distant relative of Drake's) settlement at Roanoke, where he collected the unsuccessful original colonists. Sir Francis Drake sailed into Portsmouth on 22nd July 1586.

Sir Francis Drake Fact 27:

In 1587 war between England and Spain was imminent. Sir Francis Drake sailed into Cadiz and destroyed thirty ships. This attack helped to delay the planned Spanish invasion.

Picture of Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Francis Drake Fact 28: Sir Francis Drake was appointed Vice Admiral of the English Navy, in 1588, under the command of Lord Charles Howard. In July 1588 the Spanish Armada made its way into the English Channel. It has been said that Drake was playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when the Armada arrived and that he finished his game before sailing out to meet the Armada. The truth of this will probably never be known. While pursuing the Spanish ships with other famous sailors such as Sir Martin Frobisher, Drake broke ranks and captured the ‘Rosario’ a Spanish ship known to be carrying an army payroll.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 29: The Spanish fleet anchored in Calais to wait for Spanish soldiers who were to help with the invasion. On 29th July 1588, Sir Francis Drake and Lord Howard organised fire ships to sail into the Spanish Fleet. This action resulted in the Spanish captains panicking and scattering the ships into the Channel. The English ships were easily able to attack the slower Spanish ships, which were eventually forced to sail up the North Sea and around Scotland before heading back to Spain. Many Spaniards were lost as their ships were wrecked in storms off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 30: In 1589 Drake was ordered, by the Queen, to destroy the Spanish ships that had survived. This venture proved a disaster with Drake losing 20 of his ships.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 31: In 1595, Sir Francis Drake and his cousin Sir John Hawkins were, once again, sent to the West Indies to hassle the Spanish. On January 28th 1596, while at anchor near Portobello, Panama, Drake died of a fever brought on by dysentery. He was buried at sea in a lead coffin.
Sir Francis Drake Fact 32: Sir Francis Drake didn't have any children so, following his death, his titles and estate passed on to his nephew.
Sir Francis Drake the Privateer & Explorer (c1540/4 - 1596) Fun Facts Info for Kids!

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