Francis Drake (c. 1540 – 28 January 1596) was an
English sea captain, slave trader, and privateer of the Elizabethan
era. Drake carried out the second circumnavigation of the world in a
single expedition, from 1577 to 1580, and was the first to complete
the voyage as captain while leading the expedition throughout the
entire circumnavigation. With his incursion into the
Pacific Ocean, he
claimed what is now California for the English and inaugurated an era
of conflict with the Spanish on the western coast of the Americas,
an area that had previously been largely unexplored by western
Elizabeth I awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581. As a Vice Admiral, he
was second-in-command of the English fleet in the battle against the
Spanish Armada in 1588. He died of dysentery in January 1596, after
unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico. Drake's exploits made
him a hero to the English, but his privateering led the Spanish to
brand him a pirate, known to them as El Draque. King Philip II
allegedly offered a reward for his capture or death of
20,000 ducats, about £6 million (US$8 million) in modern
1 Birth and early years
2 Marriage and family
3 Career at sea
Circumnavigation of the earth (1577–1580)
5.1 Execution of Thomas Doughty
5.2 Entering the
5.3 Capture of Spanish treasure ships
5.4 Coast of California:
Nova Albion (1579)
5.5 Across the
Pacific and around Africa
5.6 Return to
5.7 Award of knighthood
5.8 Award of arms
6 Political career
7 Purchase of Buckland Abbey
8 Great Expedition
9 Spanish Armada
9.2 Defeat of the Spanish Armada
9.3 Drake-Norris Expedition
10 Defeats and death
11 Cultural impact
12 See also
15 External links
Birth and early years
Portrait miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, 1581, reverse of "Drake
Jewel", inscribed Aetatis suae 42, An(n)o D(omi)ni 1581 ("42 years of
his age, 1581 AD")
Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon, England. Although his
birth date is not formally recorded, it is known that he was born
while the Six Articles were in force. His birth date is estimated from
contemporary sources such as: "Drake was two and twenty when he
obtained the command of the Judith" (1566). This would date his
birth to 1544. A date of c.1540 is suggested from two portraits: one a
miniature painted by
Nicholas Hilliard in 1581 when he was allegedly
42, so born circa 1539, while the other, painted in 1594 when he was
said to be 53, would give a birth year of around 1541.
He was the eldest of the twelve sons of Edmund Drake
Protestant farmer, and his wife Mary Mylwaye. The
first son was alleged to have been named after his godfather Francis
Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford.
Because of religious persecution during the
Prayer Book Rebellion
Prayer Book Rebellion in
1549, the Drake family fled from Devonshire into Kent. There Drake's
father obtained an appointment to minister the men in the King's Navy.
He was ordained deacon and was made vicar of
Upnor Church on the
Medway. Drake's father apprenticed him to his neighbour, the
master of a barque used for coastal trade transporting merchandise to
France. The ship's master was so satisfied with the young Drake's
conduct that, being unmarried and childless at his death, he
bequeathed the barque to Drake.[when?] 
Marriage and family
Francis Drake married Mary Newman in 1569. She died 12 years later, in
1581. In 1585, Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham—born circa 1562, the
only child of Sir George Sydenham, of Combe Sydenham, who was the
High Sheriff of Somerset. After Drake's death, the widow Elizabeth
eventually married Sir William Courtenay of Powderham.
Career at sea
Drake Jewel, on loan at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
In 1563, Drake, aged 23, made his first voyage to the Americas,
sailing with his second cousin, Sir John Hawkins, on one of a fleet of
ships owned by his relatives, the Hawkins family of Plymouth. He made
three voyages with this fleet, attacking Portuguese towns and ships on
the coast of West Africa. They then sailed to the
sold the captured cargoes of slaves to Spanish plantations. John
Hawkins is considered to have been the first English slave-trader.
Hawkins made three such expeditions, the first in 1563, second in 1564
and the third expedition ending in the ill-fated 1568 incident at San
Juan de Ulúa.
In 1568 Drake was on his third expedition with the Hawkins fleet when,
whilst negotiating to resupply and repair at a Spanish port in Mexico,
the fleet was attacked by Spanish warships, with all but two of the
English ships lost. He escaped along with John Hawkins, surviving the
attack by swimming.
Drakes hostility towards the Spanish is said to have started with this
incident. Following the defeat at San Juan de Ulúa, Drake vowed
revenge. He made two voyages to the West Indies, in 1570 and 1571,
of which little is known.
In 1572, he embarked on his first major independent enterprise. He
planned an attack on the Isthmus of Panama, known to the Spanish as
Tierra Firme and the English as the Spanish Main. This was the point
at which the silver and gold treasure of
Peru had to be landed and
sent overland to the Caribbean Sea, where galleons from
pick it up at the town of Nombre de Dios. Drake left
Plymouth on 24
May 1572, with a crew of 73 men in two small vessels, the Pascha (70
tons) and the Swan (25 tons), to capture Nombre de Dios.
His first raid was late in July 1572. Drake and his men captured the
town and its treasure. When his men noticed that Drake was bleeding
profusely from a wound, they insisted on withdrawing to save his life
and left the treasure. Drake stayed in the area for almost a year,
raiding Spanish shipping and attempting to capture a treasure
The people of quality dislike him for having risen so high from such a
lowely family; the rest say he is the main cause of wars.
— Gonzalo González del Castillo, letter to King Philip II, 1592
The most celebrated of Drake's adventures along the
Spanish Main was
his capture of the Spanish Silver Train at Nombre de Dios in March
1573. He raided the waters around Darien (in modern Panama) with a
crew including many French privateers including Guillaume Le Testu, a
French buccaneer, and African slaves (Maroons) who had escaped the
Spanish. Drake tracked the Silver Train to the nearby port of Nombre
de Dios. After their attack on the richly laden mule train. Drake and
his party found that they had captured around 20 tons of silver and
gold. They buried much of the treasure, as it was too much for their
party to carry, and made off with a fortune in gold. (An
account of this may have given rise to subsequent stories of pirates
and buried treasure.) Wounded, Le Testu was captured and later
beheaded. The small band of adventurers dragged as much gold and
silver as they could carry back across some 18 miles of jungle-covered
mountains to where they had left the raiding boats. When they got to
the coast, the boats were gone. Drake and his men, downhearted,
exhausted and hungry, had nowhere to go and the Spanish were not far
At this point Drake rallied his men, buried the treasure on the beach,
and built a raft to sail with two volunteers ten miles along the
surf-lashed coast to where they had left the flagship. When Drake
finally reached its deck, his men were alarmed at his bedraggled
appearance. Fearing the worst, they asked him how the raid had gone.
Drake could not resist a joke and teased them by looking downhearted.
Then he laughed, pulled a necklace of Spanish gold from around his
neck and said "Our voyage is made, lads!" By 9 August 1573, he had
returned to Plymouth.
It was during this expedition that he climbed a high tree in the
central mountains of the
Isthmus of Panama
Isthmus of Panama and thus became the first
Englishman to see the
Pacific Ocean. He remarked as he saw it that he
hoped one day an Englishman would be able to sail it—which he would
do years later as part of his circumnavigation of the world.
When Drake returned to
Plymouth after the raids, the government signed
a temporary truce with King
Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain and so was unable to
acknowledge Drake's accomplishment officially. Drake was considered a
hero in England and a pirate in
Spain for his raids.
Drake played a significant role in the
Rathlin Island massacre
Rathlin Island massacre in
1575. Acting on the instructions of Sir Henry Sidney and the Earl of
Essex, Drake and Sir
John Norreys took
Rathlin Castle by storm.
Despite the surrender, they killed all the 200 defenders and more than
400 civilian men, women and children of Clan MacDonnell (Sugden, John
(1990). Sir Francis Drake. Barrie & Jenkins.  While Essex had
ordered the taking of the island, Drake was given the task of
preventing any Gaelic Irish or Scottish reinforcements reaching the
island. Therefore, the remaining leader of the Gaelic defense against
English power, Sorley Boy MacDonnell, was forced to stay on the
mainland. Essex wrote in his letter to Queen Elizabeth’s secretary,
that following the attack “was likely to have run mad for sorrow,
tearing and tormenting himself and saying that he there lost all that
he ever had.” 
Circumnavigation of the earth (1577–1580)
A map of Drake's route around the world. The northern limit of Drake's
exploration of the
Pacific coast of North America is still in dispute.
Drake's Bay is south of Cape Mendocino.
With the success of the
Panama isthmus raid, in 1577
Elizabeth I of
England sent Drake to start an expedition against the Spanish along
Pacific coast of the Americas. Drake used the plans that Sir
Richard Grenville had received the patent for in 1574 from Elizabeth,
which was rescinded a year later after protests from Philip of Spain.
He set out from
Plymouth on 15 November 1577, but bad weather
threatened him and his fleet. They were forced to take refuge in
Falmouth, Cornwall, from where they returned to
Plymouth for repair.
After this major setback, Drake set sail again on 13 December aboard
Pelican with four other ships and 164 men. He soon added a sixth ship,
Mary (formerly Santa Maria), a Portuguese merchant ship that had been
captured off the coast of Africa near the Cape Verde Islands. He also
added its captain, Nuno da Silva, a man with considerable experience
navigating in South American waters.
Drake's fleet suffered great attrition; he scuttled both Christopher
and the flyboat Swan due to loss of men on the Atlantic crossing. He
made landfall at the gloomy bay of San Julian, in what is now
Argentina. Ferdinand Magellan had called here half a century earlier,
where he put to death some mutineers. Drake's men saw weathered and
bleached skeletons on the grim Spanish gibbets. Following Magellan's
example, Drake tried and executed his own "mutineer" Thomas Doughty.
The crew discovered that Mary had rotting timbers, so they burned the
ship. Drake decided to remain the winter in San Julian before
attempting the Strait of Magellan.
Execution of Thomas Doughty
Main article: Thomas Doughty (explorer)
Bronze statue in Tavistock, in the parish of which he was born, by
Joseph Boehm, 1883.
On his voyage to interfere with Spanish treasure fleets, Drake had
several quarrels with his co-commander Thomas Doughty and on 3 June
1578, accused him of witchcraft and charged him with mutiny and
treason in a shipboard trial. Drake claimed to have a (never
presented) commission from the Queen to carry out such acts and denied
Doughty a trial in England. The main pieces of evidence against
Doughty were the testimony of the ship's carpenter, Edward Bright, who
after the trial was promoted to master of the ship Marigold, and
Doughty's admission of telling Lord Burghley, a vocal opponent of
agitating the Spanish, of the intent of the voyage. Drake consented to
his request of Communion and dined with him, of which Francis Fletcher
had this strange account:
And after this holy repast, they dined also at the same table
together, as cheerfully, in sobriety, as ever in their lives they had
done aforetime, each cheering up the other, and taking their leave, by
drinking each to other, as if some journey only had been in hand.
Drake had Thomas Doughty beheaded on 2 July 1578. When the ship's
chaplain Francis Fletcher in a sermon suggested that the woes of the
voyage in January 1580 were connected to the unjust demise of Doughty,
Drake chained the clergyman to a hatch cover and pronounced him
A replica of the Golden Hind
The three remaining ships of his convoy departed for the Magellan
Strait at the southern tip of South America. A few weeks later
(September 1578) Drake made it to the Pacific, but violent storms
destroyed one of the three ships, the Marigold (captained by John
Thomas) in the strait and caused another, the Elizabeth captained by
John Wynter, to return to England, leaving only the Pelican. After
this passage, the Pelican was pushed south and discovered an island
that Drake called Elizabeth Island. Drake, like navigators before him,
probably reached a latitude of 55°S (according to astronomical data
quoted in Hakluyt's The Principall Navigations, Voiages and
Discoveries of the English Nation of 1589) along the Chilean
coast. In the Magellan Strait Francis and his men engaged in
skirmish with local indigenous people, becoming the first Europeans to
kill indigenous peoples in southern Patagonia. During the stay in
the strait, crew members discovered that an infusion made of the bark
Drimys winteri could be used as remedy against scurvy. Captain
Wynter ordered the collection of great amounts of bark – hence the
Despite popular lore, it seems unlikely that Drake reached Cape Horn
or the eponymous Drake Passage, because his descriptions do not
fit the first and his shipmates denied having seen an open sea. The
first report of his discovery of an open channel south of Tierra del
Fuego was written after the 1618 publication of the voyage of Willem
Jacob le Maire
Jacob le Maire around
Cape Horn in 1616.
Drake pushed onwards in his lone flagship, now renamed the Golden Hind
in honour of Sir
Christopher Hatton (after his coat of arms). The
Golden Hind sailed north along the
Pacific coast of South America,
attacking Spanish ports and pillaging towns. Some Spanish ships were
captured, and Drake used their more accurate charts. Before reaching
the coast of Peru, Drake visited Mocha Island, where he was seriously
injured by hostile Mapuche. Later he sacked the port of Valparaíso
further north in Chile, where he also captured a ship full of Chilean
Capture of Spanish treasure ships
Near Lima, Drake captured a Spanish ship laden with 25,000 pesos
of Peruvian gold, amounting in value to 37,000 ducats of Spanish
money (about £7m by modern standards). Drake also discovered news of
another ship, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, which was sailing
west towards Manila. It would come to be called the Cacafuego. Drake
gave chase and eventually captured the treasure ship, which proved his
most profitable capture.
Aboard Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, Drake found 80 lb
(36 kg) of gold, a golden crucifix, jewels, 13 chests full
of royals of plate and 26 tons of silver. Drake was naturally
pleased at his good luck in capturing the galleon, and he showed it by
dining with the captured ship's officers and gentleman passengers. He
offloaded his captives a short time later, and gave each one gifts
appropriate to their rank, as well as a letter of safe conduct.
Coast of California:
Nova Albion (1579)
Main article: New Albion
Drake's landing in California, engraving published 1590 by Theodor de
After looting the Cacafuego, Drake turned north, hoping to meet
another Spanish treasure ship coming south on its return from Manila
to Acapulco. Although he failed to find a treasure ship, Drake
reputedly sailed as far north as the 38th parallel, landing on the
coast of California on 17 June 1579. He found a good port, landed,
repaired and restocked his vessels, then stayed for a time, keeping
friendly relations with the
Coast Miwok natives. He claimed the land
in the name of the Holy
Trinity for the English Crown, called Nova
Latin for "New Britain". Assertions that he left some of his
men behind as an embryo "colony" are founded on the reduced number who
were with him in the Moluccas.
The precise location of the port was carefully guarded to keep it
secret from the Spaniards, and several of Drake's maps may have been
altered to this end. All first-hand records from the voyage, including
logs, paintings and charts, were lost when
Whitehall Palace burned in
1698. A bronze plaque inscribed with Drake's claim to the new lands
Drake's Plate of Brass
Drake's Plate of Brass – fitting the description in his account,
was discovered in
Marin County, California
Marin County, California but was later declared a
hoax. Now a National Historic Landmark, the officially recognised
location of Drake's
New Albion is Drakes Bay, California.
Pacific and around Africa
Drake left the
Pacific coast, heading southwest to catch the winds
that would carry his ship across the Pacific, and a few months later
reached the Moluccas, a group of islands in the western Pacific, in
eastern modern-day Indonesia. While there,
Golden Hind became caught
on a reef and was almost lost. After the sailors waited three days for
convenient tides and had dumped cargo, they freed the barque.
Befriending a sultan king of the Moluccas, Drake and his men became
involved in some intrigues with the Portuguese there. He made multiple
stops on his way toward the tip of Africa, eventually rounded the Cape
of Good Hope, and reached
Sierra Leone by 22 July 1580.
On 26 September,
Golden Hind sailed into
Plymouth with Drake and
59 remaining crew aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and
captured Spanish treasures. The Queen's half-share of the cargo
surpassed the rest of the crown's income for that entire year. Drake
was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth (and
the second such voyage arriving with at least one ship intact, after
Elcano's in 1520).
The Queen declared that all written accounts of Drake's voyages were
to become the Queen's secrets of the Realm, and Drake and the other
participants of his voyages on the pain of death sworn to their
secrecy; she intended to keep Drake's activities away from the eyes of
rival Spain. Drake presented the Queen with a jewel token
commemorating the circumnavigation. Taken as a prize off the Pacific
coast of Mexico, it was made of enamelled gold and bore an African
diamond and a ship with an ebony hull.
For her part, the Queen gave Drake a jewel with her portrait, an
unusual gift to bestow upon a commoner, and one that Drake sported
proudly in his 1591 portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts now at the National
Maritime Museum, Greenwich. On one side is a state portrait of
Elizabeth by the miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard, on the other a
sardonyx cameo of double portrait busts, a regal woman and an African
male. The "Drake Jewel", as it is known today, is a rare documented
survivor among sixteenth-century jewels; it is conserved at the
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Award of knighthood
Drake receives knighthood from Queen Elizabeth. Bronze plaque by
Joseph Boehm, 1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock.
Francis Drake with his new heraldic achievement, with motto: Sic
Parvis Magna, translated literally: "Thus great things from small
things (come)". The hand out of the clouds is labelled Auxilio Divino,
or "With Divine Help"
Queen Elizabeth awarded Drake a knighthood aboard
Golden Hind in
Deptford on 4 April 1581; the dubbing being performed by a French
diplomat, Monsieur de Marchaumont, who was negotiating for Elizabeth
to marry the King of France's brother, Francis, Duke of Anjou.
By getting the French diplomat involved in the knighting, Elizabeth
was gaining the implicit political support of the French for Drake's
actions. During the Victorian era, in a spirit of nationalism,
the story was promoted that
Elizabeth I had done the
Award of arms
Arms of Sir Francis Drake: Sable, a fess wavy between two pole-stars
Arctic and Antarctic argent
Arms of Drake of Ash: Argent, a wyvern wings displayed and tail nowed
gules. The Drake family of Crowndale and
Buckland Abbey used the
same arms but the tail of the wyvern is not nowed (knotted)
After receiving his knighthood Drake unilaterally adopted the
armorials of the ancient
Devon family of Drake of Ash, near Musbury,
to whom he claimed a distant but unspecified kinship. These arms were:
Argent, a wyvern wings displayed and tail nowed gules, and the
crest, a dexter arm Proper grasping a battle axe Sable, headed Argent.
The head of that family, also a distinguished sailor, Sir Bernard
Drake (d.1586), angrily refuted Sir Francis's claimed kinship and his
right to bear his family's arms. That dispute led to "a box in the
ear" being given to Sir Francis by Sir Bernard at court, as recorded
by John Prince in his "Worthies of Devon" (1697). Queen Elizabeth,
to assuage matters, awarded Sir Francis his own coat of arms, blazoned
Sable a fess wavy between two pole-stars [Arctic and Antarctic]
argent; and for his crest, a ship on a globe under ruff, held by a
cable with a hand out of the clouds; over it this motto, Auxilio
Divino; underneath, Sic Parvis Magna; in the rigging whereof is hung
up by the heels a wivern, gules, which was the arms of Sir Bernard
The motto, Sic Parvis Magna, translated literally, is: "Thus great
things from small things (come)". The hand out of the clouds, labelled
Auxilio Divino, means "With Divine Help". The full achievement is
depicted in the form of a large coloured plaster overmantel in the
Lifetimes Gallery at Buckland Abbey
Nevertheless, Drake continued to quarter his new arms with the wyvern
gules. The arms adopted by his nephew Sir Francis Drake, 1st
Baronet (1588–1637) of Buckland were the arms of Drake of Ash, but
the wyvern without a "nowed" (knotted) tail.
Drake was politically astute, and although known for his private and
military endeavours, he was an influential figure in politics during
the time he spent in Britain. Often abroad, there is little evidence
to suggest he was active in Westminster, despite being a member of
parliament on three occasions.
After returning from his voyage of circumnavigation, Drake became the
Mayor of Plymouth, in September 1581. He became a member of
parliament during a session of the 4th Parliament of Elizabeth I,
on 16 January 1581, for the constituency of Camelford. He did not
actively participate at this point, and on 17 February 1581 he was
granted leave of absence "for certain his necessary business in the
service of her Majesty".
Drake became a member of parliament again in 1584 for Bossiney on
the forming of the 5th Parliament of Elizabeth I. He served the
duration of the parliament and was active in issues regarding the
navy, fishing, early American colonisation, and issues related chiefly
to Devon. He spent the time covered by the next two parliamentary
terms engaged in other duties and an expedition to Portugal. He
became a member of parliament for
Plymouth in 1593. He was active
in issues of interest to
Plymouth as a whole, but also to emphasize
defence against the Spanish.
Purchase of Buckland Abbey
In 1580 Drake purchased Buckland Abbey, a large manor house near
Yelverton in Devon, via intermediaries from Sir Richard Greynvile. He
lived there for fifteen years, until his final voyage, and it remained
in his family for several generations.
Buckland Abbey is now in the
care of the National Trust and a number of mementos of his life are
Map of Drake's Great Expedition in 1585 by Giovanni Battista Boazio
War had already been declared by Phillip II after the Treaty of
Nonsuch, so the Queen through
Francis Walsingham ordered Sir Francis
Drake to lead an expedition to attack the Spanish colonies in a kind
of preemptive strike. An expedition left
Plymouth in September 1585
with Drake in command of twenty-one ships with 1,800 soldiers under
Christopher Carleill. He first attacked
Spain and held the
place for two weeks ransoming supplies. He then plundered Santiago in
the Cape Verde islands after which the fleet then sailed across the
Atlantic, sacked the port of
Santo Domingo and captured the city of
Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena de Indias in present-day Colombia. On 6 June 1586, during
the return leg of the voyage, he raided the Spanish fort of San
Augustín in Spanish Florida.
After the raids he then went on to find Sir Walter Raleigh's
settlement much further north at Roanoke which he replenished and also
took back with him all of the original colonists before Sir Richard
Greynvile arrived with supplies and more colonists. He finally reached
England on 22 July, when he sailed into
Portsmouth, England to a
Main article: Spanish Armada
Encouraged by these acts Philip II ordered a planned invasion of
Main article: Singeing the King of Spain's Beard
In another pre-emptive strike, Drake "singed the beard of the King of
Spain" in 1587 by sailing a fleet into
Cadiz and also Corunna, two of
Spain's main ports, and occupied the harbours. He destroyed 37 naval
and merchant ships. The attack delayed the Spanish invasion by a
year. Over the next month, Drake patrolled the Iberian coasts
Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent, intercepting and destroying ships
on the Spanish supply lines. Drake estimated that he captured around
1600–1700 tons of barrel staves, enough to make 25,000 to 30,000
barrels (4,800 m3) for containing provisions.
Defeat of the Spanish Armada
Francis Drake whilst playing bowls on
Plymouth Hoe is informed of
the approach of the Spanish Armada. Bronze plaque by Joseph Boehm,
1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock
The Spanish Armada.
Drake was vice admiral in command of the English fleet (under Lord
Howard of Effingham) when it overcame the
Spanish Armada that was
attempting to invade England in 1588. As the English fleet pursued the
Armada up the English Channel in closing darkness, Drake broke off and
captured the Spanish galleon Rosario, along with Admiral Pedro de
Valdés and all his crew. The Spanish ship was known to be carrying
substantial funds to pay the Spanish Army in the Low Countries.
Drake's ship had been leading the English pursuit of the Armada by
means of a lantern. By extinguishing this for the capture, Drake put
the fleet into disarray overnight.
On the night of 29 July, along with Howard, Drake organised
fire-ships, causing the majority of the Spanish captains to break
formation and sail out of
Calais into the open sea. The next day,
Drake was present at the Battle of Gravelines. He wrote as follows to
Admiral Henry Seymour after coming upon part of the Spanish Armada,
whilst aboard Revenge on 31 July 1588 (21 July 1588 O.S.):
Coming up to them, there has passed some common shot between some of
our fleet and some of them; and as far as we perceive, they are
determined to sell their lives with blows.
The most famous (but probably apocryphal) anecdote about Drake relates
that, prior to the battle, he was playing a game of bowls on Plymouth
Hoe. On being warned of the approach of the Spanish fleet, Drake is
said to have remarked that there was plenty of time to finish the game
and still beat the Spaniards. There is no known eyewitness account of
this incident and the earliest retelling of it was printed 37 years
later. Adverse winds and currents caused some delay in the
launching of the English fleet as the Spanish drew nearer, perhaps
prompting a popular myth of Drake's cavalier attitude to the Spanish
Main article: English Armada
In 1589, the year after defeating the Armada, Drake and Sir John
Norreys were given three tasks: seek out and destroy the remaining
ships, support the rebels in Lisbon,
Portugal against King Philip II
(then king of
Spain and Portugal), and take the
Azores if possible.
Drake and Norreys destroyed a few ships in the harbour of
A Coruña in
Spain but lost more than 12,000 lives and 20 ships.
This delayed Drake, and he was forced to forgo hunting the rest of the
surviving ships and head on to Lisbon.
Defeats and death
Drake's burial at sea off Portobello. Bronze plaque by Joseph Boehm,
1883, base of Drake statue, Tavistock.
Drake's seafaring career continued into his mid-fifties. In 1595, he
failed to conquer the port of Las Palmas, and following a disastrous
campaign against Spanish America, where he suffered a number of
defeats, he unsuccessfully attacked San Juan de Puerto Rico,
eventually losing the Battle of San Juan.
The Spanish gunners from
El Morro Castle
El Morro Castle shot a cannonball through the
cabin of Drake's flagship, and he survived. He attempted to attack San
Juan again, but a few weeks later, in January 1596, he died (aged
about 56) of dysentery, a common disease in the tropics at the time,
while anchored off the coast of Portobelo, Panama, where some Spanish
treasure ships had sought shelter. Following his death, the English
Before dying, he asked to be dressed in his full armour. He was buried
at sea in a sealed lead-lined coffin, near Portobelo, a few miles off
the coastline. It is supposed that his final resting place is near the
wrecks of two British ships, the Elizabeth and the Delight, scuttled
Portobelo Bay. Divers continue to search for the coffin..
Drake’s body has never been recovered.
This portrait, circa 1581, may have been copied from Hilliard's
miniature—note the similar shirt—and the somewhat
oddly-proportioned body, added by an artist who did not have access to
Drake. National Portrait Gallery, London.
1591 portrait, also by Gheeraerts the Younger, wearing the "Drake
Jewel" suspended from a strap, and displaying new arms
In the UK there are various places named after him, especially in
Plymouth, Devon, where various places carry his name, including the
naval base (HMS Drake),
Drake's Island and a shopping centre and
roundabout named Drake Circus.
Plymouth Hoe is also home to a statue
In the United States
Drakes Bay and
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard
Sir Francis Drake Boulevard of
Marin County, California
Marin County, California are both named after him, as well as the high
school in San Anselmo, California. The boulevard runs between Drakes
Point Reyes to Point San Quentin on San Francisco Bay. A large
Union Square, San Francisco
Union Square, San Francisco also bears his name.
Sir Francis Drake Channel in the British Virgin
Islands bears his name.
In British Columbia, Canada, where some theorize he may also have
landed to the north of the usual site considered to be Nova Albion,
various mountains were named in the 1930s for him, or in connection
Elizabeth I or other figures of that era, including Mount Sir
Francis Drake, Mount Queen Bess, and the Golden Hinde, the highest
mountain on Vancouver Island.
Drake's will was the focus of a vast confidence scheme which Oscar
Hartzell perpetrated in the 1920s and 1930s. He convinced thousands of
people, mostly in the American Midwest, that Drake's fortune was being
held by the British government, and had compounded to a huge amount.
If their last name was Drake they might be eligible for a share if
they paid Hartzell to be their agent. The swindle continued until a
copy of Drake's will was brought to Hartzell's mail fraud trial and he
was convicted and imprisoned.
Drake's Drum has become an icon of
English folklore with its variation
of the classic king in the mountain story.
Drake in California
Drake's Leat, a water supply for Plymouth, promoted by Drake
Francis William Drake, relative of Sir Francis Drake
Giovanni Battista Boazio, Drake's mapmaker
^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project.
"Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of
Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
^ Woolsey, Matt (September 19, 2008). "Top-Earning Pirates".
Forbes Magazine. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
^ Paris Profiles. Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris. pp. Portfolio
^ Helen Wallis (1984). "The Catography of Drake's Voyage". In Norman
J. W. Thrower. Sir
Francis Drake and the Famous Voyage, 1577-1580:
Essays Commemorating the Quadricentennial of Drake's Circumnavigation
of the Earth. University of California Press. p. 143.
^ Soto Rodríguez, José Antonio (2006). "La defensa hispana del Reino
de Chile" (PDF). Tiempo y Espacio (in Spanish). 16. Retrieved 30
^ According to the English calendar then in use, Drake's date of death
was 28 January 1595, as the new year began on 25 March.
^ His name in Latinised form was Franciscus Draco ("Francis the
Dragon"). See Theodor de Bry.
^ John Cummins (1997). Francis Drake: The Lives of a Hero. St.
Martin's Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-312-16365-5.
^ Mark G. Hanna (22 October 2015).
Pirate Nests and the Rise of the
British Empire, 1570-1740. UNC Press Books. p. 46.
^ Campbell, John (1841). Lives of the British Admirals and Naval
History of Great Britain from the Time of Caesar to the Chinese War of
1841 Chiefly Abridged from the work of Dr. John Campbell. Glasgow:
Richard Griffin & Co. p. 104. ISBN 9780665347566.
OCLC 12129656. Retrieved 30 August 2012. Direct quote is
followed by "this carries back his birth to 1544, at which time the
six articles were in force, and Francis Russell was seventeen years of
^ 1921/22 edition of the Dictionary of National Biography, which
quotes Barrow's Life of Drake (1843) p. 5.
^ a b c Thomson, George Malcolm(1972), 'Sir Francis Drake', William
Morrow & Company Inc. ISBN 978-0-436-52049-5
Francis Drake bio". Tudor Place. Retrieved 25 February
2010. [unreliable source]
^ Froude, James Anthony, English Seamen in the Sixteenth Century,
London, 1896. Quote: "He told Camden that he was of mean extraction.
He meant merely that he was proud of his parents and made no idle
pretensions to noble birth. His father was a tenant of the Earl of
Bedford, and must have stood well with him, for Francis Russell, the
heir of the earldom, was the boy's godfather."
^ a b c Southey, Robert. (1897). English Seamen — Howard
Clifford Hawkins Drake Cavendish, Methuen and Co. 36 Essex Street WC
^ Warren, Derrick (2005). Curious Somerset. Stroud: Sutton Publishing.
pp. 90–91. ISBN 978-0-7509-4057-3.
^ "The Occupants of the ancient office of High Sheriff of Somerset".
Tudor Court. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
^ "Captain Sir Francis DRAKE". tudorplace.com.ar. Retrieved 28 May
2008. [unreliable source]
^ Some historical account of Guinea: With an inquiry into the rise and
progress of the slave trade, p. 48, at Google Books
^ Carl Ortwin Sauer (1975). Sixteenth Century North America: The Land
and the People as Seen by the Europeans. University of California
Press. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-520-02777-0.
^ N, A. "The National Archives" (PDF). National Archives Website.
National Archives. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
^ "History of English Slave Trade". Ehr.oxfordjournals.org.
doi:10.1093/ehr/cej026. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
^ Vicary, Tim. "Sir
Francis Drake and the African Slaves". English
Historical Fiction Authors. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
^ "England's first slave trader". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 17 March
^ "Drake escaped during the attack and returned to England in command
of a small vessel, the Judith, with an even greater determination to
have his revenge upon
Spain and the Spanish king, Philip II."—"Sir
Francis Drake" article in online Britannica Library. Accessed 14
^ Cummins 1997, p. 5
^ David Marley (2008). Wars of the Americas: A Chronology of Armed
Conflict in the Western Hemisphere, 1492 to the Present. ABC-CLIO.
pp. 103–104. ISBN 978-1-59884-100-8.
^ Angus Konstam (20 December 2011). The Great Expedition: Sir Francis
Drake on the
Spanish Main 1585–86. Bloomsbury Publishing.
p. 29. ISBN 978-1-78096-233-7.
^ Cummins 1997, p. 287
^ Cummins 1997, p. 273
^ ISBN 9780712620383; Great Britain. Public Record Office,
Calendar of State Papers Relating to Ireland, of the Reigns of Henry
VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth: Preserved in the State Paper
Department of Her Majesty's Public Record Office, 11 vols (London:
Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1860-1912)).
^ (Hugh Forde, Sketches Of Olden Days In Northern Ireland: Including
Portrush, Dunluce Castle, Dunseverick Castle ... (Belfast, 1923))
^ a b Coote, Stephen, Drake: The Life and Legend of an Elizabethan
Hero, Saint Martin's Press, New York, 2003. ISBN 0-312-34165-2.
^ a b Wagner, Henry R., Sir Francis Drake's Voyage Around the World:
Its Aims and Achievements, Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2006,
^ a b Martinic, Mateo (1977). Historia del Estrecho de Magallanes (in
Spanish). Santiago: Andrés Bello. pp. 67–68.
^ a b c Kelsey, Harry, Sir Francis Drake; The Queen's Pirate, Yale
University Press, New Haven, 1998, ISBN 0-300-07182-5.
^ Cortés Olivares, Hernán F. "El origen, producción y comercio del
pisco chileno, 1546–1931".
Revista Universum (in Spanish).
Scielo.cl. doi:10.4067/S0718-23762005000200005. Retrieved 25 October
^ Dismissed by John Cummins, Francis Drake: The Lives of a Hero (1997)
p. 118: "In view of the prominence given in different versions to the
crowning of Drake it would be odd if the establishment of a colony had
^ "Drake Navigator's Guild". Drakenavigatorsguild.org. 17 October
2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
^ a b c "The Drake Jewel". Oieahc.wm.edu. Retrieved 25 February
^ a b "Image details". National Trust Images. Retrieved 25 October
^ Cummins 1997, p. 127
^ a b Moseley, Brian (26 February 2011) [11 March 2004]. "Sir Francis
Drake (c1541-1596)". The Encyclopaedia of
Plymouthdata.info. Archived from the original on 1 April 2012.
Retrieved 12 February 2015.
^ Mary E. Hazard, Elizabethan silent language, page 251. U of Nebraska
Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8032-2397-8. August 2000.
ISBN 978-0-8032-2397-4. Retrieved 14 November 2009.
^ Maria Perry, The Word of a Prince: A Life of
Elizabeth I from
Contemporary Documents, page 182. Boydell Press. 1990.
ISBN 978-0-85115-633-0. Retrieved 14 November 2009.
^ a b Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of
Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620,
Exeter, 1895, p.292, pedigree of Drake of Ash
^ a b Vivian, p.299, pedigree of Drake of Crowndale and Buckland Abbey
^ Prince, John, (1643–1723) The Worthies of Devon, 1810 edition,
^ Campbell, John (1828). The life of the celebrated Sir Francis Drake,
the first english Circumnavigator: reprinted from The Biographia
Britannica. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown and Green.
pp. 50–52. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
^ Drake, Charles E.F., The Arms of Sir
Francis Drake Archived 19 May
2012 at the Wayback Machine., Quebec, 2008; Article by str8thinker,
Project Avalon Forum, Dec 2010, based on article of Charles Drake,
2008, op. cit.
^ "1572". History of Parliament. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
^ a b c d Hasler, P W. "DRAKE, Francis". History of Parliament. The
History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
^ "1584". History of Parliament. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
^ Andrews, Evan (4 April 2016). "10 Things You May Not Know About
Francis Drake". History. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
^ Thompson, E. and Freeman, E. A. History of England, p. 188.
^ a b "Kraus, Hans. Sir Francis Drake: A Pictorial Biography, 1970".
Loc.gov. 13 October 2005. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
^ Letter to Admiral Henry Seymour written aboard Revenge on 31 July
1588 (21 July 1588 O.S.) Turner, Sharon. The History of England from
the Earliest Period to the Death of Elizabeth, 1835.
^ "Sir Francis Drake". thepirateking.com. Retrieved 28 July
^ "Sir Francis Drake's body 'close to being found off Panama'". BBC
News. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
^ Henderson, Barney; Swaine, Jon (24 October 2011). "Sir Francis
Drake's final fleet 'discovered off the coast of Panama'". Telegraph
Newspaper. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
^ Prince's Worthies, op.cit.
^ Rayner, Richard (22 April 2002). "The Admiral and the Con Man". The
New Yorker. p. 150.
Bawlf, Samuel (2003). The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake,
1577–1580. Walker & Company. ISBN 0-8027-1405-6.
Corbett, Julian Stafford (1890). Sir Francis Drake.
Hughes-Hallett, Lucy (2004). Heroes: A History of Hero Worship. Alfred
A. Knopf, New York. ISBN 1-4000-4399-9.
Kelsey, Harry (1998). Sir Francis Drake, the Queen's Pirate. New
Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07182-5.
Kelsey, Harry (2004). "Drake, Sir Francis (1540–1596)". Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/8022. Retrieved 20 May 2011. (subscription
or UK public library membership required)
Mattingly, Garett (1959). The Defeat of the Spanish Armada.
ISBN 0-395-08366-4. A detailed account of the defeat of the
Spanish Armada which received a special citation from the Pulitzer
Prize committee in 1960.
Merideth, Mrs Charles, Notes and Sketches of New South Wales, during a
residence in that colony from 1839 to 1844; Bound With: "Life of
Drake" by John Barrow (1st ed., 1844) [xi, 164; and xii, 187 pp.
Payne, Edward John, Voyages of the Elizabethan Seamen to America (vol.
1, 1893; vol. 2, 1900)
Rodger, N. A. M. (1997). The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of
Britain 660–1649. London
Wilson, Derek (1977). The World Encompassed: Drake's Great Voyage,
1577–80. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-014679-6.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Francis Drake.
Wikisource has the text of a 1920
Encyclopedia Americana article about
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Francis Drake
Francis Drake at Spartacus Educational
Hand-coloured map depicting Sir Francis Drake's attack on Saint
Augustine from the State Archives of Florida
Kraus Collection of Sir
Francis Drake From the Rare Book and Special
Collections Division at the Library of Congress
Sir Francis Drake: A Pictorial Biography by Hans P. Kraus From the
Rare Book and
Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress
Mission to rescue Drake's body
Drake's methods of Navigation
"Drake, Francis". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
"Drake, Sir Francis". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.
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