Francis Drake was an experienced and daring seafarer. Among many adventures, the’famous voyage’, his successful circumnavigation of the world between 1577 and1580 ensured that he would be one of the best remembered figures of TudorEngland. In his own lifetime, he was thought of with mixed feelings, both athome and abroad.
Some English people regarded him as a hero, but he wasdistrusted by others, who saw him as having risen ‘above his station’. Althoughhe was feared and hated by the Spanish, he was also regarded by some with secretadmiration. What was England like at the time of Drake? For most of Drake’slife, Queen Elizabeth I ruled the country.
It was a time when England wasgrowing in population, power and wealth, and was also becoming more outwardlooking. New markets and colonies were needed, so that English produce,especially wool, could be traded. England was also keen to gain from the hugeprofits to be made from the ‘New World’ of the Americas and from the Easternspice trade, as Spain and Portugal were already doing. It was a time whenreligion was extremely important to people, especially the question of whetherEngland was to be a Protestant or a Catholic country. Arguments about religionand trade meant that England was at war with Spain for much of Drake’s life.
Where was Francis Drake born? Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon,sometime between 1541 and 1543. What sort of family did he come from? A veryordinary family, certainly not rich or powerful. His family was a devoutlyreligious one. When Francis was still a small boy, the Catholic Queen Mary cameto the throne, and there were religious disturbances in Devon. The family left,and moved to Chatham in Kent where for a time they lived on an old, laid-upship.
Drake’s father became a Protestant preacher. These early experiences had aprofound effect on the young Francis. The Protestant religion was to be one ofthe most important things to him throughout his life. On his voyage around theworld he led religious services on board ship twice a day. When did Drake firstgo to sea? He first started going to sea while living in Chatham, at the age oftwelve or thirteen. He was an apprentice on a small trading ship which was leftto him when the master died.
After selling this ship, he returned to Devon andsailed with his relative John Hawkins. Together, Hawkins and Drake made thefirst English slaving voyages, bringing African slaves to work in the ‘NewWorld’. Did Francis Drake marry? Yes. He married twice. When he was twenty-fivehe married Mary Newman, who died in 1583.
He married again in 1585. His secondwife, Elizabeth Sydenham, came from a much more influential family. He did nothave children with either of his wives. What was Drake looking for on hisvoyages? Spanish ships, sailing back from their new conquests in South Americawere extremely attractive, as they were laden with silver. Drake attacked suchships, and if he was successful in capturing them, took their treasure forhimself and for his queen. He also raided Spanish and Portuguese ports in the’New World’ and the Atlantic. On Drake’s voyage to Panama in 1572-3, he washelped by cimarrones.
The cimarrones were former slaves, who had escaped to livein the forest and mountains as outlaws. Many were prepared to help the Englishas they blamed the Spanish for their position. One cimarrone in particular,named Diego, became especially close to Drake, accompanying him to England andlater around the world. How long did it take Drake to sail around the world? Thecircumnavigation took three years, from 1577 to 1580. Originally, the voyage wasprobably planned as a raid on Spanish ships and ports. Five ships, manned by 164seamen, left Plymouth, with Drake himself sailing in the Pelican. Nearly all thecrew thought they were heading for the Mediterranean. After reaching America,Drake was worried that his ships might get separated from each other, so he gaveorders for two of them to be destroyed.
Then the Marigold was lost, with all hercrew, and the Elizabeth turned back and sailed home. By October 1578, as thecompany started up the western coast of South America, there were just 58 left,all on the Pelican. Drake renamed his ship the Golden Hinde. What did Drake findout on his voyage around the world? Drake’s