Francis Drake

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Francis Drake was an experienced and daring seafarer. Among many adventures, the’famous voyage’, his successful circumnavigation of the world between 1577 and
1580 ensured that he would be one of the best remembered figures of Tudor
England. In his own lifetime, he was thought of with mixed feelings, both at
home and abroad. Some English people regarded him as a hero, but he was
distrusted by others, who saw him as having risen ‘above his station’. Although
he was feared and hated by the Spanish, he was also regarded by some with secret
admiration. What was England like at the time of Drake? For most of Drake’s
life, Queen Elizabeth I ruled the country. It was a time when England was
growing in population, power and wealth, and was also becoming more outward
looking. New markets and colonies were needed, so that English produce,
especially wool, could be traded. England was also keen to gain from the huge
profits to be made from the ‘New World’ of the Americas and from the Eastern
spice trade, as Spain and Portugal were already doing. It was a time when
religion was extremely important to people, especially the question of whether
England was to be a Protestant or a Catholic country. Arguments about religion
and 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 very
ordinary family, certainly not rich or powerful. His family was a devoutly
religious one. When Francis was still a small boy, the Catholic Queen Mary came
to 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-up
ship. Drake’s father became a Protestant preacher. These early experiences had a
profound effect on the young Francis. The Protestant religion was to be one of
the most important things to him throughout his life. On his voyage around the
world he led religious services on board ship twice a day. When did Drake first
go to sea? He first started going to sea while living in Chatham, at the age of
twelve or thirteen. He was an apprentice on a small trading ship which was left
to him when the master died. After selling this ship, he returned to Devon and
sailed with his relative John Hawkins. Together, Hawkins and Drake made the
first English slaving voyages, bringing African slaves to work in the ‘New
World’. Did Francis Drake marry? Yes. He married twice. When he was twenty-five
he married Mary Newman, who died in 1583. He married again in 1585. His second
wife, Elizabeth Sydenham, came from a much more influential family. He did not
have children with either of his wives. What was Drake looking for on his
voyages? Spanish ships, sailing back from their new conquests in South America
were extremely attractive, as they were laden with silver. Drake attacked such
ships, and if he was successful in capturing them, took their treasure for
himself 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 was
helped by cimarrones. The cimarrones were former slaves, who had escaped to live
in the forest and mountains as outlaws. Many were prepared to help the English
as they blamed the Spanish for their position. One cimarrone in particular,
named Diego, became especially close to Drake, accompanying him to England and
later around the world. How long did it take Drake to sail around the world? The
circumnavigation took three years, from 1577 to 1580. Originally, the voyage was
probably planned as a raid on Spanish ships and ports. Five ships, manned by 164
seamen, left Plymouth, with Drake himself sailing in the Pelican. Nearly all the
crew thought they were heading for the Mediterranean. After reaching America,
Drake was worried that his ships might get separated from each other, so he gave
orders for two of them to be destroyed. Then the Marigold was lost, with all her
crew, and the Elizabeth turned back and sailed home. By October 1578, as the
company 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 find
out on his voyage around the world? Drake’s

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