Sir Francis Drake: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the English sea captain, Sir Francis Drake. I’ve divided the information into sections to make it more useful and easier to read.

Facts about the Early Life of Francis Drake

  • Francis Drake was born in Devon in about 1540, but he didn’t live there long as his family moved to Kent.

  • His family live for a while on a boat on the River Medway in Kent.
  • When he was very young (about nine or ten), Francis went to sea. He worked for a pilot who guided ships on the River Medway and River Thames. He also got to sail along the English coast, transporting fish from Yarmouth to London, and he sailed to France, trading for wine, cheese and brandy.
  • In 1561, the pilot who Drake worked with, died and left his ships to Drake.
  • Drake decided to sell them and join the Hawkins family in Plymouth. The Hawkins family were making their money by trading and privateering (attacking ships of an enemy country and taking their valuable goods).

Francis Drake’s First Caribbean Trading Voyages

  • In 1566, Drake wen this first trading voyage for the Hawkins family to the Caribbean. It didn’t end very well as the Spanish colonies refused to buy the slaves being offered to them.
  • In 1567 another expedition set out with Drake captaining one of the ships. When they reached the Caribbean, the Spanish colonists once again refused to trade with the English. John Hawkins, who was in command of the voyage, attacked the town and forced a trade. He also demanded that the Spanish pay him money to leave. He used this tactic several times. The English sailors took a Spanish settlement called San Juan de Ulhoa, but were attacked themselves by a massive Spanish fleet. A battle took place.
  • Francis Drake wrongly assumed he was the last surviving ship. When night fell he escaped and sailed back to England.
  • Unfortunately, Drake had been mistaken. He had actually abandoned John Hawkins and one hundred of his men. Luckily, John Hawkins survived the battle, and on his return to England he accused Drake of deserting him.
  • John Hawkins forgave Drake in the end, but Drake never worked for the Hawkins family again. He did, however, undertake voyages for other merchants.

Francis Drake Returns to the Caribbean

  • By the earlier 1570s, Drake had earned enough money to fund his own Caribbean privateering voyage.
  • In 1571 he sailed the coastline of Spanish owned Panama. He his supplies in a sheltered bay in preparation for his return.
  • In 1573 Drake returned to Panama with the intention of raiding the Spanish treasure house at Nombre de Dios.
  • Things did not go well to begin with. The treasure house was found to be empty and Drake was wounded in the attack.
  • In the end, Drake’s luck improved. He captured over £300,000 worth of gold and silver.

Facts about Francis Drake’s Voyage Around the World

  • In 1577 Queen Elizabeth gave Francis Drake her consent to undertake another voyage. It is unclear whether Drake told her he was intending to sail around the world. He didn’t tell his crew.
  • Things did not start well. Drake was forced to leave three ships in South America – they weren’t seaworthy – and he also had to contend with a mutiny. He did this by executing the leader, Thomas Doughty.
  • Three of Drake’s ships made it to the Pacific Ocean. One of these was lost in a storm and the other was blown off course. Only Drake’s ship called the Pelican (which he later renamed the Golden Hinde) remained.
  • Drake returned to England in 1580. Not only had a succeeded in sailing around the world, but he had also managed to capture lots of Spanish gold, set up trade with Ternate (one of the Spice Islands) and claim California for Queen Elizabeth.
  • Drake was famous, rich and he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
  • Drake was elected Mayor of Plymouth and Member of Parliament for Portsmouth.

Facts about Francis Drake’s Role in Defeating the Spanish Armada

  • In 1587 Sir Francis Drake sailed to Spain to fight the Spanish as it was thought that they were preparing a to invade England with a massive fleet.
  • Drake captured six warships and sunk another 31. He also plundered over £100,000 of gold, silk and spices.
  • Drake was one of commanders in the English fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.

The Latter Part of Sir Francis Drake’s Life

  • Drake launched another attack on Spain in 1589. This was a massive failure. Many men and ships were lost, and Elizabeth I blamed Drake.
  • Elizabeth I refused to let him set sail again.
  • In 1595, Elizabeth I granted Drake permission to undertake one last voyage. Accompanied by John Hawkins, Drake set sail for the Caribbean. Hawkins died of a fever early in the voyage. Drake went on and he captured the Spanish settlements of Rio de la Hancha and Nombre de Dios.
  • On 28th June 1595, Sir Francis Drake died of fever. He was buried at sea in the Bay of Nombre de Dios.