Essay, Research Paper: Francis Drake

Famous People

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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 voyage helped to give a more
accurate picture of the true geography of the world. During the course of the
voyage, Drake discovered that Tierra del Fuego, the land seen to the south of
the Magellan Strait, was not part of a southern continent as had been believed
previously, but an archipelago, or group of islands. Francis Fletcher, the
chaplain on Drake's ship described it like this: In passing along we plainly
discovered that same Terra Australis to be no continent, but broken islands and
large passages amongst them.... This meant that if the American continent was
not connected to a southern continent, the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans met
at Cape Horn. It should be possible to sail ships around the bottom of South
America, south of Tierra. This was the Cape Horn route, eventually discovered in
1616. As Drake sailed further up the coast, he plundered Spanish ports in Chile
and Peru and captured treasure ships. His biggest prize was the Cacafuego. Drake
sailed further north along the coast of the Americas than any other European
until then. On the way he landed in what is now California, naming it Nova
Albion (New England) and claiming it for his queen. He then continued across the
Pacific to the East Indies, or Spice Islands. Six tons of cloves were loaded
onto the ship. Later, half had to be tossed into the sea in order to free the
ship from a reef. His route through the East Indies lay along the uncharted
southern coast of Java. Here Drake discovered that Java was an island, not
connected to a southern continent as the Dutch believed. Drake returned from his
voyage around the world with the little Golden Hinde packed full of spices from
the Indies, and plundered Spanish silver and treasure. The good health of the
surviving members of his crew was a remarkable achievement in itself. This was
in marked contrast to the dreadful condition of those who had accompanied
Magellan on the first circumnavigation of the world fifty years earlier. How was
Drake helped by others? During the Tudor period, it was important that each
explorer built on the experience of those who had gone before. Portugal and
Spain had been involved in ocean exploration long before England. Francis Drake
obviously recognised this, as he made use of this previous knowledge and
expertise by seizing the Portuguese pilot Nuna da Silva to guide him on his
passage to Brazil and the east coast of America. In the Pacific, he seized the
charts of two Spanish pilots bound for the Philippines. He already had a chart
of the world made in Portugal, and three books on navigation. How did the Queen
treat Drake when he returned after his three year voyage? Queen Elizabeth dined
on board the Golden Hinde at Deptford, on the River Thames. Afterwards, she
knighted him so that for the rest of his life he was known as Sir Francis Drake.
The king of Spain was insulted by the Queen's reward to Drake. His voyage may
have been triumphant to the English, but to the Spanish it was highly
destructive. Was the circumnavigation the end of Sir Francis Drake's career at
sea? No. Drake was involved in several other battles with the Spanish. In 1585
he and more than 1000 men attacked Santiago in the Cape Verde islands. As no
treasure was found, he ordered the town to be burnt down. In 1586 he captured
San Domingo in Hispaniola (now named Haiti). One of his most famous attacks was
on Cadiz and Coruna in 1587. This incident is sometimes known as the 'singeing
of the King of Spain's beard.' In a daring raid, between twenty and thirty ships
were sunk or captured. Perhaps of even more importance though, was the
destruction of supplies intended for King Philip's planned Spanish Armada.
Because of the attack, the Armada was delayed and the Spanish were short of some
important supplies for their fleet. They were also forced to use unseasoned wood
for barrels, as Drake had destroyed the seasoned wood. Later on this resulted in
the rotting of many of their precious stocks of food for the Armada crews. What
was Drake's role in the battles against the Spanish Armada? Sir Francis Drake
was very active in the Armada battles of 1588. One of the most famous incidents
involving Drake was when the Spanish flagship, the Rosario, collided with
another ship. It lost its mast and became separated from the rest of the Spanish
fleet. Drake captured it, even though he had been given the job of tracking the
Armada with his stern lantern alight to guide all the other English ships
following him. The prize of the Rosario must have been too difficult to resist.
The ship was taken without a single shot being fired, still with the royal money
chest on board. How did Sir Francis Drake die? He died at sea on his final
voyage, off the coast of Panama, in Nombre de Dios Bay. He had been suffering
from dysentery for several days and in January 1596 he finally died. His body
was placed inside a lead casket and he was then slipped overboard. Two other
ships, his most recent prizes, were sunk near his body. He was about 54 years
old. Why is he still remembered today? His circumnavigation led to an increased
knowledge of the geography of the world, particularly to a more accurate
understanding of the 'southern continent’. As a navigator his skills put him
in the same rank as Columbus. His claim of California, or Nova Albion, for
England led directly to later plans to send people to live in colonies in
America.
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