Sir Francis Drake
1540 - 28th January 1596
Sir Francis Drake was a 16th century explorer, privateer and English National Hero who has inspired countless generations around the world. He was the first English captain to circumnavigate the globe and played a vital role in the defence of England against the Spanish Armada in 1588. His daring exploits contributed to England's growth as a major sea power, leading to a great age of naval supremacy. In 1577, after a secret meeting with her Majesty the Queen, he set off on his most famous voyage, an expedition into the Pacific waters to explore Spanish held territories, which resulted in the first circumnavigation of the globe by an English captain. The vast treasures he brought back, taken from the Spanish, wrote off the English national debt and made Drake one of the richest men in England. He was knighted for his efforts by Queen Elizabeth I in 1581.
You must strike your sails in the name of the Queen of England!
Francis Drake to the captain of the Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, 1st March 1579
In 1587, with rising tensions overseas and rumours of a planned Spanish invasion, Drake, at the behest of the Queen, led a daring pre-emptive strike dubbed "the singeing of the King of Spain's beard". The
thunderclap destruction of many Spanish vessels in their own port at Cádiz set the Spanish campaign back at least a year. When the enemy armada eventually entered the channel in 1588 Drake was in command of thirty- eight vessels in the English fleet. During the ensuing battle his controversial but decisive actions aided an historic victory for England and humiliation for Philip II of Spain.
In the following years Drake was relied upon by Queen Elizabeth to defend her borders and to take the fight to the enemy. He longed for exploration and adventure and in 1595 he persuaded the Queen to allow himself and John Hawkins to lead another expedition to the West Indies, to "offend our capital enemy the King of Spain" The voyage was a disaster and disease soon ravaged the crew. On 28 January 1596 Sir Francis Drake died of dysentery and was buried at sea in a lead coffin off the coast of Puerto Bello, Panama. It is said though that if England is in great peril Drake's Drum will sound again, calling our great national hero to defend these shores.