Sir Francis Drake: Elizabethan Pirate

For day four of Elizabethan Intrigue week I have chosen to discuss the figure of Sir Francis Drake.   The most famous privateer at the court of Elizabeth I, was none other than Francis Drake!    He worked on some of the earliest English slaving missions to Africa.    He was second in command during the Spanish Armada, and he was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe!

Drake was known for his hatred of Spain, and his quests of piracy in the new world were fueled by desire to one up Spain there.   It was after two successful expeditions to the West Indies that he caught the attention of Elizabeth I.   The queen gave him a privateers commission, and this was seen as permission to plunder the Spanish ports, which Drake delighted in doing!

Elizabeth commissioned Drake on a quest through South America.   This expedition was plagued by conflict, with Drake and the other sailors in the trip fighting for control.   He even had Thomas Doughty beheaded for attempting to mount a mutiny!

After this trip Francis Drake decided to take a different route home, and this is when he circumnavigated the globe!    He claimed to have gotten as far as modern San Francisco, which he had named “New Albion” in honor of Queen Elizabeth.    When he returned from this expedition (having stopped in the Philippines to get spices) Elizabeth I knighted him on his ship, which he had named the Golden Hind.

During the Spanish Armada Drake commanded a fleet of 25 ships.   After defeating the Armada he sailed through Portugal, but this 1589 expedition was a failure.    He did not sail again until 1596 when Elizabeth I entreated him to make one more expedition to the West Indies.    It was on this trip that he contracted dysentery and died.   Sir Francis Drake was buried at sea.

I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about this powerful privateer.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a portrait of Francis Drake.    I found the image on

Further Reading

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