Report on Sir Francis Drake - Daring English Seafarer and Pirate

By: Philip LEE Braithwaite Andreae

February 1998

Class 6F ISB - Brussels Belgium



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Report on Sir Francis Drake - Daring English Seafarer and Pirate




This report is about Sir Francis Drake a man who lived during the age of exploration. The age of exploration was the age of curiosity, the age of discovery and the age of new trade routes. Reasons for exploring were to find New World’s, enlarge man’s knowledge about the world that he lived in and to chart new routes to the East Indies.

I hope you enjoy the way I put this report together and I hope you enjoy reading it.


Report on Sir Francis Drake -
Daring English Seafarer and Pirate



Early Life

Francis was born about 1540 on a farm in Tavistock, Devonshire, England. It was a 180-acre farm leased by his grandparents. His parents were poor Protestants. (The farm is still there today). They had twelve sons and Francis was the eldest.

When he was still a young boy his family left Tavistock and moved to Kent where they lived in the wreckage of an old ship. His father preached to the sailors and that’s how Francis learned about the sea and how to sail.

The Elizabethan Age

Queen Elizabeth became Monarch in 1558 succeeding Mary Tudor, when Francis was eighteen. She unlike, Mary Tudor, was a Protestant. She was the first Protestant Monarch since Henry VIII who had been both Mary’s and her father.

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) had discovered the New World (1492) and Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) had already sailed around the world.

England began to prosper economically, plundering and pillaging the New World. They brought back lots of gold, silver, spices and different foods. The also became known for their excellence as seafarers. The Catholic Spaniards had colonised the New World and were also plundering its riches but because the English had better boats and were better sailors, they always got the better of them.

Elizabeth had a very strong army to protect England from invasion. This allowed England peace for a long time. Elizabeth was to England what the Medici's were to Florence. She was so great and lived for so long that they named those years the Elizabethan Age.

Drake’s First Voyages

The first time he went to sea was as a youth. He was aided by his relations the Hawkins Family of Plymouth. Two of the first expeditions he joined were "slavers" which sailed to the Cape Verde Islands and the West Indies (1566-1569). The following year he joined John Hawkins, his cousin, on a venture to South America. Surprisingly Drake already was captain of his own boat. In Mexico at San Juan de Ula the Spanish attacked them. All of the boats went down except John Hawkins’ and Drake’s who escaped to return to England. They were The Judith and The Minion.

Personal Life

Drake married twice (but never had any children). The first time he married a girl named Mary Newman. At this point in his life he was an unknown sailor. They lived together for 12 years, until she died, just after he returned from his circumnavigation of the globe. The second time he married he was rich and famous. He married a girl named Elizabeth Sydenham. She was 20 years his junior and was from a rich family.

Major accomplishments

Circumnavigation of The world

Sir Francis was the first Englishman to sail around the world (1577-1580).

During this time Elisabeth secretly held a, sort of, council of war against the Spanish and commissioned Drake to sail through the Strait of Magellan to plunder Spanish booty on the Pacific side of North America.

He set sail from Plymouth on Dec. 13 1577 with five ships, The Pelican, The Elizabeth, The Marigold and two smaller ships The Swan and The Benedict. He started his voyage with a crew of 166 men. He was officially commissioned to sail through The Strait of Magellan and to find out about the Great Southern Continent or the Terra Australis (one of the reasons how Australia got its name).

He sailed Southwest towards the southern shores of South America. His first stop was on the shores of what is now San Julian, where he plundered a Spanish treasure ship. He lost one of his own ships and another returned to England. He gave the Spanish ship to his friend Thomas Doughty. He set sail again for the Strait of Magellan loosing another ship in a storm. It took 16 days to sail through the strait and to top it all off, Thomas was accused of planning Mutiny. After, he and his crew lost all the ships (either sunk or retreated back to England) except The Pelican which Drake renamed The Golden-Hind.

A series of violent storms blew them south. After all the storms had subsided Drake and his crew wondered where they were? The map said nothing about another route that connected the Pacific with the Atlantic, apart from the strait he had just been through. He recorded these discoveries in his journal.

As he sailed north he plundered more Spanish coastal villages until his ship was full of Spanish treasure.

At this stage he faced the problem of determining how to return to England. He had three choices, either to return over North America, then called the mythical Straits of Anain, go back the way he came or cross the Pacific and round Africa. His first choice was to go over North America. He struck boldly north through the fog where no European had gone before.

Frustrated by cold and harsh weather, he and his crew kept on going until finally in June of 1579 their ship hit a rock and got a small hole in her hull that grew rapidly. He realised with all the booty he was carrying he had to find land soon or they would sink. So he called his men together on the deck and instructed them to sail The Golden Hind ashore. He hollered encouragement to his crew as they sailed east towards land. They struck land on what is now Washington State and began to rebuild the ship. Drake named it Nova Albion, which is Latin for New England. It is said in his journal that he left an engraved metal plate claiming this part of the New World for England.

After completing the repairs he and his crew set sail. This time, West to become the second person to circumnavigate the globe. Very soon they came to the Spice Islands where they stocked up on supplies. Believe it or not, he only took cloves, 6 tons of cloves. He sailed on past India and Africa. Finally, three years after setting sail from England, he returned triumphant with 500,000 worth of Spanish gold and other precious items.

The Spanish King, Philip II, was furious at Francis Drake’s handy-work and nicknamed him El Draque or the Dragon.

The Spaniards wanted him dead so they demanded that Elizabeth behead him on The Golden Hind. She told the Spaniards she would. Instead she knighted him and gave him 50% of the Booty he stole from the Spaniards as a reward.

Spanish Armada 1588

In 1588 Philip II planned the Spanish Armada because he wanted his revenge on Elizabeth for refusing her hand in marriage to him. Another reason was that the late Mary Tudor (Elizabeth’s half sister) was his cousin. Philip and Mary married in 1554 but she died in 1558 and Elizabeth took her place on the throne of England.

The Catholics in England said that Mary Queen of Scots had the rightful claim on England. Elizabeth arranged the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots and had her executed in 1587.

Francis’ part in this political mess was that he was responsible for raiding all those Spanish ports during his Circumnavigation.

Francis heard about the Armada before it set sail for England. He then set sail for Spain and sacked about of the Spanish ships (So much for "la felicissima Armada" (The Invincible Fleet)). After Sir Francis Drake’s pillage of the Spanish Armada the Spaniards had to rebuild their fleet. Thus giving the English time to prepare for the attack of the Spanish.

Amongst the English ships that sailed to the attack was The Revenge, Drake’s ship. The smallest English ship was The Pippin, which carried 20 tons, only 8 men and no guns. The largest ship was The Triumph, which carried 1100 tons, 500 men and 42 guns. In all there were 197 ships assembled by the English to attack the Armada. After a successful campaign they all returned triumphant.

The real story is that the Armada was terrified by the enormous English fleet and sailed north in retreat and the notorious storms of the North Sea destroyed the Armada.

Later Life

In 1589 he conducted a few raids against Portugal, but the Queen, unfortunately, called them a failure and he lost her approval. He received no royal commands for 6 long years.

After he lost the Queen’s approval he retired to Buckland Abbey in 1589 with his second wife Elizabeth Sydenham.

Four years after his retirement, in 1593, he represented Plymouth in the House of Commons.

His last voyage began in 1595. In the year of our lord 1596, he died of dysentery or maybe yellow fever. His crew buried him off the coast of Puerto Bello, Panama, in a lead coffin dressed in his armour.


Francis became a pirate because on his first voyage he vowed to himself that he would destroy the Spaniards because of what they did to him on his first voyage (see His First Voyages). It was also a darn good way to become rich. He was a good English Renaissance man because he was courageous, bold, curious, and lots of other things that make an explorer.

Queen Elizabeth had good reasons not to marry; here is what I think one of them was; if she married she would not be able to rule England on her own. But I can think of one reason why it was not so good not to have married; she didn’t have a child to take her place on the throne.



  1. Fact file "Spanish Armada", 1997,
  2. Spanish Armada, ships, Masters, Captains And Officers Of The English Fleet,
  3. Pages through the Ages: the renaissance, Elizabethan England,
  4. World Book Encyclopaedia D, Drake, Sir Francis
  5. Intro at drakesbay,
  6. EQUITY ONLINE: Queen Elizabeth I,





Sir Francis Drake