Sir Francis Drake, the greatest of the naval adventurers of England of the time of Elizabeth, was born in Devonshire about 1540. He went to sea early, was sailing to the Spanish Main by 1565, and commanded a ship under Hawkins in an expedition that was overwhelmed by the Spaniards in 1567.
Sir Francis Drake (1540 - 28 January 1596) was an English sea captain, slave trader, and privateer of the Elizabethan era. Drake carried out the second circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition, from 1577 to 1580, and was the first to complete the voyage as captain while leading the expedition throughout the entire circumnavigation. With his incursion into the Pacific Ocean, he claimed what is now California for the English and inaugurated an era of conflict with the Spanish on the western coast of the Americas, an area that had previously been largely unexplored by western shipping.
Elizabeth I awarded Drake a knighthood in 1581. As a Vice Admiral, he was second-in-command of the English fleet in the battle against the Spanish Armada in 1588. He died of dysentery in January 1596, after unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico. Drake's exploits made him a hero to the English, but his privateering led the Spanish to brand him a pirate, known to them as El Draque. King Philip II allegedly offered a reward for his capture or death of 20,000 ducats about £6 million (US$8 million) in modern currency.
Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon, England. Although his birth date is not formally recorded, it is known that he was born while the Six Articles were in force. His birth date is estimated from contemporary sources such as: "Drake was two and twenty when he obtained the command of the Judith" (1566). This would date his birth to 1544. A date of c.1540 is suggested from two portraits: one a miniature painted by Nicholas Hilliard in 1581 when he was allegedly 42, so born circa 1539, while the other, painted in 1594 when he was said to be 53, would give a birth year of around 1541.
He was the eldest of the twelve sons of Edmund Drake (1518-1585), a Protestant farmer, and his wife Mary Mylwaye. The first son was alleged to have been named after his godfather Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford.
Because of religious persecution during the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549, the Drake family fled from Devonshire into Kent. There Drake's father obtained an appointment to minister the men in the King's Navy. He was ordained deacon and was made vicar of Upnor Church on the Medway. Francis Drake's father apprenticed him to his neighbour, the master of a barque used for coastal trade transporting merchandise to France. The ship's master was so satisfied with the young Francis Drake's conduct that, being unmarried and childless at his death, he bequeathed the barque to Drake.
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