Francis Drake Biography

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Synopsis Francis Drake, born around 1540-1544 in Devonshire, England, was involved in piracy and illicit slave trading before being chosen in 1577 as the leader of an expedition intended to pass around South America, through the Strait of Magellan, and explore the coast that lay beyond. Drake successfully completed the journey and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I upon his triumphant return. He later saw action in the English defeat of the Spanish Armada. Early Years Like many of his contemporaries, no birth records exist for Sir Francis Drake. It is believed he was born between 1540 and 1544, based on dates of later events. Records show he was 22 when he obtained his first command in 1566. Two portraits help further narrow the date: one painted in 1581, when he was 42, and another painted in 1594, when he was 53. Francis Drake was the eldest of 12 sons born to Edmund Drake and Mary Mylwaye Drake. Edmund was a farmer on the estate of Lord Francis Russell, the second earl of Bedford, who was also Francis' godfather. Francis was apprenticed to a merchant who sailed coastal waters trading goods between England and France. He took to navigation well and was soon enlisted by his relatives, the Hawkinses. They were privateers who prowled the shipping lanes off the French coast, seizing merchant ships. Life as a Privateer By the 1560s, Francis Drake was given command of his own ship, the Judith. With a small fleet, Drake and his cousin, John Hawkins, sailed to Africa to engage in the slave trade. They then sailed to New Spain to sell their captives to settlers, an action that was against Spanish law. In 1568, Drake and Hawkins were trapped in the Mexican port of San Juan de Ulua. The two escaped, but many of their men were killed. The incident instilled in Drake a deep hatred of the Spanish crown. In 1572, Francis Drake obtained a privateer's commission
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