Sir Francis Drake was a British explorer, slave-trader, privateer, a pirate working for a government, in the service of England, mayor of Plymouth, England, and naval officer. Driven by early conflict with Catholic Spaniards and later fueled by tensions between England and Spain, Drake is best known for his piracy of Spanish settlements and ships and his role in defeating the Spanish Armada. Often referred to as the El Draque meaning "the dragon" by the Spanish, Drake earned his reputation as a tireless warrior against the Spanish.
The Elizabethan era is a period of English history during most of the 16th century under the reign of Elizabeth 1 of England. It is considered the height of the Renaissance of England with the development of Elizabethan theatre and renowned plays, books and poetry from William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlow, Ben Jonson and Thomas Kyd. During the Elizabethan era, Francis Bacon formulated early elements of the scientific method. This period is also noted for hostilities between Protestant-ruled England and Catholic Spain and great sea explorations, activities for which Sir Francis Drake played a central role.
Francis Drake is believed to be born between 1540 and 1543. He was born in Devon in the South West of England, but later moved to an area closer to the sea called Kent, possibly because his father was being persecuted for being a Protestant preacher in Catholic England. Drake's sea experience began early as an apprentice aboard a small coastal freighter in the early 1550's. Later, as a young adult, he began sailing to West Africa with his cousin, Sir John Hawkins, to participate in the lucrative slave trade. He commanded a ship in a fleet under the control of Hawkins when the fleet was attacked by the Spanish off the port of Veracruz in Mexico. Only the ships commanded by Hawkins and Drake returned back to England. It is believed that this attack coupled with Drake's religious beliefs instilled by his father, compelled Drake to spend his life warring with the Catholic Spaniards.
In 1570 and 1571 Drake became familiar with the Caribbean territory and made friends with escaped African slaves.
Drake then began battles with the Spaniards with the help of the Africans. In 1572, Drake set sail for America as a commissioned privateer of Queen Elizabeth equipped with two ships and seventy-three sailors. After an unsuccessful attack on the Spanish port Nombre de Dios (today's Nicaragua), Drake made new plans to plunder a Spanish caravan transporting gold. This time he was successful and, after bringing his bounty to Queen Elizabeth, she selected him to head an expedition that was to sail around the world.
On December 13th 1577, Francis Drake left England with five ships, pretending to be on an expedition to the Nile. When he reached Africa, Drake informed his crew that the true destination was to be the Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Magellan. Before leaving the Atlantic South American coast, Drake had disposed of two unfit ships and executed an Englishman for mutiny. After the execution, Drake renamed his ship from the Pelican to the Golden Hand. In September of 1578, the fleet sailed through the Strait of Magellan with speed and ease, but emerged into terrific Pacific storms. At this time, Drake lost another ship named the Marigold when it sank in the storm with all its crew. Yet another ship, The Elizabeth, retreated back to England where it arrived in disgrace as a coward for abandoning the fleet. The Golden Hind was blow far to the south and it's believed that Drake discovered that there was open water below the South American continent.
After the storms, the Golden Hind sailed north along the Pacific South American coast, into the private waters of King Philip of Spain. The ship stopped for food and water at what is now the Chilean Island of Mocha where residents attacked after mistaking the English for their Spanish oppressors. The ship survived the attack and, for the next five and a half months, raided Spanish settlements such as Valpariso, Liman and Arica. Drake also took Spanish ships including the rich treasure ship Cacafuego. The Golden Hind sailed out of Spanish waters in April of 1579 with tremendous loot consisting of perhaps as much as twenty-six tons of silver. One stop on the way home included an…