Francis Drake was an English explorer. He is most famous for being the first English explorer to have circumnavigated the globe. Drake was born sometime around 1540. The exact birth date or year is not known. He was born at Tavistock in Devonshire, England. Before becoming an explorer and a prized knight of the Queen, he was a pirate, privateer and slave trader. Francis Drake is often hailed as the most influential explorers of the Elizabethan era. Here are some Sir Francis Drake major accomplishments.
1. Slave Trader & Privateer
Although it cannot be called an accomplishment, the life of Francis Drake as a slave trader and privateer did win him favors from the Queen when he was commissioned on official missions. As a slave trader, Drake would capture slaves from Africa and sell them in New Spain. As a privateer, he had his own ship and a small fleet which traded in goods after seizing merchant ships off the coast of France. He indulged in illegal slave trading as well at the same time.
2. A Commissioned Privateer of Queen Elizabeth
After working with his cousin and relatives, the Hawkins family, Drake became a commissioned privateer and got the license to look any property and resources that belonged to the Spanish King Philip II. During his stint as a commissioned privateer, Drake sailed to Panama. During an earlier voyage, he was stuck at a port in Mexico where he was wounded by the Spanish. It took him a while to recover and flee the port back to England. The incident had scarred him and he had grown bitter towards the Spanish. In Panama, Drake ransacked the town of Nombre de Dios. Although initially he failed to acquire the riches being dropped off by the Spanish ships and could not take over the town due to his injuries, he managed to recover from his wounds and amassed substantial quantities of silver and gold back to Plymouth.
3. First English Explorer to Circumnavigate the Globe
Drake’s mission in Panama was a grand success. He became a trusted explorer of Queen Elizabeth. Happy with his proven prowess, Queen Elizabeth commissioned Drake to sail out to the Pacific Coast, exploring Spanish colonies and finding a northwest passage to North America. Drake sailed out with five ships and headed straight down to South America. Drake managed to sail past the Strait of Magellan and reached the Pacific Ocean. Those who have studied the age of discovery would be aware of the many explorers who have tried to find the route to the Pacific. In those attempts, many explorers ended up exploring more of North America, Mexico and South America. Francis Drake had better understanding of the maps courtesy the accomplishments of previous explorers.
He sailed upwards along the western coast of South America and explored Chile, Peru and all the way to California and above. Along the way, Drake plundered many Spanish vessels and also ransacked a Spanish merchant ship, robbing it of all the bullion onboard. It is said that Drake managed to sail up to Oregon and even Alaska but that is a tad unfounded since there isn’t enough proof.
After exploring the western coast of North America, Drake set sail further westward and reached the Indian Ocean. He sailed further westward, reached the Cape of Good Hope and eventually reached Plymouth in England. This was the first documented and also the first ever circumnavigated voyage by any English explorer. Upon his return, Drake was knighted. Not only did he come to be known as Sir Francis Drake but he was also a wealthy man due to all the looted wealth.
4. Mayor of Plymouth
Sir Francis Drake became the mayor of Plymouth shortly after his circumnavigating voyage around the globe. He was also inducted into the House of Commons. Later, Drake went on to command a part of the Royal Navy and eventually became the vice admiral.
5. The Historic Defeat of the Spanish Armada
Circa mid 1580s, Sir Francis Drake was again commissioned by the queen to launch a series of raids on Spanish fleets and cities under Spanish occupation. Drake unleashed his wrath and inflicted irreparable damage on the Spanish, not materially but morally. King Philip II responded with an attempted invasion of England. As the massive armada started working on the invasion of England, Drake succeeded in raiding Cadiz and destroyed thirty ships and precious supplies worth thousands of tons. When the Spanish armada blocked the English Channel and the threats of an invasion loomed large, Sir Francis Drake and Lord Charles Howard fought a mighty battle that did not just defeat the Spanish but humiliated the perceived strength and dominance of the Spaniards in naval warfare. More than half of the fleet was destroyed and Spain sustained massive casualties. Sir Francis Drake died on 28th January, 1596 in Panama.