Sir Francis Drake

Explorer

Born: c. 1540
Died: 28 January 1596
Birthplace: Devonshire, England
Best known as: The English mariner who circumnavigated the globe
Francis Drake was chosen by Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1577 to command a voyage around the world. Drake was already a successful privateer (or sea pirate), and his voyage was designed to disrupt the command of the Pacific Ocean and the Americas enjoyed by England's rival Spain. Drake's command ship the Golden Hind (at first named Pelican) circumnavigated the globe, looting Spanish ships in the New World along the way. He made a landing in 1579 somewhere on the Pacific coast of North America, and returned to England in 1580 to be knighted by the Queen. (Drake was the second captain to circle the globe -- the trick had already been turned by the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan in 1519.) Drake's successful voyage and his subsequent naval career helped the English become major players in the race for colonization and trade in the New World. Drake made a specialty of harrassing Spanish shipping and ports, and he was vice admiral of the English fleet when it defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. He died during an expedition to the Caribbean in 1596, and was buried in a lead coffin somewhere near modern-day Panama.
Extra credit: Another famous English scalawag of the same era was Sir Walter Raleigh.

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