Francis Drake

(Comprehensive Guide to Military History)

Article abstract: Military significance: In 1588, Drake helped defeat the Spanish Armada, thereby lessening Spain’s power in Europe and ensuring England’s status as a dominant naval power.

Francis Drake began his naval career at age ten as an apprentice aboard a trading ship. In his twenties, he served on John Hawkins’s third slaving voyage to West Africa and the Caribbean (1566-1567). Accomplished in his seafaring skills, Drake soon received the command of his first ship, the Judith, in 1567.

Over the next ten years, Drake, now a royal privateer commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I of England, led several voyages to the West Indies, steadily harassing Spanish trading ships and ports.

From 1577 to 1580, Drake circumnavigated the world in the Golden Hind, bringing back great wealth and glory to England at the expense of Spain. After being knighted by the queen, he entered politics, becoming both the mayor of Plymouth and a member of Parliament (1584).

Appointed vice admiral for the English fleet (1588), Drake engaged, and ultimately helped destroy, the Spanish Armada in the North Atlantic off the coast of Scotland, marking the pinnacle of his career.

Further Reading:

Kelsey, Harry. Sir Francis Drake: The Queen’s Pirate. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998.

Sir Francis Drake: Voyage Around the World. Documentary. Kultur International Films, 1999.

Thrower, Norman J. W., ed. Sir Francis Drake and the Famous Voyage, 1577-1580. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

Wilson, Derek. The World Encompassed: Drake’s Great Voyage, 1577-1580. London: Allison and Busby, 1998.