Sir Francis Drake (C 1540-1596): A Pirate by Royal Appointment, Drake's Naval Victories Brought Him Greater Rewards Than His Circumnavigation. (Late Great Geographers)

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What was he most famous for? Sir Francis Drake became a legend for his defeat of the Spanish Armada, but he is also fondly remembered for his calm and eccentric insistence that he had time to finish a game of bowls once the Armada had been sighted off the south coast of England. Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, a remarkable feat but by no means considered the pinnacle of his illustrious career. A budding European he was not -- he harboured the biggest grudge against Spain in naval history, famously crushing its Armada both in Cadiz and the English Channel. Not one to miss an opportunity to aggravate his prime enemy, he even found time to pillage their settlements while sailing his ship, the Golden Hind, around the world. Many of the 165 crew had no idea of the voyage's aims. In i580, after three years at sea, Drake returned to England triumphant. Perhaps more impressed by his victories and plundered wealth than the feat of circumnavigation, Elizabeth I made him a Knight of the Realm. In 1587, as General of Her Majesty's Navy, Drake led the English fleet to Cadiz where it devastated the Armada, burning 33 of its ships in the city's harbour, and thus delaying plans to invade England by a year. In fact, so feared was Drake by the Spanish that they called him el Draque, or the Dragon. On hearing that Drake was his opponent, a captain of one Spanish galleon surrendered at once.

What was his background? Born near Tavistock in Devon, Francis Drake was one of 12 children. …