Sir Francis Drake was infamous to Spain, and a hero to England, born between 1540 and 1545, in southwest England. His father Edmund, was a sailor before settling down and marrying a woman whose name has been lost to history. All that is known about her is that she had twelve sons, of whom Francis was the first or the first to survive, since disease claimed half all sixteenth-century children before their first birthday. Francis grew up during a time of turmoil in Europe. Colonization, religious reform, diseases and starvation plagued the times. He had many influences that drove him to become a seaman, but the most important ones were his father, and a distant cousin John Hawkins a prominent seaman. His father taught him that God is master of all things, and that whatever happens, good or bad is according to his divine plan.
When Drake was sixteen, he became a skipper of his own vessel.
The North Sea became Drake's new teacher. He met every challenge at sea. He became such a good sailor that his employer, a childless bachelor, remembered him in his will.
In 1567, Drake commanded his own ship on a trading expedition to the West Indies. The Spanish attacked the tiny English fleet. In the fight only Drake's ship and one other escaped. After that battle, Drake felt that he had a score to settle with the Spanish. Drake's private feud with Spain fitted in perfect with the plans of Queen Elizabeth, who feared Spanish and Portuguese domination and wealth. The nations of Europe were engaged in a struggle for new lands and for control of the seas. Spain, especially, had rich colonies in America and brought home treasures that made Spain wealthy and powerful.
In 1572, Drake landed in Panama with two ships and 73 men. He took the town of Nombre de Dias from the Spanish soldiers captured 30 tons of silver destined for King Philip. When Drake returned to England, he was both rich and famous.
In 1577, Drake won the Queen's permission for another expedition to the Pacific Ocean. They reached the Strait of Magellan on August 21, 1578. On September 6, they left the Strait of Magellan behind. That in itself was a major accomplishment. In 1520, Magellan had taken thirty-seven days to pass through the channel. Drake did it in just sixteen. Before entering, Drake renamed his ship the Golden Hind. He sailed north and attacked the Spanish settlements in Chile and Peru. How was Drake to get back to England? He could not return by the same route. The Spanish would surely be waiting for him. He decided to cross the vast Pacific Ocean and sail around the world.
He reached England in 1580, his ship full of treasures. For his achievements, Queen Elizabeth knighted him aboard his ship. Soon, however, all Europe was talking about the armada that Spain was building to invade England. With 30 ships, Drake sailed right into the harbor of Cadiz, Spain, and set fire to many of the ships being built there. In 1588, the armada of more than 130 sailed into the English Channel. Drake was vice admiral of the fleet that destroyed many of the Spanish ships. Only about half of the great armada returned home. King Philip's hope of conquering England was ruined. Drake set out for the West Indies again in 1595. It was to be his last voyage. On January 28, 1596, he died and was buried at sea.
I liked the book, and the way it was written. The maps and pictures made it interesting for me to continue reading. I agreed with the author's point of view that Drake was a man ahead of his time. His decision to destroy the Spanish ships being built to attack England, is a reflection of what is going on today. An unusually kind sea captain for his day, he was kind to his prisoners and often gave them gifts. I was fascinated by the life of this man. Surely, the religious values, instilled by his father as a youngster, led to his compassionate nature. He became a self-made man, a brilliant navigator, a genius of naval warfare, and as a commander and leader he was a legend and a great man of not only his times, but for all times.