Thursday, January 12, 2012

Roguish Rake: Sir Francis Drake

This week, our Roguish Rake is none other than Sir Francis Drake. He bagn his sailing career early, sailing to the New World in 1563, when he was only 23. In 1568, Drake was nearly captured by the Spanish in the English defeat at San Juan de Ulua. From that moment on, Drake vowed to get even with the Spanish. 

The "Drake Jewel"
In 1573, Drake and his men attacked a Spanish mule train. They quickly discovered they now possessed 20 tons of gold a silver. They buried much of the treasure and, taking as much as they could carry, forged through 18 miles of jungle to the shore. They were quickly disheartened when they discovered their raiding boats were gone. Drake, rallying his men, made a raft and traveled down the coast to his flag ship. Once on board, his remaining men asked how the raid had gone. He looked down, disheartened, then laughed and, pulling a large gold necklace from around his neck, said, "Our voyage is made, lads!"

Elizabeth I sent Drake on many "voyages," resulting in many tons of Spanish gold and silver. When Drake finally returned to England, they carried a treasure trove. Elizabeth' half of the treasure surpassed the crown's annual income! Despite this, Elizabeth regarded Drake's voyage as classified. She did not want the Spanish to know she supported his efforts against them. However, she did knight him on April 4, 1581. Elizabeth also gave Drake a jeweled portrait. It still survives today, known today as the "Drake Jewel." 

He became a hero in Elizabethan England, serving as second in command during the attack by the Spanish Armada. According to tradition, Drake was playing a game of bowls when he was warned of the approaching Spanish felt. He calmly sated that there was plenty of time to finish his game and beat the Spanish. In 1595/6, Drake led several unsuccessful campaigns against the Spanish off the South American coast. At one point, a cannon ball even flew through Drake's cabin. However, he continued. In Jan. 1596, Drake died of dysentery at the age of 55. He was buried at sea, dressed in his full armor, in a lead coffin.

Drake was affectionately known as a hero, knight, and, most cleverly, a privateer to the English. However, he was a rake, villain, and, worst of all, a pirate to the Spanish.

What think ye? Hero, or Pirate?
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