Sir Francis Drake was the first Englishman to sail around the world. He plundered many Spanish merchant ships, taking the silver and gold to build his own wealth. He was such a successful warrior on the seas that he became Queen Elizabeth I's favorite plague to send at Spanish settlements.Continue Reading
Over the years, Drake's raids on the Spanish were so successful that the King of Spain, Philip II, finally decided to invade the country. He commissioned a gargantuan fleet of warships, dubbed the Spanish Armada. When the British found out, Drake swooped in on Cadiz, one of the ports of Spain. He ruined over 30 ships as well as thousands of tons of Spanish supplies; when discussing this raid, he called it "singeing the king of Spain's beard."
When the Spanish Armada finally invaded, the British fleet proved faster and more maneuverable, using cannon fire to roil the Armada. Drake even captured the ship that had the Spanish Army's payroll on board.
Not all of Drake's raids were successful, though. In 1589, Queen Elizabeth I sent him to aid Portuguese rebels fighting against the Spanish in Lisbon, and Drake lost over 12,000 men and 20 ships. He came home and became mayor of Plymouth. He would not stay home for long, though, as the queen sent him out for his last war in 1595 to grab the treasure Spain had stashed in Panama. Drake developed dysentery in Panama and died in January, 1596. Drake's burial took place at sea in a lead coffin, but no divers have ever been able to find it.Learn more about Exploration & Imperialism