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Francis Drake

Francis Drake (c. 1540 - January 28, 1596) was an English privateer, navigator, naval hero, politician and civil engineer of the Elizabethan period. As with many people of this period, the exact date of birth is unknown and could be as early as 1535. The 1540 date is taken from a portrait painted quite late in his life.

He was the first English man to circumnavigate the globe. In the wake of his attack on Cadiz and his exploits in the Caribbean, the Spanish Main, Drake earned the nickname El Draque, "The Dragon".

Drake's naval career began disreputably. Born in Devon, he began sailing in his teens, and became, essentially, a treasure-hunter and licensed pirate. In 1577, he took his ship, the Pelican, and four others, to explore the Magellan Strait, changing the ship's name to the better-known Golden Hind[?] in mid-voyage. Having successfully negotiated the Pacific storms, he travelled north to seek the Northwest Passage, but failed and continued across the Pacific as far as Java, where he carried out repairs to his remaining vessels. Upon his return on April 4, 1581 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

Drake was vice admiral in command of the English fleet (under Lord Howard of Effingham) when, although heavily outnumbered and outgunned, but aided by some spectacularly bad weather, they overcame the Spanish Armada in 1588. The most famous anecdote about his life tells that, prior to the battle, he was found playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe. On being warned of the approach of the Spanish fleet, Drake is said to have remarked that there was plenty of time to finish the game and still beat the Spaniards.

His seafaring continued after this major success, and he died in 1596 during one of his many expeditions to the West Indies.

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