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The following passage describes the life and career of Sir Francis Drake.
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Sir Francis Drake is one of the most famous mariners of English history. He is renowned for his adventurous exploits as well as his enterprise and skill in establishing the English Navy as the country’s main national weapon.
Details of Drake’s early life are very sparse. He was born in 1541 at Tavistock, Devon and was a cousin of Admiral Sir John Hawkins, the illustrious naval officer, at whose expense Drake was educated. He served his apprenticeship as a seaman on a small coasting vessel engaged in trade with France and Holland.
Between 1565 and 1571, he took part in several slaving expeditions from Africa to the Spanish Main (the Spanish owned parts of South America). In those days slave trading was considered to be a respectable occupation. With two small ships, he sailed in 1572 on a voyage of adventure. He crossed the Isthmus of Panama and came within sight of the Pacific Ocean. He returned to England laden with treasure and was nationally acclaimed.
Although some of his exploits might have earned her disapproval, Drake was received by Queen Elizabeth. Largely through her support, Drake equipped his next expedition in 1577. He left in his 120-tonne ship 'Pelican', accompanied by the 'Elizabeth' and three smaller vessels. This voyage took Drake around the world and he became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. After a stormy passage through the Magellan Straits, he sailed across the Pacific Ocean to the Spice Islands. He then passed around the Cape of Good Hope and returned to Plymouth in 1580 with vast treasure, much to the delight of his Queen.
On his voyage, Drake captured and plundered several Spanish vessels including the great treasure ship 'Cacafuego'. His piracy at sea and his part in pillaging of colonial towns was overlooked and even approved by his sovereign. In those days, acts of piracy, particularly against Spanish victims, were not only forgiven but were considered compulsory; Drake was first and foremost a patriot.
Whilst the Spanish Government demanded his punishment for piracy, Queen Elizabeth knighted Drake on board his ship which he renamed the 'Golden Hind.'
Drake went on to defend England, destroying much of the Spanish Armada in Cadiz and preventing Spain's planned invasion of England. For this, he was appointed second in command, a high ranking position in the Navy.
Sir Francis Drake’s final expedition was in 1595 during which he was taken ill and died at sea in January, 1596.
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