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Sir Francis Drake Essay

Typically, Francis Drake’s life begins with a mystery – the date of his birth. 1540 is often mentioned, 1542 has been heard as has been 1538, and other years pop up here and there. Often the given date is based on a portrait which itself is dated and which includes the comment that it shows Drake at a particular age. The only safe conclusion is that he was born around 1540. His place of birth was Tavistock, in Devonshire, along the river Tavy (which eventually empties into the sea near Plymouth). Here his grandparents held a lease on about 180 acres of farmland and made what was probably a reasonably secure living as farmers.

Here also Edmund Drake, who became Francis Drake’s father, had been born. Some reports state that he was a sailor, but there are records that contradict this, and it seems likely that he too made his living from the land. Edmund Drake’s wife, the mother of Francis, was of the Mylwaye family but her first name is unknown. The couple had twelve sons; Francis was the eldest. Papa Edmund had some difficulties, in part because he, not being an eldest son himself, did not inherit the bulk of the Tavistock lease. He also seems to have gotten into some legal trouble, perhaps involving petty crimes.

Additionally, there have long been rumors that protestant Edmund was the victim of some sort of religious persecution. In any event, when Francis Drake was still a young boy the family left Tavistock and moved to Kent, nearer the sea, where they lived in the hulk of an old ship and where Edmund made a bare living as a preacher to the sailors of the navy. So, young Francis now was living (and learning) among the ships and seamen that would become the focus of his life. Francis Drake first went to sea sometime in the 1550’s, as a young boy apprenticed to the elderly master of a small coastal freighter.

He pparently did well both nautically and personally, because the old captain, having no family of his own, willed the little ship to Drake. This marks the beginning of Drake’s nautical career, about which this brief sketch will say no more. Drake married Mary Newman, about whom little is known, in 1569 when he was still a young unknown sailor; they had no children and she died twelve years later, leaving the then-newly knighted Sir Francis Drake a widower. In 1585 the now-famous and wealthy Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham, some twenty years his junior, who unlike Mary Newman came from a wealthy and well-connected family.

The couple moved into Drake’s recently purchased estate, Buckland Abbey (which today is still a major monument to his memory). Again, there were no children. In 1596 Sir Francis Drake was stricken by a tropical disease – “the bloody flux” (perhaps yellow fever) – during a less-than-sucessful expedition against the Spanish in the Caribbean. On January 28, on board his flagship Defiance, in the pre-dawn hours and after rising from his sickbed intending to don his armor so that he would die as a soldier, Sir Francis Drake passed quietly from this world.

He was buried at sea off Puerto Bello, Panama, in a lead coffin. there is not much known about sir francis drake as much of it was clouded by history and as one often chooses to remember the brighter side of things and not the true details of what happens in the world. the history of sir francis drake is not one to be sure of but the information that has been salvaged is enough to give us a clear picture of him at least and that counts for something. The sir francis drake died in 1569 and was buried at sea in a lead coffin probably to perserve his body as he was a great man in his own right.


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