Elizabethan adventurer Sir Francis Drake was only the second man in history to circumnavigate the globe, a feat he achieved in 1580 aboard the famous ‘Golden Hind’. His attention was not, however, concentrated exclusively on making historic discoveries.
IT was no secret in Elizabeth I’s reign that King Philip of Spain coveted her crown.
He had never understood why it passed from his late wife, Mary, to her half-sister Elizabeth and not to him, and he resented Elizabeth giving refuge to dissidents fleeing bloody persecution in the Spanish Netherlands.*
Open war with mighty Spain was out of the question. But when Sir Francis Drake proposed assembling a small fleet at his own expense, and sailing off in the general direction of Spain’s Latin American colonies, Elizabeth saw no reason to discourage him.
Drake had already caught one tantalising glimpse of the Pacific across the Isthmus of Panama in 1573, and returned home in ships groaning with Spanish plunder. In 1577, he set out for South America once again in his flagship Pelican, accompanied by four other small ships with a total crew of a hundred and sixty-four. They included several gentlemen keen to learn the art of navigation.
* The reason the crown did not pass to Philip was that Mary herself was crowned Queen on the strict understanding that Philip was not King of England, and could never inherit the crown.