Years of History

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Posts Tagged ‘Sir Francis Drake

The Conundrum of Sir Francis Drake

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If I were to choose a single man in history to hold responsible for today’s fascination and glorification of pirates (The literal and the general term), I would choose Sir Francis Drake. Born in 1544, Francis Drake was the eldest of a dozen children. Francis’ connection to the British navy, and the sea in general, was caused by his father’s line of work as a minster to the navy men. Francis was stationed on a ship as a young man. He went on trading missions when he was 12 as an apprentice member of the crew. for the ship master. Francis Drake performed his duties so well that when the captain of the ship died, Francis inherited the ship when he was only 20 years old.

Francis Drake’s hatred of Spaniards is rumored to have began when he was sailing his ship in the fleet of one of his relatives, Sir John Hawkins. They were sailing from the New World, when they were suddenly set upon by Spaniards. They were trapped in the port, and the both of them are said to have barely escaped with their lives. If this is the starting point of the lifelong term of vengeance that Francis Drake led against the Spaniards, than presumably it is also the start of today’s infatuation with the term “pirate”.

In 1572, he began raiding the Spanish Main. His mission? To pillage and plunder. He was relentless, and gave no thought to his own safety. One of his best victories came when he allied himself with Guillaume Le Testu, a French Pirate. They raided a mule train, and they were extremely successful. They dragged as much of the silver and gold as they could, but their boats were no longer where they landed them. Francis Drake was able to rally his men, and build a small raft with enough room for himself and 2 others.  The journey was rough and they barely made it back to their ship, but once on board, he showed his men a necklace made of Spanish gold to show that it was a success. They buried the rest of the 20 tons of silver and gold further up the beach, because they didn’t have the men to take it all with them.

It is after this incident that he caught the attention of Queen Elizabeth I in England. She sent them on a campaign against the Spanish. After a great trials, the execution of a mutineer, and the subsequent sacking of many Spanish Ports. Drake was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth, and the share of riches he brought back to Queen Elizabeth was enough to surpass all of the crown’s income for that entire year. He was hailed as a hero, knighted, and became Sir Francis Drake.

Later, when war broke out between the Spanish armada and the English Navy, he command the English fleet as Vice Admiral. Using the cover of night, he organized fire-ships against the Spaniards. In all honesty, that was the end of the battle. The Spanish fleet was in total disarray, utterly and soundly defeated.

In his 50s, he lost many a skirmish against Spanish-America. By the time Sir Francis Drake died, he had made himself a literal, and figurative legend. Before he died, he asked to be dressed in his armor before they put him in his coffin. Even in his final hours, he was still the leader that made history.

He was not a fool though, he was quite clever in outwitting the Spaniards. I have to wonder if maybe he knew what he was doing. Perhaps he knew that he was setting a standard for a new idea. It is impossible to say.

It was said that Sir Francis Drake was a man of great charisma and confidence. His bold attitude when it came to the Spaniards is a large part of being a “pirate” today. The term pirate is practically celebrated. The term embodies bold resistance and great charisma. It encourages those who it names.

When someone “pirates” something over the internet, I can see the reason behind it. I believe the terms used to refer to some modern day hackers is the very thing that encourages them more. You call someone a pirate because they pass software to others illegally. Such a term is not derogatory to them. It is a great compliment, and a dare to do even greater feats of boldness.

I would never be a pirate in this day and age. However, I know that If I lived in those days, I have little doubt that I would have been a pirate. Sailing the seven seas with Sir Francis Drake and his stout crew of English men. Nothing would give me more pleasure. What about you?


Written by 3DCitizen

January 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm