What is the timeline of Drake's life?

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  • ca. 1540
    Drake was born at Crowndale, Tavistock. The exact date is uncertain.
  • 1549
    Drake’s family fled from Tavistock to Kent. The move was probably due a combination of religious persecution and the indictment of Drake’s father for highway robbery.
  • 1554
    A young Drake was apprenticed to captain of small trading bark which traded from Medway, England to Holland and France. Drake inherited the bark upon the captain’s death.
  • 1564
    Drake sold his bark when Spanish seizures of English ships in the English Channel made such voyages too risky for him to continue his business.
  • 1566
    Under Captain Lovell, Drake embarked on his first voyage to the Spanish Main, an unsuccessful slave trading and raiding expedition. This was his first experience in area of the Spanish Main.
  • 1566-1569
    Drake served with his cousin John Hawkins when they were betrayed by Spaniards at San Juan de Ulua. Drake commanded the small ship Judith which escaped an unprovoked attack that destroyed most of Hawkin’s fleet. Drake returned to England with the Judith in January 1569. This betrayal was formative in Drake’s life-long burning resentment and bitterness toward Spain’s King Philip.
  • 1579
    Mary Newman weds Francis Drake at the church of Saint Budeaux near Plymouth.
  • 1570
    Drake gave up commercial ventures into Spanish claimed territory and, with the help of investors, led two ships—the Swan and the Dragon —to raid in the West Indies—the first purely raiding trip done by an Englishman in those waters. It was uneventful other than to primarily serve as reconnaissance. It was also unlicensed by Queen Elizabeth.
  • 1570-1571
    Drake took one ship, the Swan , to raid the West Indies again. He pillaged significant amounts of wealth and is first brought to the attention of King Philip. His success motivates imitators to emulate his exploits.
  • 1572-1573
    Taking two ships, the Pasha an the Swan Drake led an expedition to the Spanish Main. There he allied with Cimarrones (Africans escaped from Spanish slavery), raided Spanish treasure in Panama, and first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean from a point high in a tree. His lucrative attack on a Spanish mule train is unique in English history. He returned to England a wealthy man.
  • 1574
    With the Earl of Essex in command, Drake acts in support of military operations as a logistician, primarily by conveying soldiers to put down a revolt in Ireland.
  • 1577
    Leading a fleet from Plymouth, Drake began circumnavigation aboard the Pelican . His primary goal was to raid Spain’s Pacific colonies in the Americas.
  • 1578
    Drake renamed his ship as the Golden Hind after the execution of Thomas Doughty. He led the expedition’s ships through the Strait of Magellan and entered the Pacific where they were hammered by storms. After the Marigold was sunk and the Elizabeth abandoned the mission, only the Golden Hind would continue the expedition.
  • 1579
    After taking much Spanish treasure, Drake prepared for circumnavigation from a safe harbor in Northern California at what is now called Drake's Cove. There he interacted with the Coast Miwok people and claimed the land for Queen Elizabeth as Nova Albion.
  • 1580
    Drake returned to England thus completing circumnavigation, the first to be accomplished by an English crew.
  • 1581
    Knighted aboard the Golden Hind, Drake bought Buckland Abbey and became mayor of Plymouth.
  • 1582
    Mary Newman died.
  • 1585
    Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham, a member of the landed gentry.
  • 1586
    Drake led an English expedition to ransack the Spanish Main.
  • 1587
    Drake led an attack on Spain at Cadiz which destroyed the Spanish Fleet. The attack became known as The Singeing of the King of Spain’s Beard, delaying Spain's planned attack on England.
  • 1588
    Aboard the Revenge and with the rank of vice-admiral, Drake helped lead the attack on the Spanish Armada. The naval engagements and ensuing storm cost the Armada so dearly that they would never seriously threaten England again.
  • 1589
    Drake unsuccessfully attempted an attack on Lisbon, Portugal. This striking lack of success was the first for Drake as a commander, and the expedition was a financial failure.
  • 1590
    Successfully leading a municipal project to dig a leat, an aqueduct dug into the ground, Drake helped establish a stable water supply from the Meavy River to Plymouth.
  • 1593
    Drake was elected to Parliament to represent Plymouth.
  • 1595
    John Hawkins and Drake made a final expedition to Spanish possessions in the Caribbean. On November 12, Hawkins died of a fever when the English reached Puerto Rico.
  • 1596
    Off Portobelo, Panama, Drake died of dysentery aboard the Defiance on January 28. It is supposed that his final resting place is 2.7 nautical miles off the trend of the coast near the wrecks of two British ships, the Elizabeth and the Delight which were scuttled in Portobelo Bay. Divers continue to search for the coffin.
  • Sugden, John (1990). Sir Francis Drake. New York: Touchstone.
  • Cumming, Alex A. (1987). Sir Francis Drake and the “Golden Hind”. Norwich: Jarrold Publishing.
  • Turner, Michael. (personal communication, November 15, 1019).