What is the timeline of Drake's life?

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  • 1541 or 1542
    Drake was born at Crowndale, Tavistock. The exact date is uncertain.
  • 1549
    Drake’s family fled to Medway from Tavistock under uncertain circumstances. 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, a slave trading and raiding expedition. This was his first experience in what would eventually propel him to become the most successful of all the English Sea Dogs.
  • 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.
  • 1570
    Drake gave up commercial ventures into Spanish claimed territory and, with the help of investors, led two ships 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. Her quiet acceptance of this—and his follow-up unlicensed raids to the region—blur the lines of piracy and privateering.
  • 1571
    Drake took one ship, the Swan, to raid the West Indies again. He pillaged significant amounts of wealth, gained notoriety, and is first brought to the attention of King Philip. His success motivates imitators to emulate his exploits.
  • 1572-1573
    Drake took one ship, the Swan, to raid the West Indies again. He pillaged significant amounts of wealth, gained notoriety, and is first brought to the attention of King Philip. His success motivates imitators to emulate his exploits.Drake led an expedition to the Spanish Main. There he allied with Cimaroones, raided Spanish treasure in Panama, and first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean from a point high in a tree. He returned to England a wealthy man.
  • 1574
    Drake leads English troops with the Earl of Essex while putting down a rebellion in Ireland.
  • 1577
    From Plymouth, Drake began circumnavigation aboard the Pelican 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 one ship was lost the other abandoned the mission, only the Golden Hind would continue the expedition.
  • 1579
    After taking much Spanish treasure, Drake spent most of the months of June and July preparing 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 in September thus completing circumnavigation.
  • 1581
    Knighted aboard the Golden Hind, Drake bought Buckland Abbey and became mayor of Plymouth.
  • 1582
    Mary Newman died.
  • 1584
    Drake led an English expedition to West Indies to ravage Spanish Colonies.
  • 1585
    Drake married Elizabeth Sydenham, a member of the gentry.
  • 1586
    Drake led an expedition which ransacked Cartagena, capital of 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.
  • 1588
    Aboard the Revenge and with the rank of vice-admiral, Drake helped lead the attack on the Spanish Armada.
  • 1589
    Drake unsuccessfully attempted an attack on Lisbon, Spain.
  • 1590
    A municipal project to dig a canal providing water supply from the Meavy River to Plymouth was successfully led by Drake.
  • 1593
    Drake was elected to Parliament to represent Plymouth.
  • 1595
    John Hawkins and Drake made a final expedition to Spanish possessions in the Caribbean. Hawkins died in December of a fever.
  • 1596
    Drake died of dysentery aboard the Defiance on January 28 and was buried somewhere in the Caribbean of Puerto Bello.
Quote Sources
  • Sugden, John (1990). Sir Francis Drake. New York: Touchstone.
  • Cumming, Alex A. (1987). Sir Francis Drake and the “Golden Hind”. Norwich: Jarrold Publishing.