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The Tudor Society
  • 27 January 1596 – The death of Sir Francis Drake

    On the 27th January 1596, Sir Francis Drake, explorer, sea captain and pirate, died of dysentery in Portobelo harbour, Panama. When he realised that death was near, he asked to be dressed in his armour. Although he requested burial on land, Drake was buried at sea in a lead coffin, along with his second cousin, Admiral Sir John Hawkins.

    Drake made his first voyage to the New World at the age of around twenty-three, with Hawkins, whose family owned a fleet of ships based in Plymouth. Another voyage saw the fleet trapped by Spaniards in the Mexican port of San Juan de Ulua in 1568. Fortunately, the two men managed to escape, but they lost all but two of their fleet. In 1570 and 1571, Drake undertook two trading voyages to the West Indies, and in 1572 took two ships on a marauding campaign against the Caribbean’s Spanish ports. Drake was able to capture the port of Nombre de Dios and return to England, his ships laden with Spanish booty. In 1573 Drake attacked a mule train with the help of Guillaume Le Testu, the French buccaneer, capturing around 20 tons of gold and silver.

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