Sir Francis Drake Lesson for Kids: Facts & Biography

Instructor: Tammie Mihet

Tammie has taught elementary school for 14 yrs. and holds an MA in Instructional Technology

Sir Francis Drake was one of the most successful English Sea Dogs of all time! In this lesson, you will find out what led to this success and the importance of Sir Francis Drake to the English Crown.

Sir Francis Drake

To the English, he was one of Queen Elizabeth's most successful Sea Dogs; however, to the Spanish he was no more than a raiding pirate! Who was this mystery man? Sir Francis Drake. In 1580 he was the first sailor to complete a voyage around the world as captain of the ship! Only one man--Ferdinand Magellan--had attempted the same feat before Drake; however, Magellan died before completing the trip. There is a lot more to the successful sailing career of Sir Francis Drake, but for now let's start at the beginning.

The Beginning

His true date of birth is unknown, but many people believe that Sir Francis Drake was born between 1540 and 1544 in Devonshire, England. His parents were Protestant farmers, and Drake was the oldest of 12 sons. Can you imagine growing up with 11 brothers? As you will learn, Francis Drake grew up to be a tough sea navigator or explorer, and maybe his childhood had something to do with that!

The Makings of a Sea Dog

Francis Drake's first taste of sea life came when he sailed the waterways between England and France trading goods as a merchant. Then, at the age of 23, he took a job as a privateer, or armed ship officer, who had the right to capture enemy ships. For the next several years he sailed off the coast of France seizing other merchant ships. Then, in 1560, he began sailing ships with his cousin into Africa to illegally capture slaves. During one of these voyages, he was cornered by Spanish forces, and several of his crew members were killed. The experience left Drake with a hatred for the Spanish and a desire for revenge.

An English Sea Dog

After his return from Africa, Sir Francis Drake caught the attention of the English queen, Elizabeth I, who made him an official English privateer, or English Sea Dog. This title gave him the right to capture Spanish ships and ports, or harbors, where ships dock and unload cargo, in order to take stolen goods. In July of 1572 Drake made his first raid on the Spanish port city of Nombre de Dios off the coast of Panama. This port was a stopover for Spanish treasure ships to unload cargo and reload it on ships bound for Spain. Drake and his men were able to capture the city and all of its treasure!

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