1. Sir Francis Drake was the first Englishman to circle the world and just the second person in history to do it. Drake's circuit of the world was also a covert pirate operation against the Spanish, sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth. He returned with over $7 million in treasure from his raids -- money that helped fund England's early modern era.
Two years after Drake's death, the British government issued a decree authorizing further attacks on the Spanish fleet. This led to the First Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604). The aim was to force Spain to end its support for Portugal, which had invaded England's ally France, as well as to capture more treasure.
The British won their first battle against the Spanish in 1588, when an English army under the command of Sir John Norreys defeated the much larger Spanish force at the Battle of St. James's Field. But the conflict was not completely one-sided; the British suffered major losses at the hands of the Spanish too. One in five soldiers sent to fight in Europe died before reaching battle terrain, mostly from disease or accident.
After this initial victory, however, the two countries settled their differences out of court by forming a trade alliance called the "Treaty of London" (also known as the "Defence Pact"). This agreement allowed both nations to trade without fear of attack.
Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596) Drake was also the second person in history to traverse the globe while stealing Spanish ships. Drake covered a large area, raiding the Spanish on the Pacific Coast all the way up to modern-day San Francisco. His most famous raid was against Puerto Rico, where he stole over $1 million in gold and silver coins. He never returned with his ship, but it is believed that he died at age 50 while sailing back to England.
Drake started out as a young man working for John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. When Morton went to Spain as an envoy, he took Drake with him to serve as his secretary. While in Europe, Drake learned how to sail boats and fight on the water, skills that would come in handy when he later roamed the seas as a privateer. When Morton returned to England, he brought back news of rich lands and huge stores of gold and silver that were being kept by the Spanish in their colonies. This information excited King Henry VIII, who wanted to seize these riches for himself. So, he gave Drake a license to attack the Spanish anywhere in their empire.
For two years, Drake attacked Spanish settlements in the New World without winning any major battles. But in April 1572, he finally met with success when he captured a large Portuguese ship laden with gold and silver near Chile.
Francis Drake Sir Francis Drake is well remembered for circumnavigating the world while preying on Spanish ships from 1577 to 1580. However, this last action is disputed by some historians who point out that the fire ships were British, not American.
Drake first arrived in South America in 1572, where he captured a number of ships on his way back to Europe. He returned home rich in gold and silver but also infected with syphilis, which may have impaired his mind or led him to engage in acts of piracy.
In April 1577, he set out again with a small crew in three small vessels. This time his aim was to raid Spanish ships off the coast of Mexico and Peru. He returned home after capturing four large ships and having rescued survivors from two other vessels that had been destroyed during the raids. His actions caused Parliament to pass a law against pirates and granted Drake special privileges, including the ability to seize enemy ships without penalty.
However, neither Drake nor any member of his crew was ever paid by England for their efforts. Therefore, he and his men became pirates at heart and continued to attack Spanish ships until they were finally caught and executed in August 1596 near San Juan de Puerto Rico.