Much like our trip to the Caribbean early next year, the history of the Caribbean is not only told on land but on the high seas as well. Piracy is not only the theme of our adventure, but it was a way of life for hundreds of years as men and women fought the law, and other law breakers, for the ability to live their lives the way they wanted as well as to line their pockets with an appropriate amount of coins. Every Monday we are going to take a look at the legendary Pirates of the high seas and highlight some great stories! Today I am highlighting one legendary man, who led many successful campaigns within the Caribbean as well as all over the world.
Sir Francis Drake is a man of contention between the English and the Spanish. To his people in England he was a national hero, and why wouldn’t he be? He led several attacks against their enemies and was a capable ship captain. Not only that, but he became the first Englishman to lead an expedition that circumnavigated the globe successfully. In a strange note about the man’s mannerisms it is said that before he had a supposed mutineer, Thomas Doughty, beheaded he granted the man’s request for communion and while they were eating they both laughed like old friends and kept good cheer despite the circumstances. Drake’s greatest early success is undoubtedly the raid he perpetrated at Panama in 1573. It was hard fought, and involved the Spanish dogging their steps, but eventually they made out with several tons of treasure to bring back home. Drake, having been sent ahead and looking quite a mess, played a joke on his men who were awaiting him off island by appearing disappointed before pulling out a necklace of Spanish gold and giving them the good news.
As much as such successes made him a hero to England, it equally made him a villain to the Spanish people. He led successful attacks on Vigo and Santiago before selling across the Atlantic and sacking Santo Domingo and capturing Cartagena de Indias, which is present day Colombia. To top it off, he raided the Spanish fort of San Augustin in Florida. So angered was the Spanish King Philip II he ordered the invasion of England. Drake, not nearly having finished with the Spanish yet, launched a pre-emptive strike and ‘singed the beard of the King of Spain’ in 1587 by going into Cadiz and Corunna, two of Spain’s most important ports, and took the harbors. Afterwards he patrolled the Iberian coasts and disrupted the Spanish supply line in a major way. Due to the nature of these attacks the Spanish invasion force was delayed by nearly a year. When the Spanish Armada finally made its attempt to invade England Drake, a vice admiral at the time, won many battles for the English and contributed mightily to the defense of his homeland.
All good things must come to an end though, and so Drake’s success against the Spanish would as well. In his fifties he failed to conquer the port of Las Palmas, and led a disastrous campaign against Spanish America where he suffered numerous defeats. In his final conflict he led an unsuccessful attack on San Juan, Puerto Rico, eventually losing the famous ‘Battle of San Juan.’ He survived the encounter, but died weeks later of dysentery while anchored near Panama. With his dying breaths he asked to be dressed in his full armor and to be buried at sea. His wishes were respected and he was buried in a lead coffin near Portobelo, where explorers still search for the infamous coffin to this day. A hero to some, a villain to others, Sir Francis Drake left an indelible mark on history.
Have you decided the pirate’s life is for you? Fantastic! We are proud to be hosting the Black Pearl Ball, which is our welcome aboard Masquerade party! You have to do Sir Francis Drake proud of course, you can’t be looking like a scoundrel now can you? For some good ideas for pirate outfits as well as accessories, go here. And for all of the details about our Drag Stars at Sea: Pirates of the Caribbean, go here.