On this day September 26, 1580

Sir Francis Drake finishes his circumnavigation of the Earth when Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth with Drake and 59 remaining crew aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures.

Statue of Sir Drake in Plymouth

Drake's statue in Plymouth

The Queen’s half-share of the cargo surpassed the rest of the crown’s income for that entire year. Drake was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth.

Drake was awarded a knighthood, but not by Queen Elizabeth aboard Golden Hind, as is commonly thought.

He was actually knighted by a French nobleman called Monsieur de Marchaumont, on 4 April 1581, and, in September 1581, became the Mayor of Plymouth.

He was also a Member of Parliament in 1581, for an unknown constituency, and again in 1584 for Bossiney.

The Queen ordered all written accounts of Drake’s voyage to be considered classified information, and its participants sworn to silence on pain of death; her aim was to keep Drake’s activities away from the eyes of rival Spain.

Drake was a navigator, slaver, a renowned pirate, his exploits were legendary, making him a hero to the English but a pirate to the Spaniards , King Philip II was claimed to have offered a reward of 20,000 ducats, about (US$6.5M) by modern standards, for his life.

He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588, subordinate only to Charles Howard and the Queen herself. He died of dysentery in January 1596 after unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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