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Sir Francis Drake

(1540-1596), Admiral and circumnavigator

Sitter associated with 39 portraits
Born in Devon, Drake went to sea at a young age and earned his fame and fortune by skill and piracy against the Spanish. In 1557 he and his cousin John Hawkins sailed to Africa and became England’s earliest recorded slave traders. After leading two expeditions to the West Indies, Queen Elizabeth I granted him a privateer’s commission, effectively authorising him to plunder Spanish ports in the West Indies. In 1577 Elizabeth commissioned him to lead an expedition to South America through the Straights of Magellan. Drake’s ship, the Pelican (later renamed the Golden Hind) was the only ship to reach the Pacific. He arrived back in Plymouth in 1580, becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. In 1585 he commanded a fleet of 25 ships and sailed to the West Indies, plundering Spanish ports and taking Santiago in the Cape Verde Islands, Cartagena in Colombia, St. Augustine in Florida and San Domingo in the Dominican Republic. In 1588, Drake served as second-in-command to Admiral Charles Howard in the English victory over the Spanish fleet, known as the Spanish Armada. In 1596 Elizabeth enlisted him for another voyage against Spain in the West Indies, but it failed. He died off the coast of Panama and was buried at sea.

More on Sir Francis Drake: Tudor & Jacobean Portraits book in our Shops | Elizabethan Treasures: Miniatures by Hilliard and Oliver catalogue in our Shops

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Sir Francis Drake, by Nicholas Hilliard - NPG 4851

Sir Francis Drake

by Nicholas Hilliard
watercolour on vellum, 1581
NPG 4851

Sir Francis Drake, attributed to Jodocus Hondius, completed by  George Vertue - NPG 3905

Sir Francis Drake

attributed to Jodocus Hondius, completed by George Vertue
engraving, circa 1583
NPG 3905

Sir Francis Drake, after an engraving attributed to Jodocus Hondius - NPG 1627

Sir Francis Drake

after an engraving attributed to Jodocus Hondius
oil on panel, circa 1583
NPG 1627

Sir Francis Drake, possibly by Jodocus Hondius - NPG D25402

Sir Francis Drake

possibly by Jodocus Hondius
line engraving, possibly late 16th to early 17th century
NPG D25402

Sir Francis Drake, after Unknown artist - NPG D2283

Sir Francis Drake

after Unknown artist
line engraving, late 16th-early 17th century
NPG D2283

Sir Francis Drake, by Johan Wierix, after  Jean Rabel - NPG D25403

Sir Francis Drake

by Johan Wierix, after Jean Rabel
line engraving, possibly early 17th century
NPG D25403

Circumnavigators, by Unknown artist - NPG D21178


by Unknown artist
etching, early 17th century
NPG D21178

Sir Francis Drake, possibly by Magdalena de Passe, possibly by  Willem de Passe - NPG D25411

Sir Francis Drake

possibly by Magdalena de Passe, possibly by Willem de Passe
line engraving, 1620
NPG D25411

Sir Francis Drake, by Robert Vaughan - NPG D25414

Sir Francis Drake

by Robert Vaughan
line engraving, probably mid 17th century
NPG D25414

Sir Francis Drake, after Unknown artist - NPG D25407

Sir Francis Drake

after Unknown artist
line engraving, probably 18th century
NPG D25407

Sir Francis Drake, after Unknown artist - NPG D25405

Sir Francis Drake

after Unknown artist
line engraving, probably mid 18th century
NPG D25405

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