Sir Francis Drake

Years after his return to England, in 1581, in a ceremony held aboard his ship, theGolden Hind, Francis Drake was knighted by Elizabeth I of England as a reward for his services to the English Crown.

From that moment on he would hold the title of sir, and on his coat of arms he coined the legend “Sic parvis magna” (“Greatness is born from small beginnings”), alluding to his humble origins. He remained on land for the next several years, being appointed Mayor of Plymouth, and later a Member of the English Parliament.

war with spain

In 1585, as a result of the constant attacks by English corsairs on the Spanish fleet, the Anglo-Spanish War began. Queen Elizabeth I commissioned Drake to command a squadron with the task of attacking the Spanish territories in the Indies.

First expedition to the Indies (1585-1586)

Anchoring in the Cíes Islands

On September 14 of that same year, Drake sailed from Plymouth in command of a fleet of 21 ships and 2,000 men, the idea was to cross the Spanish coast to finally fall on Lisbon.

On October 6, the English squadron anchored in Cíes, from where the next day unsuccessfully attacks the square of Baiona, but during the attack a strong storm begins that forces him to take shelter inside the Vigo estuary, where he disembarks, stealing whatever cattle he finds at hand, and firing a few cannon shots at it.

In the face of this attack, The people of Vigo, without exception of classes, sexes or ages, came to the defense of their people, with such bravery and courage, that they forced the English to withdraw, abandoning them, the cattle they had stolen, Drake’s squadron set sail from those waters, heading towards the Canary Islands.

This heroic resistance of Vigo was combined with the forces brought together by Pedro Bermúdez, Governor of Baiona, and those of Diego Sarmiento, Lord of Salvatierra.

Attack and looting in Cádiz

In 1587he led a campaign against the fleet that Philip II was preparing to invade England. In an unprecedented expedition, Drake’s fleet attacked and sacked Cadiz, destroying more than 30 ships destined for the Invincible Armada; he proceeded to Lisbon, where he threatened the fleet of the Marquis of Santa Cruz, Álvaro de Bazán, without actually attacking it, and turning towards the Azores Islands, captured the ship San Felipe, which from the Indies It was laden with treasures.

The resounding success of Drake’s expedition delayed the Spanish plans to invade England for another year.

After the disaster of the invincible Armada, the English objectives were to attack and plunder the Spanish coasts and provoke and support an insurrection in Portugal against its king, Philip II of Spain.

Attack on La Coruna

They wanted to take over some of the Azores islands to have a permanent base in the Atlantic from which to assault the Spanish Indies fleets.

Drake also attacked La Coruña, managing to loot a part of the city but finally being repulsed, highlighting the figure of María Pita in the heroic defense and the English suffering some 1,300 deaths and the loss of four ships.

In addition, he also failed to initiate the revolt of the Portuguese against Felipe II and to occupy some of the Azores islands, finally being forced to beat a retreatwithout having achieved a single one of his objectives and having suffered tremendous losses of 12 thousand men and 20 boats.

Attack on Vigo

However, he wanted to change such a bitter thorn and in order not to return empty-handed and the morale of his troops sank, he made a fleeting stopover in the lower Galician estuaries during his return. mercilessly rampaging for four days, the defenseless town of Vigo, to which his crew, without government and eager for revenge, inflicted cruelty-laden excesses until leaving the town reduced to ashes. Not even from this abusive display of power did the privateer escape unscathed, since he lost some five hundred men on land, in addition to as many wounded. The growing defense of the inhabitants and the arrival of militias from Portugal, put the ships back in retreat.

After an investigation was opened in England to try to clarify the causes of the disaster, Drake, whose behavior was harshly criticized by his comrades-in-arms, was relegated to the modest position of commander of the coastal defenses of Plymouth,denied command of any naval expedition during the next six years.

Will continue in chapter 3