Francis Drake

Francis Drake (c. 1540–1596) was one of the most famous sailors of the Elizabethan age. An English sea captain and privateer, he spent his life taking treasures, sieging cities and thwarting enemy ships. Queen Elizabeth I gave him a knighthood for his actions. He also helped the English navy to defeat the Spanish Armada. Find out more about Drake’s daring adventures and use our collection of printable resources to test your knowledge.

Fun facts: The Spanish gave Drake the nickname ‘El Draque’ (The Dragon). Francis was so hated by the Spanish that King Philip II of Spain put a bounty on his head of 20,000 ducats - that’s about US$8 million today - for the person who killed or captured him!

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.”
Francis Drake

A Short Biography of Francis Drake

Francis DrakeFrancis was born in around 1540 in Tavistock, Devon, England – the eldest of 12 sons. His father was a farmer who later became a preacher for the navy. When he was 12, Francis was sent to work for a sea captain to raise money for the family. The captain was so impressed with Francis’s work that he left his ship to him when he died.

Francis’s second cousin and his family were privateers. This meant that the English government allowed them to fight enemy ships. In the 1560’s, Francis joined his cousin John Hawkins on three voyages to West Africa, capturing slaves and taking them to the ‘New World’ of the Americas. During the last of these trips, they came under attack from Spanish warships. All but two of the fleet were lost and many men died. From then on, Francis made the Spanish his lifelong enemy. They disliked him, too, calling him a pirate.

On his return, Francis wanted revenge and began working as a privateer himself. He attacked Spanish towns and ships and took their treasures. This made him very rich. Queen Elizabeth I recognised his success and in 1577, at her command, he took a fleet of five ships to South America to raid the Spanish once more.

Francis and his men plundered Spanish ports and captured a Spanish ship, the Cacafuego, which was laden with treasure. But many sailors died from disease and four of the ships were lost at sea. Just the main ship (the Pelican) survived – later renamed the Golden Hind. Francis returned to England in September 1580, laden with Spanish spices and valuable booty. In recognition of his achievements, Elizabeth I knighted him on board ship. Francis also became the first Englishman (and only the second person in the world) to sail around the globe in a single expedition.

In 1588, King Philip II of Spain sent a huge fleet of Spanish warships, called the Spanish Armada, across the seas to invade England. The threat from Spain was very grave, but Francis, who was now second-in-command of the English navy, had an idea to defeat them. In the night, a fleet of empty ships were set on fire and sailed into the Spanish fleet. The Spanish panicked and fled, giving the English a chance to strike. With the help of a huge storm, many of the Spanish ships were sunk or wrecked on the rocky coastline. Francis had helped to defend England’s shores.

Francis’s last expedition was less fortunate, however. In 1595, he travelled with John Hawkins again to the West Indies in search of treasure. But the Spanish were prepared for them this time, and their attempts were unsuccessful. Francis died of dysentery (a bacterial infection) in January 1596, off the coast of Panama. Hawkins also fell sick and died at sea. Their bodies were buried in lead coffins and lowered into the ocean. They have never been found.

Our Francis Drake Activities

A Letter to Francis Drake Worksheet

A Letter to Francis Drake Worksheet

Here's a great activity to get the kids thinking a bit about what it would be like to live in the past. Can they write a letter to Sir Francis Drake explaining why they should join his crew? What qualities do you think he'd look for in a shipmate?

Compare and Contrast Privateer and Pirate Worksheet

Compare and Contrast Privateer and Pirate Worksheet

Were privateers really just pirates who were on the right side of the law? Older kids can use our venn diagram to show the main differences and similarities between privateers and pirates. The results might be surprising!

Design an Award for Francis Drake Worksheet

Design an Award for Francis Drake Worksheet

Sir Francis Drake received a knighthood from Elizabeth I for his services to her and the country. Our printable asks the kids to design their own award for the famous Elizabethan sea captain. 

Francis Drake Booklet

Francis Drake Booklet

Print and fold this little booklet (using the instructions here) and use it to record what you've learned about Francis Drake. Why not build up a miniature library on the Tudor Kings and Queens and famous Tudors?

Francis Drake Colouring Page

Francis Drake Colouring Page

This cartoon-style drawing of Sir Francis Drake, the most famous seaman of the Elizabethan age, is a perfect activity for younger kids.

Francis Drake Colouring Page 2

Francis Drake Colouring Page 2

Here's a more detailed colouring page featuring an illustration of the famous Elizabethan explorer and privateer Sir Francis Drake, ideal for older kids.

Francis Drake Comprehension

Francis Drake Comprehension

This Francis Drake comprehension worksheet is aimed at older children. They need to read the text and use it to answer the questions at the end to show that they have understood it.

Francis Drake factsheet

Francis Drake Factsheet

Learn a little about Sir Francis Drake by reading our printable factsheet. You can also use it alongside some of our Francis Drake worksheets.

Francis Drake Interview Worksheet

Francis Drake Interview Worksheet

Here's an interesting challenge for the kids. Can they imagine they are a talk show host interviewing Sir Francis Drake? What would you ask him about his adventures? 

Francis Drake Notebooking Page

Francis Drake Notebooking Page

We have two notebooking pages for writing about Francis Drake, both illustrated with his portrait and one with space for your own picture.

Francis Drake Poster

Francis Drake Poster

Here's a cartoon-style poster of the most famous seaman of the Elizabethan age, Sir Francis Drake. Print out and use as part of classroom displays and topic work.

Francis Drake Ships Colouring Page

Francis Drake Ships Colouring Page

Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the world in the Golden Hind. This colouring page, taken from an etching, shows one of his ships - presumably the Golden Hind, although we can't be 100% sure!

Francis Drake Story Paper

Francis Drake Story Paper

Use our story paper to write about Francis Drake - and of course the kids can colour in the picture of the famous sailor too! Choose from the download links below depending on which version you prefer.

Francis Drake Story Paper 2

Francis Drake Story Paper 2

Our 2nd set of story paper for Francis Drake is designed for older children and including a portrait colouring page of him to colour in and 3 pages to use, including space for your own pictures, illustrations or diagrams. Perfect for project work.

Francis Drake Worksheet

Francis Drake Worksheet

This worksheet is designed to get the kids thinking about what it would be like to meet Sir Francis Drake and what they would talk about, and also find out some basic facts about the famous privateer. There are two versions to choose from, colour or black and white.

Francis Drake Writing Page

Francis Drake Writing Page

Our Sir Francis Drake writing page is designed for younger kids to record what they have learned about the famous sea captain. Choose from colour or black or white. 

Learn To Draw Francis Drake

Learn To Draw Francis Drake

Children can practise their people-drawing skills with this step by step lesson on how to draw Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. 

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