The treasure captured by Drake on a trip around the world (See also: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=9041; 14996) made him a wealthy man, and the Queen Elizabeth I knighted him in 1581. That year he also was appointed mayor of Plymouth and became a member of the House of Commons.
Between 1585 and 1586, relations between England and Spain grew worse. Queen Elizabeth I unleashed Drake on the Spanish in a series of raids that captured several cities in North and South America, taking treasure and inflicting damage on Spanish morale. These acts were part of what prompted Spain’s Philip II to invade England. He ordered the construction of a vast armada of warships, fully equipped and manned. In a preemptive strike, Drake conducted a raid on the Spanish city of Cadiz, destroying more than 30 ships and thousands of tons of supplies. English philosopher Francis Bacon would come to refer to this act as "singeing the king of Spain’s beard."
In 1588 Drake was appointed vice admiral of the English Navy, under Lord Charles Howard. On July 21, 130 ships of the Spanish Armada entered the English Channel in a crescent formation. The English fleet sailed out to meet them, relying upon long-range cannon fire to significantly damage the armada over the ensuing days.
On July 27th, Spanish commander Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, the duke of Medina Sidonia, anchored the armada off the coast of Calais, France, in hopes of meeting up with Spanish soldiers who would join in the invasion. The next evening, Lord Howard and Drake organized fire ships to sail right into the Spanish fleet. They did little damage, but the ensuing panic caused some of the Spanish captains to cut anchor and scatter. Strong winds carried many of the ships towards the North Sea, and the English followed in pursuit.
At the Battle of Gravelines, the English began getting the better of the Spaniards. With the armada formation broken, the lumbering Spanish galleons were easy targets for the English ships, which could quickly move in to fire one or two well-aimed broadsides before scurrying off to safety. By late afternoon, the English pulled back. Due to weather and the presence of enemy forces, Medina Sidonia was forced to take the armada north around Scotland and back to Spain. As the fleet sailed away from the Scottish coast, a strong gale drove many ships onto the Irish rocks. Thousands of Spaniards drowned, and those who reached land were later executed by English authorities. Less than half of the original fleet returned to Spain, sustaining huge casualties.
In 1589, Queen Elizabeth I ordered Drake to seek out and destroy any remaining ships of the armada and help Portuguese rebels in Lisbon fight against Spanish occupiers. The expedition instead sustained major losses in terms of lives and resources. Drake returned home, and for the next several years busied himself with duties as mayor of Plymouth.
In 1595, Queen Elizabeth I called upon Drake and his cousin, John Hawkins, to capture Spain's treasure supply in Panama, in hopes of cutting off revenue and ending the Anglo-Spanish War. After the defeat at Nombre de Dios, Drake's fleet moved farther west and anchored off the coast of Portobelo, Panama. There, Drake contracted dysentery and, on January 28, 1596, died of a fever. He was buried in a lead coffin at sea near Portobelo. Divers continue to search for the coffin.
PMR 2019; [P]; 2019;[P].
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