The truth of any legend is often very hard to discern, but Sir Francis Drake is a man whose reputation defies simple categorisation. A hero, a privateer and a respected Admiral on one hand; a pirate and infamous slave-trader on the other. Two sides of the coin, two separate stories and, depending on who you talk to, both are true.

Sir Francis Drake

The Truth about Sir Francis Drake
The concrete, indisputable facts are as follows: Drake was born around 1540 in Devon, England. He was a favorite among his fellow seamen, and of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Drake circumnavigated the globe on the Golden Hind, and fought off the Spanish Armanda Invasion in 1588, and was commissioned by the queen to target Spanish ships and ports. He was also a well known slave trader, taking captives from Africa to New Spain. At the age of 56, he died of dysentery in Panama and was buried at sea.

Here the truth fades into speculation and opinion; legend has it that when the Spanish invaded in 1558 Sir Francis Drake was playing boules at Plymouth Hoe, overlooking the English channel. Reportedly he wanted to finish his game first, claiming that it would be an easy thing to win the game and see off the Armada.

Yet the rumours of conditions on board his slave ships (aside from the fact they were slave ships) are far from complimentary. It’s easy to see why certain communities (the British, and English in particular,) would consider Sir Francis Drake a hero, and why in South American and Caribbean communities he would more likely be thought of as a pirate and a ruthless slaver.

One last rumour was that persists is that he was buried at sea, in a lead coffin, off the coast of Panama. Divers have searched for his resting place to no avail; perhaps this is one mystery which should stay lost.