Sir Francis Drake (1543–96) was an English navigator and explorer famous for leading his country’s defense against the Spanish Armada in 1588.
He was also one of the most notorious pirates in the Caribbean. Arriving in the West Indies as the young captain of the Judith, this favorite of Queen Elizabeth I brought the swashbuckling attitudes of the Elizabethan Age to the Virgin Islands. Although a military hero to the English, he was a pirate to his main enemy, the Spaniards. Because of his attacks on Spanish ships, King Phillip II put a reward of 20,000 ducats on his head (or $6.5 million in today’s U.S. currency). A channel through the Virgin Islands now bears his name. In 1580, Drake became the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. He died aboard his ship off Panama on January 27, 1596, and was buried at sea.