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Fine early portrait of Sir Francis Drake, after a painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller.

Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) was England's most famous 16th Century mariner. As the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, Drake was responsible for a wide range of discoveries and English territorial claims, including its claim to the Island of California.

His piracy during the circumnavigation of the globe resulted in a number of profitable raids on Spanish ships and ports. Drake's increasingly frequent and serious attacks during the 1580s were an important factor contributing to Philips II's decision to launch the Armada against England in 1588.