Sir Francis Drake was the most dashing of the many ambitious seamen to serve Queen Elizabeth I. His was an age when the world seemed there for the taking, whether in the form of riches, glory or lasting renown. For a God-fearing Protestant of good yeoman stock, turning the highs seas into an English lake seemed nothing less than a birthright -- especially if the only people in one's way were Catholics. In this masterly new biography, Stephen the shows how Drake deliberately and skillfully fashioned himself into the very image of the English Protestant hero -- the little man who took on the might of Spain.
Drake's achievements were truly formidable and a testament to his immense skills as a tactician and a leader of men. He was the first Englishman to sail around the world. He was also the pirate who helped to line many pockets in London, both royal and merchant -- his audacious raids on Spanish ports in the Caribbean often returned handsome profits for their backers, including the Queen herself, who delighted in the spoils won from such state-sponsored terrorism. But Drake's domineering genius was also applied to great issues of national security. The man who "singed his Catholic Majesty's beard" with his devastating attack on Cadiz harbor in 1587 would also play a significant role in the defeat of the Armada a year later.
Stephen the brilliant re-evaluation of this self-made Elizabethan hero is a fascinating portrait of the man and his era. Vividly recreating the key episodes in the construction of teh Drake legend, from the West Indies voyages to the Nombre de Dios expedition, the Armada and, of course, the extraordinary circumnavigation, Coote shows how manipulated for other ends in the centuries following his death.
Was Drake just a rabid anti-papist, a state-sponsored terrorist and slaver? Or was he embodiment of English sangfroid, and empire-builder and hero? Drake was all of these things and more, and this gripping and entertaining biography gives us a picture of the man altogether richer and more interesting than we could have imagined.