Thursday, 26 September 2013

Sir Francis Drake and Spanish King's Gold

On 26 September 1580, after a world tour that lasted 2 years and 10 months, Francis Drake arrived back in England.

Bonfires were lit, church bells were rung, Ringo Starr performed a medley of his Greatest Hit, and Queen Elizabeth knighted the returning hero aboard his vessel, the Golden Hind.

He brought with him chests filled with Spanish gold, much to the displeasure of Philip II of Spain.
'Give me back my gold!' tweeted Philip.
'Your gold? You stole it from the Incas, you ratbag!' replied Drake.
'I did it with the full authority of His Holiness the Pope!' retorted Philip. And then in a separate tweet: 'And don't call me a ratbag!'

But all this meant nothing to Sir Francis. He was now a celebrity! And with one woman on his right arm, one on his left, another with her tongue in his mouth, he soon became the talk of the town.

But Philip was not one to give up easily! He demanded that the Queen hand over 'that English pirate Drake', forgetting that the Queen was the English pirate Drake's partner in crime. 

He instructed his Ambassador in England to remind the Queen of the papal bull that appointed Spain the sole guardian of the southern seas, and by extension, the nation with the exclusive monopoly to ravage and to plunder and to rob all and any civilization in the hemisphere of its wealth, its cultures and its traditions.

But the Protestant monarch Elizabeth was not impressed. However, to mollify Philip and get him off her back, she gave him a tiny portion of the loot, which Philip used to finance a revolt against Elizabeth in Ireland.

The shipowners, on the other hand, who financed the expedition, with a return on their investments of 4,700%, had hit the jackpot! 'Better than shares in Facebook!' one was heard to proclaim.

Meanwhile, Sir Francis continued to bask in glory. He became Mayor of Plymouth and a Member of Parliament. But the sedentary life was not for him, and he returned to the high seas as Vice-Admiral and continued to steal the Spanish king's gold. He died at sea off the coast of Panama in 1596 and was buried in full body armour in a lead-lined coffin. 

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