Sir Francis Drake rediscovered? Queen Elizabeth I's pirate may have been found

Recently we've had the opportunity to talk about Titanic memorabilia as some items which were saved from the famous disaster were offered for sale. But now the sea seems to have offered up a wholly unexpected treasure: the final resting place of Sir Francis Drake and his ships.

Drake is remembered fondly by Englishmen as one of the most charismatic men of the Elizabethan age. A navigator, privateer and vice-admiral, Drake explored the new world of the Caribbean and even became only the second seafarer in recorded history to circle the globe.

Sir Francis Drake Document
A Sir Francis Drake signed document, sold last year
(Click for signature)

A team of researchers has discovered two ships from Drake's fleet lying on the seabed off the coast of Panama: the 195-ton Elizabeth and 50-ton Delight. Both were scuttled shortly after the naval hero's death, and his body is believed to have been buried at sea nearby, in full armour within a lead casket.

That is still to be confirmed, but the discovery of the ships themselves is an incredible find.

In Drake's later life, he was a 'privateer' - effectively a pirate with a license: one country might encourage individual captains to attack the ships and property of another and provide assistance.

Attacked whilst on a voyage to Caribbean near San Juan de Ulua, Drake vowed revenge on the Spanish who had carried out the raid, and carried out a number of attacks.

His most successful raid was capturing the Silver Train, the regular mule train which the Spanish sent carrying its huge burden of treasure from Peru back through Spanish territories to Spain. Drake's relatively small force overcame the train and captured a vast amount of gold and silver.

Elizabeth I signed document
Extraordinary document signed by Elizabeth I complete with her seal
(Click for more details)

So great was the plunder, in fact, that Drake and his men were unable to carry it all back and whilst they took a fortune in gold, they had to leave a fortune in silver. Much was buried, which may have initiated the idea of pirates' buried treasure.

An example of Drake's autograph sold for $37,000 in 2010 at Alexander Autographs, though the buyer may have snaffled themselves a bargain there.

Queen Elizabeth I described him as "her pirate", and he played a crucial part in defeating the Spanish Armada when it came to invade Britain, perhaps the event which both Drake and Elizabeth are best remembered for.

Elizabeth I's autograph can be very valuable too, of course. We have an absolutely unique example for a collector to buy which is actually accompanied by her great seal. In fact, the piece is so extraordinary that it qualifies for our 120% guarantee.

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