- John Hawkins was the older cousin of Francis Drake - pioneered the efforts to break Spain's hold in the Caribbean - His streamlining of ships contributed to England's defeat of the Spanish Armada.
John Hawkins was born in 1532 in Plymouth, England to a prosperous merchant family.He went to sea as a young man like many others from the area, and soon had a highly profitable business stealing slaves from Portuguese ships off West Africa and selling them illegally all over the Spanish Main.
Queen Elizabeth eventually became one of his backers despite increasing strain between England and France, and she was protected by Hawkins from the plots of Spain to remove her from the throne.
Beginning in 1577 as naval treasurer and later as chief administrator, Hawkins spent time on land streamlining both the navy's finances and her ships, as well as backing his cousin Sir Francis Drake. His efforts led to receiving knighthood and contributed greatly to the ultimate defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
John Hawkins wished to deal the Spanish a deathblow, and so he sailed with Frobisher in an attack on the Spanish Treasure Fleet in the Azores in 1590. The operation was a tactical failure but an inspirational success; it started a growing movement of pirates and piracy that would help to break the hold of Spain in the New World.
He spent several more years occupied with his business before sailing one last time with Francis Drake to South America in 1595. It seems this trip was more personal for Hawkins, for some report that he was attempting to rescue his son Richard from captivity in Peru. He died at 63 of an unknown illness aboard his ship near Puerto Rico.