Elizabethan Age of Exploration
The initial part of the 16th Century was dominated by the Portuguese and Spanish when it came to exploration. However all that changed after Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558. The Queen constantly granted explorers permission to set up colonies on whichever land they found while on an expedition.
She was indeed in a way lucky to have had the like of Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir John Hawkins, Sir Martin Frobisher, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Richard Grenville at her disposal for they were all stout soldiers with navigational expertise that drew one's attention.
Renaissance and its after effects:
The Renaissance led to liberalization of thought and the rise of revolutionary methods of exploration which were fully utilized by the Spanish to their fullest effect. Soon the likes of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Juan Diaz de Solis and Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba had managed to explore a huge chunk of the Americas.
The race to find trade routes to the Far East and the subsequent race to colonize the Far Eastern countries was being won by the Spanish while other European powers could only watch.
The Rise of England:
Soon after Elizabeth I rose to the monarchy in England, we saw a change in the general scenario of exploration. Sir John Hawkins sailed to the Caribbean and Sir Humphrey Gilbert founded Newfoundland, Sir Martin Frobisher explored much of Greenland and present day Canada.
However the contributions of Sir Francis Drake seemed to prove the most important as he plundered Spanish treasures at will with his crew, helped in the defeat of the Spanish Armada significantly, circumnavigated the Earth and in doing so became the first Englishman to return from the quest alive.
So much was the fear that Sir Francis Drake instilled in the Spanish that they called him "El Draque, the pirate" and King Philip II even put a bounty on his head. It was on the basis of the combined efforts of these extraordinary gentlemen that England became the naval force of Europe and the Age of Exploration flourished under the Elizabethan Era.