The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World/Chapter X
"In that memorable year, when the dark cloud gathered round our coasts, when Europe stood by in fearful suspense to behold what should be the result of that great cast in the game of human politics, what the craft of Rome, the power of Philip, the genius of Farnese, could achieve against the island-queen, with her Drakes and Cecils,--in that agony of the Protestant faith and English name."--Hallam, Const. Hist. vol. i. p. 220.
On the afternoon of the 19th of July, A.D. 1588, a group of English captains was collected at the Bowling Green on the Hoe at Plymouth, whose equals have never before or since been brought together, even at that favourite mustering-place of the heroes of the British navy. There was Sir Francis Drake, the first English circumnavigator of the globe, the terror of every Spanish coast in the Old World and the New; there was Sir John Hawkins, the rough veteran of many a daring voyage on the African and American seas, and of many a desperate battle; there was Sir Martin Frobisher, one of the earliest explorers of the Arctic seas in search of that North-West Passage which is still the darling object of England's boldest mariners. There was the high-admiral of England, Lord Howard of Effingham, prodigal of all things in his country's cause, and who had recently had the noble daring to refuse to dismantle part of the fleet, though the Queen had sent him orders to do so, in consequence of an exaggerated report that the enemy had been driven back and shattered by a storm. Lord Howard (whom contemporary writers describe as being of a wise and noble courage, skilful in sea matters, wary and provident, and of great esteem among the sailors) resolved to risk his sovereign's anger, and to keep the ships afloat at his own charge, rather than that England should run the peril of losing their protection.
Another of our Elizabethan sea-kings, Sir Walter Raleigh, was at that time commissioned to raise and equip the land-forces of Cornwall; but, as he was also commander of Plymouth, we may well believe that he must have availed himself of the opportunity of consulting with the lord-admiral and other high officers which was offered by the English fleet putting into that port; and we may look on Raleigh as one of the group that was assembled at the Bowling Green on the Hoe. Many other brave men and skilful mariners, besides the chiefs whose names have been mentioned, were there, enjoying, with true sailor-like merriment, their temporary relaxation from duty. In the harbour lay the English fleet with which they had just returned from a cruise to Corunna in search of information respecting the real condition and movements of the hostile, Armada. Lord Howard had ascertained that our enemies, though tempest-tost, were still formidably strong; and fearing that part of their fleet might make for England in his absence, he had hurried back to the Devonshire coast. He resumed his station at Plymouth, and waited there for certain tidings of the Spaniard's approach.
A match at bowls was being played, in which Drake and other high officers of the fleet were engaged, when a small armed vessel was seen running before the wind into Plymouth harbour, with all sails set. Her commander landed in haste, and eagerly sought the place where the English lord-admiral and his captains were standing. His name was Fleming; he was the master of a Scotch privateer; and he told the English officers that he had that morning seen the Spanish Armada off the Cornish coast. At this exciting information the captains began to hurry down to the water, and there was a shouting for the ship's boats: but Drake coolly checked his comrades, and insisted that the match should be played out. He said that there was plenty of time both to win the game and beat the Spaniards. The best and bravest match that ever was scored was resumed accordingly. Drake and his friends aimed their last bowls with the same steady calculating coolness with which they were about to point their guns. The winning cast was made; and then they went on board and prepared for action, with their hearts as light and their nerves as firm as they had been on the Hoe Bowling Green.
Meanwhile the messengers and signals had been despatched fast and far through England, to warn each town and village that the enemy had come at last. In every seaport there was instant making ready by land and by sea; in every shire and every city there was instant mustering of horse and man. But England's best defence then, as ever, was her fleet; and after warping laboriously out of Plymouth harbour against the wind, the lord-admiral stood westward under easy sail, keeping an anxious look-out for the Armada, the approach of which was soon announced by Cornish fishing-boats, and signals from the Cornish cliffs.
The England of our own days is so strong, and the Spain of our own days is so feeble, that it is not possible, without some reflection and care, to comprehend the full extent of the peril which England then ran from the power and the ambition of Spain, or to appreciate the importance of that crisis in the history of the world. We had then no Indian or Colonial Empire save the feeble germs of our North American settlements, which Raleigh and Gilbert had recently planted. Scotland was a separate kingdom; and Ireland was then even a greater source of weakness, and a worse nest of rebellion than she has been in after times. Queen Elizabeth had found at her accession an encumbered revenue, a divided people and an unsuccessful foreign war, in which the last remnant of our possessions in France had been lost; she had also a formidable pretender to her crown, whose interests were favoured by all the Roman Catholic powers; and even some of her subjects were warped by religious bigotry to deny her title, and to look on her as an heretical usurper. It is true that during the years of her reign which had passed away before the attempted invasion of 1588, she had revived the commercial prosperity, the national spirit, and the national loyalty of England. But her resources, to cope with the colossal power of Philip II., still seemed most scanty; and she had not a single foreign ally, except the Dutch, who were themselves struggling hard, and, as it seemed, hopelessly, to maintain their revolt against Spain.
On the other hand Philip II, was absolute master of an empire so superior to the other states of the world in extent, in resources and especially in military and naval forces, as to make the project of enlarging that empire into a universal monarchy seem a perfectly feasible scheme; and Philip had both the ambition to form that project, and the resolution to devote all his energies, and all his means, to its realization. Since the downfall of the Roman empire no such preponderating power had existed in the world. During the mediaeval centuries the chief European kingdoms were slowly moulding themselves out of the feudal chaos. And, though their wars with each other were numerous and desperate, and several of their respective kings figured for a time as mighty conquerors, none of them in those times acquired the consistency and perfect organization which are requisite for a long-sustained career of aggrandizement. After the consolidation of the great kingdoms, they for some time kept each other in mutual check. During the first half of the sixteenth century, the balancing system was successfully practised by European statesmen. But when Philip II. reigned, France had become so miserably weak through her civil wars, that he had nothing to dread from the rival state, which had so long curbed his father the Emperor Charles V. In Germany, Italy, and Poland he had either zealous friends and dependents, or weak and divided enemies. Against the Turks he had gained great and glorious successes; and he might look round the continent of Europe without discerning a single antagonist of whom he could stand in awe. Spain, when he acceded to the throne, was at the zenith of her power. The hardihood and spirit which the Arragonese, the Castilians, and the other nations of the peninsula had acquired during centuries of free institutions and successful war against the Moors, had not yet become obliterated. Charles V. had, indeed, destroyed the liberties of Spain; but that had been done too recently for its full evil to be felt in Philip's time. A people cannot be debased in a single generation; and the Spaniards under Charles V. and Philip II. proved the truth of the remark, that no nation is ever so formidable to its neighbours, for a time, as is a nation, which, after being trained up in self-government, passes suddenly under a despotic ruler. The energy of democratic institutions survives for a few generations, and to it are superadded the decision and certainty which are the attributes of government, when all its powers are directed by a single mind. It is true that this preter-natural vigour is short-lived: national corruption and debasement gradually follow the loss of the national liberties; but there is an interval before their workings are felt, and in that interval the most ambitious schemes of foreign conquest are often successfully undertaken.
Philip had also the advantage of finding himself at the head of a large standing army in a perfect state of discipline and equipment, in an age when, except some few insignificant corps, standing armies were unknown in Christendom. The renown of the Spanish troops was justly high, and the infantry in particular was considered the best in the world. His fleet, also, was far more numerous, and better appointed, than that of any other European power; and both his soldiers and his sailors had the confidence in themselves and their commanders, which a long career of successful warfare alone can create.
Besides the Spanish crown, Philip succeeded to the kingdom, of Naples and Sicily, the Duchy of Milan, Franche-Comte, and the Netherlands. In Africa he possessed Tunis, Oran, the Cape Verde and the Canary Islands; and in Asia, the Philippine and Sunda Islands and a part of the Moluccas. Beyond the Atlantic he was lord of the most splendid portions of the New world which "Columbus found for Castile and Leon." The empire of Peru and Mexico, New Spain, and Chili, with their abundant mines of the precious metals, Hispaniola and Cuba, and many other of the American Islands, were provinces of the sovereign of Spain.
Philip had, indeed, experienced the mortification of seeing the inhabitants of the Netherlands revolt against his authority, nor could he succeed in bringing back beneath the Spanish sceptre all the possessions which his father had bequeathed to him. But he had reconquered a large number of the towns and districts that originally took up arms against him. Belgium was brought more thoroughly into implicit obedience to Spain than she had been before her insurrection, and it was only Holland and the six other Northern States that still held out against his arms. The contest had also formed a compact and veteran army on Philip's side, which, under his great general, the Prince of Parma, had been trained to act together under all difficulties and all vicissitudes of warfare; and on whose steadiness and loyalty perfect reliance might be placed throughout any enterprise, however difficult and tedious. Alexander Farnese, Prince of Parma, captain-general of the Spanish armies, and governor of the Spanish possessions in the Netherlands was beyond all comparison the greatest military genius of his age. He was also highly distinguished for political wisdom and sagacity, and for his great administrative talents. He was idolised by his troops, whose affections he knew how to win without relaxing their discipline or diminishing his own authority. Pre-eminently cool and circumspect in his plans, but swift and energetic when the moment arrived for striking a decisive blow, neglecting no risk that caution could provide against, conciliating even the populations of the districts which he attacked by his scrupulous good faith, his moderation, and his address, Farnese was one of the most formidable generals that ever could be placed at the head of an army designed not only to win battles, but to effect conquests. Happy it is for England and the world that this island was saved from becoming an arena for the exhibition of his powers.
Whatever diminution the Spanish empire might have sustained in the Netherlands, seemed to be more than compensated by the acquisition of Portugal, which Philip had completely conquered in 1580. Not only that ancient kingdom itself, but all the fruits of the maritime enterprises of the Portuguese had fallen into Philip's hands. All the Portuguese colonies in America, Africa, and the East Indies, acknowledged the sovereignty of the King of Spain; who thus not only united the whole Iberian peninsula under his single sceptre, but had acquired a transmarine empire, little inferior in wealth and extent to that which he had inherited at his accession. The splendid victory which his fleet, in conjunction with the Papal and Venetian galleys, had gained at Lepanto over the Turks, had deservedly exalted the fame of the Spanish marine throughout Christendom; and when Philip had reigned thirty-five years, the vigour of his empire seemed unbroken, and the glory of the Spanish arms had increased, and was increasing throughout the world.
One nation only had been his active, his persevering, and his successful foe. England had encouraged his revolted subjects in Flanders against him, and given them the aid in men and money without which they must soon have been humbled in the dust. English ships had plundered his colonies; had denied his supremacy in the New World, as well as the Old; they had inflicted ignominious defeats on his squadrons; they had captured his cities, and burned his arsenals on the very coasts of Spain. The English had made Philip himself the object of personal insult. He was held up to ridicule in their stage plays and masks, and these scoffs at the man had (as is not unusual in such cases) excited the anger of the absolute king, even more vehemently than the injuries inflicted on his power. Personal as well as political revenge urged him to attack England. Were she once subdued, the Dutch must submit; France could not cope with him, the empire would not oppose him; and universal dominion seemed sure to be the result of the conquest of that malignant island.
There was yet another and a stronger feeling which armed King Philip against England. He was one of the sincerest and sternest bigots of his age. He looked on himself, and was looked on by others, as the appointed champion to extirpate heresy and re- establish the Papal power throughout Europe. A powerful reaction against Protestantism had taken place since the commencement of the second half of the sixteenth century, and Philip believed that he was destined to complete it. The Reform doctrines had been thoroughly rooted out from Italy and Spain. Belgium, which had previously been half Protestant, had been reconquered both in allegiance and creed by Philip, and had become one of the most Catholic countries in the world. Half Germany had been won back to the old faith. In Savoy, in Switzerland and many other countries, the progress of the counter-Reformation had been rapid and decisive. The Catholic league seemed victorious in France. The Papal Court itself had shaken off the supineness of recent centuries; and, at the head of the Jesuits and the other new ecclesiastical orders, was displaying a vigour and a boldness worthy of the days of Hildebrand or Innocent III.
Throughout continental Europe, the Protestants, discomfited and dismayed, looked to England as their protector and refuge. England was the acknowledged central point of Protestant power and policy; and to conquer England was to stab Protestantism to the very heart. Sixtus V., the then reigning pope, earnestly exhorted Philip to this enterprise. And when the tidings reached Italy and Spain that the Protestant Queen of England had put to death her Catholic prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots, the fury of the Vatican and Escurial knew no bounds.
The Prince of Parma, who was appointed military chief of the expedition, collected on the coast of Flanders a veteran force that was to play a principal part in the conquest of England. Besides the troops who were in his garrisons, or under his colours, five thousand infantry were sent to him from northern and central Italy, four thousand from the kingdom of Naples, six thousand from Castile, three thousand from Arragon, three thousand from Austria and Germany, together with four squadrons of heavy-armed horse; besides which he received forces from the Franche-Comte and the Walloon country. By his command, the forest of Waes was felled for the purpose of building flat-bottomed boats, which, floating down the rivers and canals to Meinport and Dunkerque, were to carry this large army of chosen troops to the mouth of the Thames, under the escort of the great Spanish fleet. Gun-carriages, fascines, machines used in sieges, together with every material requisite for building bridges, forming camps, and raising fortresses, were to be placed on board the flotillas of the Prince of Parma, who followed up the conquest of the Netherlands, whilst he was making preparations for the invasion of this island. Favoured by the dissensions between the insurgents of the United Provinces and Leicester, the Prince of Parma had recovered Deventer, as well as a fort before Zutphen, which the English commanders, Sir William Stanley, the friend of Babbington, and Sir Roland York, had surrendered to him, when with their troops they passed over to the service of Philip II., after the death of Mary Stuart, and he had also made himself master of the Sluys. His intention was to leave to the Count de Mansfeldt sufficient forces to follow up the war with the Dutch, which had now become a secondary object, whilst he himself went at the head of fifty thousand men of the Armada and the flotilla, to accomplish the principal enterprise--that enterprise, which, in the highest degree, affected the interests of the pontifical authority. In a bull, intended to be kept secret until the day of landing, Sixtus V., renewing the anathema fulminated against Elizabeth by Pius V. and Gregory XIII., affected to depose her from our throne.
Elizabeth was denounced as a murderous heretic whose destruction was an instant duty. A formal treaty was concluded (in June, 1587), by which the pope bound himself to contribute a million of scudi to the expenses of the war; the money to be paid as soon as the king had actual possession of an English port. Philip, on his part, strained the resources of his vast empire to the utmost. The French Catholic chiefs eagerly co-operated with him. In the sea-ports of the Mediterranean, and along almost the whole coast from Gibraltar to Jutland, the preparations for the great armament were urged forward with all the earnestness of religious zeal, as well as of angry ambition.--"Thus," says the German historian of the Popes, "thus did the united powers of Italy and Spain, from which such mighty influences had gone forth over the whole world, now rouse themselves for an attack upon England! The king had already compiled, from the archives of Simancas, a statement of the claims which he had to the throne of that country on the extinction of the Stuart line; the most brilliant prospects, especially that of an universal dominion of the seas, were associated in his mind with this enterprise. Everything seemed to conspire to such end; the predominance of Catholicism in Germany, the renewed attack upon the Huguenots in France, the attempt upon Geneva, and the enterprise against England. At the same moment a thoroughly Catholic prince, Sigismund III., ascended the throne of Poland, with the prospect also of future succession to the throne of Sweden. But whenever any principle or power, be it what it may, aims at unlimited supremacy in Europe, some vigorous resistance to it, having its origin in the deepest springs of human nature, invariably arises. Philip II. had had, to encounter newly-awakened powers, braced by the vigour of youth, and elevated by a sense of their future destiny. The intrepid corsairs, who had rendered every sea insecure, now clustered round the coasts of their native island. The Protestants in a body,--even the Puritans, although they had been subjected to as severe oppressions as the Catholics,--rallied round their queen, who now gave admirable proof of her masculine courage, and her princely talent of winning the affections, and leading the minds, and preserving the allegiance of men."
Ranke should have added that the English Catholics at this crisis proved themselves as loyal to their queen, and true to their country, as were the most vehement anti-Catholic zealots in the island. Some few traitors there were; but, as a body, the Englishmen who held the ancient faith, stood the trial of their patriotism nobly. The lord-admiral himself was a Catholic, and (to adopt the words of Hallam) "then it was that the Catholics in every county repaired to the standard of the lord-lieutenant, imploring that they might not be suspected of bartering the national independence for their religion itself." The Spaniard found no partisans in the country which he assailed, nor did England, self-wounded,
"Lie at the proud foot of her enemy."
For some time the destination of the enormous armament of Philip was not publicly announced. Only Philip himself, the Pope Sixtus, the Duke of Guise, and Philip's favourite minister, Mendoza, at first knew its real object. Rumours were sedulously spread that it was designed to proceed to the Indies to realize vast projects of distant conquest. Sometimes hints were dropped by Philip's ambassadors in foreign courts, that his master had resolved on a decisive effort to crush his rebels in the Low Countries. But Elizabeth and her statesmen could not view the gathering of such a storm without feeling the probability of its bursting on their own shores. As early as the spring of 1587, Elizabeth sent Sir Francis Drake to cruise off the Tagus. Drake sailed into the Bay of Cadiz and the Lisbon Roads, and burnt much shipping and military stores, causing thereby an important delay in the progress of the Spanish preparations. Drake called this "Singeing the King of of Spain's beard." Elizabeth also increased her succours of troops to the Netherlanders, to prevent the Prince of Parma from overwhelming them, and from thence being at full leisure to employ his army against her dominions.
Each party at this time thought it politic to try to amuse its adversary by pretending to treat for peace, and negotiations were opened at Ostend in the beginning of 1588, which were prolonged during the first six months of that year. Nothing real was effected, and probably nothing real had been intended to be effected by them. But, in the meantime, each party had been engaged in important communications with the chief powers in France, in which Elizabeth seemed at first to have secured a great advantage, but in which Philip ultimately prevailed. "Henry III. of France was alarmed at the negotiations that were going on at Ostend; and he especially dreaded any accommodation between Spain and England, in consequence of which Philip II. might be enabled to subdue the United Provinces, and make himself master of France. In order, therefore, to dissuade Elizabeth from any arrangement, he offered to support her, in case she were attacked by the Spaniards, with twice the number of troops, which he was bound by the treaty of 1574 to send to her assistance. He had a long conference with her ambassador, Stafford, upon this subject, and told him that the Pope and the Catholic King had entered into a league against the queen, his mistress, and had invited himself and the Venetians to join them, but they had refused to do so. 'If the Queen of England,' he added, 'concludes a peace with the Catholic king, that peace will not last three months, because the Catholic king will aid the League with all his forces to overthrow her, and you may imagine what fate is reserved for your mistress after that.' On the other hand, in order most effectually to frustrate this negotiation, he proposed to Philip II. to form a still closer union between the two crowns of France and Spain: and, at the same time, he secretly despatched a confidential envoy to Constantinople to warn the Sultan, that if he did not again declare war against the Catholic King, that monarch, who already possessed the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the Indies, and nearly all Italy, would soon make himself master of England, and would then turn the forces of all Europe against the Turks."
But Philip had an ally in France, who was far more powerful than the French king. This was the Duke of Guise, the chief of the League, and the idol of the fanatic partisans of the Romish faith. Philip prevailed on Guise openly to take up arms against Henry III. (who was reviled by the Leaguers as a traitor to the true Church, and a secret friend to the Huguenots); and thus prevent the French king from interfering in favour of Queen Elizabeth. "With this object, the commander, Juan Iniguez Moreo, was despatched by him in the early part of April to the Duke of Guise at Soissons. He met with complete success. He offered the Duke of Guise, as soon as he took the field against Henry III., three hundred thousand crowns, six thousand infantry, and twelve hundred pikemen, on behalf of the king his master, who would, in addition, withdraw his ambassador from the court of France, and accredit an envoy to the Catholic party. A treaty was concluded on these conditions, and the Duke of Guise entered Paris, where he was expected by the Leaguers, and whence he expelled Henry III. on the 12th of May, by the insurrection of the barricades. A fortnight after this insurrection, which reduced Henry III. to impotence, and, to use the language of the Prince of Parma, did not even 'permit him to assist the Queen of England with his tears, as he needed them all to weep over his own misfortunes,' the Spanish fleet left the Tagus and sailed towards the British isles."
Meanwhile in England, from the sovereign on the throne to the peasant in the cottage, all hearts and hands made ready to meet the imminent deadly peril. Circular letters from the queen were sent round to the lord-lieutenants of the several counties requiring them "to call together the best sort of gentlemen under their lieutenancy, and to declare unto them these great preparations and arrogant threatenings, now burst forth in action upon the seas, wherein every man's particular state, in the highest degree, could be touched in respect of country, liberty, wives, children, lands, lives, and (which was specially to be regarded) the profession of the true and sincere religion of Christ: and to lay before them the infinite and unspeakable miseries that would fall out upon any such change, which miseries were evidently seen by the fruits of that hard and cruel government holden in countries not far distant. We do look," said the queen, "that the most part of them should have, upon this instant extraordinary occasion, a larger proportion of furniture, both for horseman and footmen, but especially horsemen, than hath been certified; thereby to be in their best strength against any attempt, or to be employed about our own person, or otherwise. Hereunto as we doubt not but by your good endeavours they will be the rather conformable, so also we assure ourselves, that Almighty God will so bless these their loyal hearts borne towards us, their loving sovereign, and their natural country, that all the attempts of any enemy whatsoever shall he made void and frustrate, to their confusion, your comfort, and to God's high glory."
Letters of a similar kind were also sent by the council to each of the nobility, and to the great cities. The primate called on the clergy for their contributions; and by every class of the community the appeal was responded to with liberal zeal, that offered more even than the queen required. The boasting threats of the Spaniards had roused the spirit of the nation; and the whole people "were thoroughly irritated to stir up their whole forces for their defence against such prognosticated conquests; so that, in a very short time, all the whole realm, and every corner were furnished with armed men, on horseback and on foot; and these continually trained, exercised, and put into bands, in warlike manner, as in no age ever was before in this realm. There was no sparing of money to provide horse, armour, weapons, powder, and all necessaries; no, nor want of provision of pioneers, carriages, and victuals, in every county of the realm, without exception, to attend upon the armies. And to this general furniture every man voluntarily offered, very many their services personally without wages, others money for armour and weapons, and to wage soldiers: a matter strange, and never the like heard of in this realm or else where. And this general reason moved all men to large contributions, that when a conquest was to be withstood wherein all should be lost, it was no time to spare a portion."
Our lion-hearted queen showed herself worthy of such a people. A camp was formed at Tilbury; and there Elizabeth rode through the ranks, encouraging her captains and her soldiers by her presence and her words. One of the speeches which she addressed to them during this crisis has been preserved; and, though often quoted, it must not be omitted here.
"My loving people," she said, "we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear! I have always so behaved myself, that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects; and, therefore, I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation or disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God, for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England too; and think it foul scorn that Parma, or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which, rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the meantime, my lieutenant-general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject, not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people."
We have minute proofs of the skill with which the government of Elizabeth made its preparations; for the documents still exist which were drawn up at that time by the ministers and military men who were consulted by Elizabeth respecting the defence of the country. Among those summoned to the advice of their queen at this crisis, were Sir Walter Raleigh, Lord Grey, Sir Francis Knolles, Sir Thomas Leighton, Sir John Norris, Sir Richard Grenville, Sir Richard Bingham, and Sir Roger Williams; and the biographer of Sir Walter Raleigh observes that "These councillors were chosen by the queen, as being not only men bred to arms, and some of them, as Grey, Norris, Bingham, and Grenville, of high military talents, but of grave experience in affairs of state, and in the civil government of provinces,--qualities by no means means unimportant, when the debate referred not merely to the leading of an army or the plan of a campaign, but to the organization of a militia, and the communication with the magistrates for arming the peasantry, and encouraging them to a resolute and simultaneous resistance. From some private papers of Lord Burleigh, it appears that Sir Walter took a principal share in these deliberations; and the abstract of their proceedings, a document still preserved, is supposed to have been drawn up by him. They first prepared a list of places where it was likely the Spanish army might attempt a descent, as well as of those which lay most exposed to the forces under the Duke of Parma. They next considered the speediest and most effectual means of defence, whether by fortification or the muster of a military array; and, lastly, deliberated on the course to be taken for fighting the enemy if he should land."
Some of Elizabeth's advisers recommended that the whole care and resources of the government should be devoted to the equipment of the armies, and that the enemy, when he attempted to land, should be welcomed with a battle on the shore. But the wiser counsels of Raleigh and others prevailed, who urged the importance of fitting out a fleet, that should encounter the Spaniards at sea, and, if possible, prevent them from approaching the land at all. In Raleigh's great work on the "History of the World," he takes occasion, when discussing some of the events of the first Punic war, to give his reasonings on the proper policy of England when menaced with invasion. Without doubt, we have there the substance of the advice which he gave to Elizabeth's council; and the remarks of such a man, on such a subject, have a general and enduring interest, beyond the immediate peril which called them forth. Raleigh says:-- "Surely I hold that the best way is to keep our enemies from treading upon our ground: wherein if we fail, then must we seek to make him wish that he had stayed at his own home. In such a case if it should happen, our judgments are to weigh many particular circumstances, that belongs not unto this discourse. But making the question general, the positive, whether England, without the help of her fleet, be able to debar an enemy from landing; I hold that it is unable so to do; and therefore I think it most dangerous to make the adventure. For the encouragement of a first victory to an enemy, and the discouragement of being beaten, to the invaded, may draw after it a most perilous consequence.
"Great difference I know there is, and a diverse consideration to be had, between such a country as France is, strengthened with many fortified places; and this of ours, where our ramparts are but the bodies of men. But I say that an army to be transported over sea, and to be landed again in an enemy's country, and the place left to the choice of the invader, cannot be resisted on the coast of England, without a fleet to impeach it; no, nor on the coast of France, or any other country; except every creek, port, or sandy bay, had a powerful army, in each of them, to make opposition. For let the supposition be granted that Kent is able to furnish twelve thousand foot, and that those twelve thousand be layed in the three best landing-places within that country, to wit, three thousand at Margat, three thousand at the Nesse, and six thousand at Foulkstone, that is, somewhat equally distant from them both; as also that two of these troops (unless some other order be thought more fit) be directed to strengthen the third, when they shall see the enemies' fleet to head towards it: I say, that notwithstanding this provision, if the enemy, setting sail from the Isle of Wight, in the first watch of the night, and towing their long boats at their sterns, shall arrive by dawn of day at the Nesse, and thrust their army on shore there, it will be hard for those three thousand that are at Margat (twenty-and-four long miles from thence), to come time enough to reinforce their fellows at the Nesse. Nay, how shall they at Foulkstone be able to do it, who are nearer by more than half the way? seeing that the enemy, at his first arrival, will either make his entrance by force, with three or four shot of great artillery, and quickly put the first three thousand that are entrenched at the Nesse to run, or else give them so much to do that they shall be glad to send for help to Foulkstone, and perhaps to Margat, whereby those places will be left bare. Now let us suppose that all the twelve thousand Kentish soldiers arrive at the Nesse, ere the enemy can be ready to disembarque his army, so that he will find it unsafe to land in the face of so many prepared to withstand him, yet must we believe that he will play the best of his own game (having liberty to go which way he list), and under covert of the night, set sail towards the east, where what shall hinder him to take ground either at Margat, the Downes, or elsewhere, before they, at the Nesse, can be well aware of his departure? Certainly there is nothing more easy than to do it. Yea, the like may be said of Weymouth, Purbeck, Poole, and of all landing-places on the south-west. For there is no man ignorant, that ships without putting themselves out of breath, will easily outrun the souldiers that coast them. ' Les armees ne volent point en poste;'--'Armies neither flye, nor run post,' saith a marshal of France. And I know it to be true, that a fleet of ships may be seen at sunset, and after it at the Lizard, yet by the next morning they may recover Portland, whereas an army of foot shall not be able to march it in six dayes. Again, when those troops lodged on the sea-shores, shall be forced to run from place to place in vain, after a fleet of ships, they will at length sit down in the midway, and leave all at adventure. But say it were otherwise, that the invading enemy will offer to land in some such place, where there shall be an army of ours ready to receive him; yet it cannot be doubted, but that when the choice of all our trained bands, and the choice of our commanders and captains, shall be drawn together (as they were at Tilbury in the year 1588) to attend the person of the prince, and for the defence of the city of London; they that remain to guard the coast can be of no such force as to encounter an army like unto that wherewith it was intended that the Prince of Parma should have landed in England.
"For end of this digression, I hope that this question shall never come to trial; his majestie's many moveable forts will forbid the experience. And although the English will no less disdain that any nation under heaven can do, to be beaten, upon their own ground, or elsewhere, by a foreign enemy; yet to entertain those that shall assail us with their own beef in their bellies, and before they eat of our Kentish capons, I take it to be the wisest way; to do which his majesty, after God, will employ his good ships on the sea, and not trust in any intrenchment upon the shore."
The introduction of steam as a propelling power at sea, has added tenfold weight to these arguments of Raleigh, On the other hand, a well-constructed system of railways, especially of coast-lines, aided by the operation or the electric telegraph, would give facilities for concentrating a defensive army to oppose an enemy on landing, and for moving troops from place to place in observation of the movements of the hostile fleet, such as would have astonished Sir Walter even more than the sight of vessels passing rapidly to and fro without the aid of wind or tide. The observation of the French marshal, whom he quotes, is now no longer correct. Armies can be made to pass from place to place almost with the speed of wings, and far more rapidly than any post-travelling that was known in the Elizabethan or any other age. Still, the presence of a sufficient armed force at the right spot, at the right time, can never be made a matter of certainty; and even after the changes that have taken place, no one can doubt but that the policy of Raleigh is that which England should ever seek to follow in defensive war. At the time of the Armada, that policy certainly saved the country, if not from conquest, at least from deplorable calamities. If indeed the enemy had landed, we may be sure that be would have been heroically opposed. But history shows us so many examples of the superiority of veteran troops over new levies, however numerous and brave, that without disparaging our countrymen's soldierly merits, we may well be thankful that no trial of them was then made on English land. Especially must we feel this, when we contrast the high military genius of the Prince of Parma, who would have headed the Spaniards, with the imbecility of the Earl of Leicester, to whom the deplorable spirit of favouritism, which formed the greatest blemish in Elizabeth's character, had then committed the chief command of the English armies.
The ships of the royal navy at this time amounted to no more than thirty-six; but the most serviceable merchant vessels were collected from all the ports of the country; and the citizens of London, Bristol, and the other great seats of commerce, showed as liberal a zeal in equipping and manning vessels as the nobility and gentry displayed in mustering forces by land. The seafaring population of the coast, of every rank and station, was animated by the same ready spirit; and the whole number of seamen who came forward to man the English fleet was 17,472. The number of the ships that were collected was 191; and the total amount of their tonnage 31,985. There was one ship in the fleet (the Triumph) of 1100 tons, one of 1000, one of 900, two of 800 each, three of 600, five of 600, five of 400, six of 300, six of 250, twenty of 200, and the residue of inferior burden. Application was made to the Dutch for assistance; and, as Stows expresses it, "The Hollanders came roundly in, with threescore sail, brave ships of war, fierce and full of spleen, not so much for England's aid, as in just occasion for their own defence; these men foreseeing the greatness of the danger that might ensue, if the Spaniards should chance to win the day and get the mastery over them; in due regard whereof their manly courage was inferior to none."
We have more minute information of the numbers and equipment of the hostile forces than we have of our own. In the first volume of Hakluyt's "Voyages," dedicated to Lord Effingham, who commanded against the Armada, there is given (from the contemporary foreign writer, Meteran) a more complete and detailed catalogue than has perhaps ever appeared of a similar armament.
"A very large and particular description of this navie was put in print and published by the Spaniards; wherein was set downe the number, names, and burthens of the shippes, the number of mariners and soldiers throughout the whole fleete; likewise the quantitie of their ordinance, of their armour of bullets, of match, of gun-poulder, of victuals, and of all their navall furniture, was in the saide description particularized. Unto all these were added the names of the governours, captaines, noblemen, and gentlemen voluntaries, of whom there was so great a multitude, that scarce was there any family of accompt, or any one principall man throughout all Spaine, that had not a brother, sonne, or kinsman in that fleete; who all of them were in good hope to purchase unto themselves in that navie (as they termed it) invincible, endless glory and renown, and to possess themselves of great seigniories and riches in England, and in the Low Countreys. But because the said description was translated and published out of Spanish into divers other languages, we will here only make an abridgement or brief rehearsal thereof.
"Portugal furnished and set foorth under the conduct of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, generall of the fleete, ten galeons, two zabraes, 1300 mariners, 3300 souldiers, 300 great pieces, with all requisite furniture.
"Biscay, under the conduct of John Martines de Ricalde, admiral of the whole fleete, set forth tenne galeons, four pataches, 700 mariners, 2000 souldiers, 260 great pieces, &c.
"Guipusco, under the conduct of Michael de Orquendo, tenne galeons, four pataches, 700 mariners, 2000 souldiers, 310 great pieces.
"Italy with the Levant Islands, under Martine de Vertendona, ten galeons, 800 mariners, 2000 souldiers, 310 great pieces, &c.
"Castile, under Diego Flores de Valdez, fourteen galeons, two pataches, 1700 mariners, 2400 souldiers, and 388 great pieces, &c.
"Andaluzia, under the conduct of Petro de Valdez, ten galeons, one patache, 800 mariners, 2400 souldiers, 280 great pieces, &c.
"Item, under the conduct of John Lopez de Medina, twenty-three great Flemish hulkes, with 700 mariners, 3200 souldiers, and 400 great pieces,
"Item, under Hugo de Moncada, fours galliasses, containing 1200 gally-slaves, 460 mariners, 870 souldiers, 200 great pieces, &c.
"Item, under Diego de Mandrana, fours gallies of Portugall with 888 gally-slaves, 360 mariners, twenty great pieces, and other requisite furniture.
"Item, under Anthonie de Mendoza, twenty-two pataches and zabraes, with 574 mariners, 488 souldiers, and 193 great pieces.
"Besides the ships aforementioned, there were twenty caravels rowed with oares, being appointed to perform necessary services under the greater ships, insomuch that all the ships appertayning to this navie amounted unto the summe of 150, eche one being sufficiently provided of furniture and victuals.
"The number of mariners in the saide fleete were above 8000, of slaves 2088, of souldiers 20,000 (besides noblemen and gentlemen voluntaries), of great cast pieces 2600. The aforesaid ships were of an huge and incredible capacitie and receipt: for the whole fleete was large enough to contains the burthen of 60,000 tunnes.
"The galeons were 64 in number, being of an huge bignesse, and very flately built, being of marveilous force also, and so high, that they resembled great castles, most fit to defend themselves and to withstand any assault, but in giving any other ships the encounter farr inferiour unto the English and Dutch ships, which can with great dexteritie weild and turne themselves at all assayes. The upperworke of the said galeons was of thicknesse and strength sufficient to bear off musket-shot. The lower works and the timbers thereof were out of measure strong, being framed of plankes and ribs fours or five foote in thicknesse, insomuch that no bullets could pierce them, but such as were discharged hard at hand; which afterward prooved true, for a great number of bullets were found to sticke fast within the massie substance of those thicke plankes. Great and well pitched cables were twined about the masts of their shippes, to strengthen them against the battery of shot.
"The galliasses were of such bignesse, that they contained within them chambers, chapels, turrets, pulpits, and other commodities of great houses. The galliasses were rowed with great oares, there being in eche one of them 300 slaves for the same purpose and were able to do great service with the force of their ordinance. All these, together with the residue aforenamed, were furnished and beautified with trumpets, streamers, banners, warlike ensignes, and other such like ornaments.
"Their pieces of brazen ordinance were 1600, and of yron 1000.
"The bullets thereto belonging were 120 thousand.
"Item of gun-poulder, 5600 quintals. Of matche, 1200 quintals. Of muskets and kaleivers, 7000. Of haleberts and partisans, 10,000.
"Moreover they had great store of canons, double-canons, culverings and field-pieces for land services.
"Likewise they were provided of all instruments necessary on land to conveigh and transport their furniture from place to place; as namely of carts, wheeles, wagons, &c. Also they had spades, mattocks, and baskets, to set pioners to works. They had in like sort great store of mules and horses, and whatsoever else was requisite for a land-armie. They were so well stored of biscuit, that for the space of halfe a yeere, they might allow eche person in the whole fleete halfe a quintall every month; whereof the whole summe amounteth unto an hundreth thousand quintals.
"Likewise of wine they had 147 thousand pipes, sufficient also for halfe a yeeres expedition. Of bacon, 6500 quintals. Of cheese, three thousand quintals. Besides fish, rise, beanes, pease, oils, vinegar, &c.
"Moreover they had 12,000 pipes of fresh water, and all other necessary provision, as, namely, candles, lanternes, lampes, sailes, hempe, oxe-hides, and lead to stop holes that should be made with the battery of gun-shot. To be short, they brought all things expedient, either for a fleete by sea, or for an armie by land.
"This navie (as Diego Pimentelli afterward confessed) was esteemed by the king himselfe to containe 32,000 persons, and to cost him every day 30 thousand ducates.
"There were in the said navie five terzaes of Spaniards (which terzaes the Frenchmen call regiments), under the command of five governours, termed by the Spaniards masters of the field, and amongst the rest there were many olde and expert souldiers chosen out of the garisons of Sicilie, Naples, and Tercera. Their captaines or colonels were Diego Pimentelli, Don Francisco de Toledo, Don Alonco de Lucon, Don Nicolas de Isla, Don Augustin de Mexia; who had each of them thirty-two companies under their conduct. Besides the which companies, there were many bands also of Castilians and Portugals, every one of which had their peculiar governours, captains, officers, colours, and weapons."
While this huge armada was making ready in the southern ports of the Spanish dominions, the Prince of Parma, with almost incredible toil and skill, collected a squadron of war-ships at Dunkirk, and his flotilla of other ships and of flat-bottomed boats for the transport to England of the picked troops, which were designed to be the main instruments in subduing England. Thousands of workmen were employed, night and day, in the construction of these vessels, in the ports of Flanders and Brabant. One hundred of the kind called hendes, built at Antwerp, Bruges, and Ghent, and laden with provision and ammunition, together with sixty flat-bottomed boats, each capable of carrying thirty horses, were brought, by means of canals and fosses, dug expressly for the purpose, to Nieuport and Dunkirk. One hundred smaller vessels were equipped at the former place, and thirty-two at Dunkirk, provided with twenty thousand empty barrels, and with materials for making pontoons, for stopping up the harbours, and raising forts and entrenchments. The army which these vessels were designed to convey to England amounted to thirty thousand strong, besides a body of four thousand cavalry, stationed at Courtroi, composed chiefly of the ablest veterans of Europe; invigorated by rest, (the siege of Sluys having been the only enterprise in which they were employed during the last campaign,) and excited by the hopes of plunder and the expectation of certain conquest. And "to this great enterprise and imaginary conquest, divers princes and noblemen came from divers countries; out of Spain came the Duke of Pestrana, who was said to be the son of Ruy Gomez de Silva, but was held to be the king's bastard; the Marquis of Bourgou, one of the Archduke Ferdinand's sons, by Philippina Welserine; Don Vespasian Gonzaga, of the house of Mantua, a great soldier, who had been viceroy in Spain; Giovanni de Medici, Bastard of Florence; Amedo, Bastard of Savoy, with many such like, besides others of meaner quality."
Philip had been advised by the deserter, Sir William Stanley, not to attack England in the first instance, but first to effect a landing and secure a strong position in Ireland; his admiral, Santa Cruz, had recommended him to make sure, in the first instance, of some large harbour on the coast of Holland or Zealand, where the Armada, having entered the Channel, might find shelter in case of storm, and whence it could sail without difficulty for England; but Philip rejected both these counsels, and directed that England itself should be made the immediate object of attack; and on the 20th of May the Armada left the Tagus, in the pomp and pride of supposed invincibility, and amidst the shouts of thousands, who believed that England was already conquered. But steering to the northward, and before it was clear of the coast of Spain, the Armada, was assailed by a violent storm, and driven back with considerable damage to the ports of Biscay and Galicia. It had, however, sustained its heaviest loss before it left the Tagus, in the death of the veteran admiral Santa Cruz, who had been destined to guide it against England.
This experienced sailor, notwithstanding his diligence and success, had been unable to keep pace with the impatient ardour of his master. Philip II. had reproached him with his dilatoriness, and had said with ungrateful harshness, "You make an ill return for all my kindness to you." These words cut the veteran's heart, and proved fatal to Santa Cruz. Overwhelmed with fatigue and grief, he sickened and died. Philip II. had replaced him by Alonzo Perez de Gusman, Duke of Medina Sidonia, one of the most powerful of the Spanish grandees, but wholly unqualified to command such an expedition. He had, however, as his lieutenants, two sea men of proved skill and bravery, Juan de Martinez Recalde of Biscay, and Miguel Orquendo of Guipuzcoa.
The report of the storm which had beaten back the Armada reached England with much exaggeration, and it was supposed by some of the queen's counsellors that the invasion would now be deferred to another year. But Lord Howard of Effingham, the lord high-admiral of the English fleet, judged more wisely that the danger was not yet passed, and, as already mentioned, had the moral courage to refuse to dismantle his principal ships, though he received orders to that effect. But it was not Howard's design to keep the English fleet in costly inaction, and to wait patiently in our own harbours, till the Spaniards had recruited their strength, and sailed forth again to attack us. The English seamen of that age (like their successors) loved to strike better than to parry, though, when emergency required, they could be patient and cautious in their bravery. It was resolved to proceed to Spain, to learn the enemy's real condition, and to deal him any blow for which there might be opportunity. In this bold policy we may well believe him to have been eagerly seconded by those who commanded under him. Howard and Drake sailed accordingly to Corunna, hoping to surprise and attack some part of the Armada in that harbour; but when near the coast of Spain, the north wind, which had blown up to that time, veered suddenly to the south; and fearing that the Spaniards might put to sea and pass him unobserved, Howard returned to the entrance of the Channel, where he cruised for some time on the look-out for the enemy. In part of a letter written by him at this period, he speaks of the difficulty of guarding so large a breadth of sea--a difficulty that ought not to be forgotten when modern schemes of defence against hostile fleets from the south are discussed. "I myself," he wrote, "do lie in the midst of the Channel, with the greatest force; Sir Francis Drake hath twenty ships, and four or five pinnaces, which lie towards Ushant; and Mr. Hawkins, with as many more, lieth towards Scilly. Thus we are fain to do, or else with this wind they might pass us by, and we never the wiser. The sleeve is another manner of thing than it was taken for: we find it by experience and daily observation to be 100 miles over: a large room for me to look unto!" But after some time further reports that the Spaniards were inactive in their harbour, where they were suffering severely from sickness, caused Howard also to relax in his vigilance; and he returned to Plymouth with the greater part of his fleet.
On the 12th of July, the Armada having completely refitted, sailed again for the Channel, and reached it without obstruction or observation by the English.
The design of the Spaniards was, that the Armada should give them, at least for a time, the command of the sea, and that it should join the squadron which Parma had collected, off Calais. Then, escorted by an overpowering naval force, Parma and his army were to embark in their flotilla, and cross the sea to England where they were to be landed, together with the troops which the Armada brought from the ports of Spain. The scheme was not dissimilar to one formed against England a little more than two centuries afterwards.
As Napoleon, in 1805, waited with his army and flotilla at Boulogne, looking for Villeneuve to drive away the English cruisers, and secure him a passage across the Channel, so Parma, in 1588, waited for Medina Sidonia to drive away the Dutch and English squadrons that watched his flotilla, and to enable his veterans to cross the sea to the land that they were to conquer. Thanks to Providence, in each case England's enemy waited in vain!
Although the numbers of sail which the queen's government, and the patriotic zeal of volunteers, had collected for the defence of England exceeded the number of sail in the Spanish fleet, the English ships were, collectively, far inferior in size to their adversaries; their aggregate tonnage being less by half than that of the enemy. In the number of guns, and weight of metal, the disproportion was still greater. The English admiral was also obliged to subdivide his force; and Lord Henry Seymour, with forty of the best Dutch and English ships, was employed in blockading the hostile ports in Flanders, and in preventing the Prince of Parma from coming out of Dunkirk.
The orders of King Philip to the Duke de Medina Sidonia were, that he should, on entering the Channel, keep near the French coast, and, if attacked by the English ships, avoid an action, and steer on to Calais roads, where the Prince of Parma's squadron was to join him. The hope of surprising and destroying the English fleet in Plymouth, led the Spanish admiral to deviate from these orders, and to stand across to the English shore; but, on finding that Lord Howard was coming out to meet him, he resumed the original plan, and determined to bend his way steadily towards Calais and Dunkirk, and to keep merely on the defensive against such squadrons of the English as might come up with him.
It was on Saturday, the 20th of July, that Lord Effingham came in sight of his formidable adversaries. The Armada was drawn up in form of a crescent, which from horn to horn measured some seven miles. There was a south-west wind; and before it the vast vessels sailed slowly on. The English let them pass by; and then, following in the rear, commenced an attack on them. A running fight now took place, in which some of the best ships of the Spaniards were captured; many more received heavy damage; while the English vessels, which took care not to close with their huge antagonists, but availed themselves of their superior celerity in tacking and manoeuvring, suffered little comparative loss. Each day added not only to the spirit, but to the number of Effingham's force. Raleigh, Oxford, Cumberland, and Sheffield joined him; and "the gentlemen of England hired ships from all parts at their own charge, and with one accord came flocking thither as to a set field, where glory was to be attained, and faithful service performed unto their prince and their country."
Raleigh justly praises the English admiral for his skilful tactics. He says, "Certainly, he that will happily perform a fight at sea, must be skillful in making choice of vessels to fight in; he must believe that there is more belonging to a good man-of-war, upon the waters, than great daring; and must know that there is a great deal of difference between fighting loose or at large and grappling. The guns of a slow ship pierce as well, and make as great holes, as those in a swift. To clap ships together, without consideration, belongs rather to a madman than to a man of war; for by such an ignorant bravery was Peter Strossie lost at the Azores, when he fought against the Marquis of Santa Cruza. In like sort had the Lord Charles Howard, admiral of England, been lost in the year 1588, if he had not been better advised, than a great many malignant fools were, that found fault with his demeanour. The Spaniards had an army aboard them, and he had none; they had more ships than he had, and of higher building and charging; so that, had he entangled himself with those great and powerful vessels, he had greatly endangered this kingdom of England. For, twenty men upon the defences are equal to a hundred that board and enter; whereas then, contrariwise, the Spaniards had a hundred, for twenty of ours, to defend themselves withall. But our admiral knew his advantage, and held it: which had he not done, he had not been worthy to have held his head."
The Spanish admiral also showed great judgment and firmness in following the line of conduct that had been traced out for him; and on the 27th of July he brought his fleet unbroken, though sorely distressed, to anchor in Calais roads. But the King of Spain, had calculated ill the number and activity of the English and Dutch fleets; as the old historian expresses it, "It seemeth that the Duke of Parma and the Spaniards grounded upon a vain and presumptuous expectation, that all the ships of England and of the Low Countreys would at the first sight of the Spanish and Dunkerk navie have betaken themselves to flight, yeelding them sea-room, and endeavouring only to defend themselves, their havens, and sea-coasts from invasion. Wherefore their intent and purpose was, that the Duke of Parma, in his small and flat-bottomed ships should, as it were, under the shadow and wing of the Spanish fleet, convey over all his troupes, armour, and warlike provisions, and with their forces so united, should invade England; or, while the English fleet were busied in fight against the Spanish, should enter upon any part of the coast which he thought to be most convenient. Which invasion (as the captives afterwards confessed) the Duke of Parma thought first to have attempted by the river of Thames; upon the banks whereof, having at the first arrivall landed twenty or thirty thousand of his principall souldiers, he supposed that he might easily have wonne the citie of London; both because his small shippes should have followed and assisted his land-forces, and also for that the citie itselfe was but meanely fortified and easie to overcome, by reason of the citizens' delicacie and discontinuance from the warres, who, with continuall and constant labour, might be vanquished, if they yielded not at the first assault."
But the English and Dutch found ships and mariners enough to keep the Armada itself in check, and at the same time to block up Parma's flotilla. The greater part of Seymour's squadron left its cruising ground off Dunkirk to join the English admiral off Calais; but the Dutch manned about five-and-thirty sail of good ships, with a strong force of soldiers on board, all well seasoned to the sea-service, and with these they blockaded the Flemish ports that were in Parma's power. Still it was resolved by the Spanish admiral and the prince to endeavour to effect a junction, which the English seamen were equally resolute to prevent: and bolder measures on our side now became necessary.
The Armada lay off Calais, with its largest ships ranged outside, "like strong castles fearing no assault; the lesser placed in the middle ward." The English admiral could not attack them in their position without great disadvantage, but on the night of the 29th he sent eight fire-ships among them, with almost equal effect to that of the fire-ships which the Greeks so often employed against the Turkish fleets in their late war of independence. The Spaniards cut their cables and put to sea in confusion. One of the largest galeasses ran foul of another vessel and was stranded. The rest of the fleet was scattered about on the Flemish coast, and when the morning broke, it was with difficulty and delay that they obeyed their admiral's signal to range themselves round him near Gravelines. Now was the golden opportunity for the English to assail them, and prevent them from ever letting loose Parma's flotilla against England; and nobly was that opportunity used. Drake and Fenner were the first English captains who attacked the unwieldy leviathans: then came Fenton, Southwell, Burton, Cross, Raynor, and then the lord admiral, with Lord Thomas Howard and Lord Sheffield. The Spaniards only thought of forming and keeping close together, and were driven by the English past Dunkirk, and far away from the Prince of Parma, who in watching their defeat from the coast, must, as Drake expressed it, have chafed like a bear robbed of her whelps. This was indeed the last and the decisive battle between the two fleets. It is, perhaps, best described in the very words of the contemporary writer as we may read them in Hakluyt.
"Upon the 29th of July in the morning, the Spanish fleet after the forsayd tumult, having arranged themselves againe into order, were, within sight of Greveling, most bravely and furiously encountered by the English; where they once again got the wind of the Spaniards; who suffered themselves to be deprived of the commodity of the place in Calais road, and of the advantage of the wind neer unto Dunkerk, rather than they would change their array or separate their forces now conjoyned and united together, standing only upon their defence.
"And howbeit there were many excellent and warlike ships in the English fleet, yet scarce were there 22 or 23 among them all, which matched 90 of the Spanish ships in the bigness, or could conveniently assault them. Wherefore the English ships using their prerogative of nimble steerage, whereby they could turn and wield themselves with the wind which way they listed, came often times very near upon the Spaniards, and charged them so sore, that now and then they were but a pike's length asunder: and so continually giving them one broadside after another, they discharged all their shot both great and small upon them, spending one whole day from morning till night in that violent kind of conflict, untill such time as powder and bullets failed them. In regard of which want they thought it convenient not to pursue the Spaniards any longer, because they had many great vantages of the English, namely, for the extraordinary bigness of their ships, and also for that they were so neerley conjoyned, and kept together in so good array, that they could by no meanes be fought withall one to one. The English thought, therefore, that they had right well acquitted themselves, in chasing the Spaniards first from Caleis, and then from Dunkerk, and by that meanes to have hindered them from joyning with the Duke of Parma his forces, and getting the wind of them, to have driven them from their own coasts.
"The Spaniards that day sustained great loss and damage, having many of their shippes shot thorow and thorow, and they discharged likewise great store of ordinance against the English; who, indeed, sustained some hindrance, but not comparable to the Spaniard's loss: for they lost not any one ship or person of account, for very diligent inquisition being made, the English men all that time wherein the Spanish navy sayled upon their seas, are not found to have wanted aboue one hundred of their people: albeit Sir Francis Drake's ship was pierced with shot above forty times, and his very cabben was twice shot thorow, and about the conclusion of the fight, the bed of a certaine gentleman, lying weary thereupon, was taken quite from under him with the force of a bullet. Likewise, as the Earle of Northumberland and Sir Charles Blunt were at dinner upon a time, the bullet of a demy-culverin brake thorow the middest of their cabben, touched their feet, and strooke downe two of the standers by, with many such accidents befalling the English shippes, which it were tedious to rehearse."
It reflects little credit on the English Government that the English fleet was so deficiently supplied with ammunition, as to be unable to complete the destruction of the invaders. But enough was done to ensure it. Many of the largest Spanish ships were sunk or captured in the action of this day. And at length the Spanish admiral, despairing of success, fled northward with a southerly wind, in the hope of rounding Scotland, and so returning to Spain without a farther encounter with the English fleet. Lord Effingham left a squadron to continue the blockade of the Prince of Parma's armament; but that wise general soon withdrew his troops to more promising fields of action. Meanwhile the lord-admiral himself and Drake chased the vincible Armada, as it was now termed, for some distance northward; and then, when it seemed to bend away from the Scotch coast towards Norway, it was thought best, in the words of Drake, "to leave them to those boisterous and uncouth northern seas."
The sufferings and losses which the unhappy Spaniards sustained in their flight round Scotland and Ireland, are well known. Of their whole Armada only fifty-three shattered vessels brought back their beaten and wasted crews to the Spanish coast which they had quitted in such pageantry and pride.
Some passages from the writings of those who took part in the struggle, have been already quoted; and the most spirited description of the defeat of the Armada which ever was penned, may perhaps be taken from the letter which our brave vice-admiral Drake wrote in answer to some mendacious stories by which the Spaniards strove to hide their shame. Thus does he describe the scenes in which he played so important a part:
"They were not ashamed to publish, in sundry languages in print, great victories in words, which they pretended to have obtained against this realm, and spread the same in a most false sort over all parts of France, Italy, and elsewhere; when, shortly afterwards, it was happily manifested in very deed to all nations, how their navy, which they termed invincible, consisting of one hundred and forty sail of ships, not only of their own kingdom, but strengthened with the greatest argosies, Portugal carracks, Florentines, and large hulks of other countries, were by thirty of her majesty's own ships of war, and a few of our own merchants, by the wise, valiant, and advantageous conduct of the Lord Charles Howard, high-admiral of England, beaten and shuffled together even from the Lizard in Cornwall, first to Portland, when they shamefully left Don Pedro de Valdez with his mighty ship; from Portland to Calais, where they lost Hugh de Moncado, with the galleys of which he was captain; and from Calais driven with squibs from their anchors, were chased out of the sight of England, round about Scotland and Ireland. Where, for the sympathy of their religion, hoping to find succour and assistance, a great part of them were crushed against the rocks, and those others that landed, being very many in number, were, notwithstanding, broken, slain, and taken; and so sent from village to village, coupled in halters, to be shipped into England, where her majesty, of her princely and invincible disposition, disdaining to put them to death, and scorning either to retain or to entertain them, they were all sent back again to their countries, to witness and recount the worthy achievement of their invincible and dreadful navy. Of which the number of soldiers, the fearful burthen of their ships, the commanders' names of every squadron, with all others, their magazines of provision were put in print, as an army and navy irresistible and disdaining prevention: with all which their great and terrible ostentation, they did not in all their sailing round about England so much as sink or take one ship, bark, pinnace, or cockboat of ours, or even burn so much as one sheep-cote on this land."
Synopsis of Events Between the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, A.D. 1588; and the Battle of Blenheim, A.D. 1704.
A.D. 1594. Henry IV. of France conforms to the Roman Catholic Church, and ends the civil wars that had long desolated France.
1598. Philip II. of Spain dies, leaving a ruined navy and an exhausted kingdom.
1603. Death of Queen Elizabeth. The Scotch dynasty of the Stuarts succeeds to the throne of England.
1619. Commencement of the Thirty Years' War in Germany.
1624-1642. Cardinal Richelieu is minister of France. He breaks the power of the nobility, reduces the Huguenots to complete subjection; and by aiding the Protestant German princes in the latter part of the Thirty Years' War, he humiliates France's ancient rival, Austria.
1630. Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, marches into Germany to the assistance of the Protestants, who ware nearly crushed by the Austrian armies. He gains several great victories, and, after his death, Sweden, under his statesmen and generals, continues to take a leading part in the war.
1640. Portugal throws off the Spanish yoke: and the House of Braganza begins to reign.
1642. Commencement of the civil war in England between Charles I. and his parliament.
1648. The Thirty Years' War in Germany ended by the treaty of Westphalia.
1653. Oliver Cromwell lord-protector of England.
1660. Restoration of the Stuarts to the English throne.
1661. Louis XIV. takes the administration of affairs in France into his own hands.
1667-1668. Louis XVI. makes war in Spain, and conquers a large part of the Spanish Netherlands.
1672. Louis makes war upon Holland, and almost overpowers it, Charles II. of England is his pensioner, and England helps the French in their attacks upon Holland until 1674. Heroic resistance of the Dutch under the Prince of Orange.
1674. Louis conquers Franche-Comte.
1679. Peace of Nimeguen.
1681. Louis invades and occupies Alsace.
1682. Accession of Peter the Great to the throne of Russia.
1685. Louis commences a merciless persecution of his Protestant subjects.
1688. The glorious Revolution in England. Expulsion of James II. William of Orange is made King of England. James takes refuge at the French court, and Louis undertakes to restore him. General war in the west of Europe.
1691. Treaty of Ryswick. Charles XII. becomes King of Sweden.
1700. Charles II. of Spain dies, having bequeathed his dominions to Philip of Anjou, Louis XIV.'s grandson. Defeat of the Russians at Narva, by Charles XII.
1701. William III. forms a "Grand Alliance" of Austria, the Empire, the United Provinces, England, and other powers, against France.
1702. King William dies; but his successor, Queen Anne, adheres to the Grand Alliance, and war is proclaimed against France.
- In Macaulay's Ballad on the Spanish Armada, the transmission of the tidings of the Armada's approach, and the arming of the English nation, are magnificently described. The progress of the fire-signals is depicted in lines which are worthy of comparison with the renowned passage in the Agamemnon, which describes the transmission of the beacon-light announcing the fall of Troy, from Mount Ida to Argos.
- See Ranke's Hist. Popes, vol. ii. p. 170.
- See Mignet's Mary Queen of Scots vol. ii.
- Ranke, vol ii. p. 172.
- Mignet's History of Mary Queen of Scots. vol. ii.
- Strype, cited in Southey's Naval History.
- Copy of contemporary letter in the Harleian Collection, quoted by Southey.
- See note in Tytler's Life of Raleigh, p. 71.
- Historie of the World pp. 799--801.
- Davis's Holland, vol. ii. p. 219.
- Grimstone, cited in Southey.
- Historie of the World, p. 791.
- Hakluyt's Voyages, vol. i. 601.
- Vol. i. p. 602.
- See Strypo, and the notes to the Life of Drake in the "Biographia Britannica."