A HISTORY OF ENGLAND By H. O. ARNOLD - FORSTER
Published By Cassell & Company's Publications
THE STORY OF THE GREAT ARMADA.
England in Peril.
In the year 1587, Philip began to make preparations for the famous expedition against England which has made Queen Elizabeth's reign for ever famous in the history of our country. He collected sailors and soldiers not only from Spain, but from all those parts of Europe which were at that time under the government of Spain - from Sicily, Genoa, and Venice, and from the Low Countries. It was Philip's plan to collect a large army near Antwerp, which is only two hundred miles from London, and to bring it across the Channel under the protection of a great fleet which was to sail from Spain.
Thirty thousand foot-soldiers and eighteen hundred cavalry were collected in the Netherlands. Another great army was raised in Spain, and all the best and bravest soldiers of Spain came forward ready and longing to fight in the cause which they believed to be so good a one, and to share in the victories which the Invincible Armada, or " The Unconquerable Fleet," was to earn for Spain.
It was Philip's plan to collect a large army near Antwerp, which is only two hundred miles from London, and to bring it across the Channel under the protection of a great fleet which was to sail from Spain. Thirty thousand foot-soldiers and eighteen hundred cavalry were collected in the Netherlands. Another great army was raised in Spain, and all the best and bravest soldiers of Spain came forward ready and longing to fight in the cause which they believed to be so good a one, and to share in the victories which the Invincible Armada, or "The Unconquerable Fleet," was to earn for Spain.
But Philip was not content with collecting ships, soldiers, and sailors. He sent to the Pope to ask for his aid and his blessing The Pope sent his blessing, and, in order to help still further the cause of Spain, he declared Elizabeth to be deposed from her throne. It may seem at first sight as if it mattered very little what the Pope said, and that no declaration made at Rome would alter things in England. But it must not be forgotten that many, if not all, of the Roman Catholics in England believed that the Pope had the right to depose Queen Elizabeth, and that when she had once been deposed they were no longer bound to obey her or to look upon her as their queen.
This was a real danger, and it is not to be wondered at that Elizabeth and her ministers should at first have taken very severe steps to prevent the Roman Catholics from, giving any help to the Spaniards, or acting as the Pope wished them to act. Many were imprisoned upon very slight suspicion, and some were cruelly treated. There was also a real danger at one time lest the Protestants, who were now the larger part of the nation, should try to take vengeance upon the Roman Catholics for the ,massacre of St. Bartholomew and the cruelties which had been practiced by the Spanish generals in the Netherlands.
Luckily, however, the danger passed over, and soon it was seen that, though there might be a few exceptions, when England was in peril of invasion by a foreign enemy, all Englishmen were united and ready to stand shoulder to shoulder for their country's cause.
Hundreds of Roman Catholics came forward and offered to serve by sea or by land against the enemy, determined to show that they were Englishmen first and servants of the Pope afterwards: a true and proper spirit for every man of English birth.
How the Armada came, and what they did in England. " With God, for Queen and Fatherland."
And now we come to one of the most stirring and splendid chapters in the history of England - the story of how the country, with its great queen at its head, rose as one man to protect the shores of England therefore, I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation and sport, 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 that I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a king, and a king of England, too, and think 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 should grow by me. I will myself take up arms. I myself will be your general, the judge and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.
These were indeed words worthy of a Queen of England
The preparations for the sailing of the great Armada dragged along very slowly. Once the ships put to sea, but were driven back by stormy weather. At last, on the 19th of July, 1588, the fleet started once more on its great task of conquering England.
The preparations which had been made were immense. The number of ships was one hundred and thirty-one. The number of sailors was nearly 8,000 Seventeen thousand soldiers were packed into the different vessels. There were 180 priests on board, and 85 surgeons and doctors. The priests were to convert the English from their Protestantism when England had been taken. The doctors and surgeons were to take care of the wounded in case the Armada suffered any loss in battle. As matters turned out, the doctors found more to do than the priests. On one of the ships, the "Capitana.," there was a chest full of beautifully made swords, which were to be given to the English Roman Catholic lords when they had joined the Spaniards against their queen and country.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia was at the head of the whole fleet Under him was Admiral Recalde, and many other officers famous for their bravery and skill in war. The duke's orders were very strict. He was to sail up the Channel till he got to Dunkirk. He was to stop for no man. If the English came out to fight him he was to sail on and let them follow. When he got to Dunkirk he was to take on board the army which was waiting there to join him, he was to enter the Thames, land the troops, and wait till England had submitted.
All went well with the great Armada for the first few days. A few ships which were scattered by a storm joined the fleet again. On a Friday afternoon the leading ships came within sight of the English land, and they could see the high cliffs of the Lizard to the north.
Meanwhile, in England the whole people, from Berwick to The Lands End, were waiting in anxious expectation for the first news of the enemy. Beacons were prepared along the coast, and on every high point throughout the country. The orders were to light them as soon as the Spanish ships were sighted.
"The Enemy in Sight."
" Night sank upon the dusky beach, and on the purple sea,
Macaulay: " The Armada."
It was a Scottish privateer named Fleming who first brought the news to Plymouth that the enemy was at hand. He had seen them off the Lizard, and they were coining up Channel with a fair wind.
When the news came, the captains of the warships were playing a game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe, a flat green space which looks out on the broad and beautiful waters of Plymouth Sound.
Here is a description of some of the men who were playing in this famous game of bowls, or who stood by to watch the players. The account is by Charles Kingsley, who wrote a noble and famous book called "Westward Ho," in which this whole story of the fight against the Armada is told at much greater length than it can be told here:-
See those live talking earnestly. Those soft long eyes and pointed chin you recognise already; they are Walter Raleigh's. The fair young man in the flame-coloured doublet, whose am is round Raleigh's neck, is Lord Sheffield opposite them stands, by the side of Sir Richard Grenville, a man as stately a even as he, Lord Sheffield's uncle, the Lord Charles Howard of Effingham. Lord High Admiral of England ; next to him is his son-in-law, Sir Robert SouthweIl, captain of the Elizabeth Jonas : but who is that short, sturdy, plainly - dressed man. who stands with legs a little apart, and hands behind his back, looking up, with keen grey eyes, into the face of each speaker? His cap is in his hands, so you can see the bullet head of crisp brown hair and the wrinkled forehead, as well as the high cheek-bones, the short square face, the broad temples, the thick lips, which are yet as firm as granite. A coarse plebeian stamp of man yet the whole figure and attitude are those of boundless determination self -possession , and energy: and when at last he speaks a few blunt words, all eyes are turned respectfully upon him - for his name is Francis Drake.
A burly, grizzled elder, in greasy sea-stained garments, contrasting oddly with the huge gold chain about his neck. Waddles up, as if he had been born, and had lived ever since In a gale of wind at sea. The upper half of his sharp dogged visage seems of brick-red leather the lower of badger's fur and as he claps Drake on the back, and with a broad Devon twang, shoots, Be you a coming to drink your wine, Francis Drake, or be you not ? - saving your presence, my Lord the Lord High Admiral only laughs, and bids Drake go and drink his wine for John Hawkins, Admiral of the port. is the Patriarch of Plymouth seamen, if Drake be their hero, and says and does pretty much what he likes.
"In the crowd is many another man whom one would gladly have spoken with face to face on earth. Martin Frobisher and John Davis are sitting on that bench, smoking tobacco from long silver pipes."
It was to this company that Captain fleming brought his great piece of news. Lord Howard would have gone off at once to his ship, but Hawkins was in no such hurry. He would rather, he said, finish his game before he left. Drake agreed with Hawkins. "There was time to finish the game first, and beat the Spaniards afterwards." So the famous game was finished; and then the old sea captains turned to their work with a will. We shall see how well they did it. As Drake said, "there was time enough," but there was not too much. The English ships with difficulty warped out to sea against a head wind. They got out just in time to see the great Spanish fleet sweeping up the Channel in an immense crescent, the horns of which were fully seven miles apart. For a short time the Spaniards paused. Many of the wisest of them were in favour of sailing into Plymouth Sound and engaging the English fleet in the narrow waters, where the heavy slow-sailing ships of Spain would fight to the greatest advantage.
|How the Armada Failed.
" Then courage, noble Englishmen,
And never be dismayed;
If that we be but one to ten,
We will not be afraid."
" Ballad of Brave Lord Willoughby."
But the Duke of Medina Sidonia dared not disobey his orders, and he sailed on again eastwards. Howard and Drake allowed the enemy to pass, and then followed them up the Channel. Soon the fighting began. The Capitana ran into another Spanish ship and became disabled. Her friends left her in the lurch, and she was soon captured by the English. On board her was found the chest of swords which were to have gone to the English Roman Catholic lords as soon as they had turned traitors to their country.
The Spaniards soon had reason to know that when England is in danger, Englishmen can put aside their differences; for some of these very Roman Catholic lords were at that moment in full pursuit of the Armada, and the heavy guns of their ships were firing their shot into the high sides of the Spanish vessels
It soon became clear that, big as the Spanish ships were, they were no match either in sailing or in gunnery for the English. The English ships were longer and lower than those of the Spaniards. They sailed far better than the tall galleons. The Spaniards longed to get close with their enemy to grapple with him, and then make use of the crowds of soldiers whom they carried. But the English ships were too quick for them.
Moreover, it soon became clear that in another matter the English had an advantage. We have seen that as far back as the time of Henry VIII. very large cannon had been made in England, and those that were now carried on the English ships were heavier and more powerful than any which had ever been used at sea. "Never had there been so fierce a cannonade before in the history of the world," said one of the Spanish officers.
It warn feared at one time that the Spaniards might stop off the Isle of Wight and attack Portsmouth and Southampton. But once more the Duke of Medina Sidonia obeyed his orders, and kept on his way towards Dunkirk. Many of the English ships, after fierce fighting for many hours, ran out of powder, and had to go back to port for more. But those who returned for this purpose came back to the fleet again, and as the Spaniards got nearer to Dunkirk the English fleet increased.
At Dunkirk the Spaniards found their friends waiting for then, on shore and the English fleet under Lord Howard, Drake, and Hawkins was joined by another fleet under Lord Henry Seymonr. which had been left to watch Dunkirk and protect the Thames. It was here that the great battle took place. The Spaniards would not come out to sea, so the English captains thought of a plan by which they could make them come out. Fire-ships were got ready filled with tar, powder, pitch, and everything that would burn fiercely. Two brave men. Captain Young and Captain Prowse, undertook to take the fire-ships close to the Spanish fleet. In the darkness they came within a short distance of where the Spaniards lay at anchor. The fire-ships were lighted and left to sail by themselves before the strong wind in among the Spanish lines.
The Spanish ships cut their anchor cables in their haste to escape from the terrible danger which threatened them, and got out to sea as best .they could. But some had no spare anchors, and when they got outside the harbour, could not anchor again, and were carried far away from the rest of the fleet. Some of them drifted ashore and were wrecked; then, to make matters worse, the English fleet came sailing down with a fair wind.
The battle raged with fury. The shot from the heavy English cannon went through and through the Spanish ships, which were crowded with soldiers, the decks ran with blood, yet neither side would give way. But as the day drew on the Spaniards could bear it no longer. Some of their best ships were disabled or taken. Hundreds of their men had been killed. The water-casks which carried their fresh water had been shot through and through. There was nothing for it but to get away by the easiest road, At one time it seemed as if the wind would drive the fleet on shore, and for a while the Spaniards thought there would be nothing left for them but to surrender. But the wind changed, and blew, as it so often does in the Channel, from the south-west .
How the "Armada " went Home Again.
"Afflavit Deus et dissipantur."
Motto on the medal struck to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
What was left of the Armada toiled slowly on its way into the North Sea. The English did not follow. As has often happened in English history. those whose business it was to keep our soldiers and sailors properly supplied had not done their duty. Lord Howard, Drake, and all the other English sailors had fought their best, and were willing to go on fighting, but they could not fight without powder. There was no powder left in most of the ships, and there was no more to be got. But what the English cannon were not able to do was done by the stormy seas of the German Ocean and the Atlantic.
The Armada sailed north, past the mouth of the Thames, past Hull, and past Leith, until it reached Cape Wrath. There the vessels turned to the westward between the Orkney Islands and the main-land of Scotland. They dared not return through the narrow waters of the St. George's Channel, but kept on into the Atlantic till they had passed the north-west corner of Ireland
Then, at last, they turned southwards towards their Spanish homes, but few ever reached the ports from which they sailed. The great rollers of the Atlantic broke up the tall unwieldy ships, and the south-westerly gales drove them on to the rocky and inhospitable shores of Donegal, Sligo, Galway, and Kerry. Those who escaped the fury of the waves, fell into the hands of the wild Irish tribes, or of the English soldiers and settlers. The former in many cases put them to death for the plunder which might be taken from them. The latter threw them into prison or killed them, as enemies of England, and men likely to be dangerous in case they took part with those of the Irish who were in rebellion against Elizabeth.
Of the whole great expedition which had left Spain to conquer England less than 10,000 men returned alive, and of those many hundreds, worn out by hardship and starvation, died shortly after they had returned to their homes.
When the news of the great disaster was brought to Philip, he bore himself like a brave man. He thanked Heaven that the misfortune was no worse. " We are bound, he wrote, to give praise to God for alt things which He is pleased to do. I, on the present occasion, have. given thanks to Him for the mercy which He has shown. in the foul weather and violent storms to which the Armada has been exposed, it ,night have experienced a worse fate."
In England the news was received by all men with tine joy and thankfulness. At last the power of Spain upon the sea had been broken, and England and the Protestant religion were safe from attack. A great Thanksgiving Service, at which the queen attended, was held in St. Paul's Cathedral. A medal was struck to mark the deliverance of the country from its enemies, and round its edge was written in Latin, " God blew with His breath, and they were scuttered " . It was, indeed, true, that although the valour, seamanship, and skill of our English seamen had broken the first attack of the Armada and saved the country from invasion, it was the winds and the waves, the tempests of the Atlantic, and the rock-bound coasts of Scotland and Ireland which had destroyed the proudest ships of the great Armada, and had wrecked for ever the hopes of the King of Spain.