Page images
PDF
EPUB

VIII.

THE GREAT ARMADA FIGHT.-No. II.

of Engle The Foo and everas a ti

The history of English maritime enterprise is the brightest page of a brilliant story. The roots of our naval supremacy stretch far back into Norman, Danish, and even Saxon times. In truth, it runs in the blood. There never was a time when the English were not daring and successful sea-rovers. From Beowulf to Nelson it is the same tale. The Vikings live again in the exploits of our great Admirals. The Englishman is conscious of an athome-ness on the stormy ocean, which is unshared by any other people in the world. The age of Elizabeth opens a new era in our naval history. The seamanship of England broke out in her reign in a series of the most daring and consummate exploits recorded in history. In a former paper, I have described the exploration of the Arctic Seas by her mariners. In that cradle was nursed some of the courage and seamanship which shone so conspicuously in the defeat of the Armada. In 1576 Frobisher sailed to the Arctic Seas to force a new path to Cathay. Two boats, “between 20 and 25 tunne a-piece," were all that he thought needful to battle with perils, which all the resources of the English Navy have since been tasked to meet. He was moved, he tells us, by a gallant hardihood, “as it was the only thing in the world left undone, whereby a notable mind might be made famous and fortunate.” In 1585 John Davis discovered Davis' Strait, and reached 78° north, in the Moonshine, a little bark of 35 tons. Meanwhile, a greater man than either of these had made a grander exploration, which opened up the world to British enterprise and skill. The desperate attempt to force a passage to the N.E. and N.W. arose from the fear that the English Navy would never be able to cope with the great armaments of Spain and Portugal in the broad ocean. It was thought by our merchants that their only chance of trade was in the discovery of an independent track. A few casual encounters between English and Spanish ships had a little shaken that opinion; and about the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, the idea began to dawn on the minds of our sea-captains that they need not fear to meet any armament in the world, eren on the high seas. It was Drake and Hawkins chiefly who let this light in upon the nation. In 1573 Drake made a most successful expedition to the West Indies ; having first justified his somewhat piratical foray by the judgment of a pliant chaplain, “ That as he had lost a considerable sum by the treacherous dealings of the Spaniards, he was justified in repaying himself out of their treasure

anywhere about the world.” Drake, who had something of the Puritan about him, joined with the sea-rover, doubtless found comfort in the clerical license -- a kind of letter of marque sealed in the chancery of Heaven-but I suspect, on the whole,

The good old rule contented him,

The simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,

And they should keep who can.

It is a rule which prevails much in a simple state of society, and in such a state is the only practical solution of many of the vexed questions of the time. In that expedition, from the top of a hill or tree, on the isthmus, he caught sight of the Pacific Ocean : and, falling on his knees, vowed by God's help to bear the English flag into those unknown seas. In 1577 he sailed, with five little ships and 160 men, on his memorable enterprise. In a former Paper I have given some sketch of his voyage round the world. His hardy seamanship, his masterly command of men, his utter contempt for any number of Spanish ships, and his burning hate against the Spaniard for the cruelties and brutalities which daily came under his eye, are most conspicuous. In three years he returned with but one ship out of the five, with £800,000 of booty, and the glory of being the first sea-captain who had circumnavigated the world. His return to London was a great triumph ; he became at once the most renowned mariner of his time; and he planted an intense hatred and contempt of the Spaniard, and an assurance of superiority, in the breasts of all the great seamen of his day. Raleigh, Gilbert, Grenville, I must not even mention, but pass on to the year 1587, when the magnitude and object of the Armada became patent to all the world. Then Drake, by the Queen's commission, set forth to delay, if possible, the sailing of the fleet for another year; it might be that he would cripple it altogether. The whole expedition is one of the most daring and successful on record. His old contempt for the Spaniards led him, with his thirty ships, in the most reckless manner, into the Spanish ports. One of the ships only was the Queen's; the rest were furnished by the merchants of London, partly as a private venture, and partly for the public good. He dashed into Cadiz, where a fleet was waiting to join the Armada, and destroyed every shipin number, it is said, not less than 100—with two large galleons. Thence to the Tagus, where he challenged Santa Cruz, at the head of the main body of the Armada, to come out and fight him, with his thirty ships ; which the Spaniard, knowing well what a dare-devil he had to deal with, most wisely declined. Thence, having humbled the Spaniard in his own ports, to the Azores,

f the proved most valuable non laden moitz

where he captured an immense galleon laden with treasure; on board which he found most valuable maps and charts of the Indian seas. These proved most useful in opening-up the unknown tracks of the Spanish commerce to our sailors. According to Camden, it led to the formation of our East India Company. Then “having," as he says, with grim humour, “singed the King of Spain's beard,” he returned home, “laden," as he writes to Lond Burleigh, “ with as much honour and victory as any man in the world could wish for." His expedition was the salvation of England. It truly decided the fate of the Armada. But his letter to the Government, printed in “ Strype," contained the most grave and statesmanlike advice. “It is very necessary," he says, " that all possible preparations for defence be speedily made." Burleigh had full information from his agents in the chief Spanish ports ; and in November, 1587, the Queen summoned a Special Council to consider of the defence of the realm. Of the eight able men called to the Council, Grenville, Raleigh, and Norris, are the best known. In the Spanish Council, Camden tells us, there was high debate. Some advised a preliminary expedition from Flanders, to seize and hold some port in Holland or Zealand, where the Armada might disembark the troops. Others opposed it strongly. Fortunately for us, though Parma and Santa Cruz strenuously urged the proposal, the adverse opinion prevailed. It was resolved to sail up-channel, effect a junction with Parma off the coast of Flanders, and, disembarking the army at the mouth of the Thames, march on London, and finish the war at a blow. This was probably the very worst plan which could possibly have been proposed. The Queen's Council, within a brief space, put the whole kingdom into a most complete and admirable state of defence. The enthusiasm was boundless, and the judgment of those at the head of affairs masterly. Among Lord Burleigh's State papers there is a most important document, in which every ship and every troop raised for the defence of the country is, with most elaborate detail, set forth. But there was a prior question with the Queen's advisers, should the main defence be by land or sea. The question was warmly debated. Raleigh's strenuous reasoning seems mainly to have led to the decision that, as with Athens of old, the chief trust of England should be in her ships. Still the land rose up in complete defence; England sheathed herself in steel to meet the great crisis of her history; 130,000 men, besides the Londoners, who were a host in themselves, armed for war. The organization was so complete, that, as a Spanish spy writes to the Ambassador in Paris, “a force of 20,000 men could be concentrated in forty, eight hours upon any part of the coast which might be threatened, under leaders of renown and skill." Twenty-two thousand foot and

2,000 horse were stationed at Tilbury to guard the mouth of the river; while 29,000 men and 10,000 Londoners were stationed nearer to the city to protect the capital, and the person of the Queen. But the chief interest of the struggle is naval, and to that we will now proceed. It is difficult to discover accurately the extent of Philip's preparations : according to a Spanish account which was disseminated in Europe, and which is probably the most trustworthy, the numbers stood thus :—130 ships, of the aggregate burden of 57,868 tons; 19,295 soldiers; 8,450 sailors; 2,088 slaves ; 2,630 pieces of ordnance; and immense military and naval stores. Eighty more ships are said afterwards to have joined. Meanwhile the Prince of Parma had 30,000 picked troops ready to embark in Flanders, and great supplies of Hat-bottomed boats, and all the munitions of war. Guise, moreover, promised to march 12,000 men into Normandy, to be transported by the Armada to England.

The English force we know accurately. In the Queen's navy there were just thirty-four ships, of the aggregate burden of 12,190 tons, carrying 6,225 men. Two only of these ships reached 1,000 tons. The largest, the Triumph, commanded by Frobisher, was 1,100 tons. The Admiral was in the Ark Royal, of 800 tons; Drake, Vice-Admiral, was in the Rerenge, of 500 tons, while the Victory, of 800, carried stout John Hawkins to the fight. One hundred and fifty-seven merchant ships completed the navy. I have gone carefully through the list. Sixteen only of these reached 100 tons — not one reached 200. The men on board the whole fleet numbered 15,772; its tonnage was 31,985 tons. The supreme command was conferred on Lord Charles Howard, a man far more fitted than Drake for the command-in-chief. Camden says of him, “Of whose fortunate conduct the Queen had great persuasion, whom she knew by his moderate and noble carriage to be skilful in sea matters, wary and provident, valiant and courageous, industrious and active, and of great personal authority and esteem among the seamen of the Navy.” It is not a little remarkable that he was a Catholic. It was a noble trust which the Queen reposed, and right nobly was it repaid. Burleigh, cautious as he was bound to be, seems to have had his doubts. He seems to have solicited Drake's opinion of the Admiral, of whom in June, 1588, Drake nobly writes thus: “I do assure your good lordship, and protest it before God, that I find my Lord-Admiral so well affected for all honourable service in this action, that it doth assure all his followers of good successes and the hope of victory." The fleet was thus distributed. Lord IIenry Seymour was stationed with forty ships to keep the coast of Flanders in strict blockade ; while Howard, with Drake as ViceAdmiral, closed the mouth of the English Channel with the s body of the fleet. Amidst the hum of this vast preparation to new year's morning dawned. It is said that, a hundredi var before, an astronomer of Konigsberg foretold that "1.38 be an admirable year, and the climacterical year of the wurhi. This was about right. Of the spirit of the English people ve have the most abundant evidence. The Queen, in a letter w te. Lords-Lieutenant of Hampshire, puts the simple question :

“ Every man's particular state in the highest degree will be touched, in respect of country, liberty, wives, children, landa lives, and (which was especially to be regarded) the professoas of the true and sincere religion of Christ." “Wherefore," a word, O Englishmen, “ QUIT YOU LIKE MEN, AND FIGHT." nothing loth was England. Hear this testimony from Sto:

“ It was a pleasant sight to behold the soldiers as they marche to Tilburie, their chearful countenances, courageous words an gestures, dancing and leaping wherever they came. In the camp their most felicity was in the hope of fighting the enemy, whe: ofttimes divers rumours ran of their foe's approach, and that present battle would be given them. Then were they as joyful at se: news as if lusty giants were to run a race."

A country like that is impregnable to an invader. Spaniards had to learn it. France may have to learn it yet.

I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of quoting from the form of prayer which was offered up in prospect of this great peril :"O

Lord, give good and prosperous success to all them fight Thy battle against the enemies of Thy Gospel. Show see token continually for our good, that they who hate us mas it and be confounded. And that we, Thy little and dead flock, may say with good King David, Blessed is the price whose God is the Lord Jehovah, and blessed is the folk wbuca Ho hath chosen to be His inheritance.' These and all graces De for us, grant, O Heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, et only Mediator and Redeemer."

The Armada, too, had its Liturgy. The instructions to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who had succeeded Santa Crus Admiral, are extant. They are clear and able, but painfalls elaborate. One feels that a little good sense and good and would be worth them all. The orders against vice and pritiza were strict, and doubtless earnest; and there is this about prayer: The company of every ship every morning, at brak of PS day, shall, according to the custom, give the good mornww by the mainmast, and at night the 'Are Maria,' and some dars the * Salre Regina,' or at least the Saturdays with a Litany." (2 is not once mentioned. “ FOR JESUS CHRIST'S SAKE, OLE UNIT

« PreviousContinue »