Reign of Elizabeth—from A.D. 1558 to A.D. 1603.

When Elizabeth came to the throne, she, without loss of time, took measures to restore the navy, which had been allowed to fall into decay during the reign of her wretched sister Mary. Timber was stored up for building, numerous pieces of brass cannon cast, and gunpowder, which had hitherto been brought from abroad, was manufactured at home. She raised the wages of seamen, increased the number of naval officers, and augmented their salaries, giving also encouragement to foreigners skilled in shipbuilding to repair to her ports and construct strong ships, both for war and commerce. The fortresses in the Isle of Wight and other parts were increased, and scarcely had she governed four days when Vice-Admiral Malyn was ordered to sail, with as many ships as were fit for sea, to protect trade and to defend the channel.
She, of course, took these steps by the advice of Cecil, who likewise directed Sir Thomas Gresham to send over coin from Holland, and to purchase arms and munitions of war. Cecil was thoroughly cognisant of the designs of the Spaniards, and he had soon a proof of their perfidious intentions. A squadron under the command of Sir John Hawkins had been driven into the port of Saint Juan d’Ulloa in the Bay of Mexico, and was suddenly attacked by a Spanish fleet, the commander of which had just before been professing his friendly intentions. Sir John suspected treachery in consequence of observing that the Spaniards were shifting arms from one ship to another, planting and levelling their cannon from their ships towards an island on which some of the English had landed. The master of one of the ships being sent to the Spanish admiral, he was seized; and, causing the trumpet to be sounded, the Spaniards set on the English on all sides. The men on shore being dismayed at the unexpected onset, fled, and endeavoured to recover their ships, but the Spaniards, landing in great numbers, slew most of them without quarter. Several of the English ships were destroyed—the Minion and Judith, with a small bark of fifty tons, alone escaping. The crews underwent incredible hardships, though they at length found their way to England. The English captured on the island by the Spaniards were afterwards thrown into the Inquisition, where they remained shut up asunder in dungeons for a year and a-half. Three were afterwards burnt; others were condemned to receive two and three hundred blows on horseback with long whips, and to serve in the galleys for many years; and others were confined in monasteries, dressed in the S. Benito or fool’s coats. One of them, Job Hartob, after enduring captivity for twenty-three years, escaped, and reached England. So enraged were the nation at this treachery of the Spaniards, that it was with difficulty they could be restrained from breaking the peace with that perfidious nation.

A further cause of dissension arose in consequence of a convoy of vessels, bound from the coast of Biscay for the Low Countries with a large quantity of money on board, being chased by French pirates, having taken shelter in Plymouth, Falmouth, and Southampton. The queen, being informed that the money was on the merchants’ accounts, and that the Duke of Alva would certainly seize it to enable him to carry on the war, made bold to borrow the sum. This brought matters to a crisis; reprisals were made by Spain, and the English seized many Spanish and Flemish ships. The English on this, with incredible alacrity, fitted out vessels, and fell upon all merchant-ships belonging to the Spaniards. Spain, it was now known, was preparing a formidable force for the invasion of England; but the queen and her ministers, unintimidated by the boasts of the Spaniards, omitted no precautionary measures to defeat Philip’s plans. In 1587, a fleet under Sir Francis Drake was despatched to Cadiz. The admiral here forced six galleys, placed for the guardianship of the port, to shelter themselves under the cannon of the castle; and then, having burnt upwards of a hundred ships laden with ammunition and provisions, he sailed for Cape Saint Vincent, where he surprised some forts, and destroyed all the fishing craft he could fall in with. From thence, appearing off the mouth of the Tagus, he challenged the Spanish admiral, Santa Cruz, to come out and fight; but the Spaniard, obeying his master’s orders, allowed Drake to burn and destroy every vessel he could find, rather than hazard an engagement. The King of Spain, hoping to frighten the English, published in every country in Europe a full account of the armada he was preparing for the subjugation, as he hoped, of England. 

For three years had Philip been making the most mighty efforts to fit out a fleet with which he hoped to humble the pride of the queen of that “tight little island,” who had dared to refuse his hand, and to enslave her heretical subjects. The Most Happy Armada, for so he had styled it, consisted of 134 sail of towering ships, of the total burden of 57,868 tons; on board of it wore 19,295 soldiers, 8450 sailors, 2088 slaves, and 2830 pieces of cannon. In addition to the foregoing, there were galleys, galliasses, and galleons stored with 22,000 pounds of great shot, 40,000 quintals, or hundredweights of powder, 1000 quintals of lead for bullets, 10,000 quintals of match, 7000 muskets and calivers, 1000 partisans and halberds, besides double-cannon and field-pieces for a camp on disembarking, and a great many mules, horses, and asses, with six months’ provisions of all sorts. To this may be added a large band of monks, with racks, thumbscrews, chains, whips, butchering knives, and other implements of torture, with which it was proposed to convert the English from the error of their ways, and to bring them to the true faith as expounded by the pope and his pupil Philip.

The larger of these ships measured from 1000 to 1200 tons, they carried 50 guns, about 180 mariners, and 300 soldiers. A still larger number measuring from 600 to 800 tons, and carrying from 30 to 40 guns, with crews of about 100 seamen, and 300 soldiers. There was a fleet of pataches and zabras, a considerable number of which measured no more than 60 tons, and carried 8 guns and 30 seamen. The galliasses must, however, have been ships of great bulk, as they carried 50 guns, and crews of about 120 men, with a still larger number of soldiers, besides which they each had about 300 slaves for working their oars. The galleys also carried 50 guns and about 230 slaves. This fleet was divided into ten squadrons, each commanded by an experienced officer. The pataches are more commonly called carvels. Besides the Dominicans, Franciscans, Flagellants, and Jesuits, there were on board many hundred persons of the best families of Spain; some maintained by the king, with their servants, and those belonging to the duke’s court.

This vast armada was followed by a fleet of tenders, with a prodigious quantity of arms on board, intended to put into the hands of those whom it was expected would rise on their reaching the shores of our own land. The command of this mighty squadron, generally known as the Spanish Armada, was given to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, and under him was Don Martinez de Recaldo, an experienced admiral, who managed the affairs of the fleet. The reports of the enormous preparations made by the Spaniards for the destruction of everything they held dear naturally caused the greatest anxiety, if not consternation, among the English, but the nation was true to itself. The queen and her ministers, in no way daunted at the mighty preparations for their enslavement, vigorously prepared for resistance, taking all the measures wisdom could dictate and their means would allow for repelling the invaders. The country flew to arms; every county raised a body of militia; the sea-ports were fortified, and a system of signals arranged so that troops could be brought to the point where they were required with the greatest possible speed. 

Orders were also given that, should the enemy land, the whole country round should be laid waste, so that the Spaniards might find no food except what they brought with them. The regular army was disposed, a part along the southern coast, another near Torbay, under the command of the Earl of Leicester, while a third, under the leading of Lord Hunsdon, was destined to guard the queen’s person. The English Government, not misled by the assurances of the Spanish minister that his master’s wish was to remain at peace, took care to keep themselves well informed of the proceedings of the Spaniards, and of the time the Armada was likely to be ready to put to sea.

Offers had been made by Philip to conclude a treaty, and a meeting was held between his envoys and the English commissioners in April near Ostend. The Spaniards, however, purposely squandered away the time, hoping to stop the preparations of the English while their own were going forward, and at length fixed on Brouckburg in Flanders as the place for concluding a treaty of peace. Before the time agreed on had arrived, the Spanish Armada had sailed from the Tagus. The pope having blessed the fleet which was to be engaged in the pious office of subjugating the heretics of England, it was named the Great, Noble, and Invincible Armada, the terror of Europe.

The English fleet was placed under the command of Lord Howard of Effingham, who had, however, only seventeen ships of war actually belonging to the queen. The largest of these, the Triumph, was of 1100 tons, carried 500 men, and was commanded by Sir Martin Frobisher. The next in size was the White Bear, also with a crew of 500 men, commanded by Lord Edmund Sheffield. The third in size was the Ark, the admiral’s flag-ship, of 800 tons, commanded by Raleigh. Of the same size was the Victory, carrying the flag of Sir John Hawkins, the rear-admiral, with a crew of 400 men. There were two others of 600 tons, the Elizabeth Bonaventure and the Hope. There were six of 500 tons, two of 400 tons, another of 360 tons, while the rest ranged from 30 to 120 tons. To these were joined twelve hired ships and six tenders. The city of London provided sixteen ships, twice the number demanded, with four store-ships; the city of Bristol, three; Barnstaple, three; Exeter, two, and a tender and stout pinance; Plymouth, seven stout ships, equal to the men-of-war. Sixteen ship were under Lord Henry Seymour. The nobility and gentry and commons of England furnished forty-three ships; the merchant adventurers, ten; to which may be added a fly-boat and Sir W. Winter’s pinnace, making in all 143 ships.

Of these ships, thirty-two were under the command of Sir Francis Drake, and several of them were of 400 tons burden; but the greater number were not of more than 200 tons. The largest London ship was only of 300 tons, but the greater number were above 100 tons, and the smallest of 60 tons. Lord Henry Seymour’s ships were mostly under 150 tons, the largest being only 160. Altogether the number of their crews did not amount to more than 15,000 men, but they were one and all gallant tars, resolved to fight and conquer, and fearless of danger. Sir Francis Drake, with fifty sail, had been stationed at Plymouth, and here the Lord High Admiral, with a large part of his fleet, joined him on the 23rd May, when Sir Francis was made his vice-admiral. Hence, with about ninety ships, the fleet sailed up and down between Ushant and Scilly, waiting for the arrival of the Armada, which had sailed, as has been said, on the 1st June. A tremendous storm, which compelled the English to run into harbour, had, however, dispersed the Spaniards, and driven them back with some damage into port. Shortly afterwards a report reached England, circulated probably by the Spaniards themselves, that the whole of their fleet had been weather-beaten, and that they would be unable to proceed to sea till the next year. This was actually believed by the English Government, who ordered the Lord High Admiral to send back four of his largest ships into port; but Lord Howard, alleging how dangerous it was to be too credulous, retained the ships, observing that he would rather keep them at his own charge than expose the nation to so great a hazard.
The wind coming from the north, on the 8th of June Lord Howard sailed towards Spain, looking out for the Armada; but the wind changing to the south, and he seeing that it would be favourable to the Spaniards, returned towards England, lest they might slip by and reach the coast before him. On the 12th he arrived at Plymouth, where the whole fleet was assembled, waiting for the enemy, and on the 19th of June—
“’Twas about the lovely close of a warm summer’s day.
There came a gallant merchant-ship, full sail to Plymouth Bay.
Her crew hath seen Castile’s black fleet, beyond Aurigny’s isle,
At earliest twilight, on the wave, lie heaving many a mile;
At sunrise she escaped their van, by God’s especial grace,
And the tall Pinta, till at noon, had held her close in chase.”
This tall ship was commanded by Captain Thomas Fleming, who had been stationed on the look-out to the eastward. The wind blowing almost directly into the sound, it was scarcely possible for the English fleet to put to sea; at length, however, by dint of warping, the admiral’s ship and six more got out of the haven, and by daylight, on the 20th, sixty others joined him; with these he sailed, and when off the Eddystone caught sight of the enemy to the westward. Notice of the appearance of the Armada was spread far and wide throughout the land.
“Night sank upon the dusky beach, and on the purple sea;
Such night in England ne’er had been, nor ne’er again shall be.
From Eddystone to Berwick bounds, from Lynn to Milford Bay,
That time of slumber was as bright and busy as the day;
For swift to east and swift to west the ghastly war-flames spread,
High on Saint Michael’s Mount it shone, it shone on Beachy Head.
Far on the deep the Spaniards saw, along each southern shore,
Cape beyond cape in endless range, those twinkling spots of fire.”
Onward came the Armada in perfect order, forming a crescent, the horns of which were seven miles apart, the concave part to the rear. Formidable, indeed, from their size and number, did they appear, like so many floating castles, such as had never in the world’s history sailed over the surface of the deep. The English captains were eager for the attack, but Lord Howard wisely checked their ardour, pointing out the enormous size of the enemy’s ships, which also being full of troops, they could hope to do nothing with by boarding. Had, indeed, the Spaniards ventured to attack the English on that day, it would have been difficult to escape from them. Having wisely waited till the following morning, Sunday, the 21st of June, the admiral was joined by the rest of the fleet, which had got out of the sound, and had, moreover, the wind in its favour. The battle commenced at nine o’clock in the morning, when Lord Howard attacked a Spanish ship commanded by Don Alfonso de Lara. Lord Howard pressed in upon her, tore her hull with his broadside, and brought her to the verge of sinking. Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher attacked, also, the rearmost of the Spanish ships, commanded by Recaldo, the vice-admiral, ship engaging ship, till the Spaniards were so disabled that they took to flight, and were received into the main body. The British seamen, elated by their success, pressed on more and more boldly, till, darkness coming on, the Lord High Admiral, by signal, ordered them to desist. 

About midnight the English saw a large ship in the centre of the Spanish fleet blow up. As it proved afterwards, she had on board a large amount of treasure, which was moved before she was deserted to another ship, commanded by Don Pedro Vargas. It coming on to blow hard at night, this ship sprang her foremast, and falling astern, was attacked and captured by Sir Francis Drake. Besides the treasure, several persons of distinction were found on board, the first Spanish prisoners made on this occasion. The ship was sent into Dartmouth, where the plunder of the vessel was divided among the sailors.

A ship which had been destroyed was fallen in with the next day, having fifty men on board cruelly burnt, and vast numbers dead. In the evening Sir Francis Drake was induced to sail in pursuit of several ships he saw in the south-west, but which proved to be German merchant-vessels; and it was evening of the next day before he could rejoin the fleet. Next morning, the two fleets having manoeuvred for some time to gain the weather-gage, about noon the Spaniards at length bore down on a number of the London vessels; but the Lord High Admiral sending a reinforcement, rescued his ships, and nearly took the vice-admiral. So high were the sides of the Spanish ships that their shot generally flew over the heads of the English, and did little damage; while scarcely a shot from the ships of the latter missed its aim. After the fleets had engaged for some time, the wind shifted to the south-south-west. On this Lord Howard led his fleet to the attack of the Armada. One of his ships, the Triumph, pushing too far, was surrounded by the Spaniards; but the admiral, with six other vessels, bore down to her assistance, having given orders to his captains not to fire a gun till within musket-shot. The Triumph was rescued, and the Spaniards driven back, miserably shattered.

About this period one William Cox, captain of a little pinnace called the Violet, belonging to Sir William Winter, behaved valiantly against the enemy, but his gallant little craft was sunk, and he was killed by a great piece of ordnance. As an old author writes on this occasion: “Also the May Flower of London, a name known to fame, performed an honourable part. Never, indeed, was seen so vehement a fight; either side endeavouring to bring about the destruction of the other. For albeit the musqueteers and arquebusiers were in either fleet many in number, yet could they not be discerned or heard by reason of the roar of the greater ordnance that followed so thick one upon another, and played so well that day on either side that they were thought to be equal in number to common arquebusiers in a hot skirmish. The battle was not only long, but also near at hand—within half a musket-shot—and that to the great advantage of the Englishmen, who, with their ships being, as was aforesaid, excellent of sail and of steerage, yet less a great deal than the Spanish ships, and therefore more light and nimble, fought not according to their manner otherwise, to board them, but keeping themselves aloof at a reasonable distance, continually beat upon the hull and tackling of the enemy’s ships, which, being a good deal higher, could not so easily beat the English ships with their ordnance. Thus in the space of one day, with the loss only of one small ship and less than a hundred men on the part of the English, was the so-called Invincible Armada utterly beaten and nearly destroyed—though to the God of battles must truly be ascribed the victory, for the power of the elements more than man’s strength, caused the destruction of the larger number of the Spanish ships.”

At evening the engagement ceased, by which time several of the enemy’s ships had been taken, among them a Venetian ship of large size and force. The next day, for want of ammunition, the English were unable to renew the attack; but the Spaniards, not knowing this, did not attempt to molest them. It had been intended, on the night of the 24th, by Lord Howard, to attack the Armada in the dead of the night, but the wind failing he was disappointed in his object. On the 25th, a vast galleon, dropping behind, was captured by Sir John Hawkins after a desperate resistance. Several galliasses, sent by the Spanish admiral to the rescue of the galleon, were nearly taken. The persevering English, in their small vessels, continued their assaults on the vast ships of the enemy, never failing to inflict considerable damage on them. In the meantime, more powder and shot were brought on board to enable them to carry on their assaults. On the following day the admiral determined, however, to allow the Armada to proceed towards the Straits of Calais, where another fleet, under Lord Henry Seymour and Captain Winter, lay in wait for them. Thus the Armada sailed forward till the English saw them anchor before Calais, on the 27th of July. Here, being joined by the before-mentioned squadron, the Lord High Admiral found himself in command of nearly 150 stout ships, and, bearing down on the enemy, anchored at a short distance from them. The Spanish admiral had anchored in the hopes of being joined by the Duke of Parma, but the fleets of Holland and Zealand blockaded him in the ports of Dunkirk and Niewport, and he dared not sail out. Seeing that the Spanish ships lay very close together, Lord Howard planned a new method for their destruction. Eight of the least valuable vessels being fitted out as fire-ships, and having their guns loaded, were conducted towards the Spaniards by Captains Young and Prowse, who, in the most undaunted manner, firing the trains as they got close to the Spaniards, retired. As the burning ships bore down upon them, the Spaniards, struck with dismay, cut their cables, and put to sea. The largest galliasse in the fleet ran on shore, and was captured by the boats of the squadron, after all her fighting men had been killed—the slaves at the oars alone escaping. Several thus ran on the shoals on the coast of Flanders.

The greater number were attacked fiercely by the English, who disabled many of their ships. The Earl of Cumberland sent a large galleon to the bottom, another was sunk by the Lord High Admiral, and two other vessels by Drake and Hawkins. Another large galleon, the Saint Matthew, was captured by the Dutch, as was the Saint Philip, after in vain endeavouring to escape, having been driven by the English towards Ostend.
One of the most gallant of the English commanders was Captain Robert Cross, who, in a small vessel, sunk three of the enemy; while the Spaniards fled whenever they were attacked—indeed, the whole engagement this day was more a pursuit than a battle. On the 31st of July, the Spaniards, who had attempted to regain Calais Roads, were driven towards the coast of Zealand, when, the wind favouring them just as they were almost on the shoals, their admiral came to the resolution of returning home round the northern end of the British Isles, and making all sail, they steered the course proposed, throwing overboard their horses and mules, and everything that could impede their progress. Lord Howard, leaving Lord Henry Seymour with a squadron to assist the Dutch in blockading the Duke of Parma, sent Admiral Winter with another into the narrow seas to guard the coast, while he himself pursued the Spaniards. Many more were lost in their hurried flight; some were wrecked on the coast of Scotland, and others on the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Those who landed in Scotland were brought to Edinburgh, to the number of 500, where they were mercifully treated; but nearly thirty ships were cast away on the Irish coast, where nearly all their crews, to the number of several thousands, who escaped drowning, were put to death by the inhabitants. About fifty-four ships alone of this mighty Armada returned to Spain, and of those who had embarked upwards of 20,000 men had perished. Not a family in Spain but had lost a relative, though King Philip, in a vain endeavour to conceal his rage and disappointment, forbade any persons to wear mourning.

The encouragement given to maritime adventure raised up a host of gallant seamen and explorers, whose names became renowned for their exploits, and who carried the flag of England into all quarters of the globe. Perhaps of these the most celebrated was Sir Francis Drake, who, having performed numerous daring exploits in the West Indies, sailed round the world, and returned to England, his ship laden with the booty he had taken from the Spaniards; good Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who, after making many discoveries, sank with all his crew off the coast of Newfoundland; Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Grenville, Sir John Hawkins, and a host of others.
Among other expeditions was one intended for the South Seas, under the command of the Earl of Cumberland, who, at his own charge, fitted out three ships and a pinnace—namely, the Red Dragon, of 160 tons and 130 men; the Clifford, of 30 tons and 70 men; and the Rose and the Dorothy. Having touched on the African coast, they crossed over to South America, where they took two Portuguese ships, one of which had forty-five negroes on board, while the only riches in the other, besides slaves and friars, were beads and other spiritual trinkets, and the furniture designed for a new monastery. Several other prizes were made, when, without attempting to reach the Pacific, they returned to England. While numerous English vessels were cruising on the coasts of Old Spain, and destroying its trade and navigation, Thomas Cavendish was despatched with a small squadron to do the like on the coast of New Spain. He carried out his instructions, crossing the South Seas to the Philippines, and afterwards visiting China, having taken on his way many of the ships of the enemy.

To Sir John Hawkins the navy is indebted for the institution of that noble fund the Chest at Chatham, to which, also, Sir Francis Drake contributed considerably. Elizabeth, determined to retaliate on the Spaniards, fitted out a fleet in the following spring of 146 sail, which destroyed Corunna and Vigo, as well as the Castle of Cascacs at the mouth of the Tagus, and captured sixty large ships. In 1590 the queen allotted £8790 a-year for the repairs of the Royal Navy; a sum which would go but a short way at the present day in building a single ship.
About this time the telescope was invented by Janssen, a spectacle-maker of Middleburgh, in Zealand. Hearing of it, Galileo immediately constructed his first very imperfect instrument, which magnified only three times. Further experiments enabled him to construct another with a power of eight, and ultimately, sparing neither labour nor expense, he formed one which bore a magnifying power of more than thirty times. With this instrument, he commenced that survey of the heavenly bodies which rendered his name famous as the first of astronomers. In the reign of Charles the Second, in 1671, Sir Isaac Newton constructed his first reflecting telescope, a small ill-made instrument, nine inches only in length—valuable as it was, a pigmy in power compared to Lord Rosse’s six-feet reflector of sixty feet in length. Torricelli, the pupil of Galileo, invented the barometer.

In 1591 the first voyage to the East Indies was undertaken by Captain Lancaster, in three ships. One was sent back with invalids, another was lost with all on board, and the crew of the captain’s ship mutinied while he was on shore on an uninhabited island, and ran off with her, leaving him and his companions for three years, till they were rescued.
Among the brave admirals of this period, one of the most gallant was Sir Richard Grenville, who, after serving his country for many years, sailed in the Revenge as Vice-Admiral to Lord Admiral Howard, in 1591, in search of the Spanish West India merchant-fleet, with a squadron of six men-of-war, six victuallers, and a few pinnaces. The English squadron was at anchor near the island of Flores, when the admiral received intelligence of the approaching Spanish fleet. He was in no condition to oppose the Spaniards, for, besides being greatly inferior in numbers, nearly half the men were disabled by the scurvy, a large proportion of whom were on shore. The admiral immediately weighed and put to sea, and the rest of his squadron followed his example. Sir Richard Grenville, however, remaining to receive the sick men, was the last to weigh. The admiral and the rest of the fleet with difficulty recovered the wind, but Sir Richard, not being able to do this, was advised by his master to set his mainsail and coast about, trusting to the sailing of his ship. As the Spanish squadron was already on his weather-gage, Sir Richard utterly refused to fly from the enemy, declaring that he would rather die than dishonour Her Majesty’s ship, persuading his company that he would pass through the two squadrons in spite of them. Standing for the Spaniards, he compelled several of them to spring their luff, who thus fell under the lee of the Revenge. Meanwhile, as he was engaging those nearest to him, an enormous Spanish ship, the great San Philip, of 1500 tons, being to windward, and bearing down upon him, becalmed his sails, so that his ship could neither make way nor feel the helm. This enormous ship now laid the Revenge aboard; while she was thus becalmed, the ships under her lee luffing up, also laid her aboard, one of them the Spanish admiral’s ship, mighty and puissant, two on her larboard, and two on her starboard side. The fight, which began at three o’clock in the afternoon, continued very terrible all that evening. The great San Philip, however, having received the broadside of the Revenge, discharged with cross-bar shot, shifted herself with all diligence from her sides, utterly misliking her first entertainment. The Spanish ships were filled with companies of soldiers, in some 200, in others 800, while the Revenge had no soldiers, besides the mariners, but the officers’ servants and a few volunteers. After a long interchange of broadsides, and small shot, the Spaniards attempted to board the Revenge, hoping by the multitudes of their armed soldiers and musqueteers to force her, but were repulsed again and again, and driven back into their own ships or into the sea. In the beginning of the fight a victualler, the George Noble, of London, after receiving some shot, fell under the lee of the Revenge, and asked Sir Richard what he commanded him to do. Sir Richard bade him save himself, and leave him to his fortune. After the fight had continued without intermission while the day lasted and some hours of the night, many of the English were slain and wounded, the great galleon had been sunk, while terrific slaughter had been made on board the other Spanish ships. About midnight Sir Richard was struck by a musket-ball; while the surgeon was dressing his wound, he was again shot in the head, the surgeon being killed at the same moment.

The first ships which had attacked the Revenge having been beaten off, others took their places, so that she had never less than two mighty galleons by her sides, and before morning she had fifteen other ships assailing her; and so ill did they approve of their entertainment that by break of day they were far more willing to hearken to a composition than again to attack her. But as the day increased, so did the gallant crew decrease; no friends appeared in sight, only enemies, saving only one small ship called the Pilgrim, commanded by Jacob Widdon. He deserves to be handed down to fame, for he hovered near all night in the hopes of helping the admiral, but in the morning, bearing away, was hunted like a hare among many ravenous hounds; but, happily, he escaped.
By this time all the powder of the Revenge except the last barrel was spent, her pikes broken, forty of her best men slain, and the most part of the rest hurt. At the commencement she had had but a hundred free from sickness, and ninety lay in the hold upon the ballast. By this hundred was sustained all the volleys and boardings of fifteen ships of war. Sir Richard finding himself helpless, and convinced that his ship must fall a prey to the enemy who now circled round him, proposed to the master-gunner, whom he knew to be a most resolute man, to expend their last barrel of powder by blowing up the ship and sinking her, that thereby the Spaniards might lose the glory of a victory. The master-gunner readily consented, and so did divers others, but the captain and master were of another opinion, alleging that the Spaniards would be ready for a compromise, and that there were many valiant men yet living who might do their country acceptable service hereafter—besides which, as the ship had already six-feet of water in the hold, and three shot-holes under water, which were so weakly stopped that by the first working of the ship she must needs sink, she would never get into port. Sir Richard refusing to hearken to these reasons, the captain went on board the ship of the Spanish admiral, Don Alfonso Bacan, who promised that the lives of all should be preserved, that the ship’s company should be sent to England, the officers to pay a reasonable ransom, and in the meantime to be free from the galleys or imprisonment.

From the report which the admiral received, no one showed any inclination to return on board the Revenge, lest Sir Richard should blow himself and them up together. On this news being returned, the greater part of the crew, the master-gunner excepted, drew back from Sir Richard, it being no hard matter to dissuade men from death to life. The master-gunner finding himself and Sir Richard thus prevented and mastered by the greater number, would have slain himself with the sword, had he not by force been withheld, and locked into his cabin. The Spanish admiral then sent many boats on board the Revenge, the English crew, fearing Sir Richard would still carry out his intention, stealing away on board the Spanish ships. Sir Richard, thus overmatched, was sent unto by Don Alfonso Bacan to remove out of the Revenge, the ship being marvellous unsavoury, filled with bodies of dead and wounded men, like a slaughter-house. Sir Richard answered that he might do with his body as he list, for he esteemed it not. As he was carried out of the ship he swooned; on reviving again, he desired the ship’s company to pray for him.

Don Alfonso used Sir Richard with all humanity, and left nothing unattempted that tended to his recovery, highly commending his valour and worthiness, and greatly bewailing the danger wherein he was, while he admired the resolution which had enabled the English admiral to endure the fire of so many huge ships, and to resist the assaults of so many soldiers. During the fight two Spanish captains and no less than a thousand men were either killed or drowned, while two large ships were sunk by her side, another sunk in the harbour, and a fourth ran herself on shore to save her crew. Greatly to the regret of the Spanish admiral, the gallant Sir Richard died three days after the action; but whether he was buried at sea or on shore is unknown. His last memorable words were: “Here die I, Richard Grenville, with a joyful and quiet mind, for that I have ended my life as a true soldier ought to do, fighting for his country, queen, religion, and honour, my soul willingly departing from this body, leaving behind a lasting fame of having behaved as every valiant soldier is in duty bound to do.”

A storm coming on soon afterwards, the Revenge, as had been expected, went to the bottom, while fifteen Spanish men-of-war were cast away, as were many of the merchantmen; so that of the whole fleet, which originally amounted to upwards of a hundred, seventy were lost. While the English sailors were scattered among the Spanish fleet, they received a visit from a traitor, one of the Earl of Desmond’s family, who endeavoured to persuade them to serve the King of Spain, but in most cases without success. In 1592 an expedition was fitted out by Sir Walter Raleigh, consisting of several queen’s ships and some of his own, with which he intended to attack Carthagena and other places in the West Indies; but as he was about to sail, he was superseded in the command by Sir Martin Frobisher, the queen wishing to retain him in England. Sir Martin was directed to proceed only to the coast of Spain, where he captured a large Portuguese carrack, which, to escape the English, ran on shore, and was burned by her people after the goods had been landed; but the English following made themselves masters of a large part of the booty and of the town of Santa Cruz. After waiting patiently for some weeks, another still larger carrack, called the Madre de Dios hove in sight. Though the Portuguese fought bravely to defend her, she was captured in the space of an hour and a-half. On going on board, the English, after hunting about for plunder, each man with a lighted candle in his hand, a cabin was entered in which there was a quantity of powder. The carrack was set on fire, and had it not been for the courage of Captain Norton, both the plundered and the plunderers would have been blown together into the air. The carrack, which was brought home in safety, was larger than any man-of-war or merchantman belonging to England. She was of 1600 tons burden, and measuring from the beak-head to the stern, on which was erected a large lantern, she was 165 feet in length. Her greatest beam was 46 feet 10 inches. On leaving Cochin China she had drawn 31 feet of water, but on her arrival at Dartmouth she drew only 26. She had seven decks—one main or sleeping, three close decks, one forecastle, and a spar deck of two floors. The length of her keel was 100 feet, and of the main-mast 121 feet; the main-yard was 106 feet long. She carried between 600 and 700 persons, and considering the length of the voyage, the large amount of provisions can be calculated. She carried fully 900 tons of cargo, consisting of jewels, spices, drugs, silks, calicoes, quilts, carpets, and colours, as also elephants’ teeth, porcelain vessels and china, cocoa-nuts, hides, ebony, bedsteads of the same, cloths made from the rinds of trees, probably of the paper-mulberry tree; the whole valued at not less than £150,000 sterling. This shows that a merchant-vessel of those days was not much less in size than an East Indiaman of late years.

On the death of Elizabeth, the navy consisted of forty-two ships—two only, however, of a thousand tons each, though there were several of 800 and 900 tons; but the greater number were much under that size, being of about 400 tons and less. The larger ships carried 340 mariners, 40 gunners, and 120 soldiers.

A sketch of the history of privateering, which, during the reign of Elizabeth, grew into vast proportions, must not be omitted. The fearful atrocities committed by the Spaniards on the inhabitants of the Low Countries naturally created the utmost horror in the breasts of the Protestants of England against them. Large numbers of the Dutch and Flemish escaping to England from their persecutors, and spreading everywhere the account of the barbarities their countrymen had endured, further increased this feeling, till it extended over the length and breadth of the land, but especially among the people of the sea-ports, where many of the fugitives took up their abodes. When, therefore, an English shipowner, Clark by name, proposed fitting out a squadron of three ships to cruise against the merchant-vessels of that nation, who, in their bigoted zeal, had vowed to stamp out the Protestant faith, not only in the countries subject to their rule, but in England herself, there was no lack of volunteers. Those who were not influenced by religious feelings, were so by the hope of filling their pockets with Spanish gold. When Clark’s squadron, after a cruise of six weeks, returned into Newhaven with eighteen prizes, their cargoes valued at £50,000, applications from all quarters were made to the queen for letters of marque which would enable ships legally to carry on war against the enemy.

At the period of Elizabeth’s accession, owing to the treachery as much as to the supineness of her predecessor, of the Royal Navy which had been created by Henry the Eighth, only twenty-three vessels of war, few of them of more than 600 tons burden, remained. There was one only of 800, one of 700, a few being above 200, while the remainder were sloops or other small craft. The Government had therefore to depend chiefly on private ships in the war with France, and the expected struggle of far greater magnitude with Spain. Numerous English subjects had also suffered from the Spanish Inquisition, and Englishmen of rank and wealth considered that they were justified in retaliating on the authors of the cruelties practised on their own countrymen. From every port and river vessels fitted out as traders went forth heavily armed to plunder on the high seas any of the ships of the common enemy of mankind with which they could fall in. At first the bold privateersmen confined themselves to the narrow seas, pouncing down upon any Spanish ship which approached their shores, either driven in thither by the wind, or compelled to seek shelter by stress of weather. Many a trader from Antwerp to Cadiz mysteriously disappeared, or, arriving without her cargo, reported that she had been set upon by a powerful craft, when, boats coming out from the English shore, she had been quickly unladen, her crew glad to escape with their lives. The Scilly Islands especially afforded shelter to a squadron of vessels under Sir Thomas Seymour, who, sailing forth into the chops of the channel, laid wait for any richly-laden craft he might happen to espy. Among other men of rank who thus distinguished themselves were the sons of Lord Chobham. Influenced by that hatred of Roman abominations which had long been the characteristic of their family, Thomas Chobham, the most daring of the brothers, had established himself in a strongly-fortified port in the south of Ireland, from whence, sailing forth with his stout ships, he attacked the Spaniards on their own coasts. Coming in sight of a large ship in the channel, laden with a cargo valued at 80,000 ducats, and having on board forty prisoners doomed to serve in the galleys, he chased her into the Bay of Biscay, where, at length coming up with her, he compelled her to strike, when he released the prisoners, and transferred the cargo to his own ship. The Spaniards declare that he sewed up all the survivors of the crew in their own sails and hove them overboard; but as the story rests on no better authority than that of the Spaniards themselves, we may be excused from giving it credence. The stories of the cruelties practised by the Spaniards on their prisoners are too well authenticated to be doubted. The men who could be guilty of one-tenth part of the horrors they compelled their fellow-subjects in the Netherlands to endure, or those inflicted on the hapless Indians of America, were capable of any conceivable cruelty.

Petitions upon petitions poured in on the queen from those whose fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons had been put to death, or were still groaning in the Spanish Inquisition, or in other prisons, both in the old and new worlds. Dorothy Seely, whose husband was among them, entreats that she and the friends of such of Her Majesty’s subjects “as be there imprisoned, inflicted, and tormented beyond all reason, may be allowed to fit out certain ships for the sea at their own proper charges, and to capture such inquisitors or other papistical subjects of the King of Spain as they can take by sea or land, and to retain them in prison in England with such torment and diet as Her Majesty’s subjects had suffered in Spain.”

To strengthen this petition, it is stated “that not long since the Spanish Inquisition executed sixty persons of Saint Malo, in France, whereupon the Frenchmen, having armed and manned their pinnaces, lay in wait for the Spaniards, and took a hundred and beheaded them, sending the Spanish ships to the shore with the heads, leaving in each ship only one man to relate the cause of the revenge—since which time the Spanish Inquisition has never meddled with those of Saint Malo.”

Froude tells us that one of the French rovers, commanded by Jacques Leclerc, called by the Spaniards Pié de Palo—“timber leg”—sailed from Havre, and captured a Portuguese vessel worth 40,000 ducats, as well as a Biscayan ship laden with iron and wool, and afterwards chased another papist ship into Falmouth, where he fired into her and drove her on shore. The captain of the Spaniard appealed for protection to the governor of Pendennis, but the governor replied that the privateer was properly commissioned, and that without special orders from the queen he could not interfere. Pié de Palo then took possession of her as a prize, and afterwards anchored under shelter of Pendennis, waiting for further good fortune. As it was the depth of winter, and the weather being unsettled, five Portuguese ships, a few days later, were driven in for shelter. Ascertaining the insecurity of their position, they attempted to escape to sea again, but Pié de Palo dashed after them and seized two of the five, which he brought back as prizes. Philip complained to the English Government of the robberies committed on his subjects, and attempts were made to put a stop to these proceedings. A few of the rovers were captured, but were very quickly set at liberty again, and the privateers swarmed everywhere in still increasing numbers. In truth, Cecil, who knew perfectly well what were the ultimate aims of Philip, had no wish to damp the ardour and enterprise of his countrymen.

Not content with the booty they obtained in the narrow seas, the privateers, often in large fleets, boldly traversed the ocean in search of Spanish argosies in the West Indies and on the Spanish main. Drake, Hawkins, and Cavendish were among the foremost in these enterprises. Whatever may be thought of their proceedings at the present day, their example tended to foster that courage, perseverance, and indifference to danger characteristic of British seamen.
The King of Spain having granted letters of reprisals to his subjects, especially to cruise in the Levant and the Mediterranean, the Turkey merchants fitted out five stout ships with letters of marque, to provide for their defence—the Royal Merchant, the Toby, the Edward Bonadventure, the William, and the John. While up the Levant they were informed that the Spaniards had fitted out two fleets, one of twenty and another of thirty galleys, to intercept them. On this, Mr. Williamson, captain of the Royal Merchant, was chosen admiral, and the commander of the Toby, vice-admiral. As they were sailing between Sicily and the African coast, they descried seven galleys and two frigates under Sicilian and Maltese colours, in the service of Spain, the admiral of which ordered the pursers of the English ships to repair on board his galley. One alone, Mr. Rowet, accompanied the messenger. He was received in a haughty manner by the Spanish admiral, who insisted on the surrender of the English ships. On Mr. Rowet’s return, the Spaniard signified his resolution by firing at the English, which was immediately returned, when the engagement began. The five English merchant-vessels, though heavily laden, maintained an obstinate fight for five hours, and so shattered were the Spanish ships-of-war, that the admiral first, and then two others, were obliged to haul off, scarcely able to keep above water. The remainder not having men enough to man their guns, soon after followed his example. The English lost but two men in this engagement, but their cargoes were too valuable to run any risk by pursuing the enemy; they therefore made the best of their way to England, where they arrived in safety, having, by favour of a thick fog and a brisk easterly wind, escaped the other Spanish squadron, which had waited for them off the Straits of Gibraltar.

The instructions in the articles of war drawn up by the Lord High Admiral, to be observed by the captains and crews of the ships of the Royal Navy, prove that it was expected that the seamen of those days should be pious and well-conducted men. They were to be openly read at service time, twice every week.
“Imprimis, That you take special care to serve God by using common prayers twice every day, except urgent cause enforce the contrary; and that no man, soldier, or other mariner do dispute of matters of religion, unless it be to be resolved of some doubts, and in such case that he confer with the ministers.”
“Second, Item, you shall forbid swearing, brawling, and dicing, and such-like disorders as may breed contention and disorders in your ships.”

“Five, All persons, whatsoever, within your ship shall come to the ordinary services of the ship without contradiction.”
“Sixth, You shall give special charge for avoiding the danger of fire, and that no candle be carried in your ship without a lantern, which, if any person shall disobey, you shall severely punish. And if any chance of fire or other dangers (which God forbid) shall happen to any ship near unto you, then you shall, by your boats and all other your best means, seek to help and relieve her.”
“Eighth, You shall give order that your ship may be kept clean daily and sometimes washed, which, with God’s favour, shall preserve from sickness, and avoid many other inconveniences.”
“Fifteenth, Every captain and master of the fleet shall have a special regard that no contention be found betwixt the mariners and the soldiers.”
“Nineteenth, No captain or master shall suffer any spoil to be made aboard any ship or barque that shall be taken by them or any of their companies, because the rest of the company have interest in everything that shall be taken.”
“Twenty-second, The watch shall be set every night by eight of the o’clock, either by trumpet or drum, and singing the Lord’s Prayer, some of the Psalms of David, or clearing of the glass.”
“Twenty-sixth, No person shall depart out of the ship wherein he is placed into another without special leave of his captain.”
“Twenty-eighth, No person whatsoever shall dare to strike any captain, lieutenant, master, or other officer, upon pain of death; and furthermore, whatsoever he be that shall strike any inferior person, he shall receive punishment according to the offence given, be it by death or otherwise.”
Most of these articles are still in force; but the first, excellent as they are, have unhappily too often been set at nought by officers and men.

by W.H.G. Kingston

Posted by Under The Black Flag on 9:36 π.μ.. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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