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   Chapter 24 No.24

England under the Tudors By Arthur D. Innes Characters: 35581

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


ELIZABETH (ix), 1587-88-THE ARMADA

[Sidenote: 1587 Results of Mary's Death]

If Mary Stewart displayed the most royal side of her character in the hour of her doom, Elizabeth displayed the least royal side of hers in the weeks that followed. She disavowed Davison's act, disgraced him, sent him to the Tower; she would have had him tried for treason but that the judges declared emphatically that the charge could not hold water. She was obliged to be content with the infliction of a heavy fine, and dismissal. She could not trample on the whole of her Council, who had deliberately assumed the responsibility: but to France and to Scotland she clamoured that the deed was none of her doing. There was an elvish humour in the Scots King's reply that he would hold her innocent when she had faced and disproved the charge -accentuated by her answer that as a sovereign she was not amenable to trial; for it was a quite precise reversal of the tone adopted eighteen years before, when Mary was the accused party; and Elizabeth now found herself reduced to the very plea which she had ignored when Mary urged it in her own behalf. The position was ignominious; yet Elizabeth had no one but herself to thank. She might have avowed and justified the Act; disavowing it, the only logical course was to punish those on whom the guilt lay. She tried to evade the dilemma, by crushing the most insignificant one among them and scolding the rest, while protesting on her own part an innocence which was a palpable hypocrisy.

The Scots however might rage; James might find gratification in an argumentative victory; but for more pronounced action he wanted more than a sentimental inducement. Politically Elizabeth had won the game by the method peculiar to herself and her father-of counting on their servants to shoulder the responsibility. While Mary lived there was always the chance that the Catholics of England might be rallied to the standard of a Catholic princess whose legitimacy was indisputable. But they would not rally to that of her Protestant son, or consent to have England turned into a province of the Spanish King. Even Catholic Europe could not view such a prospect with enthusiasm or even equanimity, however much the uncompromising devotees of the Holy See might desire it. In France it was only the extremists of the League who could countenance such a scheme. In England, the death-blow of the Scots Queen was the death-blow also to the chances of a Catholic revolt. Despite the fervid dreams of Allen and Parsons, the entire Nation was ready to oppose an undivided front to any foreign assailant.

[Sidenote: Attitude of Philip]

The time, however, had at last arrived when Philip had definitely made up his mind that the overthrow of Elizabeth must no longer be deferred. This was an end which he had desired certainly for eighteen years past. Whenever he had an ambassador in England, that ambassador had been more or less deeply involved in every plot or attempted insurrection against the throne. But Philip had never concentrated his efforts on that design. He had held on to the theory that the Netherlands must be first crushed. When once they were brought into complete subjection, he would make England feel the full extent of his power. And so year after year passed, the revolted Provinces obstinately holding out in a struggle which year after year it had seemed impossible for them to go on maintaining. More than once advisers had suggested that it would be better to reverse the order; to crush England first, and then finish off the Netherlands at his leisure. But this scheme always involved a danger: he had no alternative, if he succeeded, but to set Mary on the throne in place of her cousin; Mary, once established, even by his aid, might attach herself to France instead of to Spain; and the balance of parties in France was so uncertain -depended so much on the action of the Politiques-that in such an event he might still find that he had a very dangerous Anglo-French combination to reckon with in settling his accounts with the Provinces.

[Sidenote: Attitude of Elizabeth]

On the other hand, whether Elizabeth's policy had been dictated by a most consummate, if by no means elevated, state-craft based upon an abnormally astute calculation of risks and chances, or merely by a desperate desire to stave off an immediate contest, whatever shifts might be involved; whether it was in fact peculiarly long-sighted, or opportunist to the last and lowest degree; it had been actually a complete success. She had given the Provinces just that minimum of assistance or apparent countenance which did enable them to keep their resistance alive. In France she had done just enough, for the Huguenots, to hamper the Guises and no more; and she had kept up the eternal marriage juggle, the eternal menace of an alliance with the French court, which would have doubled Philip's difficulties in the Netherlands, and might have trebled the dangers of a direct attack on England-thereby perpetually driving Spanish diplomacy to seek to detach her decisively from France by professions of a desire for amicable alliance with her. She had replied to the Spanish efforts by perpetual declarations of a corresponding order, and by constant negotiations, always at the last moment rendered futile by the introduction of some condition at the time impossible of acceptance.

[Sidenote: The situation]

At last, however, the endless evasion had ceased to be possible. Leicester's campaign in the Netherlands, feeble as it was, and Drake's expedition to Cartagena, put an end to the theory that Spain and England were at peace. It was known that in the ports of Spain and Portugal Philip was making his slow preparations for a naval attack; his ablest admiral, Santa Cruz, had formulated a vast scheme-vaster indeed than Philip was ever prepared to adopt. The Guises were prepared to go any lengths to prevent the legitimate Protestant succession in France; and the French King had publicly thrown in his lot with the Guises. Now also Mary Stewart was not only out of the way herself, but before her death had declared against the succession to her own claims of her son, and had acknowledged Philip, [Footnote: State Papers, Spanish, iii., p. 581; and ante, p. 338.] a legitimate descendant of John of Gaunt, as her heir. At last in Philip's mind the suppression of Elizabeth acquired precedence over the suppression of the Provinces.

The near approach of a life-and-death struggle made no difference whatever in the English Queen's methods. Eighteen months before, she had struck one hard blow by sea, when she dispatched Drake on the Cartagena expedition, but otherwise had merely played at helping the Netherlanders, by sending an army and paralysing it for action. She did exactly the same thing now.

[Sidenote: April: Drake's Cadiz expedition]

Drake, with a squadron not large either in numbers or in tonnage but exceedingly efficient, had orders to sail from Plymouth to "singe the King of Spain's beard," as he phrased it. Drake knew his Queen, and got himself out of port before the appointed day, on April 2nd. The expected counter- orders arrived in due time-when he was out of reach. Elizabeth possibly knew her Drake and reckoned on his premature departure, while she had secured her loop-hole for shuffling out of the responsibility. He carried out the singeing business most effectively. Making for Cadiz, where it was known that stores and ships were accumulated, he stood into the harbour, sunk one ship of war there, cleared out so much of the stores as he could accommodate, and fired the bulk of the shipping, cutting the cables. Drake then captured the Sagres forts at Cape St. Vincent, intending to lie in wait for an expected squadron from the Mediterranean; but departed after a short interval, being minded to sail into the port of Lisbon where the Admiral Santa Cruz lay with the bulk of the Armada. This exploit, however, he was obliged to forgo, [Footnote: Corbett, Drake and the Tudor Navy, ii., pp. 97 ff. The account there given is followed here. The author points out that Froude and others have been misled by the almost certain misdating of a letter of Drake's which he attributes to 1589.] contenting himself with a challenge to Santa Cruz to come out and fight, which he was in no condition to do. Returning to Cape St. Vincent, Drake there remained long enough to stop the expected squadron, and throw the whole of Philip's transport arrangements out of gear. Satisfied with the destruction wrought, which served to cripple at least the mobility of the Armada for many months, he then sailed for the Azores, where he fell in with a great Spanish East Indiaman, the San Felipe, whereof the spoils very satisfactorily filled the pockets of his crews; and so returned home, having made it all but impossible that the invading fleet should sail during 1587.

[Sidenote: Negotiations with Parma]

Then, month after month, Elizabeth carried on the old practice in the Netherlands. She negotiated persistently with Parma, on the old basis, that the Provinces had a right to their old constitution but nothing more. Of course she knew that the Provinces would never assent to that solution. On the favourable view of her policy, it must be held to have rested on a fixed determination not to make the Netherlands her field of battle. For Sluys, one of the forts which she held, so to speak, in pawn from the States, was taken after a stubborn siege and at immense cost both in money and men by Parma, simply because Maurice of Nassau was too uncertain as to her real intentions to make a serious effort for its relief. Confidence in her had sunk to the lowest point when, some months before, an English captain, Stanley, had handed over the town of Deventer, which was in his charge, to the Spaniards, whose service he himself entered. The Provinces, Parma, Elizabeth's own Ministers, believed that she meant the negotiations in earnest. Parma, who knew how tremendous a task the invasion of England must be, would have liked to come to terms, but Philip would not give him the authority; the terms approved by his lieutenant must be referred back to him. They were never finally formulated. All through 1587, through the first months of 1588, the thing dragged on; and then Elizabeth declared that the surrender of the Cautionary Towns, always hitherto treated as the necessary first step, was only to be thought of as the last step-a quite impossible condition from the Spanish point of view. But by the time the negotiations had thoroughly broken down, a whole year had been practically wasted by Spain. Taking on the other hand the unfavourable view-which appears to have been that of almost every statesman and soldier of the day -she engaged in a highly discreditable negotiation for a betrayal of the Provinces by the surrender of the Cautionary Towns, in the hope of obtaining with Philip a peace which would have rendered him infinitely more dangerous than he actually was; being only saved from that disaster by saner counsels and against her own will at the last moment.

[Sidenote: The Queen's Diplomacy]

From beginning to end, the facts are consistent with either view of her character. If the second view be true, history affords no parallel to the amazing good fortune which attended her; for her whole career was a succession of apparently hopeless entanglements, each one leading to inevitable disaster; yet from every one a loop-hole of escape was found. If the first be true, history again affords no parallel to the invariable success which attended a series of deceptions practised alike upon her servants, her friends, and her enemies. But whichever solution we accept- and there is no third alternative-her personal policy remains one of pure political opportunism, either very short sighted or singularly long sighted, without a particle of the idealism which, mixed though it might be with other motives, was so emphatically characteristic of half her ministers and more than half her subjects. Towards the cause of the Reformation, as such, she was entirely cold; to her, its adherents in the Netherlands and in France were merely pieces on the political chess-board. It is an odd paradox that such a ruler should have won and maintained among her own people a personal popularity amounting to enthusiasm, which was a very strong force in binding the nation together.

[Sidenote: 1587-88 French affairs]

While Elizabeth was keeping up the diplomatic game above described, she was very materially aided by the state of affairs in France, where what is known as the "War of the three Henries"-Henry III., Henry of Navarre, and Henry of Guise-was in full progress. The King, professing to support the League, was in fact doing his best to play into the hands of his nominal opponent, Navarre, and to paralyse his nominal adherent, Guise, who had Philip of Spain behind him. Philip, aware of this ambiguous position-as also was Elizabeth-found himself unable to trust to France for support, or absolutely to repudiate her demands to share in the Armada expedition viewed as a Catholic Crusade. The position became acute when Guise, ignoring the King's orders, entered Paris in force, receiving a general ovation while the King himself had to fly, on the "Day of the Barricades" (April-May, 1588). There was a nominal reconciliation in July; but it was then already too late for the Guises to hold the French ports at the service of the Spaniard.

Neither from Scotland nor in Ireland was any danger to be apprehended in the coming struggle. We turn again to the story of the Armada itself.

[Sidenote: 1587 Preparations for the Armada]

Great as was the damage wrought by Drake, it was energetically repaired, and Philip warned Parma to be ready for the arrival of the Armada in September 1587. The plan of operations was for Santa Cruz to sail up the Channel, dominate the passage from the Low Countries, and so enable Parma, heavily reinforced by the soldiers on board the great fleet, to pour his troops into England. Philip's plans were quite unaffected by the talk of peace; but the English were justified in their confidence that the Armada would not be ready to sail in time. When it was ready, Santa Cruz pronounced that the storms to be looked for so late in the year would make the voyage itself dangerous, and would render it impossible to keep the necessary control of the water-ways: which was what the English authorities had calculated on.

[Sidenote: 1588 Plans of Campaign]

There was indeed a very considerable risk in deferring the mobilisation of the English fleet; for in January, Philip resolved to delay no longer, and if the Armada had sailed then there was no force ready to meet it. But the death of Santa Cruz at the critical moment destroyed the plan. In February the English were in trim to take the seas; the opportunity was lost, and another was not given. If the seamen had been allowed their own way, the Lord Admiral Howard of Effingham, Drake, Hawkins, Frobisher and the other captains would have sailed for the Spanish coast; nor can it be doubted that they would then have done completely what Drake and his squadron had done only in part a year before, and practically have annihilated the Armada in its own ports; but other counsels prevailed, to their great chagrin. The idea that the Spanish fleet might evade the English, if the latter left the Channel, and make the invasion a fait accompli without a sea-fight at all, was too alarming to the landsmen. Whether Parma would ever have taken the enormous risk of throwing himself into a hostile country, with an unfought fleet hastening to cut him off from his base, is another matter. It is noteworthy however that even the seamen do not seem to have realised the enormous risk involved in such an undertaking. They knew that a small squadron was quite sufficient to frustrate any invasion that Parma without the Armada could contemplate. But when the Armada was already in helpless and headlong flight round Scotland, Drake [Footnote: Laughton, S. P. Armada, ii., pp. 99, 100: Drake to Walsingham.] still regarded an attempted coup by Parma as a danger to be seriously guarded against.

[Sidenote: The opposing forces]

We are in the habit of looking upon the destruction of the Armada as a feat verging on the miraculous. Yet it is apparent that every one of the great sailors anticipated a complete victory with entire confidence. They knew that they understood the conditions of naval warfare, and that the enemy did not. Although, on paper, the Spaniard had all the best of it, he never really had a chance, for the plain reason that his fleet was utterly outclassed. The Armada put to sea with about 130 ships. Of these, 62 were of over 300 tons burden. The whole English fleet is given as 197 ships including the 34 of the Royal Navy. Of these, only 49 exceeded 200 tons. The average [Footnote: Laughton, i., p. li.] tonnage of the 62 was quite double that of the 49; and the aggregate of the 130 was approximately double that of the 197. The recorded lists and estimates also give the Spaniards double the number of men and guns. Many of the great Spaniards were little more than transports; on the other hand, half the English ships were too small for effective fighting. But there is little doubt that the English fighting ships were much better armed relatively to their size; that the guns were better, and infinitely better handled. The ships were in fact far superior as fighting machines, because the two fleets were built, armed, and manned, on two diametrically opposed theories of naval tactics: which may be summed up by saying that the Spaniards re

lied upon mass, and hand to hand fighting, the English on mobility and artillery; applying unconsciously by sea the principles by which the great land-tacticians of the past, Edward III. and Henry V., had shattered greatly superior hosts at Crecy and Agincourt. The finer comprehension of naval strategy on the part of the English admirals had been made of no account by the ignorance of the supreme authority, which detained the fleet on the coast: but their tactical developments were unhampered. For the first time on a large scale the accustomed rules were about to be discarded.

[Sidenote: The New Tactics]

Hitherto, naval battles had been assimilated to land battles; ships had attacked, moving abreast in military formation; they had grappled and fought for possession of each other's decks; the work had been soldiers' work, and for that the Spaniards were equipped, carrying two soldiers for every mariner. But this was to be mariners' work, and on the English ships the complement of soldiers was quite insignificant in comparison to that of mariners and gunners. The English ships were handled by seamen, many of the Spanish by landsmen. The English ships answered the helm and could go "about," with a rapidity which amazed the Spaniards. They were constructed to deliver broadsides, which the Spaniards could not do. Their guns could be discharged three times or more to the Spaniards once. The Spaniards, with a dim perception of the English point of superiority, tried to nullify it by futile firing at the rigging, which was for the most part a pure waste of shot; the English pounded the Spanish hulls and their crowded decks; systematically refusing to come to close quarters, so that the enemy never had a chance of utilising his soldiery. With ships built and rigged for speed and for manoeuvring, with men who had learnt how to handle them in many a storm, with captains whose seamanship was trusted by every sailor, the Englishmen repeatedly secured the weather-gauge, joining battle or refusing it as they liked; and the final result was never seriously in doubt.

[Sidenote: Defective arrangements]

From the month of March then, the departure of the Spanish fleet was delayed only by its own unreadiness to sail, due in part to the obvious incompetence of the Duke of Medina Sidonia who had been appointed, very much against his own will, to the command; for he was absolutely devoid of any naval or even military experience. The English ships were in admirable order; [Footnote: Laughton, i., p. 79: Howard to Burghley, Feb. 21.] but the great trouble with them was in the commissariat. The emergency was quite without parallel, and the system, such as there was, was quite inadequate to cope with it. To maintain, month after month, supplies for so large an armament, was next to impossible; and to this much more than to the "niggardliness" of the Queen, [Footnote: Laughton, i., pp. lvii ff. Froude's latitude of paraphrase makes his handling of the evidence peculiarly inconclusive.] must be attributed the vehement complaints of deficiencies. Sanitary conditions also were not at all generally understood, and it was dangerous to keep crews constantly on board. On the whole, the denunciations of the authorities were not different from those to which they always have been, and probably always will be, subjected. Individuals did their best to work a defective organisation with only partial success. And there was very much the same tale from the Spanish as from the English; the notable difference lay mainly in the great superiority of the latter in the purely naval department of administration.

[Sidenote: The Land forces]

As concerns the adequacy of the arrangements on land for resisting the invader if he succeeded in reaching the shore, it is difficult to speak. It was almost a matter of course that Leicester was given the command, though he had no military talent; but he had at his elbow the one thoroughly experienced captain available, Sir John Norreys. A great camp was formed at Tilbury to cover London; the raw country musters were in readiness every where to fly to arms when the signal beacons should flash their message over the land. How much resistance they could have offered to Parma's veterans, none can tell. But it may safely be laid down, that while the English fleet was in being, the invaders' chances of ultimate success were infinitesimal, but that if the fleet had been wiped out they would have been, at least prima facie, exceedingly promising. As Leicester, not Norreys, was in command of the army, so Howard of Effingham, not Drake, was in command of the fleet. But of Effingham we know that he was not himself ignorant of naval matters, and that he had no notion of ignoring the judgment of the colleagues who were technically his subordinates. With Drake as Vice-Admiral and Hawkins as Rear-Admiral, there was no danger of inefficient command. The naval appointments were in every way admirable; and even the noblemen and gentlemen who were captains of so many of the ships knew better than to overrule the practical command of their mariner-subordinates. On May 20th the Armada sailed from Lisbon, but was scattered by a storm in the second week of June, reassembling at Corunna-when Medina Sidonia vainly urged that the expedition should be given up. Some of the ships had proceeded within ken of the Scillies, causing considerable excitement; but these too put back to Corunna, whence the whole armament made its final start on July 12th.

At the end of May, the English fleet was collected at Plymouth, a squadron with Seymour and the veteran Wynter being left on guard at the East end of the Channel. The admirals were again anxious to seek out the Spaniards and give account of them in their own seas, but supplies were short, and Howard was again definitely ordered to remain on the coast. It is however inferred by some authorities [Footnote: Corbetts ii., pp. 179-181.] that Drake and Howard did make a dash for the Spanish coast, about July 7th, while the Armada was at Corunna, in the hope of striking a swift and decisive blow; but that the favouring wind was lost, a South-Wester set in, and they had to return to the Channel, being insufficiently provisioned to remain at a distance from home.

Howard then, with Drake and Hawkins and the major part of the English fleet was lying in Plymouth, getting stores aboard as fast as might be, while Seymour and Sir William Wynter with their squadron were lying at the East end of the Channel, when on July 19th the news came that the Armada had been sighted off the Lizard, coming up with a favouring wind. There was nothing for it but to work out of Plymouth Sound in the teeth of the wind. When the Spaniards came in view on the 20th (Saturday) the move had been accomplished. In the night, the English passed out to sea, across the Spanish front, and so in the morning found themselves to windward and attacked-as it would seem, for the first time in naval warfare, in "line-ahead" formation, pouring successive broadsides into the enemy's "weathermost" ship. This action lasted little more than two hours. Not many of the Spaniards were actually engaged, but the working effect of the new tactics was tested, Admiral Recalde's ship was crippled, some others had suffered from a very severe fire very inadequately returned; incidentally too, one great galleon had been almost blown to pieces by an accident, and the ship of Valdez was disabled through collision. The Duke of Medina Sidonia left her to her fate, and she surrendered to Drake early next morning, the two fleets in the meantime having proceeded up Channel. Drake ought to have led the pursuit during the night, and by not doing so caused some confusion and delay-also, it would seem much indignation on the part especially of Frobisher; [Footnote: Laughton, ii., pp. 101 ff.] but his conduct is capable of legitimate if not complete justification. [Footnote: Corbett, ii., pp. 231 ff.]

[Sidenote: The fight off Portland, July 23]

In consequence however, the English were unable to form for attack-though the half-blown-up ship, the San Salvador, fell into their hands- till late on the next day, when they were foiled by the falling of a calm. When the breeze got up again on Tuesday, the Spaniards were to windward, off Portland, and challenged an engagement. In manoeuvring to recover the weather-gauge, Frobisher, with some other vessels, was for a time cut off, and fought a very valiant fight, till a change in the wind enabled them to extricate themselves, and there was more sharp fighting in which the Spaniards suffered most. Neither side however could claim a victory. But it was seen that much more would have been effected had the Armada been less systematically organised, and the English more so. Before the next general engagement, the defect had been remedied by the distribution of the fleet into four divisions, under Howard, Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher respectively.

[Sidenote: The fight off the Isle of Wight, July 25]

It was supposed to be the intention of the Armada [Footnote: Corbett, ii., 228. This was no doubt the recommendation of Recalde and others. But it was in the teeth of Philip's instructions. In any case however, it was what the English expected, and their action was based on that hypothesis.] to secure the station at the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth; and it was to frustrate this object that the third battle was fought on Thursday. In the interval, Howard had only worried the enemy, being in need of fresh supplies of ammunition which were now arriving. On the Thursday, the fluctuating airs again forced the English to manoeuvre for the weather gauge, in order to attack. The brunt of the resulting engagement was borne by Frobisher and Howard, who occupied the enemy and were very thoroughly occupied themselves; until the Armada, which had not in appearance been getting the worst of it, went about and sailed off up Channel in good order. The explanation would appear to be that the Spaniard found himself suddenly threatened with a crushing flank attack [Footnote: Corbett, ii., p. 254. The explanation is Mr. Corbett's conjecture.] by the combined squadrons of Drake and Hawkins, which would have driven him upon the banks known as the "Owers"; and to escape destruction, he had no alternative but to give up the design on Portsmouth, if he had ever entertained it, and continue his unimpeded course up Channel. To fight where he was had become impossible. Thus, although the comparative injury to his fleet was not very great, the action was a very decisive victory for the English. The Spaniards had to revert to the desperate plan of a junction with Parma, instead of securing a station in the Channel.

[Sidenote: Effects on the fleets]

Although strategically a great point was secured by this third engagement, the ostensible strength of the Spanish fleet remained virtually unaltered, and the English captains were evidently disappointed at having achieved no more marked results. Of course, on the theory that the odds were, professionally speaking, all in favour of the Armada, they had done exceedingly well; but they were fighting under the perfectly correct impression that the odds were in their own favour, and yet they had done no signal injury. In fact however they had accomplished a good deal more than appears on the surface. Their losses were far short of 100 men all told; their ships were intact; the spirit of the fleet had been tested; and they had already learnt and remedied the defect in their organisation at the start. On the other hand, the Armada had lost three ships, several more had suffered so severely as to be useless for further action, its ammunition was running short, some hundreds of men had been killed or wounded, and the whole fleet had realised that in manoeuvring capacity it was completely outclassed, so that its morale was failing. Already it felt itself fighting a losing battle. Whereas, when the Isle of Wight was left behind, the English were more confident than ever that they themselves were fighting to win.

[Sidenote: The Armada at Calais]

The Duke then made his course for Dunkirk, sending urgent messages to Parma to come out and help him: which it was not possible for Parma to do. On Saturday evening, without any further fighting, the Armada anchored in Calais Roads. The same evening, Howard was joined by Seymour's squadron, and for the first time his fleet was at its full strength. It now became his great object to force the decisive engagement before Medina Sidonia and Parma at Dunkirk could effect a junction. To this end it was needful to dislodge the Armada from its anchorage. Wind and tide both favouring, on Sunday night eight fire-ships were sent drifting on to the Spanish fleet. A panic arose; the Spaniards cut their cables and made for the open, to escape the danger. They were to suffer later on for this loss of their anchors. Now, when the morning broke, the great fleet which had successfully preserved its formation hitherto, was scattered along a dangerous coast, with the entire English force lying to windward within striking distance.

[Sidenote: The battle off Gravelines, July 29]

For the Duke, the first thing to do was to recover his formation; for the English, to prevent his doing so. Howard should have led the attack, but turned aside to make sure of a crippled galleon. Drake, followed by Hawkins, Frobisher, and Seymour, sailed down on the Spaniards, and the last decisive engagement began. Medina Sidonia was never able to bring more than half his ships into action. He gained some time, by Howard's aberration, but in the course of the day the entire English fleet was engaging him. The ships and the captains, however, who were able to rejoin him, were the best in the Armada, and they made a magnificent and desperate struggle. Raked with broadside after broadside they fought on, drifting into ever more dangerous proximity to the shoals, their hulls riddled, their decks charnel-houses; resolved to sink rather than strike; while the English poured in a ceaseless storm of shot at close range but always evaded the one danger, of being grappled and boarded, the sole condition under which the Spaniard could fight at an advantage. At last the English drew off; partly because their ammunition, like the Spaniards', was all but exhausted, except in Howard's squadron, the expenditure having been quite unparalleled; partly because a fierce squall for a time provided them with a new enemy which it took all their energies to meet. That squall was the salvation of the Spaniards; when it cleared, they were already in full flight to the North East.

[Sidenote: The Armada in flight]

The Armada was now to leeward of Dunkirk, and a junction with Parma had been rendered impossible. On the following day indeed, it seemed that the whole fleet was doomed to destruction on the shoals, when a change of wind enabled them to make for the North Sea, the main part of the English fleet following in pursuit, while Seymour's squadron, to his intense disgust, was left to guard the Channel. But for the English shortage of ammunition, which made it impossible to provoke another general engagement, half the Armada might very well have fallen a prey to the pursuers; for it was a fleet that knew itself hopelessly beaten; its morale was gone, its ammunition was exhausted, its best crews were much more than decimated, many of its vessels were hopelessly crippled. As it was, the English were content to follow and watch while the Spaniards drove Northwards before a stiff gale; giving up the chase on August 2nd, by which time it was evident that the enemy had no course open to them but to attempt the passage round the North of Scotland, and so to make for home by the Irish coast as best they might; though later, the wind changing to the North created a passing fear that they might return with it to Denmark, to refit.

[Sidenote: The End of the Armada]

In the whole series of actions, the English lost only about a hundred men and one ship. Out of that great Armada which had sailed with the Papal blessing to lower the insolent pride of heretic England, not more than half the ships found their way back to Spain. Of the sixty or more that were lost, nine [Footnote: Clowes, Royal Navy, i., p. 585.] only are definitely accounted for in the actual fighting. Of the rest, nineteen are recorded as wrecked on the Scottish or Irish coast: there must have been many more. Of their crews, those whom the winds and the waves spared, the Irish slew; and those who escaped the Irish, the English soldiery slew. Of the fate of the remainder, one-fourth of the entire fleet, nothing is known.

Dominus flavit, et dissipati sunt. The Lord blew and they were scattered. Small wonder that the puritan spirit saw in that huge disaster the direct intervention of the Almighty, smiting on behalf of His People. Yet the winds and the seas had but given an awful completeness to the already triumphant handiwork of the English Seamen. From first to last, through all the fighting, till the desperate sauve qui peut of the battered and shattered foe across the Northern seas began, no particular good fortune in the matter of wind and weather had favoured England. She had won, against apparent odds, because her sons had found out on many a venturous voyage how the great game of war by sea ought to be played; and her enemy had not. She had won decisively. Philip might stiffen his pride and boast that he could yet send forth fleets mightier than the lost Armada. But on the day of the fight off Gravelines the doom of his power was sealed; and the Empire of the Ocean passed from Spain to England.

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