MoboReader> Literature > Raleigh

   Chapter 5 CADIZ.

Raleigh By Edmund Gosse Characters: 37562

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The defeat of the Spanish Armada had inflicted a wound upon the prestige of Spain which was terrible but by no means beyond remedy. In the eight years which had elapsed since 1588, Spain had been gradually recovering her forces, and endangering the political existence of Protestant Europe more and more. Again and again the irresolution of Elizabeth had been called upon to complete the work of repression, to crush the snake that had been scotched, to strike a blow in Spanish waters from which Spain never would recover. In 1587, and in 1589, schemes for a naval expedition of this kind had been brought before Council, and rejected. In 1596, Charles Lord Howard of Effingham, with the support of Cecil, forced the Government to consent to fit out an armament for the attack of Cadiz. The Queen, however, was scarcely to be persuaded that the expenditure required for this purpose could be spared from the Treasury. On April 9, levies of men were ordered from all parts of England, and on the 10th these levies were countermanded, so that the messengers sent on Friday from the Lords to Raleigh's deputies in the West, were pursued on Saturday by other messengers with contrary orders.

The change of purpose, however, was itself promptly altered, and the original policy reverted to. The Earl of Essex was joined in commission with the Lord Admiral Howard, and as a council of war to act with these personages were named Sir Walter Raleigh and Lord Thomas Howard. The Dutch were to contribute a fleet to act with England. It is an interesting fact that now for the first time the experience and naval skill of Raleigh received their full recognition. From the very first he was treated with the highest consideration. Howard wrote to Cecil on April 16-and Essex on the 28th used exactly the same words-'I pray you, hasten away Sir Walter Raleigh.' They fretted to be gone, and Raleigh was not to be found; malignant spirits were not wanting to accuse him of design in his absence, of a wish to prove himself indispensable. But fortunately we possess his letters, and we see that he was well and appropriately occupied. In the previous November he had sent in to the Lords of the Council a very interesting report on the defences of Cornwall and Devon, which he had reason to suppose that Spain meant to attack. He considered that three hundred soldiers successfully landed at Plymouth would be 'sufficient to endanger and destroy the whole shire,' and he discussed the possibility of levying troops from the two counties to be a mutual protection. It was doubtless his vigour and ability in performing this sort of work which led to his being selected as the chief purveyor of levies for the Cadiz expedition, and this was what he was doing in the spring of 1596, when the creatures of Essex whispered to one another that he was malingering.

On May 3, he wrote to Cecil: 'I am not able to live, to row up and down every tide from Gravesend to London, and he that lies here at Ratcliff can easily judge when the rest, and how the rest, of the ships may sail down.' And again, from a lower point of the Thames, at Blackwall, he is still waiting for men and ships that will not come, and is 'more grieved than ever I was, at anything in this world, for this cross weather.'

Through the month of May, we may trace Raleigh hard at work, recruiting for the Cadiz expedition round the southern coast, of England. On the 4th he is at Northfleet, disgusted to find how little her Majesty's authority is respected, for 'as fast as we press men one day, they come away another, and say they will not serve. I cannot write to our generals at this time, for the Pursuevant found me at a country village, a mile from Gravesend, hunting after runaway mariners, and dragging in the mire from alehouse to alehouse, and could get no paper.' On the 6th he was at Queenborough, on the 13th at Dover, whence he reports disaster by a storm on Goodwin Sands, and finally on the 21st he arrived at Plymouth. His last letters are full of recommendations of personal friends to appointments in the gift or at the command of Sir Robert Cecil. He brought with him to Plymouth two of Bacon's cousins, the Cookes, and his own wife's brother, Arthur Throckmorton. Unfortunately, just as the fleet was starting, the last-mentioned, 'a hot-headed youth,' in presence not only of the four generals, but of the commanders of the Dutch contingent also, took Raleigh's side in some dispute at table so intemperately and loudly that he was dismissed from the service. This must have been singularly annoying to Raleigh, who nevertheless persuaded his colleagues, no doubt on receipt of due apology, to restore the young man to his rank, and allow him to proceed. At Cadiz, Throckmorton fought so well that Essex himself knighted him.

The generals had other troubles at Plymouth. The men that Raleigh had pressed along the coast hated their duty, and some of them had to be tried for desertion and mutiny. Before the fleet got under way, two men were publicly hanged, to encourage the others, 'on a very fair and pleasant green, called the Hoe.' At last, on June 1, the squadrons put to sea. Contrary winds kept them within Plymouth Sound until the 3rd. On the 20th they anchored in the bay of St. Sebastian, half a league to the westward of Cadiz. The four English divisions of the fleet contained in all ninety-three vessels, and the Dutch squadron consisted of twenty-four more. There were about 15,500 men, that is to say 2,600 Dutchmen, and the rest equally divided between English soldiers and sailors.

The events of the next few days were not merely a crucial and final test of the relative strength of Spain and England, closing in a brilliant triumph for the latter, but to Raleigh in particular they were the climax of his life, the summit of his personal prosperity and glory. The records of the battle of Cadiz are exceedingly numerous, and were drawn up not by English witnesses only, but by Dutch and Spanish historians also. Mr. Edwards has patiently collected them all, and he gives a very minute and lucid account of their various divergencies. Of them all the most full and direct is that given by Raleigh himself, in his Relation of the Action in Cadiz Harbour, first published in 1699. In a biography of Raleigh it seems but reasonable to view such an event as this from Raleigh's own standpoint, and the description which now follows is mainly taken from the Relation. The joint fleet paused where the Atlantic beats upon the walls of Cadiz, and the Spanish President wrote to Philip II. that they seemed afraid to enter. He added that it formed la mas hermosa armada que se ha visto, the most beautiful fleet that ever was seen; and that it was French as well as English and Dutch, which was a mistake.

Raleigh's squadron was not part of the fleet that excited the admiration of Gutierrez Flores. On the 19th he had been detached, in the words of his instructions, 'with the ships under his charge, and the Dutch squadron, to anchor near the entrance of the harbour, to take care that the ships riding near Cadiz do not escape,' and he took up a position that commanded St. Lucar as well as Cadiz. He was 'not to fight, except in self-defence,' without express instructions. At the mouth of St. Lucar he found some great ships, but they lay so near shore that he could not approach them, and finally they escaped in a mist, Raleigh very nearly running his own vessel aground. Meanwhile Essex and Charles Howard, a little in front of him, came to the conclusion in his absence that it would be best to land the soldiers and assault the town, without attempting the Spanish fleet.

Two hours after this determination had been arrived at, much to the dismay of many distinguished persons in the fleet whose position did not permit them to expostulate, Raleigh arrived to find Essex in the very act of disembarking his soldiers. There was a great sea on from the south, and some of the boats actually sank in the waves, but Essex nevertheless persisted, and was about to effect a landing west of the city. Raleigh came on board the 'Repulse,' 'and in the presence of all the colonels protested against the resolution,' showing Essex from his own superior knowledge and experience that by acting in this way he was running a risk of overthrowing 'the whole armies, their own lives, and her Majesty's future safety.' Essex excused himself, and laid the responsibility on the Lord Admiral.

Raleigh having once dared to oppose the generals, he received instant moral support. All the other commanders and gentlemen present clustered round him and entreated him to persist. Essex now declared himself convinced, and begged Raleigh to repeat his arguments to the Lord Admiral. Raleigh passed on to Howard's ship, 'The Ark Royal,' and by the evening the Admiral also was persuaded. Returning in his boat, as he passed the 'Repulse' Raleigh shouted up to Essex 'Intramus,' and the impetuous Earl, now as eager for a fight by sea as he had been a few hours before for a fight by land, flung his hat into the sea for joy, and prepared at that late hour to weigh anchor at once.

It took a good deal of time to get the soldiers out of the boats, and back into their respective ships. Essex, whom Raleigh seems to hint at under the cautious word 'many,' 'seeming desperately valiant, thought it a fault of mine to put off [the attack] till the morning; albeit we had neither agreed in what manner to fight, nor appointed who should lead, and who should second, whether by boarding or otherwise.' Raleigh, in his element when rapid action was requisite, passed to and fro between the generals, and at last from his own ship wrote a hasty letter to the Lord Admiral, giving his opinion as to the best way to arrange the order of battle, and requesting him to supply a couple of great fly-boats to attack each of the Spanish galleons, so that the latter might be captured before they were set on fire.

Essex and Howard were completely carried away by Raleigh's vehement counsels. The Lord Admiral had always shown deference to Raleigh's nautical science, and the Earl was captivated by the qualities he could best admire, courage and spirit and rapidity. Raleigh's old faults of stubbornness and want of tact abandoned him at this happy moment. His graceful courtesy to Essex, his delicacy in crossing dangerous ground, won praise even from his worst enemies, the satellites of Essex. It was Raleigh's blossoming hour, and all the splendid gifts and vigorous charms of his brain and character expanded in the sunrise of victory. Late in the busy evening of the 20th, the four leaders held a final council of war, amiably wrangling among themselves for the post of danger. At last the others gave way to what Raleigh calls his 'humble suit,' and it was decided that he should lead the van. Essex, Lord Howard of Effingham, and the Vice-Admiral, Lord Thomas Howard, were to lead the body of the fleet; but it appeared next morning that the Vice-Admiral had but seemed to give way, and that his ambition was still to be ahead of Raleigh himself. As Raleigh returned to sleep on board the 'War Sprite,' the town of Cadiz was all ablaze with lamps, tapers, and tar barrels, while there came faintly out to the ears of the English sailors a murmur of wild festal music.

Next day was the 21st of June. As Mr. St. John pleasantly says, 'that St. Barnabas' Day, so often the brightest in the year, was likewise the brightest of Raleigh's life.' At break of day, the amazed inhabitants of Cadiz, and the sailors who had caroused all night on shore and now hurried on board the galleons, watched the magnificent squadron sweep into the harbour of their city. First came the 'War Sprite' itself; next the 'Mary Rose,' commanded by Sir George Carew; then Sir Francis Vere in the 'Rainbow,' carrying a sullen heart of envy with him; then Sir Robert Southwell in the 'Lion,' Sir Conyers Clifford in the 'Dreadnought,' and lastly, as Raleigh supposed, Robert Dudley (afterwards Duke of Northumberland, and a distinguished author on naval tactics) in the 'Nonparilla.' As a matter of fact, the Vice-Admiral, hoping to contrive to push in front, had persuaded Dudley to change ships with him. These six vessels were well in advance of all the rest of the fleet. In front of them, ranged under the wall of Cadiz, were seventeen galleys lying with their prows to flank the English entrance, as Raleigh ploughed on towards the galleons. The fortress of St. Philip and other forts along the wall began to scour the channel, and with the galleys concentrated their fire upon the 'War Sprite.' But Raleigh disdained to do more than salute the one and then the other with a contemptuous blare of trumpets. 'The "St. Philip,"' he says, 'the great and famous Admiral of Spain, was the mark I shot at, esteeming those galleys but as wasps in respect of the powerfulness of the others.'

The 'St. Philip' had a special attraction for him. It was six years since his dear friend and cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, under the lee of the Azores, with one little ship, the 'Revenge,' had been hemmed in and crushed by the vast fleet of Spain, and it was the 'St. Philip' and the 'St. Andrew' that had been foremost in that act of murder. Now before Raleigh there rose the same lumbering monsters of the deep, that very 'St. Philip' and 'St. Andrew' which had looked down and watched Sir Richard Grenville die, 'as a true soldier ought to do, fighting for his country, queen, religion, and honour.' It seems almost fabulous that the hour of pure poetical justice should strike so soon, and that Raleigh of all living Englishmen should thus come face to face with those of all the Spanish tyrants of the deep. As he swung forward into the harbour and saw them there before him, the death of his kinsman in the Azores was solemnly present to his memory, 'and being resolved to be revenged for the "Revenge," or to second her with his own life,' as he says, he came to anchor close to the galleons, and for three hours the battle with them proceeded.

It began by the 'War Sprite' being in the centre and a little to the front; on the one side, the 'Nonparilla,' in which Raleigh now perceived Lord Thomas Howard, and the 'Lion;' on the other the 'Mary Rose' and the 'Dreadnought;' these, with the 'Rainbow' a little farther off, kept up the fight alone until ten o'clock in the morning; waiting for the fly-boats, which were to board the galleons, and which, for some reason or other, did not arrive. Meanwhile, Essex, excited beyond all restraint by the volleys of culverin and cannon, slipped anchor, and passing from the body of the fleet, lay close up to the 'War Sprite,' pushing the 'Dreadnought' on one side. Raleigh, seeing him coming, went to meet him in his skiff, and begged him to see that the fly-boats were sent, as the battery was beginning to be more than his ships could bear. The Lord Admiral was following Essex, and Raleigh passed on to him with the same entreaty. This parley between the three commanders occupied about a quarter of an hour.

Meanwhile, the men second in command had taken an unfair advantage of Raleigh's absence. He hurried back to find that the Vice-Admiral had pushed the 'Nonparilla' ahead, and that Sir Francis Vere, too, in the 'Rainbow,' had passed the 'War Sprite.' Finding himself, 'from being the first to be but the third,' Raleigh skilfully thrust in between these two ships, and threw himself in front of them broadside to the channel, so that, as he says, 'I was sure no one should outstart me again, for that day.' Finally, Essex and Lord Thomas Howard took the next places. Sir Francis Vere, the marshal, who seems to have been mad for precedence, 'while we had no leisure to look behind us, secretly fastened a rope on my ship's side toward him, to draw himself up equally with me; but some of my company advertising me thereof, I caused it to be cut off, and so he fell back into his place, whom I guarded, all but his very prow, from the sight of the enemy.' In his Commentaries Vere has his revenge, and carefully disparages Raleigh on every occasion.

For some reason or other, the fly-boats continued to delay, and Raleigh began to despair of them. What he now determined to do, and what revenge he took for Sir Richard Grenville, may best be told in his own vigorous language:

Having no hope of my fly-boats to board, and the Earl and my Lord Thomas having both promised to second me, I laid out a warp by the side of the 'Philip' to shake hands with her-for with the wind we could not get aboard; which when she and the rest perceived, finding also that the 'Repulse,' seeing mine, began to do the like, and the rear-admiral my Lord Thomas, they all let slip, and ran aground, tumbling into the sea heaps of soldiers, as thick as if coals had been poured out of a sack in many ports at once, some drowned and some sticking in the mud. The 'Philip' and the 'St. Thomas' burned themselves; the 'St. Matthew' and the 'St. Andrew' were recovered by our boats ere they could get out to fire them. The spectacle was very lamentable on their side, for many drowned themselves, many, half-burned, leaped into the water; very many hanging by the ropes' end, by the ships' side, under the water even to the lips; many swimming with grievous wounds, stricken under water, and put out of their pain; and withal so huge a fire, and such tearing of the ordnance in the great 'Philip' and the rest, when the fire came to them, as, if a man had a desire to see Hell itself, it was there most lively figured. Ourselves spared the lives of all, after the victory, but the Flemings, who did little or nothing in the fight, used merciless slaughter, till they were by myself, and afterwards by my Lord Admiral, beaten off.

The official report of the Duke of Medina Sidonia to Philip II. does not greatly differ from this, except that he says that the English set fire to the 'St. Philip.' Before the fight was over Raleigh received a very serious flesh wound in the leg, 'interlaced and deformed with splinters,' which made it impossible for him to get on horseback. He was, therefore, to his great disappointment, unable to take part in Essex's land-attack on the town. He could not, however, bear to be left behind, and in a litter he was carried into Cadiz. He could only stay an hour on shore, however, for the agony in his leg was intolerable, and in the tumultuous disorder of the soldiers, who were sacking the town, there was danger of his being rudely pushed and shouldered. He went back to the 'War Sprite' to have his wound dressed and to sleep, and found that in the general rush on shore his presence in the fleet was highly desirable.

Early next

morning, feeling eased by a night's rest, he sent on shore to ask leave to follow the fleet of forty carracks bound for the Indies, which had escaped down the Puerto Real river; this navy was said to be worth twelve millions. In the confusion, however, there came back no answer from Essex or Howard. A ransom of two millions had meanwhile been offered for them, but this also, in the absence of his chiefs, Raleigh had no power to accept. While he was thus uncertain, the Duke of Medina Sidonia solved the difficulty on June 23, by setting the whole flock of helpless and treasure-laden carracks on fire. From the deck of the 'War Sprite' Raleigh had the mortification of seeing the smoke of this priceless argosy go up to heaven. The waste had been great, for of all the galleons, carracks, and frigates of which the great Spanish navy had consisted, only the 'St. Matthew' and the 'St. Andrew' had come intact into the hands of the English. The Dutch sailors, who held back until the fight was decided, sprang upon the blazing 'St. Philip,' and saved a great part of her famous store of ordnance; while, as Raleigh pleasantly puts it, 'the two Apostles aforesaid' were richly furnished, and made an agreeable prize to bring back to England.

The English generals, engaged in sacking the palaces and razing the fortifications of Cadiz, were strangely indifferent to the anxieties of their friends at home. In England the wildest rumours passed from mouth to mouth, but it was a fortnight before anyone on the spot thought it necessary to communicate with the Home Government. It is said that Raleigh's letter to Cecil, written ten leagues to the west of Cadiz, on July 7, and carried to England by Sir Anthony Ashley, contained the first intimation of the victory. In this letter Raleigh is careful to do himself justice with the Queen, and to claim a complete pardon on the score of services so signal, for it was already patent to him that on a field where every man that would be helped must help himself, his wounded leg had shut him out of all hope of plunder. The cause of his standing so far as ten leagues away from shore was that an epidemic had broken out on board his ship. It proved impossible to cope with this disease, and so it was determined that on August 1 the 'War Sprite' should return to England, in company with the 'Roebuck' and the 'John and Francis.' On the sixth day they arrived in Plymouth, and Raleigh found that, although seven weeks had elapsed since the victory, no authentic account of it had hitherto reached the Council. He was not well, and instead of posting up to London, where he easily perceived he would not be welcome, he asked pardon for staying with his ship. On August 12 he landed at Weymouth, and passed home to Sherborne. The rest of the fleet came back later in the autumn, and Essex, as he passed the coast of Portugal, swooped down upon the famous library of the Bishop of Algarve, which he presented on his return to Sir Thomas Bodley. The Bodleian Library at Oxford is now the chief existing memorial of that glorious expedition to Cadiz which shattered the naval strength of Spain.

As to prize-money, there proved to be very little of it for the captors. It was understood that the Lord Admiral was to have 5,000l., Essex as much, and Raleigh 3,000l.; but Essex, in his proud way, waived his claim in favour of the Queen, just in time to escape spoliation, for Elizabeth claimed everything. Her scandalous avarice had grown upon her year by year, and now in her old age her finer and more generous qualities were sapped by her greed for money. Even her political acumen had failed her; she was unable to see, in her vexation at the loss of the Indian carracks, that the blow to Spain had been one which relieved her of a constant and immense anxiety. She determined that no one should be the richer or the nobler for a victory which had resulted in the destruction of so much treasure which might have flowed into her coffers. Deeply disappointed at the Queen's surly ingratitude, Raleigh, whom she still refused to see, retired for the next nine months into absolute seclusion at Sherborne.

In his retirement Raleigh continued to remember that his function was, as Oldys put it, 'by his extraordinary undertakings to raise a grove of laurels, in a manner out of the seas, that should overspread our island with glory.' In October 1596 he was preparing for his third expedition to Guiana, which he placed under the command of Captain Leonard Berrie. This navigator was absent until the summer of the following year, when he returned, not having penetrated to Manoa, but confirming with an almost obsequious report Raleigh's most golden dreams. It is at this time, after his return from Cadiz, that we find Sir Walter Raleigh's name mentioned most lavishly by the literary classes in their dedications and eulogistic addresses. Whether his popularity was at the same time high with the general public is more easily asserted than proved, but there is no doubt that the victory at Cadiz was highly appreciated by the mass of Englishmen, and it is not possible but that Raleigh's prominent share in it should be generally recognised.

On January 24, 1597, Raleigh wrote from Sherborne a letter of sympathy to Sir Robert Cecil, on the death of his wife. It is interesting as displaying Raleigh's intimacy with the members of a family which was henceforth to hold a prominent place in the chronicle of his life, since it was Henry Brooke, Lady Cecil's brother, who became, two months later, at the death of his father, Lord Cobham. It was he and his brother George Brooke who in 1603 became notorious as the conspirators for Arabella Stuart, and who dragged Raleigh down with them. We do not know when Raleigh began to be intimate with the Brookes, and it is just at this time, when his fortunes had reached their climacteric, and when it would be of the highest importance to us to follow them closely, that his personal history suddenly becomes vague. If Cecil's letters to him had been preserved we should know more. As it is we can but record certain isolated facts, and make as much use of them as we can venture to do. In May 1597, nearly five years after his expulsion, we find him received again at Court. Rowland White says, 'Sir Walter Raleigh is daily in Court, and a hope is had that he shall be admitted to the execution of his office as Captain of the Guard, before he goes to sea.'

Cecil and Howard of Effingham had obtained this return to favour for their friend, and Essex, although his momentary liking for Raleigh had long subsided, did not oppose it. He could not, however, be present when Timias was taken back into the arms of his pardoning Belph?be. On June 1, the Earl of Essex rode down to Chatham, and during his absence Sir Walter Raleigh was conducted by Cecil into the presence of the Queen. She received him very graciously, and immediately authorised him to resume his office of Captain of the Guard. Without loss of time, Raleigh filled up the vacancies in the Guard that very day, and spent the evening riding with her Majesty. Next morning he made his appearance in the Privy Chamber as he had been wont to do, and his return to favour was complete. Essex showed, and apparently felt, no very acute chagrin. He was busy in planning another expedition against Spain, and he needed Raleigh's help in arranging for the victualling of the land forces. In July all jealousies seemed laid aside, and the gossips of the Court reported, 'None but Cecil and Raleigh enjoy the Earl of Essex, they carry him away as they list.'

It lies far beyond the scope of the present biography to discuss the obscure question of 'the conceit of Richard the Second' with which these three amused themselves just before the Islands Voyage began. The bare facts are these. On July 6, 1597, Raleigh wrote to Cecil from Weymouth about the preparations for the expedition, and added: 'I acquainted the Lord General [Essex] with your letter to me, and your kind acceptance of your entertainment; he was also wonderful merry at your conceit of Richard the Second. I hope it shall never alter, and whereof I shall be most glad of, as the true way to all our good, quiet, and advancement, and most of all for His sake whose affairs shall thereby find better progression.' From this it would seem as though Cecil had offered a dramatic entertainment to Essex and Raleigh on their leaving town. This entertainment evidently consisted of Shakespeare's new tragedy, then being performed at the Globe Theatre and to be entered for publication just a month later. When this play was printed it did not contain what is called the 'Deposition Scene,' but it would appear that this was given on the boards at the time when Raleigh refers to it. It will be remembered that in 1601 the lawyers accused Essex of having feasted his eyes beforehand with a show of the dethronement of his liege; but Raleigh's words do not suggest any direct disloyalty.

Raleigh was in a state of considerable excitement at the prospect of the new expedition. Cecil wrote, 'Good Mr. Raleigh wonders at his own diligence, as if diligence and he were not familiars;' and the fact that Raleigh would sometimes write twice and thrice to him in one day, and on a single occasion at least, four times, proves that Cecil had a right to use this mild sarcasm. Several months before, Raleigh had attempted by his manifesto entitled The Spanish Alarum to stir up the Government to be in full readiness to guard against a revengeful invasion of England by her old enemy. He had thought out the whole situation, he had planned the defences of England by land and sea, and his new favour at Court had enabled him to put pressure on the royal parsimony, and to insist that things should be done as he saw fit. He was perfectly right in thinking that Philip II. would rather suffer complete ruin than not try once more to recover his position in Europe, but he saw that the late losses at Cadiz would force the Catholic king to delay his incursion, and he counselled a rapid and direct second attack on Spain. As soon as ever he was restored to power, he began to victual a fleet of ten men-of-war with biscuit, beef, bacon, and salt fish, and to call for volunteers. As the scheme seized the popular mind, however, it gathered in extent, and it was finally decided to fit up three large squadrons, with a Dutch contingent of twelve ships. These vessels met in Plymouth Sound.

On the night of Sunday, July 10, the fleet left Plymouth, and kept together for twenty-four hours. On the morning of the 12th, after a night of terrific storm, Raleigh found his squadron of four ships parted from the rest, and in the course of the next day only one vessel beside his own was in sight. This tempest was immortalised in his earliest known poem by John Donne, who was in the expedition, and was described by Raleigh as follows:

The storm on Wednesday grew more forcible, and the seas grew very exceeding lofty, so that myself and the Bonaventure had labour enough to beat it up. But the night following, the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the storm so increased, the ships were weighty, the ordnance great, and the billows so raised and enraged, that we could carry out no sail which to our judgment would not have been rent off the yards by the wind; and yet our ships rolled so vehemently, and so disjointed themselves, that we were driven either to force it again with our courses, or to sink. In my ship it hath shaken all her beams, knees, and stanchions well nigh asunder, in so much on Saturday night last we made account to have yielded ourselves up to God. For we had no way to work, either by trying, hauling, or driving, that promised better hope, our men being worsted with labour and watchings, and our ship so open everywhere, all her bulkheads rent, and her very cook-room of brick shaken down into powder.

Such were the miseries of navigation in the palmy days of English adventure by sea. The end of it was that about thirty vessels crept back to Falmouth and Tor Bay, some were lost altogether, and Raleigh, with the remainder, found harbour on July 18 at Plymouth. For a month they lay there, recovering their forces, and Essex, whose own ship was at Falmouth, came over to Plymouth and was Raleigh's guest on the 'War Sprite.' Raleigh writes to Cecil: 'I should have taken it unkindly if my Lord had taken up any other lodging till the "Lion" come: and now her Majesty may be sure his Lordship shall sleep somewhat the sounder, though he fare the worse, by being with me, for I am an excellent watchman at sea.' In this same letter, dated July 26, 1597, the fatal name of Cobham first appears in the correspondence of Raleigh: 'I pray vouchsafe,' he says, 'to remember me in all affection to my Lord Cobham.'

On August 18, in the face of a westerly wind, the fleet put out once more from Plymouth. In the Bay of Biscay the 'St. Andrew' and the 'St. Matthew' were disabled, and had to be left behind at La Rochelle. Off the coast of Portugal, Raleigh himself had a serious accident, for his mainyard snapped across, and he had to put in for help by the Rock of Lisbon, in company with the 'Dreadnought.' Essex left a letter saying that Raleigh must follow him as fast as he could to the Azores, and on September 8 the 'War Sprite' came in view of Ter?eira. On the 15th Raleigh's squadron joined the main fleet under Essex at Flores.

The distress of the voyage and its separations had told upon the temper of Essex, while he was surrounded by those who were eager to poison his mind with suspicion of Raleigh. When the latter dined with Essex in the 'Repulse' on the 15th, the Earl with his usual impulsiveness made a clean breast of his 'conjectures and surmises,' letting Raleigh know the very names of those scandalous and cankered persons who had ventured to accuse him, and assuring him that he rejected their counsel. On this day or the next a pinnace from India brought the news that the yearly fleet was changing its usual course, and would arrive farther south in the Azores. A council of war was held in the 'Repulse,' and it was resolved to divide the archipelago among the commanders. Fayal was to be taken by Essex and Raleigh, Graciosa by Howard and Vere, San Miguel by Mountjoy and Blount, while Pico, with its famous wines, was left for the Dutchmen. Essex sailed first, and left Raleigh taking in provisions at Flores, where he dined in a small inland town with his old acquaintance Lord Grey, and others, including Sir Arthur Gorges, the minute historian of the expedition. About midnight, when they were safe in their ships again, Captain Arthur Champernowne, Raleigh's kinsman, arrived with a letter from Essex desiring Raleigh to come over to Fayal at once, and complete his supplies there. With his usual promptitude, he started instantly, and soon outstripped Essex.

When Raleigh arrived in the great harbour of Fayal, the peaceful look of everything assured him in a moment that Essex had not yet been heard of. But no sooner did the inhabitants perceive the 'War Sprite' and the 'Dreadnought,' than they began to throw up defences and remove their valuables into the interior. It was in the highest degree irksome to Raleigh to wait thus inactive, while this handsome Spanish colony was slipping from his clutch, but he had been forbidden to move without orders. After three days' waiting for Essex, a council of war was held on board the 'War Sprite.' On the fourth Raleigh leaped into his barge at the head of a landing company, refusing the help of the Flemings who were with him, and stormed the cliffs. It was comparatively easy to get his troops on shore, but the Spaniards contested the road to the town inch by inch. At last Raleigh and his four hundred and fifty men routed their opponents and entered Fayal, a town 'full of fine gardens, orchards, and wells of delicate waters, with fair streets, and one very fair church;' and allowed his men to plunder it. The English soldiers slept that night in Fayal, and when they woke next morning they saw the tardy squadron of Essex come warping into the harbour at last. Sir Gilly Meyrick, the bitterest of the parasites of Essex, slipped into a boat and was on board the 'Repulse' as soon as she anchored, reporting Raleigh's conduct to the Earl.

Raleigh must have known that Essex was not the man to be pleased at a feat which took all the credit of the Islands Voyage out of his hands; but he feigned unconsciousness. In his barge he came out from Fayal to greet the Earl, and entered the General's cabin. After a faint welcome, Essex began to reproach him with 'a breach of Orders and Articles,' and to point out to him that in capturing Fayal without authority he had made himself liable to the punishment of death. Raleigh replied that he was exempt from such orders, being, in succession to Essex and Lord Howard, himself commander of the whole fleet by the Queen's letters patent. After a dispute of half an hour, Essex seemed satisfied, and accepted an invitation to sup with Raleigh on shore. But another malcontent, Sir Christopher Blount, obtained his ear, and set his resentment blazing once more. Essex told Raleigh he should not sup at all that night. Raleigh left the 'Repulse,' and prepared to separate his squadron from the fleet, lest an attempt should be made to force him to undergo the indignity of a court-martial. Howard finally made peace between the two commanders, and Raleigh was induced to give some sort of apology for his action.

The fleet proceeded to St. Miguel, when Raleigh was left to watch the roadstead, while Essex pushed inland. While Raleigh lay here, a great Indian carrack of sixteen hundred tons, laden with spices, knowing nothing of the English invasion, blundered into the middle of what she took to be a friendly Spanish fleet. She perceived her mistake just in time to run herself ashore, and disembark her crew. Raleigh at the head of a party of boats attempted to seize her, but her commander set her on fire, and when the Englishmen came close to her she was one dangerous splendour of flaming perfumes and roaring cannon. Raleigh was more fortunate in securing another carrack laden with cochineal from Cuba. The rest of the Islands Voyage was uneventful and ill-managed. For some time nothing was heard of the fleet in England, and Lady Raleigh 'skrebbled,' as she spelt it, hasty notes to Cecil begging for news of her husband. Early in October he came back to England, seriously enfeebled in health. The only one of the commanders who gained any advantage from the Islands Voyage was the one who had undertaken least, Lord Howard of Effingham, who was raised to the earldom of Nottingham.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares