« PreviousContinue »
no preparations made there for defense and the English squad ron was not fully manned. But this was not in the plan, a.com would, especially if it failed, have incurred a heavy responsibility. Medina Sidonia was only empowered and prepared to accept battle by sea if the English should offer it. His galleys, improved after the Venetian pattern, and especially his galleons (immense sailing ships which carried cannon on their different decks on all sides), were without doubt superior to the vessels of the English. When the latter, some sixty sail strong, came out of the harbor, he hung out the great standard from the foremast of his ship as a signal for all to prepare for battle. But the English admiral did not intend to let matters come to a regular naval fight. He was perfectly aware of the superiority of the Spanish equipment and had even forbidden boarding the enemies' vessels. His plan was to gain the weather gauge of the Armada, and inflict damage on them in their course, and throw them into disorder. The English followed the track of the Armada in four squadrons, and left no advantage unimproved that might offer. They were thoroughly acquainted with this sea, and steered their handy vessels with perfect certainty and mastery; the Spaniards remarked with dissatisfaction that they could at pleasure advance, attack, and again break off the engagement. Medina Sidonia was anxious above all things to keep his Armada together : after a council of war he let a great ship which lagged behind fall into the hands of the enemy, as her loss would be less damaging than the breaking up of the line which would result from the attempt to save her; he sent round his sargentes mayores to the captains to tell them not to quit the line on pain of death.
On the whole the Spaniards were not discontented with their voyage, when, after a week of continuous skirmishing, they, without having sustained any very considerable losses, had traversed the English Channel, and on Saturday, the 6th August, passed Boulogne and arrived off Calais; it was the first point at which they had wished to touch. But now to cross to the neighboring coast of England, as seems to have been the original plan, became exceedingly difficult, because the English fleet guarded it, and the Spanish galleons were less able in the straits than elsewhere to compete with those swift vessels. It was also being strengthened every moment; the young nobility emulously hastened on board. But neither could the admiral proceed to Dunkirk, as the harbor was then far too narrow Bruges,
to receive his large ships, and his pilots were afraid of being carried to the northward by the currents. He anchored in the roadstead east of Calais in the direction of Dunkirk.
He had already previously informed the Duke of Parma that he was on the way, and had then, immediately before his arrival at Calais, dispatched a pilot to Dunkirk, to request that he would join him with a number of small vessels, that they might better encounter the English, and bring with him cannon balls of a certain caliber, of which he began to fall short. It is clear that he still wished to undertake from thence, if supported according to his views, the great attempt at a disembarkation which he was commissioned to effect. But Alexander of Parma, whom the first message had found some days before at
had not yet arrived at Dunkirk when the second came: the preparations for embarking were only then just begun for the first time; and they could scarcely venture actually to embark, as English and Dutch ships of war were still ever cruising before the harbor.
Alexander Farnese's failure to effect a junction with Medina Sidonia has been always traced to personal motives : it was even said in England, at a later time, that Queen Elizabeth had offered him the hand of Lady Arabella Stuart, which might open the way to the English throne for himself. It is true that his enterprises in the Netherlands appeared to lie closest to his heart; even Tassis, who was about his person, remarks that he carried on his preparations more out of obedience than with any zeal of his own. But the chief cause why the two operations were not better combined lay in their very nature. The geographical relation of the Spanish monarchy to England would have required two separate invasions, the one from the Pyrenean peninsula, the other from the Netherlands. The wish to combine the forces of such distant countries in a single invasion made the enterprise, especially when the means of communication of the period were so inadequate, overpoweringly helpless. Wind and weather had been little considered in the scheme. In both those countries immense materials of war had been collected with extreme effort; they had been brought within a few miles of sea of each other, but combine they could not. Now for the first time came to light the full superiority which the English gained from their corsairlike and bold method of war, and their alliance with the Dutch. It was seen that a sudden attack would suffice to break the whole combination in pieces: Queen Elizabeth was said to have herself devised the plan and its arrangement.
The Armada was still lying at anchor in line of battle, waiting for news from Alexander Farnese, when in the night between Sunday and Monday (7th to 8th August) the English sent some fire ships, about eight in number, against it. They were his worst vessels which Lord Howard gave up for this purpose, but their mere appearance produced a decisive result. Medina Sidonia could not refuse his ships permission to slip their anchors, that each might avoid the threatening danger ; only he commanded them to afterwards resume their previous order. But things wore a completely different appearance the following morning. The tide had carried the vessels towards the land, a direction they did not want to take; now for the first time the attacks of the English proved destructive to them; part of the ships had become disabled ; it was completely impossible to obey the admiral's orders that they should return to their old position. Instead of this, unfavorable winds drove the Armada against its will along the coast; in a short time the English too gave up the pursuit of the enemy, who without being quite beaten was yet in flight, and abandoned him to his fate. The wind drove the Spaniards on the shoals of Zealand ; once they were in such shallow water that they were afraid of running aground: some of their galleons in fact fell into the hands of the Dutch. Fortunately for them the wind veered round first to the N.S.W., then to the S.S.W., but they could not even then regain the Channel, nor would they have wished it; only by the longest circuit, round the Orkney Islands, could they return to Spain.
Philip II. saw the Armada, which he had hoped would give the dominion of the world into his hand, return home again in fragments without having, we do not say accomplished, but even attempted anything worth the trouble. He did not, therefore, renounce his design. He spoke of his wish to fit out lighter vessels, and intrust the whole conduct of the expedition to the Prince of Parma. The Cortes of Castille requested him not to put up with the disgrace incurred, but to chastise this woman; they offered him their whole property and all the children of the land for this purpose. But the very possibility of great enterprises belongs only to one moment; in the next it is already gone by.
First the Spanish forces were drawn into the complications existing in France. The great Catholic agitation, which had been long fermenting there, at last gained the upper hand, and was quite ready to prepare the way for Philip II.'s supremacy. But Queen Elizabeth thought that the day on which France fell into his hands would be the eve of her own ruin. She too, therefore, devoted her best resources to France, to uphold Philip II.'s opponent. When Henry IV., driven back to the verge of the coast of Normandy, was all but lost, he was by her help put in a position to maintain his cause.
At the sieges of the great towns, in which he was still often threatened with failure, the English troops in several instances did excellent service. The Queen did not swerve from her policy even when Henry IV. saw himself compelled, and found it compatible with his conscience, to go over to Catholicism. For he was clearly thus all the better enabled to reëstablish a France that should be politically independent, in opposition to Spain and at war with it; and it was exactly on this opposition that the political freedom and independence of England herself rested. Yet as this change of religion had been disagreeable to the Queen, so was also the peace which he proceeded to make; she exerted her influence against its conclusion. as by it the Spaniards gave up the places they occupied on the French coasts, which in their possession had menaced England as well, she could not in reality be fundamentally opposed to it.
These great conflicts on land were seconded by repeated attacks of the English and Dutch naval power, by which it sometimes seemed as if the Spanish monarchy would be shaken to its foundations. Elizabeth made an attempt to restore Don Antonio to the throne from which Philip II. had driven him. But the minds of the Portuguese themselves were very far from being as yet sufficiently prepared for a revolt: the enterprise failed, in an attack on the suburbs of Lisbon. The war interested the English most deeply. Parliament agreed to larger and larger grants : from two fifteenths and a single subsidy (about £30,000), which was its usual vote, it rose in 1593 to three subsidies and six fifteenths; the towns gladly armed ships at their own expense, and sailors enough were found to man them ; the national energy turned towards the sea.
And they obtained some successes. In the harbor of Corunna they destroyed the collected stores, which were probably to have
served for renewing the expedition. Once they took the harbor of Cadiz and occupied the city itself: more than once they alarmed and endangered the West Indies. But with all this nothing decisive was effected ; the Spanish monarchy maintained an undoubted ascendency in Europe, and the exclusive possession of the other hemisphere : it was the Great Power of the age. But over against it England also now took up a strong and formidable position.
Events in France exercised a strong counteraction on the Netherlands; under their influence the reconquest of the United Provinces became impossible for Spain. Elizabeth also contributed largely to the victories by which Prince Maurice of Orange secured a strong frontier. But these could not prevent a powerful Catholic government arising on the other side in the Belgian provinces : and though they were at first kept apart from Spain, yet it did not escape the Queen that this would not last forever: she seems to have had a foreboding that these countries would become the battle ground of a later age. However this might be, the antagonism of principle between the Catholic Netherlands (which were still ruled by the Austro-Spanish house) and the Protestant Netherlands (in which the Republic maintained itself), and the continued war between them, insured the security of England, for the sake of which the Queen had broken with Spain. Burleigh's objects were in the main attained.
BY DIRK COORNHERT.
[Prolific Dutch poet, moralist, and agitator, 1622–90; a chief founder of the
Dutch literary language.]
(Translated by Sir John Bowring.)
What's the world's liberty to him whose soul is firmly bound
great, Than many a golden-fettered fool with outward pomp elate ; For chains grace virtue, while they bring deep shame on tyranny.