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vessels and carried into Flushing, but unfortunately the seamen indulged too freely in the wine on board, and as the ship-riddled with English shots-lurched and began to fill, they had not sense enough to escape, and so went down, to the number of three hundred.
The engagement with the Armada lasted six hours. From ten a.m. till nearly five p.m. this "most cruel battle" continued; a fiercer fight, said many veteran Spaniards, than the famous action of Lepanto. "Surely every man in our fleet did well," said Winter, "and the slaughter the enemy received was great." And greater it would have been, and more decisive the victory, but that, owing to the queen's parsimonious policy, the scanty supplies of ammunition failed, and the English were constrained to cease firing. The Armada was still strong enough-ninety great ships against twenty-two or twenty-three-to have crushed their daring enemy; but dispirited and humiliated, ill-handled and ill-led, they made what speed they could before the wind to purchase a base security by an ignominious flight. They fled before an enemy that could not have fired another broadside. But "though our powder and shot was well-nigh spent," said the Lord Admiral, "we put on a brag countenance and gave them chase, as though we had wanted nothing."
And this "brag countenance" was successful, for that "one day's service had much appalled the enemy," as Drake observed; and still the Spaniards fled with a freshening gale all through the Monday night. "A thing greatly to be regarded," said one who took part in the fight, "is that the Almighty had stricken them with a wonderful fear. I have hardly seen any of their companies succoured of the extremities which befell them after these fights, but they have been left at utter ruin, while they bear as much sail as ever they possibly can."
On Tuesday, the ninth of August, the English ships were off Walcheren. "The wind is hanging westerly," said Tomson, "and we drive our enemies apace, much marvelling in what port they will direct themselves. Those that are left alive are so weak and heartless that they could be well content to lose all charges, and to be at home with rich and poor."
"In my conscience," said Sir William Winter," I think the duke would give his dukedom to be in Spain again."
It was plain to the English admiral that the elements would effectually defeat the flying Armada, and bring upon it a more sure and rapid destruction than could be hoped for in a general engagement. The Spaniards were now like "a herd of frightened deer flying on their own destruction."
Already there were but six and a half fathoms of water shoaling under their keels; the English, to save themselves from a similar predicament, were compelled to pause in their pursuit. It was clear that if the wind did not shift, every ship of the Armada would be driven on the sand and hopelessly wrecked; but at the very moment when their impending fate seemed inevitable, the wind veered to the sou'-west, and the Spanish ships squaring their sails stood out once more into the open sea.
As the galleons and galeasses, carrying as much canvas as they dare, again swept forward, the English, "maintaining the brag countenance," followed in pursuit. But about four o'clock in the afternoon, a gun was fired from Howard's ship, and the signal for council displayed. Seymour, Drake, Frobisher, Hawkins, and others—excepting Winter, who had been wounded in action-attended, and it was decided that Lord Henry Seymour, accompanied by Winter, should return with a squadron to guard the mouth of the Thames against any attempts on the part of Alexander Farnese, and 'that the Lord Admiral, with the rest of the fleet, should continue to harass and pursue the retreating enemy.
It was very displeasing to Lord Henry to lose his share of the chase. "The Lord Admiral," he wrote to Walsingham, "was altogether desirous to have me strengthen him, and having done so to the uttermost of my good will, and the venture of my life, and to the distressing of the Spaniards, which was thoroughly done on the Monday last, I now find his lordship jealous and loath to take part of the honour which is to come, so he has used his authority to command me to look to our English coast, threatened by the Duke of Parma. I pray God my Lord Admiral do not find the tack of the Rainbow and her companions, for I protest before God, I vowed I would be as near or nearer with my little ship to encounter our enemies as any of his greatest ships in both armies."
But Seymour offered no opposition to the Lord Admiral. He obeyed the instructions he had received, while Howard, Drake, and Frobisher, with the rest of the fleet, followed the Armada through the North Sea from Tuesday night (August 9th) till Friday (12th). No man in the fleet was more enthusiastic or hilarious than Drake. As he saw the invincible fleet of the mighty king whose beard he had singed, helplessly rolling in the trough of the German Ocean, he could not restrain his joy, and would fain have done battle. "There never was anything pleased me better," he says, "than seeing the enemy flying with a southerly wind to the northwards. God grant you have a good eye to the Duke of
Parma, for, with the grace of God, if we live, I doubt not so to handle the matter with the Duke of Sidonia as he shall wish himself at St. Mary's port among his orange trees."
Lord Admiral Howard would not accept Drake's suggestion to "wrestle a pull" with the Spaniards. Indeed his fleet had no ammunition, and their rations were nearly exhausted. On the 12th, therefore, Howard resolved on putting into the Frith of Forth for water and provisions, leaving two pinnaces to dog the fleet until it should be passed the isles of Scotland; a change in the wind, however, induced him to alter his intentions, and to bear away for the North Foreland.
On Sunday, the 14th of August, the weather, which had been comparatively calm, became tempestuous, and blew a tremendous gale. The English fleet was scattered and in great peril, but all arrived safely in Margate-roads. But the fate of the Armada was sealed. "Damaged, leaking, without pilots, without a competent commander, the great fleet entered that furious storm, and was whirled along the iron crags of Norway, and between the savage rocks of Faröe and the Hebrides. In those regions of tempest the insulted elements wreaked their full vengeance on the insolent Spaniards. Disaster after disaster marked their perilous track; gale after gale swept them hither and thither, tossing them on sandbanks, or shattering them on granite cliffs. The coasts of Norway, Scotland, and Ireland, were strewn with the wrecks of that pompous fleet, which claimed the dominion of the seas, and with the bones of those invincible legions which were to have sacked London, and made England a Spanish vice-royalty."
All through the remainder of the month of August the stormy weather continued. Admiral Oquendo in his galleon, together with a number of other Spanish vessels, were cast upon the Irish coast; nearly every soul perished, those who escaped with their lives were either butchered by the Irish kernes, or sent coupled in halters to be shipped for England.
Of the one hundred and thirty-four vessels which had sailed so pompously in July but fifty-three returned to Spain, and these so crippled as to be unfit for further service. Of the thirty thousand men who sailed in the fleet, it is probable that not more than ten thousand ever saw their native land again. Most of the leaders of the expedition lost their lives. Medina Sidonia reached Santander in October; Recalde, Dieogo, Hores de Valdez, Oquendo, Maldonado, Bobadilla, and Manriquez, either perished at sea or died of exhaustion immediately after their return. A
large number of noblemen were detained as prisoners in England and Holland. "There was hardly a distinguished family in Spain not placed in mourning, so that, to relieve the universal gloom, an edict was published forbidding the wearing of mourning at all. On the other hand, a merchant of Lisbon, not yet reconciled to the Spanish conquest of his country, permitting himself some tokens of hilarity at the defeat of the Armada, was immediately hanged by express command of Philip. Thus, as was said, one could neither cry nor laugh within the Spanish dominions."
Drake summed up the discomfiture of the Spaniards in a few hearty words:"It was happily manifested," he says, "in very deed to all nations, how their navy, which they termed invincible, consisting of one hundred and forty sail of ships, not only of their own kingdom, but strengthened with the greatest argosies, Portugal carricks, Florentines, and large hulks of other countries, were by thirty of her Majesty's own ships of war, and a few of our own merchants', by the wise, valiant, and advantageous conduct of the Lord Charles Howard, High Admiral of England, beaten and shuffled together, even from the Lizard, in Cornwall, first to Portland, where they shamefully left Don Pedro de Valdez, with his mighty ship; from Portland to Calais, where they lost Hugh de Moncado, with the galley of which he was captain; and from Calais, driven with squibs from their anchors, were chased out of the sight of England, round about Scotland and Ireland, where, for the sympathy of their religion, hoping to find succour and assistance, a great part of them were crushed against the rocks, and those others that landed, being very many in number, were, notwithstanding, broken, slain, and taken, and so sent from village to village, coupled in halters, to be shipped into England, when her Majesty, of her princely and invincible disposition, disdaining to put them to death, and scorning either to retain or entertain them, they were all sent back again to their countries, to witness and recount the worthy achievement of their invincible and dreadful navy, of which the number of soldiers, the fearful burthen of their ships, the commanders of navy and of squadrons, with all others, their magazine of provision, were put in print, as an army and navy irresistible and disdaining precaution; with all which their great and terrible ostentation, they did not in all their sailings round about England, so much as sink or take one ship, bark, pinnace, or cockboat of ours, or even burn so much as one sheep-cote on the land."
"As for the Prince of Parma," said Drake, "I take him to be as a bear robbed of her whelps." And the Admiral's surmise was well-founded. The Great Duke who had achieved so many victories and who had reckoned on the subjugation of England as a crowning triumph, was beside himself with rage as he found that he had no adequate means of reaching the Armada and that Philip appeared utterly insensible to the importance of providing him with the means. He had been careful to
collect and transport to the sea coast all the hoys, barges, and munitions for the projected invasion; but the Hollanders and Zelanders guarded every outlet to the ocean and laughed to scorn the idea of invading England, when they held possession of every hole and corner of the Dutch coast. They jeered at and in every way insulted the Spaniards, from their heavy luggers, and fly-boats-daring them to come out on the blue water. Alexander upon one occasion was so maddened by their taunts, that he selected a thousand musketeers-partly Spanish, partly Irish-and ordered an assault on the insolent boatmen. With his own hand he struck dead more than one officer who remonstrated against the command, so the attack was made and every one of the musketeers was killed.
To embark and transport his men was impossible. He did his best and hoped that Sidonia would do his best also, to sweep the English and the Dutch from the waters and so permit of his approach to England. But the Armada was unequal to the work, and the news was sent to Parma of its utter and complete defeat.
"God knows," he wrote to Philip, "the distress in which this event has plunged me, at the very moment when I expected to be sending your Majesty my congratulations on the success of the enterprise. But these are the works of the Lord who can recompense your Majesty by giving you many victims, and the fulfilment of your Majesty's desires, when He thinks the proper time arrived. Meantime let Him be praised for all, and let your Majesty take great care of your health, which is the most important thing of all."
While the English fleet was harassing and pursuing the Spanish Armada, and the Dutch fleet was jealously watching the coasts of the Low Countries so as to prevent the great Parma and his legions coming forth, the military affairs of England were in sad disorder, and Parma would apparently have no difficult work, could he once effect a landing, in marching his troops to London.