Simancas: August 1588, 11-20

Pages 373-389

Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1899.

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August 1588, 11-20

11 Aug.
Estado, 594.
383. Jorge Manrique to the King.
Statement of the events that happened to his Majesty's Armada, as observed by me, Don Jorge Manrique, up to Monday, 7th August, when by order of the duke of Medina Sidonia I came to discuss with the duke of Parma matters touching the Armada, leaving the said Armada at anchor in the haven of Calais. To this is added a relation of the subsequent occurrences as stated by Captain Marolin de Juan, who was present at the combat of the 8th instant.
His Majesty's Armada entered the English Channel on Saturday, 30th July, and on that day it came to a stand at sea off Plymouth, a number of vessels being sighted. On Sunday, the 31st, in the morning, seven ships were seen to the windward, and at 10 o'clock there were quite near to us 74 sail, 23 of which were great ships, the rest being small. They began to open fire on our rearguard, but upon the Duke's turning to close with them they retired without doing us any damage, except that two cannon shots struck the foremast of the vice-flagship "San Juan," which was in the midst of the enemy's fleet during the combat. On the same day the flagship of Don Pedro de Valdez fouled another ship of his squadron, breaking her bowsprit first, and then ber foremast. The Armada passed on, leaving her behind in sight of the enemy ; and what subsequently became of her and her crew is not known. At the be same time the flagship of Miguel de Oquendo caught fire, and some of her men were burnt. As it was seen that she would founder, the contents were taken out of her, and she was abandoned the next day, 1st August, in sight of the enemy, who continued to follow us, still to windward. In consequence of calms the enemy did not attack our rearguard that day, nor until Tuesday, the 2nd, when a great engagement took place between the two fleets. The galleon "San Martin" being to windward of the Armada, and near the enemy's ships, the latter attacked her with the whole of their cannon, she returning the fire with so much gallantry that on one side alone nhe fired off a hundred shots, and the enemy did not care to come to close quarters with her, although she was alone, and her consorts were unable to aid her for an hour and a half. At last the enemy retired, without having inflicted any notable damage upon us. On the following day, Wednesday, the 3rd, the enemy attacked our rearguard, but retired almost at once, as a shot from one of our galleasses carried away the mainsail boom of his flagship. On Thursday, the 4th, off the Isle of Wight, he again attacked our rearguard at dawn, and displayed some signs of a desire to come to close quarters, but did not do so, always keeping off and confining the fight to artillery fire. The Duke endeavoured to close with him. but it was impossible in consequence of the swiftness of the enemy's vessels. On this day the largest ship in the enemy's fleet was on the point of being caught by the "San Martin," but she was rescued by 11 skiffs which grappled and towed her out, for which purpose they carry a great number of such craft. On Friday, the 5th, there was a calm all day, and the two fleets kept in sight of one another. On Saturday, the 6th in the morning the wind freshened somewhat on our stern, and we began to make some progress, the enemy always continuing on our rearguard with 100 vessels, as he had been joined recently by about 30 fresh ships. (fn. 1) The French coast was sighted on one side, and the English on the other, the Armada being abreast of Calais in the afternoon. The Duke consulted the generals and pilots as to what he should do, pending the coming out of the duke of Parma from Dunkirk, which was seven leagues off. Different opinions were expressed in consequence of the strength of the current, and the unsheltered nature of the port in bad weather ; and the Duke finally decided to drop anchor in the haven of Calais, and not to sail into the North Sea, which would have jeopardised the undertaking, in consequence of the difficulty of getting back again. There were, however, some opinions opposed to the course adopted. The enemy also dropped anchor in the place mentioned, near to us, about two leagues from Calais. On Sunday, the 7th, the wind freshened, the current also running strongly, and each of our ships put out two anchors. At 11 o'clock that night the enemy let forth seven fire pinnaces, which burst into flame in the midst of our fleet. They burnt with such fierceness that it was believed they were "artificial machines," and as the Armada was in close order, the Duke, fearing the damage that might be caused by them, gave orders for the cables to be cut, and the whole of our ships spread their sails, leaving nearly 300 anchors behind them. The Armada then sailed in a northerly direction, followed by the enemy. It is certainly believed that the battle of Monday, the 8th, must have been terrible, (fn. 2) and that some ships were sunk on both sides but there is no knowledge as to what ships they were, the loss of life involved, or the present position of the Duke and the Armada. The enemy's fleet is in pursuit with 160 sail ; and 40 more of their ships are cruising within sight of Dunkirk, (fn. 3) these vessels having left Flushing to reinforce the enemy. On the night of the fire the rudder of the galleass "Capitana" fouled a cable, and the vessel being unmanageable, ran aground on the bar of Calais Harbour. This being noticed by the enemy, they sent 24 of their ships to attack her with their artillery, and although the galleass was stranded and lying on her side, Don Hugo Moncada defended her valiantly until he fell, killed by harquebuss shot. The soldiers and sailors seeing that their general, Don Hugo, had fallen, began to throw themselves into the sea, and the convicts did likewise ; whereupon the enemy boarded the galleass, killing about 30 men. The duke of Parma has given orders for the recovery of the men who escaped, the artillery, stores, and all else that was saved. On the same day (Monday) the enemy furiously attacked the Portuguese galleon "San Felipe," with the Maestre de Campo, Francisco de Toledo, on board. When they had killed over a hundred of his men the rest of them, with the exception of about 15 or 20 who stood by him, escaped in spite of him to a hulk. The galleon, thus abandoned, brought up on the beach at Nieuport, five leagues from Dunkirk. Here she was discovered by the enemy, who with the aid of a number of ships from ; Flushing attacked and captured her, the Maestre de Campo, and the few men who were with him, having escaped in a small boat, six persons only being saved.—Dunkirk, 11th August 1588.
384. Juan Manrique to Juan De Idiaquez.
Many others will write to you the full details of the overthrow of the Armada, and I will therefore only say here that I pray to God to spare our good King to redress it, and you to aid him. Although you may think it bold on my part, I cannot refrain from saying how the happiest expedition in the world has been defeated. The day on which we came to embark (i.e., in Flanders) we found the vessels still unfinished, not a pound of cannon on board, and nothing to eat. This was not because the duke of Parma failed to use every possible effort, for it would be difficult to find another person in the world who works half as hard but because both the seamen and those who had to carry out the details openly and undisguisedly directed their energies not to serve his Majesty, for that is not their aim, but to waste his substance and lengthen the duration of the war ; besides which the common people threw obstacles in the way. (fn. 4)
You must forgive me, but when I see the intentions of my sovereign thus badly fulfilled, I cannot help venturing to lay the matter before you. The general opinion here, is that if his Majesty orders the remainder of the Armada to stay here, the enterprise would be much easier. God guide it all! We are all of us ready to die, and serve his Majesty as he may command. The prince of Ascoli and Don Francisco de Toledo have arrived here, and the younger displays most distrust.
Don Jorge Manrique is here, and it is quite pitiable to see how he goes on.
For the love of God urge his Majesty to persevere in this enterprise, for upon it depends mainly the ending of the war in Flanders ; people here are delighted to see its postponement.— Dunkirk, 11th August 1588.
11 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
385. Advices of the Fleets sent from Rouen. (fn. 5)
On Saturday the Spanish Armada arrived safely in these (Calais) roads in good condition, with the English at cannon shot distance to windward. Both fleets came to anchor in good order, and so remained until Sunday night, when, at the turn Ōf midnight, the English sent on to the Spanish fleet eight well fitted ships, filled with artificial fire and ordnance, which advanced in line at a distance of a couple of pikes' lengths between them. Wind and tide were in their favour, and bore them down on to the Spanish ships. But by God's grace before they arrived, and whilst they were yet between the two fleets, one of them flared up with such fierceness and great noise as were frightful, and at this the ships of the Armada cut their cables at once, leaving their anchors, spreading their sails, and ran out to sea. The English ships followed them, always further out at sea, and to windward of them, cannonading them, with the intention of keeping them under fire ; but this they were unable to do, and both fleets continued in this guise, without doing much execution one to the other. The remaining seven fire ships caught light when they arrived where the Armada was before it slipped cables, and the whole eight went drifting between the fleet and the shore with the most terrible flames that can be imagined. The whole of them burnt very fiercely until Monday morning, when they began to die down somewhat, although the fire on them continued till the hulls were reduced to embers.
At seven o'clock on Monday morning, at about two leagues from here (i.e., Calais), both fleets came into action, the firing on both sides being the greatest ever seen or imagined. In the meanwhile they were constantly sailing in a northerly direction, the English fleet keeping the wind, as far as could be seen. The galleon "San Martin" was leading, with the galleon "San Juan" and two galleasses, which were doing much execution against the English. The cannonade was heard with the same fury the whole of that day, until at last it died away in the distance. Since then we have no news that we can trust, except from a fisherman who came in yesterday, reporting that he left them between Zeeland and England, about 22 leagues from here ; both fleets being mixed with each other, and still cannonading. He says he saw some ships broken into bits, others without masts or sails, from which they were throwing overboard artillery, trunks, and many other things, whilst men were striving to save themselves by escaping in boats, with such lamentation as may be imagined. I forgot to say that the flagship of the four Neapolitan galleasses, whilst trying to avoid the fire ships, lost her rudder, and consequently could not follow the Armada. She was assailed by 15 or 20 English ships, and getting as much in shore as possible, was nearly surrounded by small (English) vessels of 30 or 40 tons, which shot off about 100 cannon shots at her upper parts The guns on the galleass could not reply, as she had a list to landward. The Italian sailors and artillerymen, with some others, were the first to escape and fly to shore ; and so many went that not more than 50 men stood by the captain to defend the ship. At last the captain was killed, and several others, and the rest sought safety in flight, whilst the English to the number of 200 entered, robbing what they could lay their hands upon and carry. They were awaiting the return of the tide to float her and carry her off, when seeing that she was at the mouth of the port, not a fathom from the inside, the governor, before there was water enough to float her, determined to fire his cannon upon the English, which he did both from the fortress and the town walls ; whereupon they fled, and left the galleass with some loss. They tried three times to burn her with artificial fire and gunpowder, but failed, as if almost by a miracle. The loss amounted to about 50 English and a similar number of Spaniards and slaves, who made a terrible outcry. If the Spaniards had stood by the ship, as they might have done, the English would never have entered her, as not one of the English cannon shots had pierced the hull of the ship, but only her upper planks above the oars. She was therefore still very sound, but now they are dismantling her for her timbers and taking out her ordnance, which is the greatest pity in the world, for there was no better ship in the Armada for fighting in these parts, and such another could not be launched for 100,000 crowns. She alone is enough to face 20 of the best English ships, and draws so little water that she could easily enter Dunkirk.
There has been very bad management with the Flemish ships, which cannot be ready for another fortnight, in consequence of the neglect of the commissaries, whose one care has been to steal all they could. If they had joined the Spanish fleet they could no doubt have carried out the design.
The Spanish fleet is very powerful, only it has no port of refuge in these parts, and with bad weather it may be driven on to the banks, which is the English plan, without thinking of coming to close quarters.
The English fleet consists of 150 sail all told, including any that may have joined them from Holland and Zeeland.
The Dunkirk ships are short of sailors, in consequence of the neglect they have shown towards them. They (the sailors) have even been dreadfully ill-treated.
The whole of the fame gained by the duke of Parma in the past is forfeited by this great neglect, and this will cause the Spanish fleet to be lost if God does not come to its aid.
Whilst the Armada was in these roads, the Dover people held a review, where instead of the 25,000 men they expected they could only muster 22 companies of 100 men each, and in very poor order.
To-day, the 11th, the English deputies entered Calais on their return to England, with passport from the prince of Parma.
They say that the fleets were still sailing slowly towards the north, fighting as they went. On the night of Tuesday Drake burnt two ships, and had captured and sunk six, amongst which were some galleons, and they say also the "San Felipe" ran on a shoal off Nieuport.—13th August.
Postscript.—I have kept this until to-day, Saturday, 13th August. It is reported that Drake came alongside the galleon "Capitana" ("San Martin"), which was somewhat separated from the rest of the Armada, and surrounded by the English fleet ; and the engagement was so fierce between, them that the whole of the two fleets assembled, and in the fight the Spaniards captured Drake with many ships, sinking others, and disabling 15 which took refuge at Harwich. The Spanish fleet by the same report was still sailing towards Scotland, some say to enter port, others to return round that way to Spain. It was still being followed by the rest of the English ships, (fn. 6) but it was feared that the Lord Admiral was in as bad case as Drake.
Note.—The latter part of this communication is written so hastily and badly as to be hardly intelligible. After it had been finished a small strip of paper was pasted on to the foot, containing a postscript. The King had apparently tried to read it, but had been unable to do so, as a note below it for his information says "this postscript came inside the letter, the writing is so involved that it is re-written more clearly here following."
Second Postscript.—These deputies are stating some particulars of the duke (of Parma). They are pleased at the small activity he has shown in aiding the enterprise, either out of jealousy of Medina or otherwise, designing to do some day what others have done before, although I hope he will not forget himself so far. Our Lord inspire him to do right.
12 Aug.
Estado, 594.
386. Prince of Ascoli (fn. 7) to the King.
On the 7th instant your Majesty's Armada was at anchor in Calais Bay, the enemy's fleet being a league distant from it. At midnight, when the tide was running from the enemy's fleet towards us, they let loose seven fire ships, which came towards the Armada. The duke of Medina considered it necessary that the Armada should avoid these ships, and he accordingly directed some of us who were most in his confidence to go in zabras (Biscay smacks) and carry instructions to the other squadrons. By the Duke's orders I took with me Captain Marco, as I had done on other occasions, and sailed towards the rear squadron. In the interim the flagship sailed away, and at day break I found myself in the midst of the enemy's ships, and our Armada too far away for us to reach it. Whilst I was in this position I saw a small pinnace in which were two majors who had been sent to carry orders through the Armada for the ships to put themselves in fighting trim. I therefore went on board the pinnace with the intention of making for the galleon, and we clapped on all sail with that object. Both wind and tide were against us, and the enemy were engaged with our fleet, so that I was cut off and in the rear of both fleets. I decided to follow in the wake of the fleets, but I was so hotly pressed by the boats which had attacked and defeated the galleass "Capitana" ("San Lorenzo") that not a sailor could be induced to stir. Thus I remained all day until two o'clock next morning, when so violent a gale broke that I was obliged to run before it, I knew not whither, all that night without a pilot. In the morning I sighted Calais, but was too far to leeward to make it. I therefore had to enter this port, where I found the duke of Parma, and gave him an account of my proceedings, begging leave to return to the Armada. This he refused to allow, I am very unhappy to be out of whatever events may happen to the Armada, but as God has ordained otherwise, it cannot be helped, and my only wish is to be in some place where I may serve your Majesty and do my duty in a manner worthy of my birth. This I will always keep before me, and on all occasions when my person may be of any service it shall be exposed to the death on your Majesty's behalf.—Dunkirk, 12th August 1588.
Note.—The above manuscript is much mutilated and the writing almost undecipherable.
12 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
387. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 8th instant I wrote enclosing an original letter from Rouen. This courier is on his way from the duke of Parma with news, thank God, that Medina Sidonia with the Armada is safe in St. John's Roads, between Boulogne and Calais, where he arrived on the 5th (sic). From what I hear from the Armada, the Breton sailors who were in the English fleet were quite right in saying that the English ships had received great damage from the artillery on your Majesty's vessels, the English flagship having been sunk. This is again confirmed by advices of the 10th from Havre de Grace and Dieppe, which say that the name of the ship was the "Raleigh." (fn. 8) As the night came on, and the duke of Medina continued his voyage, there could not have been so much damage done in the English ships as the Breton sailors say, but it is a good sign that since then they have none of them dared to attack any of your Majesty's ships. The Breton sailors also confess that they saw one of your Majesty's vessels burnt, all the men on board of which were saved. This was Admiral Oquendo's flagship.
Isoardo Capelo has had letters from the coast of Normandy, and also one, dated the 10th, from Rouen, stating that the third missing galley had entered Blavet, in Lower Brittany, without further loss than the victuals they had thrown overboard to lighten the ship. I sent off a courier at once and opened credits at Nantes for the 15,000 crowns your Majesty ordered, to provide them with what they may require. I also wrote to the captain of the galley, asking him whether he has orders as to what he is to do, and to let me know. I will report his answer to your Majesty, and if it be necessary I will send from here one of my servants with letters from this King to the governors ordering them to assist the captain of the galley.
The moment I heard that the Armada had arrived off the Isle of Wight, and that shots had been exchanged with the English, I posted to Chartres to influence this King in the direction your Majesty instructed me to do in the despatch which reached me through the duke of Parma. I used this diligence because I had heard that the queen of England was asking the King to assist her with the forces stipulated in the articles of their alliance. As soon as I arrived the King sent to say that he would give me audience after he had dined, which was much sooner than usual. I addressed him to the effect your Majesty instructed me, adding what I thought necessary in the present state of affairs. This was in substance that, even if he was not bound by the obligations I mentioned, the fact that the queen of England had laid violent hands on the queen of Scotland, whom he (Henry III.) had seen in her wedding garments, and had acknowledged as queen of France, was a sufficient reason for her (the queen of England) not receiving encouragement from this country at the present juncture ; but, on the contrary, should inspire him with a desire to avenge himself upon her. In the recent settlement (i.e., with the League and the Guises) he had solemnly promised to withdraw from all alliance with heretics, and particularly with the queen of England ; and this, of itself, I said, was almost a sufficient reason to render it unnecessary for me to address him in the terms I was ordered to by your Majesty, but in fulfilment of my instructions merely I had been obliged to mention it to him, to remind him of the duty resting upon the most Christian King Henry II. (III.?), to whom since his youth our Lord had vouchsafed so many victories in defence of our Catholic faith. He replied at length, very kindly, to the effect that your Majesty showed clearly by your acts the zeal you had always exhibited in the interests of the Church. His zeal was the same, and he had done what he could and would consequently never stand in the way of the destruction of heretics. He had, he said, two sorts of subjects, like your Majesty in certain of your dominions, one sort being obedient to him, and the others not. It was quite certain that the former would not go to help the queen of England, and he will prevent the others from doing so. He asked me to give him in writing what I had said, and he would again discuss it with M. de Villeroy, who was present, and the King repeated it to him in my presence ; promising me that the reply should be communicated by him.
With regard to his remark about two sorts of subjects, I said that the Huguenots only possessed Rochelle, and that, without his permission, it would be difficult for a single Frenchman to go to the aid of the Englishwoman, and I pointed out to him how much better it would be for him that England should be under a Catholic King, rather than a heretic.
In conversation with Villeroy afterwards I repeated what I had said, and offered it to him in writing, but he said it was not necessary, as he understood the points perfectly well, and your Majesty's request ; promising me a reply in the morning. At the time appointed the King sent me word that, as Villeroy was in council, he could not bring me the answer, but that Geronimo Gondi would do so. It was to similar effect with the King's own reply, and I answered that it was such as I had hoped for from his most Christian Majesty. I said that I would at once forward it to your Majesty ; and I took care to spread it abroad immediately, with what I had said on your Majesty's behalf, in order to pledge the King to fulfil his words. If he breaks his promise the members of the League and the towns of the Union will have good reason to resent his proceedings, and to complain to his Holiness and your Majesty.—Paris, 12th August 1588.
388. Bernardino De Mendoza to Juan De Idiaquez.
In order not to detain this courier a moment on his way from the duke of Parma, I must delay answering yours until' my next despatches go, assuring you that the utmost vigilance and care are being exercised in his Majesty's service to discover what is going on everywhere, for his information.—Paris, 12th August 1588.
Postscript (partly in cypher and partly autograph).—As the Armada has passed the Straits, I hope to God I shall soon send good news. Lord keep His hand to the work!
The sailors and pilots blame Don Hugo de Moncada for the loss of the galleass, by refusing to take out the rudder when they told him, and then doing so when it was of no use.
You will please convey the reports I send to his Majesty. They are confirmed from Calais.
13 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567. Holograph.
389. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King. (fn. 9)
Just as I was despatching a courier to your Majesty with the good news I have this moment received from Calais a man arrived from the duke of Parma, who will relate them to your Majesty in full detail, and I therefore need not dwell upon them or detain the man a moment longer from carrying them to your Majesty. I give infinite thanks to our Lord for the news.—Versailles, 13th August 1588.
13 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
390. Bernardino De Mendoza to Juan De Idiaquez.
I will not detain you with a long letter from the rejoicing you will experience at the news I was about to send you, which, however, you will now learn from the duke of Parma's reports.
God be praised for the trifling punishments He deals out to us for our correction, and for the infinite mercies and benefits which He, the Father of Mercy, vouchsafes to us.—Paris, 13th August 1588.
Note.—In a similar letter to the above, of same date, from Mendoza to Don Martin de Idiaquez, the writer adds the following holograph postscript— "As I am not sending a special courier in order that the duke of Parma may not have cause to complain, I beg you to hand to his Majesty my letter at the same time as the Duke's reports, unless, indeed, it can be given to him before he learns the good news."
13 Aug.
Estado, 839.
391. Statement of what happened to his Majesty's Armada, from its entrance into the English Channel up to the events of which news came to Dunkirk and Calais on the 12th and 13th August.
The Armada entered the Channel on Saturday, 30th July, on which day it proceeded as far as Plymouth, a number of enemy's ships being seen.
On the next day, 31st July, 64 of the enemy's ships collected and opened fire on the rearguard of our fleet. The Duke desired to come to close quarters but they retired, after doing us no more damage than hitting with two shot the foremast of the fleet vice-flagship "San Juan," which during the combat was in the midst of the enemy's fleet.
On the same day Don Pedro de Valdez's flagship having come into collision with a ship of his squadron, the flagship broke her bowsprit and foremast, and as the Armada was very far ahead he could not follow it. The said flagship consequently was left behind by the fleet and doubtless fell into the hands of the enemy, news having come from London that he (Valdez) had been taken thither a prisoner. On the same day the vice-flagship of Oquendo's squadron caught fire, the people on board escaping, but it was impossible to save the ship.
On the 1st August there was a calm, and the two fleets could not approach each other.
On the 2nd August a furious fire was exchanged. The galleon "San Martin," flagship of our Armada, being to the windward and near the enemy, the latter concentrated the whole of his artillery fire on to her ; but she went at them so gallantly that, although she was alone and her consorts could not come to her assistance for over an hour, the enemy did not dare to come to close quarters with her and ultimately retired.
On the 3rd the enemy approached, but shortly afterwards retired in consequence of the mainsail boom of his fleet flagship having been brought down by a shot from one of our galleasses.
On the 4th, off the Isle of Wight, at daybreak, the enemy attacked our rearguard, and showed some signs of a desire to come to closer quarters, but he always avoided coming nearer than artillery range, his plan being to fight only with his ordnance and not to grapple. Although the Duke wished to bring him to close quarters it was impossible in consequence of the swiftness of the enemy's vessels. During this day the largest ship of the enemy's fleet was very nearly caught by the "San Martin," but she was rescued by skiffs, which took her in tow, for which purpose they carry a great number of such craft.
We learn by advices from London that it is there asserted that during these days two of the Queen's ships were sunk. French advices say seven ; but as our Armada continued on its course it did not ascertain the truth.
On the 5th August there was a calm all day, and the two fleets kept in sight of one another.
On the 6th the wind freshened somewhat astern, and we began to make some progress, the enemy, with 100 sail, being sighted both from the French and English coasts. In the afternoon the Armada was off Calais, where it anchored, the duke of Parma having been informed by the Duke (of Medina Sidonia) of his approach. The English fleet also anchored at some little distance, both fleets being within sight of Calais.
On the 7th the two fleets were at anchor, the wind freshening. On the night of the 7th, at eight o'clock, the enemy sent forth towards our Armada eight fire ships, the wind and tide being in their favour and the ships burning with great fierceness. In order to avoid the damage they might cause the Armada if the latter were in close order and at anchor, the Duke ordered the cables to be cut, so that the ships might escape the fire. Sail was then set, the enemy also setting his sails and trying to embarrass us and keep us in the direction of the fires ; but this he was unable to do. In the meanwhile a strong westerly gale sprang up, which forced our fleet to run in a northerly direction, surrounded by the enemy ; the fire ships having brought up on the very place where the Armada had been anchored, where they flamed furiously but did us no damage, as they would have done if it had stayed.
On the 8th the two fleets were seen fiercely engaged, two leagues from Calais, sailing in a northerly direction. From shore it was seen that our galleons "San Martin" and "San Juan," with two galleasses, were doing much damage to the English, and during the whole of the day cannonading was heard until the increasing distance prevented it.
On the night of the fire ships the rudder of the flag galleass fouled a cable and became unmanageable, when she drifted ashore at the mouth of Calais bar. The enemy seeing this sent 25 vessels to attack her, cannonading her on the side where her own guns were useless, as she was aground and listed. The sailors and some of the soldiers cast themselves into the sea, Don Hugo de Moncada being left with a very few men. He nevertheless fought bravely until he fell, killed by two harquebuss shot. When he failed them the rest of the men and the convicts jumped into the sea, and the English boarded the galleass to sack her. The English had about 50 men killed, and a similar number of Spaniards and slaves fell. It is understood that if Don Hugo had not been deserted by his men he could have held the galleass. The vessel herself remained intact, with her artillery, &c., all of which the Christian King has ordered to be restored to us.
On the same day, the 8th, the galleon "San Felipe," of the Portuguese squadron, with the Maestre de Campo, Don Francisco de Toledo, on board, being somewhat separated from the Armada, was attacked by so many of the enemy's ships, that, after she had defended herself bravely and lost a great number of men, she was obliged to bring up on the beach at Nieuport, crippled and unseaworthy. Don Francisco landed there.
On the 10th August a ship from the north brought news to Calais that she had seen both fleets intermixed, between Zeeland and England, about 20 leagues from the Straits. She reported that some of the ships were knocked to pieces, and others without masts or sails, from which many things were being thrown into the sea, and the men were trying to save themselves in boats.
On the 13th news came to Calais, by way of Harwich, that Drake having attacked the galleon "San Martin," which was somewhat apart from the Armada, the two ships got to such close quarters that it caused a general engagement, in which our fleet captured Drake with many ships, and sank others. It was said that 15 English ships had taken refuge, much damaged, in Harwich, whence the news comes. The Admiral's ship had also suffered much and had no sails, but he and other ships were still at sea.
The same advice reports that our fleet was sailing towards Scotland. This is what is said, but only on the authority abovementioned since the 8th, when the fleet left the Channel. The duke of Parma, with most of the army, were embarked at Nieuport on the 9th August, and the rest were shipped on the 10th at Dunkirk, when news came that the gale of the 8th had forced the Armada to run in a northerly direction.
15 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
392. Antonio De Vega to Bernardino De Mendoza.
The bearer of this is the master of the household of the French ambassador, whom I have sent with a report to the duke of Parma of all that has occurred up to the present with regard to the Armada, and to urge him (the Duke) to order the Armada what it is to do. I was going myself but obtained the bearer, owing to my close intimacy with the ambassador, and his desire to do all the evil he could to the queen of England, with whom he is scandalised. You may give all credit to the bearer, who will report fully everything that has happened.—London, 15th August 1588.
18 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1448.
393. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
Your letter of the 9th has just arrived with the report from Rouen that my Armada had fought the enemy on the 2nd instant, and that God had given me the victory. As you consider the news to be true, I am hopeful that it will prove to be so ; particularly as the author claims to have been an eye witness. I am looking anxiously for the confirmation, and I thank you warmly for the care and diligence you have exercised in sending me this and other information, this report having been the first intelligence I have had of the event. You may imagine how eagerly such information was wished for ; and I hope you will continue to send with your accustomed activity all the news you get, and please God it may be as good as we desire.—San Lorenzo, 18th August 1588.
18 Aug.
Estado, 165.
394. The King to the Duke Of Medina Sidonia.
After the enclosed letter was written advices arrived here from Rouen, through Don Bernardino de Mendoza, saying that the Armada had fought Drake on the 2nd instant, and that God had granted us the victory ; the Armada having gained the wind and sunk 15 of the enemy's ships, including the flagship. It is affirmed that the rest of the enemy's fleet had retreated towards Dover. This news is asserted in France to be true, and witnesses of the engagement are said to be in Havre de Grace and Dieppe. I hope to God that it may be so, and that you have known how to follow, up the victory, and make the most of it, pursuing the enemy actively without giving him an opportunity of reforming ; and pushing on until you join hands with my nephew, the Duke. This being done, it may be hoped that, with God's help, the enemy's fear of us, and our men's courage, other victories will have followed. I confidently look for God's favour in a cause so entirely His own, and expect that your valour and activity will have accomplished all I could desire. I anxiously await news.—San Lorenzo, 18th August 1588.
19 Aug.
Estado, 950.
395. Count De Olivares to the King.
When I received your Majesty's advice of 27th July, that the Armada had sailed, I was so hopeless of obtaining any money of the Pope until the terms of the arrangement were fulfilled, my constant and strenuous efforts to that end having been quite unavailing, that I sent the news to the Pope by my secretary, and avoided saying anything about the money. When that subject is broached to him the only effect is that, the moment my back is turned, he babbles the most ridiculous nonsense at table, and to everyone that comes near him, such as would not be said by a baby of two years old. He possesses no sort of charity, kindliness, or consideration, and his behaviour is attributed by everyone to the repulsion and chagrin that he feels as the hour approaches for him to drag this money from his heart.
Although the only answer he gives to me is that the terms of the agreement have not yet been fulfilled, his excuse to others for not paying the money is that the Armada business is nothing but a trick, and that your Majesty has not raised the fleet for the English enterprise at all, but for brag, and to frighten the queen of England into making peace, which your Majesty would accept in any case. He shows reports he has received to this effect. I have a very shrewd idea of the source of these reports ; but as I have no certain proofs that I am right in my conjecture, I refrain from saying anything further to your Majesty about it. However unlikely a report may be, it matters not to his Holiness if it serves his purpose. —Rome, 19th August 1588.
20 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
396. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have received from England the information enclosed herewith, by which, and the intelligence sent by the French ambassador in England, your Majesty will see that, in their description of the engagement between the Armada and the English off the Isle of Wight, the Breton sailors did not lie, for the English lost seven ships, and amongst them three of the largest the Queen possessed. (fn. 10)
The people in London were in such fear, that, although the officers of the law ordered them to open their shops, they refused to do so. The Queen had retired to St. James, (fn. 11) which is behind her London house, Whitehall ; and it is said she had ordered a guard of 4,000 men and 1,000 horse to keep near her for her personal safety. As the London people were so alarmed, Don Pedro de Valdez and the rest of those who were captured, owing to their ship being disabled, had been taken in carts to London, so that the people might see that some prisoners had been captured ; the rumour being spread that the whole Armada had been dispersed.
There is not a word about Don Antonio in any of the advices. He has sent Pedro de Oro, the French consul to (the Prince of) Bearn to ask him to furnish him with 2,000 men, the queen of England providing the ships, for the purpose of his going to Portugal as soon as your Majesty's fleet was clear away from Spain.
The new confidant has advices dated the 11th, but he says they only contain the information the English heretics want published here. They relate events very much to their own advantage.
Letters from Rouen, dated 19th (?), say that there is a man there who left London on the 12th, who asserts that the English lost heavily in the engagement, and they were very sad, as it was said that Drake had been wounded in the legs by a cannon ball. The English ambassador here had some fancy news printed, stating that the English had been victorious ; but the people (i.e., in Paris) would not allow it to be sold, as they say it is all lies. One of the ambassador's secretaries began to read in the palace a relation which he said had been sent from England, but the people were so enraged that he was obliged to fly for his life. (fn. 12) —Paris, 20th August 1588.
20 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
397. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 12th instant I wrote to your Majesty forwarding despatches from the duke of Parma, and also on the 13th by Henry Trapetier, who was on his way from Bruges, whom I did not wish to detain one moment, as I understood that he bore news of the duke of Medina Sidonia's arrival with the fleet at the port agreed upon with the duke of Parma, which news I had already received from Calais, and was on the point of sending to your Majesty when Trapetier arrived here. The news since then is that the weather had freshened to such an extent, that it became necessary for the duke of Medina Sidonia to run up north towards Scotland with all the Armada. I have letters from England of 12th instant, advising the receipt of reports there, dated the 10th, that your Majesty's fleet had been seen off Newcastle, 20 miles from the Scotch frontier, with the English fleet always following it up, the winds having hitherto being from the S.W. and S. which are unfavourable for the return of the Armada to Dunkirk. As the storm that forced them to leave the Downs was so violent, it may be feared that if any of the galleons go near the Flemish coast they may run on to the banks and so lay at the mercy of the enemy's ships.
As soon as I heard that the two galleys of your Majesty had run aground at Bayonne, I requested this King to send orders to the governor of Bayonne to restore what might be saved from them, as he (the King) had consented to allow the ships of the Armada to take refuge in his ports. The King did as he requested immediately. I could not report this by Trapetier as he left so hurriedly.
When also I heard of the galleass "Capitana," which ran aground at Calais, I wrote to the King begging him to order M. de Gourdan to restore what remained, as he had done in the other case at Bayonne. The King gave the necessary orders, but on the 16th a courier from the duke of Parma at Dunkirk arrived here, with despatches dated the 11th, which are now enclosed. The Duke wrote to me at the same time saying how M. de Gourdan had behaved in the matter, and that he was very anxious to keep the galleass and its ordnance, and requesting me to use my best influence with the King to prevent this. I left immediately by post for Chartres, and thanked him warmly for having commanded M. de Gourdan to restore the galleass and what remained of her contents, but regretting greatly that she had been allowed to be lost in that way. If the King desired to be neutral in this war, it was nevertheless a matter of honour with him and his fortresses, that anyone seeking shelter under his guns should, according to the law of nations, be allowed to do so. I had, moreover, special reason to complain in this case, as he, the King, had granted me the use of the ports, of which I advised your Majesty and the duke of Parma, and I was greatly surprised, therefore, that M. de Gourdan should have acted as he had done. The King replied that he had ordered the galleass to be restored, notwithstanding any claim the Admiralty might have upon it, and he had every reason to be satisfied with M. de Gourdan's conduct, which, he was informed, had in no way transgressed the duty of a good governor of a fortress. I replied by pointing out how differently we had acted under similar circumstances, when his brother Charles was King, and France was at war with England about the possession of Havre de Grace. Two English ships were then at Gibraltar, and a French ship appearing, they captured her almost at the mouth of the harbour. At the same time Don Juan de Mendoza arrived with 20 Spanish galleys, and seizing the crews of the English ships, he put them in irons, and liberated the Frenchmen, restoring to them everything, to the last trifle, which the English had captured. The queen of England had frequently requested the restitution of these ships, and the release of the crews but it had always been refused on the ground that they had violated, the peace in neutral waters. The King referred me to Villeroy, who wished to make out that the galleass was cast away when she came ashore, and that Gourdan had defended her from capture by the English, but had retained his own claim to her. I replied that if Gourdan had the right to her as soon as she came ashore, he had the same right whether she was cast away or not. He denied this, but did not refute it. I also disputed with him (Villeroy) the claim of the Admiralty, upon which point I was well posted, as during my long stay in England such cases were of constant occurrence. I know M. de Gourdan, and I do not believe that his failure to help the galleass was from any want of goodwill on his part, but rather from the secretaries here having neglected to write to the ports saying that the use of them had been granted to your Majesty's ships, which were to be welcomed. It was from no failure of mine in demanding the letters, for as soon as the Queen-Mother answered me on the matter, I begged her to have letters given to me. She answered that the King would write to the governors of the provinces and give due orders in the ports.
They write from Normandy that the flagship of Juan Martinez de Recalde, with the Camp Master Nicholas Isla, (fn. 13) had entered the port of Conquet in Brittany, and the duke of Parma advises the same. I have sent a courier to Conquet that they may report to me what state they are in, and I have sent a credit of money in case they require anything.
The duke de Nevers has proposed to this King to undertake in France a sort of crusade against the heretics, to be led by the King in person, a general loan being raised to defray the cost, he, de Nevers, offering to contribute 50,000 crowns. All this is only to bring about disunion in the League, M. de Montpensier, de Nevers, de Longueville and the rest of them being annoyed at the King having made the duke of Guise his Lieutenant-General of the realm. The prince of Bearn it is said, intends to send 3,000 harquebussiers to help the queen of England, in six ships from Rochelle. Others think it will be impossible for him to spare so many men and keep his own fortresses garrisoned.
They write from Rouen that in the pays de Caux in Normandy the Huguenots are secretly raising troops to send to England. They cannot send many, in any case, but I will speak to the King about it if it be confirmed, as that part of the country is obedient to him.— Paris, 20th August 1588.
398. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Whilst I am writing this I received the enclosed letter from Calais viâ Rouen. The person who sends it is intelligent, and gives me reports from that place in which he endeavours to tell the truth. As Calais is the first place that news of what had happened between the fleets would reach, considering their position and the winds that prevail, I am in hopes that the news he gives as having come from Harwich is true, particularly as details are sent. (fn. 14) God grant that it may be followed by greater victories.—Paris, 20th August 1588.
399. Bernardino De Mendoza to Juan De Idiaquez. (fn. 15)
It is advisable that the news from Flanders and Calais should reach his Majesty's hands speedily. In confirmation of what they write from there, reports are coming from all quarters of the neglect which has occurred in Dunkirk respecting the victuals, and the indifference displayed as to having the ships ready. With regard to this point, I am sure that you will have plenty of reports from Flanders. It is doubtless a lesson to us from God Almighty that all good fortune comes from His hand alone, and not from human effort.
According to the current account, it may be concluded that our Armada has been forced to seek some shelter or anchorage in Scotland to refit. God send it victory. With the payment of my account, and the sums his Majesty has instructed me to disburse, I have almost finished the credit of 18,000 crowns, and unless more is sent I can hardly go to Blois ; pray remind his Majesty.
The King has ordered the arrest of ships in Normandy. This is simply a matter of State precaution, as he sees his neighbours in arms. The writer has greatly suffered from his visit to Chartres. Bad horses, old age, and hot sun have combined to give him the worst time he ever had in his life.
Note.—In a similar letter of same date from Mendoza to Martin de Idiaquez the following passage occurs : "I learn from Lille, 13th instant, that the galleon of Don Francisco de Toledo fought for a long time with the enemy off Nieuport, refusing to surrender except to overwhelming force. But she was abandoned by our Armada and at last the enemy took her."


  • 1. In the King's hand :—"It say's here 100 vessels, including the 30 odd which have joined them."
  • 2. In the King's hand :—"I do not think that other advices say this of Monday, but of some subsequent day."
  • 3. In the King's hand :—"It says here that 160 sail are with the enemy, and 40 off Dunkirk. This seems a contradiction."
  • 4. The document is much mutilated, but the passage as it stands above appears to express the meaning intended.
  • 5. This report is anonymous, but it is directed to M. Capelo, Paris. It is annotated by Philip II. The events related of course happened in Calais Roads.
  • 6. The King has written in the margin here :—"If what they say here were true, I do not know how they could follow." This report was probably the first detailed news which Philip received, of the disaster to his Armada.
  • 7. Antonio Luis de Leyva, who was usually believed to be a natural son of the King.
  • 8. The name of Howard's flagship was, of course, the "Ark Raleigh," but it is hardly necessary to say that she was not sunk.
  • 9. The good news referred to in this and the following letter, was, that the Armada had arrived at the rendezvous and was in touch with the duke of Parma.
  • 10. In the King's hand :—"Don Jorge (Manrique) says nothing of this. Perhaps he did not see them." Don Jorge's letter of 11th August had then reached Philip.
  • 11. In the King's hand :—"It is a pleasure house, formerly a monastery. There is a park between it and the palace they call Whitehall (Huytal). I do not know why." Philip was fond of thus airing his knowledge of England.
  • 12. It may be remarked in explanation of this that Paris was violently in favour of Guise, and that the King was a refugee from his own capital, which was in the hands of the League.
  • 13. The King in a marginal note expresses his disbelisf of this. He says he thinks the officer was serving elsewhere.
  • 14. The King in a marginal note expresses a fear that this will turn out "like the first news he sent." See advices Rouen, 11th August.
  • 15. Partly cipher, partly autograph.