Simancas: August 1588, 21-25

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

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'Simancas: August 1588, 21-25', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 389-405. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]

August 1588, 21-25

21 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1568. Portuguese.
400. Advices from London (Antonio de Vega).
On the 15th I reported fully by special messenger to the duke of Parma. I was on the point of going myself to give him an account of what had happened with the Armada, in order that he might endeavour to communicate with it, if he had not already done so, and animate them (the Spaniards) or give them the necessary information about winds, and orders as to when they were to return, etc., etc. And, if his Majesty's intentions for any reason could not be carried out, that the Armada might put into some port of Embden or Norway, and there be furnished with what is stated to be lacking, and subsequently again undertake the task for which it was sent, without danger of loss of the Armada itself, which God forbid for the sake of Christianity! I wrote this (to the duke of Parma) and gave the bearer a few lines of credence for your Lordship (Mendoza). The bearer is the master of the household to my friend the French ambassador, to whom I was obliged to discover myself ; although not before he had discovered his own feelings to me, in consequence of some slight cast upon him here. He swore solemnly to do everything in his power to injure the Queen. He has made me great offers, and I think it would answer our purpose for him to go to France for a couple of months, to point out to the King the advisability of striving with all his strength to ruin this country, which is the cause of all his trouble, and not to resist the aggrandisement of the king of Spain. He assures me he will do wonders with his master, and if necessary, will find means for the Pope to intervene. If necessary I myself could go to Spain to lay the matter before the King directly. There will be no difficulty in finding a person to report what happens here.
I will now proceed to relate the arrival of our Armada in this country, the events up to the present, and the opinion entertained of it both by friends and foes. I will not try to adorn my statement with fine words, but will state the facts without deception. (fn. 1)
Although my special messenger will have given a verbal report of the events of the Armada up to the time he left, and your Lordship will also probably have received information from other quarters, I think well to repeat briefly the substance of all the news up to the present. Our Armada first arrived in sight of this country on the 29th ultimo, and Drake and the Admiral were informed thereof the same day, they being in Plymouth in consequence of the weather. On the 30th they took their ships out of harbour in tow of their boats ; the wind still being against them. On Sunday, the last day of the month, they attacked our Armada with 75 sail, keeping up the combat with cannon from eight o'clock in the morning until four o'clock in the afternoon, when the English retired, astonished at the strength and size of our ships and artillery. The Channel then being free, our Armada proceeded on its way, followed by the English fleet already mentioned, the rest of the English ships, to the number of 40, being under Hawkins in the direction of Ireland.
The Admiral at once sent word to the Queen, reporting that our Armada was much more powerful than had been expected, and begging her urgently to order all ships in the Thames to join Lord Harry Seymour and Winter, who were between Dover and Calais, to oppose the forces of the duke of Parma. Orders were also sent to Hawkins to join the fleet ; the intention being that on the arrival of our Armada at the Downs it should be attacked on both sides by the reinforced fleets, and dispersed. Such diligence was shown in the matter here (i.e., in London) that of the ships in the river, and the flotilla with a few stores that had come from Hamburg, they managed in five days to send out 30 ships, and orders were given to arm the rest, great and small. They also wrote to Holland and Zeeland that the enemy's Armada had arrived, and begging them to come at once with all the ships they had ready, and to arm the rest. They raised a great number of men, both horse and foot, to hold the country opposite Dunkirk, and sent many more on board the ships ; a large number of noblemen volunteered and embarked.
On the passage of our Armada up the Channel, the ship of Don Pedro de Valdez ran foul of another, and one of the enemy's ships thereupon fired at her, and brought down her mast. Drake's ship then came up and Don Pedro surrendered, without fighting, or having a single man hurt. The other ship caught fire, and many of her men were lost, 200 being saved and captured by the enemy, with 500 of Don Pedro's men. They distributed these men in various places, and brought 40 here for examination, lodging them in Bridewell. When the news reached London, bonfires were lit all over the city, and the bells were rung. Don Pedro, Don Alonso de Zayas, and Don Vasco de Silva, were placed by Drake in his own ship, where he kept them until the 9th instant ; when they were sent hither to be interrogated by the Council, and were afterwards carried to the house of Richard Drake, 16 miles from here, where they are well treated.
The two fleets kept up the combat for the next few days ; the principal engagement having been on Saturday (?) when they thought here that our men would be finished, and great prayers were offered up to this end. Our ships were attacked with great fury by the vessels from Flushing and the rest of the fleet, which was in the Channel, the Admiral always following up behind with 115 ships. But notwithstanding all this, our Armada still went on in spite of them, the English losses being heavy. So heavy were they that the next day a proclamation was made that no reference to the fleet was to be made. This is a sign that it cost them dearly.
Our Armada anchored near Calais on Saturday the 6th instant at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, where they remained until midnight on Sunday—32 hours. The enemy then prepared seven ships with pitch, hemp, etc., chained them together, the design being for them to be set on fire when they neared our fleet, in the hope of burning the latter. God so willed it that the ships caught fire before they were intended to do so, and our Armada, being warned in time, set sail, slipping their anchors. At this time the galleass of Don Hugo Moncada got her rudder foul with a cable and broke it. This made her unmanageable, and she ran aground near Calais, followed by some small (English) ships. Most of the men on the galleass fled, the captain being killed by a musket shot, and only 35 men were taken by the enemy. The Armada reached the Downs, but as the wind was too much S. and S.W., and the enemy was pressing our ships at the same time, they were obliged to run up the English coast towards the north. On the afternoon of the same day they had a great engagement with the Queen's ships, and news came hither that the latter had sunk a galleass, from which only the captain and five men had been saved. (fn. 2)
For this the Queen knighted Frobisher, Hawkins, and a man named Fenner. It was also reported that two others of our ships were in a sinking condition. The ship that was sunk, however, was not a galleass, but a ship from which they captured men, although they are now saying that it was a galleon, but not one of the Portuguese.
The Admiral wrote to the Queen saying that he and all the rest of the captains looked upon the Armada as lost, as it was surrounded by sand banks, and was very short of water ; having thrown overboard large numbers of horses and mules, in consequence of this, and many of the men having died from sickness caused by bad and insufficient food. The prisoners, and some Portuguese who deserted at night and swam to the enemy's ships, say that the Armada would be ruined in a very short time, or at least forced to retire if they could. They (the English captains?) therefore hoped to be able to burn them first for which purpose they requested certain things.
The Queen thereupon sent Richard Drake and Raleigh with all speed to order the Admiral to attack the Armada in some way, or to engage it, if he could not burn it. She sent him many ships with fuel and tar, and two engineers to see whether they could not burn the Armada, as they dared not attack it at close quarters. It was agreed by all the captains that they should not attempt it, but should follow the Armada at a distance, harassing it with the wind and want of provisions. News then reached here, that two of our ships had been destroyed at Flushing, the Zeelanders having met them and taken them, hanging all the men they took alive. Our men therefore resisted desperately, and killed over 400 of the enemy before they were overpowered. The enemy confesses to have lost 300 in this fight.
Reports also came from Plymouth that another great ship had been captured, in consequence of its having broken its mast and been left behind ; and so every day false news came in this way. I considered it necessary under the circumstances, to inform the Duke of this with all speed through your Lordship (Mendoza), the only reason for my not having done so before being that the ports were closed.
Yesterday the Admiral arrived at Margate with 30 ships, leaving the rest at Norwich (Harwich) with Drake. They report that our Armada left them on the 12th instant, sailing towards Norway, they (the English) thereupon returning, as they were short of provisions and munitions of war. They claim to have sunk three ships, in addition to those that had been lost, that is to say seven in all, although they say 12 or more, and that our Armada is destroyed. But it is untrue, which is the principal thing. They also announce that over 6,000 of our men have been lost or captured, whilst their loss does not exceed 300. It is really over 1,500, and it is secretly stated that they have lost 12 ships, although they deny it. They are still preparing energetically, and will have a large number of ships, 240 sail in all, great and small, including the Flushing contingent, They are also arming furiously in Holland.
The Queen went to Gravesend to see the review of the troops that was held there. On the Essex side there are 7,000 foot, and in Kent 12,000, although they assert that there are more than 40,000.
The cavalry was not collected ; but there are a great number more troops all over the country, well armed but inexperienced. From London only 1,000 men out of the 10,000 raised by the city were sent.
Please inform the Duke about the Armada, and also send the report to Spain as soon as possible. If the affair is to be prolonged a reinforcement of the Armada will be necessary, and will always be welcome. These people have received news that 60 ships are coming with provisions and munitions. If this be so and they (the men on the Armada?) could be advised of some place in France, away from the Channel, where they could await them, it would be well.—London, 21st August 1588.
21 Aug.
Estado, 455.
401. Duke Of Medina Sidonia to the King.
I wrote to your Majesty as soon as I entered the mouth of the Channel on the 30th ultimo, but have been unable to do so since for want of opportunity, because from the time the queen of England's fleet sighted us, they have continued to follow the Armada. Your Majesty will learn from the accompanying statement, and from the relation of Don Baltasar de Zuñiga, what has happened. He (Zuñiga) was an eyewitness, and will be able to inform you precisely how events have fallen out. I have instructed him to submit to your Majesty other cases in which our Lord has seen fit to dispose matters differently from that which had been expected ; and as this enterprise had been so fervently commended to Him, the result must doubtless be that which will be most advantage to His service, and that of your Majesty. I hope during your Majesty's time yet to see your holy plans completely successful, to the greater glory of Almighty God.
This Armada was so completely crippled and scattered that my first duty to your Majesty seemed to save it, even at the risk which we are running in undertaking this voyage, which is so long and in such high latitudes. Ammunition and the best of our vessels were lacking, and experience had shown how little we could depend upon the ships that remained, the Queen's fleet being so superior to ours in this sort of fighting, in consequence of the strength of their artillery, and the fast sailing of their ships. On the other hand your Majesty's ships depended entirely on harquebusses and musketry which were of little service unless we could come to close quarters as experience has demonstrated. With the concurrence, therefore, of the officers appointed by your Majesty as councillors, and the Generals, we have adopted the course we are now following. This course was rendered necessary also by the weather, the wind having continued to blow from the S. and SW. We have therefore run through the Norwegian Channel, and between the Scottish islands, and I am at present at this place, whence I have set my course for Corunna, so as to make the voyage as short as possible. Our provisions are so scanty that, in order to make them and the water last a month, the rations of every person on the fleet, without exception, have been reduced ; just enough being served out to keep them alive, namely, half a pound of biscuit, a pint of water, and half a pint of wine daily, without anything else. Your Majesty may imagine what suffering this entails, in the midst of the discomfort of so long a voyage. We have consequently over 3,000 sick, without counting the wounded, who are numerous, on the fleet. God send us fair weather, so that we may soon reach port, for upon that depends the salvation of this army and navy.
I expect Secretary Andrés de Alva will be at Corunna, and will have collected the stores that your Majesty ordered to be made ready. They will be very welcome for the use of this Armada, and I therefore humbly beg your Majesty to have instructions sent to him, and also that I may find at Corunna orders what I am to do with the men and ships. Everything is in such a state that a great deal of assistance will be required speedily. I have written to the archbishop of Santiago, and to the bishops in Galicia, asking them to make preparations for the reception of the sick on the Armada.
I have been unable in any way to inform the duke of Parma of what has occurred on the Armada, or the course we have taken, and it will, therefore, be well that your Majesty should advise him at once ; and also the galleys, which I was informed at Calais were at Conquet in France, although I have received no letters confirming it, nor have I any news of Juan Martinez's (de Recalde's) flagship, which they said was in the port of Calais. (fn. 3)
In due time I will report on the services rendered to your Majesty by those on the Armada. The present is no time to deal with this, but only to do the best possible in your Majesty's interests, and to inform you of the state of the Armada ; for further particulars of which I refer your Majesty to Don Baltasar de Zuñiga.—On board the galleon "San Martin," 21st August 1588.
402. Diary of the Expedition to England, sent by the Duke Of Medina Sidonia to the King with the preceding letter.
On the 22nd July 1588 the Duke and the whole of the Armada sailed from Corunna with a SW wind which continued for the next few days, the voyage being prosperous.
On the 25th the Duke sent Captain Don Rodrigo Tello to Dunkirk to advise the duke of Parma of his coming, and to bring back intelligence of Parma's condition, and instructions with regard to the place where a junction of the forces should be effected.
On the 26th the weather was dead calm and overcast, which lasted until mid-day. The wind then went round to the N. and the Armada sailed in an easterly direction until midnight, when the wind shifted to WNW., with heavy rain-squalls. The leading galley "Diana" was missed during this day. She was making so much water that the captain decided to run for a port.
On the 27th the same wind blew, but fresher, with very heavy sea. This lasted until midnight, and the storm caused a large number of ships and the other three galleys to separate from the Armada.
On Thursday, the 28th, the day broke clear and sunny, the wind and sea being more moderate. At dawn there were 40 ships and the three galleys missing, whereupon the Duke ordered the lead to be cast and bottom was found at 75 fathoms, 75 leagues from the Scillys. The Duke then dispatched three pataches ; one to the Lizard to see if the missing ships were there, and order them to await the Armada ; another to reconnoitre the land ; and a third to return on the course by which we had come to order the ships to make more sail, and bring up stragglers.
On Friday, the 29th, the Armada continued sailing with a westerly wind. The patache that went to the Lizard brought back news that our missing ships were ahead, under Don Pedro de Valdés, who had collected them and was awaiting the Armada. During the afternoon all the ships, except Juan Martinez's (de Recalde's) flagship, with Maestre de Campo Nicolas de Isla on board, and the three galleys joined the Armada. The English coast was first sighted on this day. It was said to be Cape Lizard.
On the 30th, at dawn, the Armada was very near the shore. We were seen by the people on land, who made signal fires, and in the afternoon the Duke sent Ensign Juan Gil in a rowing boat to obtain intelligence. In the afternoon of the same day a number of ships were sighted, but as the weather was thick and rainy they could not be counted. Ensign Gil returned at night with four Englishmen in a boat, hailing, as they said, from Falmouth. They reported that they had seen the English fleet leave Plymouth that afternoon under the Lord Admiral of England and Drake.
On Sunday, the 31st, the day broke with the wind changed to the WNW. in Plymouth Roads, and 80 ships were sighted to windward of us ; and towards the coast to leeward 11 other ships were seen, including three large galleons which were cannonading some of our vessels. They gradually got to windward and joined their own fleet.
Our Armada placed itself in fighting order, the flagship hoisting the royal standard at the foremast. The enemy's fleet passed, cannonading our vanguard, which was under Don Alonso de Leyva, and then fell on to the rearguard commanded by Admiral Juan Martinez de Recalde. (fn. 4) The latter, in order to keep his place and repel the attack, although he saw his rearguard was leaving him unsupported and joining the rest of the Armada, determined to await and fight. The enemy attacked him so fiercely with cannon (but without coming to close quarters) that they crippled his rigging, breaking his stay, and striking his foremast twice with cannon balls. He was supported by the "Gran Grin," a ship of the rearguard, and others. The royal flagship then struck her foresail, slackened her sheets, and lay to until he (Recalde) joined the main squadron, when the enemy sheered off, and the Duke collected his fleer. This was all he was able to do, as the enemy had gained the wind, the English ships being very swift and well handled, so that they could do as they liked with them. On the same afternoon Don Pedro de Valdéz's flagship fouled the "Catalina," one of the vessels of his squadron, the bowsprit and foresail of the flagship being broken. Don Pedro then joined the centre squadron of the Armada to repair the damage. Our Armada continued to manœuvre until four o'clock in the afternoon, trying to gain the wind of the enemy. At this hour Oquendo's vice-flagship caught fire in the powder magazine, two of his decks and the poop castle being blown up. In this ship was the Paymaster-general of the Armada, with a part of his Majesty's treasure. When the Duke saw that the vessel was falling astern, he put about and went to her assistance, and gave a gun signal for the rest of the fleet to do likewise. He then ordered the pataches to go to the aid of Oquendo's ship. The fire was extinguished and the enemy, who was making for Oquendo's ship, put about when he saw the Duke's flagship standing by her. The ship was therefore recovered and was again incorporated with the Armada. During this manœuvre the foremast of Don Pedro de Valdéz's ship gave way at the hatches and fell on the mainsail boom. The Duke again put about to help him by sending him a hawser, but although great efforts were made, the wind and weather did not admit of this being done. Don Pedro's ship, therefore, began to be left astern, and, as it was now night, Diego Flores told the Duke that if he took in sail and stood by her the rest of the Armada would not perceive it, as most of the ships were far in advance, and he would find himself in the morning with less than half of the Armada. As we were so near the enemy's fleet he (Diego Flores) was of opinion that the Duke ought not to risk the whole of his force, as he was sure that if he stood by he would lose the day. In the face of this advice the Duke ordered Captain Ojeda to stand by Don Pedro's flagship, (fn. 5) with four pataches, Don Pedro's vice-flagship, (fn. 6) Diego Flores' flagship, (fn. 7) and a galleass, to attempt to pass a hawser on board Don Pedro's ship and tow her, or else to take the men out of her. Neither of these things, however, was possible, in consequence of the heavy weather and rough sea, and its being night-time, and the Duke therefore proceeded on his voyage and joined his fleet, his intention being to keep the Armada well together, in view of what might happen next day. An attempt was made this night to tranship the burnt and wounded from Oquendo's vice-flagship. (fn. 8) During the night the wind and sea rose considerably.
Monday, the 1st August, the Duke ordered Don Alonso de Leyva to take the vanguard and join it to the rearguard, to form one body together with the three galleasses, and the galleons "San Mateo," "San Luis," "Florencia," and "Santiago" ; making that squadron now consist of the 43 best ships of the Armada, to withstand the enemy and prevent him from standing in the way of our junction with the duke of Parma. The Duke, with the rest of the Armada, now formed the vanguard, the whole fleet being divided into two squadrons only. The rearguard was under the command of Don Alonso de Leyva, pending the repair of Juan Martinez's (de Recalde's) ship, the Duke in person commanding the vanguard. The Duke summoned the whole of the majors (sargentos mayores), and ordered each one to go in a patache, and take his instructions round to every ship in the Armada, specifying in writing the position which they should respectively occupy. Orders were also given to them, in writing, to immediately hang any captain whose ship left her place, and they took with them the Provost Marshals and hangmen necessary for carrying out this order. Three majors were told off for each of the two squadrons, whose duty it was to execute the aforesaid order.
At eleven o'clock on this day the captain of Oquendo's vice-flagship came and informed the Duke that the ship was foundering, and had become unmanageable. Orders were then given to tranship his Majesty's treasure, and the men on board, the ship afterwards to be sunk. In the afternoon of this day the Duke sent Ensign Juan Gil in a patache to inform the duke of Parma of his position.
Tuesday, the 2nd August, broke fine, the enemy's fleet being to leeward, sailing towards the land, and making great efforts to gain the wind of us. The Duke also tacked towards the land and tried to keep the wind. He led, followed by the galleasses, the rest of the Armada being somewhat more distant, and the enemy noticing that the Duke's flagship was approaching the land, and that it was impossible to get to windward of her that way, put about to seaward and sailed on the opposite tack. Our ships, being to windward of the enemy, then attacked him. Captain Bertondona engaged the enemy's flagship gallantly, pressing him to come to close quarters, and getting quite near him. The enemy's flagship then turned tail and put her head seaward, and the following of our ships also attacked him and endeavoured to close with him, namely :— the "San Marcos," "San Luis," "San Mateo," "La Rata," "Oquendo," "San Felipe," "San Juan de Sicilia," with Don Diego Tellez Enriquez on board (which ship had been near the enemy since morning), the galleon "Florencia," the galleon "Santiago," "the galleon "San Juan,' with Don Diego Enriquez, son of the Viceroy of Peru, on board, and the Levant ship "Valencera," with the Maestre de Campo, Don Alonso de Luzon, on board. The vanguard galleasses approached quite close to the enemy, thanks to the current, and the Duke sent them orders to make every effort to close—using both sail and oar. The Duke's flagship also turned to attack. The galleasses caught up with some boats of the enemy's rearguard, which were skirmishing with some of our boats ; the latter having got quite close to the enemy for the purpose of boarding. (fn. 9) But it was all useless, for when the enemy saw that our intention was to come to close quarters with him, he sheered off to seaward, his great advantage being in the swiftness of his ships. Soon afterwards the enemy's ships returned, with the wind and tide in their favour, and attacked Juan Martinez de Recalde in the rearguard. Don Alonso de Leyva reinforced the latter, and our flagship, which was then in the midst of the main squadron, sailed to the support of those ships of the Armada which were mixed up with the enemy's rearguard and separated from the mass of both fleets. The Duke ordered Captain Marolin to go in a feluca and try to guide the vessels which were near the Duke's flagship to the support of Juan Martinez de Recalde. When this was effected the enemy left Juan Martinez, and attacked the Duke's flagship, which was isolated and on her way to the assistance of the said ships. When our flagship saw that the flagship of the enemy was leading towards her, she lowered her topsails, and the enemy's flagship passed her, followed by the whole of his fleet, each ship firing at our flagship as it passed. The guns on our flagship were served well and rapidly, and by the time half of the enemy's fleet had passed her the fire became more distant. The flagship was reinforced by Juan Martinez de Recalde, Don Alonso de Leyva, the Marquis de Peñafiel, in the "San Marcos," and Oquendo, although by the time they came up the hottest fury was passed. The enemy then put about to seaward. We watched the enemy's flagship retreating and she appeared to have suffered some damage. The enemy's vessels that were engaged with our vanguard were also withdrawn. One of the most forward of our ships in this three hours' skirmish was the galleon "Florencia."
Wednesday, the 3rd, Juan Martinez de Recalde again assumed command of the rearguard, Don Alonso de Leyva remaining with him, the 40 odd ships that formed the rearguard being divided between them. At dawn the enemy was near our rear, the vice-flagship receiving some cannon fire from him. Our galleasses fired their stern guns, Juan Martinez's, Don Alonso de Leyva's, and the rest of the ships of the rear squadron did likewise without leaving their positions, and the enemy then retired without attempting anything further ; our galleasses having disabled the rigging of the enemy's flagship, and brought down his mainsail boom.
Thursday, the 4th, St. Dominic's day, the hulk "St. Ana" and a galleon of Portugal had fallen somewhat astern, and were fiercely attacked by the enemy. The galleasses, Don Alonso de Leyva's and other ships came to their assistance. Although the two ships were surrounded by many enemies the galleasses were successful in bringing them out. Whilst the skirmish was going on in the rear, the enemy's flagship, with other large vessels, fell upon our royal flagship which was leading the vanguard. They came closer than on the previous day, firing off their heaviest guns from the lowest deck, cutting the trice of our mainmast, and killing some of our soldiers. The "San Luis," with the Maestre de Campo Don Agustin (Mexia) on board, came to the rescue, and the enemy was also faced by Juan Martinez de Recalde, the "San Juan" of Diego Flores' squadron, with Don Diego Enriquez on board, and Oquendo, who placed himself before our flagship, as the current made it impossible for him to stand alongside. Other vessels did likewise, although the enemy retired. The enemy's flagship had suffered considerable damage, and had drifted somewhat to leeward of our Armada. Our flagship then turned upon her, supported by Juan Martinez de Recalde, the "San Juan de Sicilia," the flagship of the galleons of Castile, the "Gran Grin" and the rest of our ships. To windward of us was the enemy's fleet coming up to support their flagship, which was in such straits that she had to be towed out by 11 long boats, lowering her standard and firing guns for aid. Our royal flagship and vice-flagship in the meanwhile were approaching so close to her that the rest of the enemy's vessels gave signs of coming in to her assistance, and we made sure that at last we should be able to close with them, which was our only way of gaining the victory. At this moment the wind freshened in favour of the enemy's flagship, and we saw she was getting away from us, and had no further need of the shallops that were towing her out. The enemy was then able to get to windward of us again. As the Duke saw that further attack was useless, and that we were already off the Wight, he fired a signal gun and proceeded on the voyage, followed by the rest of the Armada in good order ; the enemy remaining a long way astern. On this day the Duke sent Captain Pedro de Leon to Dunkirk to advise the duke of Parma as to his whereabouts, and inform him of events, pressing him to come out with all possible speed and join the Armada. Don Diego Enriquez, son of the Viceroy (of Peru), was placed in command of Don Pedro de Valdéz's squadron, as he had shown great care, in the science of seamanship.
Friday, the 5th, broke calm, both fleets being within sight of each other, and the Duke sent another feluca to the duke of Parma with the pilot Domingo Ochoa on board, to beg him to send us some cannon balls of 4, 6, and 10 lbs. as a great many had been spent in the skirmishing of the last few days. He was also instructed to request Parma to send out 40 flyboats immediately to join the Armada ; and so by their aid to enable us to come to close quarters with the enemy, which we had hitherto found it quite impossible to do, in consequence of our vessels being very heavy in comparison with the lightness of the enemy's ships. Ochoa was also instructed to press upon the duke of Parma the necessity of his being ready to come out and join the Armada the very day it appeared in sight of Dunkirk. The Duke (of Medina Sidonia) was very anxious on this point, as be feared Parma was not at Dunkirk ; Don Rodrigo Tello not having returned, and no messenger having come from Parma. At sunset a breeze sprang up and the Armada again got under way on the voyage towards Calais.
At daybreak on Saturday, 6th, the two fleets were close together, and sailed on without exchanging shots until ten o'clock in the day, our Armada having the wind astern and the rearguard well up, in good order. At this hour the coast of France was sighted near Boulogne and we proceeded on our voyage to Calais Roads, where we arrived at four o'clock in the afternoon. There was some difference of opinion as to whether we should anchor here, the majority being in favour of sailing on. The Duke, however, was informed by his pilots that if he proceeded any further the currents would force him to run out of the Channel into Norwegian waters, and he consequently decided to anchor off Calais, seven leagues from Dunkirk, where Parma might join him. At five o'clock the order to drop anchor was given to the whole Armada, and Captain Heredia was sent to visit the governor of Calais, M. de Gourdan, to explain the reason why we had anchored there and offer him friendship.
This afternoon the enemy's fleet was reinforced by 36 sail, including five great galleons. This was understood to be John Hawkins' (fn. 10) squadron, which had been watching Dunkirk, and the whole of the English fleet now anchored a league distant from our Armada. Captain Heredia returned that night from Calais, bringing friendly assurances and promises of service from the Governor. The Duke dispatched Secretary Arceo to Parma, to inform him of the position of the Armada, and to say that it was impossible for it to remain where it was without very great risk.
On Sunday, the 7th, at daybreak, Captain Don Rodrigo Tello arrived from Dunkirk (he having been sent thither by the Duke on the 29th ultimo) and reported that the duke of Parma was at Bruges, where he had visited him, and although he had expressed great joy at the arrival of the Armada, he had not come to Dunkirk up to the night of Saturday, the 6th, when Tello had left there, nor had the embarcation of the men and stores been commenced.
On Sunday morning the governor of Calais sent his nephew to visit the Duke (of Medina Sidonia), bringing with him a great present of fresh provisions. He informed the Duke that the place where he was lying was extremely dangerous to stay in, in consequence of the cross currents of the Channel being very strong. In view of the friendly attitude of the Governor, the Duke sent the Provedore Bernabé de Pedroso, with the paymaster, to purchase victuals. He also sent at night Don Jorge Manrique to Parma, to urge upon him to expedite his coming out.
On Sunday night Secretary Arceo sent word to the Duke (of Medina Sidonia) from Dunkirk that Parma had not yet arrived there, the stores still being unshipped, and that he (Arceo) thought that everything could not be ready under a fortnight.
At sunset on Sunday the enemy was joined by nine vessels, and at the same time a squadron of about 26 ships came closer in shore This raised a suspicion that their intention might be to set fire to us, and the Duke ordered Captain Serrano to go in a pinnace, carrying an anchor and cable, and in case they set adrift a fire ship to divert it towards the land. At the same time orders were sent to all the ships of the Armada to be on the alert, with rowing boats ready with soldiers, to perform a similar service if necessary.
At midnight two fires were perceived on the English fleet, and these two gradually increased to eight. (fn. 11) They were eight vessels with sails set, which were drifting with the current directly towards our flagship and the rest of the Armada, all of them burning with great fury. When the Duke saw them approaching, and that our men had not diverted them, he, fearing that they might contain fire machines or mines, ordered the flagship to let go the cables, the rest of the Armada receiving similar orders, with an intimation that when the fires had passed they were to return to the same positions again. The leading galleass in trying to avoid a ship ran foul of the "San Juan de Sicilia," and became so crippled that she was obliged to drift ashore. The current was so strong that although the flagship, and some of the vessels near her, came to anchor again and fired off a signal gun, the other ships of the Armada did not perceive it, and were carried by the current towards Dunkirk.
At dawn on Monday, the 8th, the Duke seeing that his Armada was far ahead, and that the enemy was bearing down upon us with all sail, weighed his anchor to go and collect the Armada, and endeavour to bring it back to its previous position. The wind freshened from the N.W., which is on to the shore, and the English fleet of 136 sail, with the wind and tide in its favour, was overhauling us with great speed, whereupon the Duke recognised that if he continued to bear room and tried to come up with the Armada all would be lost, as his Flemish pilots told him he was already very near the Dunkirk shoals. In order to save his ships he accordingly determined to face the whole of the enemy's fleet, sending pataches to advise the rest of the Armada to luff close, as they were running on to the Dunkirk shoals. The enemy's flagship, supported by most of his fleet, attacked our flagship with great fury at daybreak, approaching within musket-shot and sometimes within harquebuss-shot. The attack lasted until three in the afternoon, without a moment's cessation of the artillery fire, nor did our flagship stand away until she had extricated the Armada from the sandbanks. The galleon "San Marcos," with the marquis de Peñafiel on board, stood by the flagship the whole time. The leading galleass, being unable to follow the Armada, ran aground at the mouth of Calais harbour, followed by some of the enemy's vessels. It is believed that she was succoured by the guns of the fortress of Calais, and that the men on board of her were saved. Don Alonso de Leyva, Juan Martinez de Recalde, Oquendo's flagship, the whole of the ships of the Castilian and Portuguese Maestres de Campo, Diego Flores' flagship, Bertondona's flagship, the galleon "San Juan" of Diego Flores, with Don Diego Enriquez on board, and the "San Juan de Sicilia" with Don Diego Tellez Enriquez on board, withstood the enemy's attack as well as they could, and all of these ships were so much damaged as to be almost unable to offer further resistance, most of them not having a round of shot more to fire. Don Francisco de Toledo, who brought up the rear, attempted to close with the enemy. The latter turned upon him with so hot an artillery fire that he was in difficulty. Don Diego de Pimentel then came to his support, but they were both of them being overpowered, when Juan Martinez de Recalde, with Don Augustin Mexia, bore up and extricated them. But, notwithstanding this, these two ships (i.e., those of Toledo and Pimentel) once more got in the midst of the enemy, together with Don Alonso de Luzon's ship, the "Santa Maria de Begoña," with Garibay on board, and the "San Juan de Sicilia," with Don Diego Tellez Enriquez on board. They very nearly closed with the enemy without grappling, the English keeping up an artillery fire, from which our men defended themselves with musketry and harquebuss fire, as they were so near. The Duke heard the sound of small arms, but was unable to distinguish what was going on from the maintop, in consequence of the smoke ; but he saw that two of our ships were amongst the enemy, and that the latter, leaving our flagship, concentrated all his fleet in that direction, so the Duke ordered the flagship to put about to assist them. The Duke's ship was so much damaged with cannon-shot between wind and water that the inflow could not be stopped, and her rigging was almost cut to shreds, but nevertheless, when the enemy saw that she was approaching, his ships left the vessels they were attacking, namely, those of Don Alonso de Luzon, Garibay, Don Francisco de Toledo, Don Diego Pimentel, and Don Diego Tellez Enriquez. The three latter were most exposed, and were completely crippled and unserviceable, nearly all the men on board being either killed or wounded, although that of Don Diego Tellez Enriquez made shift to follow us in very bad case. The Duke then collected his force, and the enemy did likewise. The Duke ordered pataches to be sent and take off the men from the "San Felipe," and the "San Mateo." The pataches succeeded in taking the men out of the "San Mateo," but Don Diego Pimentel refused to abandon the ship, sending Don Rodrigo Vivero and Don Luis Vanegas to the Duke to ask him to send someone on board to inspect the vessel, and ascertain whether she was seaworthy. The Duke sent a pilot and a diver from this galleon (i.e., the "San Martin"), although we were in great risk without him (the pilot?). As the night was falling and the sea was very heavy they were unable to reach the "San Mateo," but they saw it that night at a distance, falling off towards Zeeland. The galleon "San Felipe" went alongside the hulk "Doncella," and transhipped on board of the latter all the company. But when Don Francisco (de Toledo) had gone on board the hulk a cry was raised that she was foundering, and Captain Juan Poza de Santiso leapt on to the "San Felipe" again, followed by Don Francisco. This was a great misfortune, for it was not true that the hulk was sinking, and the "San Felipe" also went towards Zeeland with Don Francisco on board, after the Duke had been informed that he and all his men were safe on the hulk. The sea was so heavy that nothing else could be done, and it was even impossible to patch up the injuries to the flagship ; whereby she was in great danger of being lost. The Duke wished during this day to turn and attack the enemy with the whole Armada, in order to avoid running out of the Channel, but the pilots told him it was impossible, as both wind and tide were against us ; the wind blowing from the N.W. towards the land. They said that he would be forced either to run up into the North Sea, or wreck all the Armada on the shoals. He was therefore utterly unable to avoid going out of the Channel, nearly all of our trustworthy ships being so damaged as to be unfit to resist attack, both on account of the cannon fire to which they had been exposed, and their own lack of projectiles.
Tuesday, the 9th, eve of St. Lorenzo. At two o'clock in the morning the wind blew so strongly that, although our flagship was brought up as close to the wind as possible, she began to fall off to leeward towards the Zeeland coast, the Duke's intention having been to stay so that he might again enter the Channel. At daybreak the N.W. wind fell somewhat, and we discovered the enemy's fleet of 109 ships rather over half a league astern of us. Our flagship remained in the rear with Juan Martinez de Reoalde, Don Alonso de Leyva, the galleasses, and the galleon "San Marcos" and "San Juan" of Diego Flores, the rest of our Armada being distant and a great deal to leeward. The enemy's ships bore down on our flagship, which came round to the wind and lay to ; the galleasses placed themselves in front, and the rest of our rearguard stood by ready to repel attack, whereupon the enemy retired. The Duke then fired two guns to collect the Armada and sent a pilot in a patache to order the ships to keep their heads close to the wind, as they were almost on the Zeeland shoals. This prevented the enemy from approaching closer to us, as they saw that our Armada was going to be lost ; indeed the experienced pilots who accompanied the Duke assured him at this time that it was impossible to save a single ship of the Armada, as they must inevitably be driven by the north-west wind on to the banks of Zeeland. God alone could rescue them. From this desperate peril, in only six and a half fathoms of water, we were saved by the wind shifting by God's mercy to the S.W., and the Armada was then able to steer a northerly course without danger to any of our ships. The orders sent by the Duke in the pataches were that the whole of the ships were to follow in the wake of the flagship, as otherwise they would run upon the banks. The same afternoon the Duke summoned the generals and Don Alonso de Leyva to decide what should be done. The Duke submitted the state of the Armada, and the lack of projectiles, a fresh supply of which had been requested by all the principal ships ; and asked the opinion of those present as to whether it would be best to return to the English Channel, or sail home to Spain by the North Sea, the duke of Parma not having sent advice that he would be able to come out promptly. The council unanimously resolved in favour of returning to the Channel if the weather would allow of it, but if not, then that they should obey the wind and sail to Spain by the North Sea, bearing in mind that the Armada was lacking all things necessary, and that the ships that had hitherto resisted were badly crippled. The wind from the S. S. W. kept increasing in violence, and the Duke continued to get further out to sea, followed by the whole of the enemy's fleet. With regard to the fighting on the flagship, taking up of position, &c., the Duke followed the advice of the Maestre de Campo, Don Francisco de Bobadilla, who had many years' experience of fighting on land and sea. He had been ordered by the Duke at Corunna to leave the galleon "San Marcos" and go on board the flagship, and had left on the "San Marcos" the marquis de Peñafiel, who declined to go to the flagship in consequence of the gentlemen who were with him on the former galleon. In the management of the Armada, and in maritime matters, the Duke was guided by General Diego Flores, who had also been ordered to go on board the flagship, he being one of the oldest and most experienced of seamen.
On Wednesday, the 10th, the Armada was under way with a fresh S. W. wind and a heavy sea, the enemy's fleet following us. In the afternoon the violence of the wind abated, and the enemy came under full sail towards our rearguard. The Duke, seeing this, and that the rearguard under Juan Martinez de Recalde was weak in ships, struck his topsails and awaited the rearguard ; at the same time fired the signal of three guns at intervals, to order the rest of the Armada, which, was under full sail, to shorten sail and stand by for the rearguard and the flagship. What was done in these circumstances by our Armada will be related by Don Baltasar de Zuñiga. (fn. 12) When the enemy saw that our flagship, the galleasses, and 12 of our best ships were standing by, he shortened sail and dropped astern without firing at us. John Hawkins with his squadron turned back during the night.
On Thursday, 11th, we kept under way with the same fresh wind, the enemy's fleet having now fallen far astern ; but in the afternoon he clapped on all sail and bore down upon us, We were then able to count his ships, and noticed that Hawkins' squadron had gone. The galleasses again brought to, and our flagship came round and waited, when the enemy once more retired without coming within gunshot.
On Friday, the 12th, at dawn, the enemy's fleet was quite close to us, but as they saw we were well together, and that the rearguard had been reinforced, the enemy fell astern and sailed towards England until we lost sight of him. Since then we have continued sailing with the same wind until we left the Norwegian Channel, and it has been impossible for us to return to the English Channel even if we desired to do so. We have now, the 20th August, doubled the last of the Scottish Islands to the north, and we have set our course with a N.E. wind for Spain.
24 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
403. Duke of Parma to Maestre De Campo Nicholas Isla.
He is informed by the statement of Captain Duarte Nuñez of the events that have happened to their ship, and the port where she now is. (fn. 13) Depends upon their experience to do their best to save their ship. They are secretly to land the money, of which there is much need for his (Parma's) army, with the assistance of the purser Igueldo. He (Parma) sends Claude Chastelayn to help them in this, and writes to the ambassador Mendoza asking him to aid in all that may be necessary.
The Channel being so full of enemies, and no knowledge existing of the whereabouts of his Majesty's Armada since it left Calais Roads on the 8th instant, it will be highly imprudent for them to go in search of it. They had better return to Corunna, and, if prevented by contrary winds, put into Conquet or some other French port, sending at once advice to the ambassador Mendoza. In case they should get into trouble for returning to Spain without their commander and the rest of the Armada, he (Parma) encloses an authority which shall clear them. Will be glad of Isla's return to Flanders.—Bruges, 24th August 1588.
24 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
404. Advices from Antwerp.
There is no certainty as to the whereabouts of the Armada, but they say it must have entered port in Scotland, somewhere near England. They say there has been another engagement, and that they have captured about 30 English ships. Four shiploads of killed and wounded have arrived at Dover.
405. Advices from Bruges.
Two cutters have arrived at Dunkirk, which had been sent by the duke of Parma in search of the Armada. They could not find it, but say they have heard that it was on its way to Spain. They learn also that the enemy, believing that his Majesty's fleet intended to land some men near Newcastle, ran ahead and occupied the place, leaving our fleet behind, and our fleet was obliged to fight. In the engagement the English suffered greatly, and lost many ships, the rest of them returning in very bad case. We may therefore be sure that they have lost a great number of men and ships in the few encounters that have taken place.


  • 1. Notwithstanding this preamble, the style of the communication is, as usual with the writer, insufferably vain, tedious, and bombastic. No other correspondent but Vega, not even ambassadors of the highest rank like Mendoza or Olivares, presumed to suggest to the King main lines of policy, such as that of employing Chateauneuf to intervene with Henry III. and the Pope in favour of Spanish objects. Such impertinent meddling was of course ignored by Philip.
  • 2. This was probably the galleon "San Felipe," commanded by Don Francisco de Toledo.
  • 3. This was the "Santa Ana," the flagship of the Biscay squadron, which Martinez had left to go on board of the "San Juan," the vice-flagship of the whole fleet. The "Santa Ana" had been separated from the rest of the Armada and being unseaworthy she took shelter in the bay of La Hogue and subsequently in Havre. Her ultimate fate is related in Mendoza's correspondence in this volume. Martinez de Recalde himself died of grief and hardship on his arrival in Spain on the "San Juan."
  • 4. Professor Laughton is inclined to read this passage somewhat differently, and to think that the vanguard, under de Leyva, was driven into the rearguard under Recalde. According to the strict rules of grammar his interpretation is correct, but the construction of these documents is frequently faulty, and I am strongly inclined to think that my rendering will, on consideration, be found to be the correct one.
  • 5. "Nuestra Señora del Rosario."
  • 6. "San Francisco."
  • 7. "San Cristobal."
  • 8. "Nuestra Señora de la Rosa."
  • 9. The names of these ships which were attempting to grapple with the English vessels are given in the document as follows :—The galleons "Florencia," with Gaspar de Sosa on board. Oquendo's flagship ("Santa Ana"), "Begoña," with Garibay on board, "Valencera," with Don Alonso de Luzon, and the "Juan Bautista," with Don Juan Maldonado and Don Luis de Maeda.
  • 10. This is, of course, a mistake. Lord Henry Seymour commanded the squadron before Dunkirk.
  • 11. Other accounts say that the fire ships did not burst into flame until they were nearing the Spanish fleet, and this agrees both with the English statements and the usual practice.
  • 12. What was done is best told in Captain Cuellar's narrative in the Madrid Academy of History, Salazar collection (printed by Fernandez Duro). He was, he says, sleeping, after ten days without rest, when a wicked pilot of his clapped on sail without telling him, and passed two miles ahead of the flagship, as other vessels had done before, in order to lie to and repair. The unfortunate captain was summoned peremptorily on board the flagship with another captain of a hulk in a similar case, and both were immediately condemned to be hanged by Don Francisco de Bobadilla. Cuellar being a man of influence, with many friends, protested loudly against the sentence and was, after much trouble, eventually saved by the Auditor Martin de Aranda, who had been deputed to carry out the execution. The other captain, Cristobal de Avila, was hanged at the yardarm with much insult and cruelty, although he was a gentleman and known to many.
  • 13. This was the "Santa Ana," the flagship of Recalde's squadron. Her subsequent adventures and the death of Nicholas Isla are related in the course of the correspondence. There is in the same box K. 1568 a letter of 28th August from Henry III. to Mendoza, from Chartres, saying that he has written to his cousin Montpensier about the galleon at La Hogue, and is sending instructions all along the coast for the ships of the Armada to be welcomed. The "Santa Ana" by this time had gone to Havre de Grâce.