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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The Armada was utterly dispersed


[Sidenote:

Preparations for a descent upon England.]

Once having decided upon an expedition Philip began to lay his plans. Mary Stuart was persuaded to disinherit her son, who was a Protestant (the later James I of England), and to make Philip her heir. The pope was induced to lend both financial and moral support to the undertaking, although it was necessary to deceive him as to Philip's intentions to acquire England for himself; the pope was told that Philip's daughter was to be made queen of England. The proposed descent upon England was no secret to Elizabeth, who made ready to resist. With a view to delaying Philip's preparations, Drake made an attack upon C?diz in 1587, on which occasion he burned all the shipping in the bay. This only strengthened Philip's resolutions with regard to the undertaking, and tended to make him impatient for its early execution. Plans were made which proved to be in many cases ill considered. The first mistake occurred when Philip did not entertain a proposition of the Scotch and French Catholics that he should work in concert with them, thus declining an opportunity to avail himself of ports and bases of supply near the point of attack; political reasons were the foundation for his attitude in this matter. Against advice he also decided to divide the expedition into a naval and a military section, the troops to come from the Low Countries after the arrival of the fleet there to transport them. The worst error of all was

that of Philip's insistence on directing the organization of the fleet himself. All details had to be passed upon by the king from his palace of the Escorial near Madrid, which necessarily involved both delay and a faulty execution of orders. Evil practices and incompetence were manifest on every hand; quantities of the supplies purchased proved to be useless; and the officers and men were badly chosen, many of the former being without naval experience. A great mistake was made in the appointment of the Duke of Medina Sidonia to lead the expedition; the principal recommendation of the duke was that of his family prestige, for he was absolutely lacking in knowledge of maritime affairs, and said as much to the king, but the latter insisted that he should take command.

[Sidenote: Defeat of the Armada.]

At length the fleet was able to leave Lisbon, and later Coru?a, in the year 1588. Because of its great size it was termed the _Armada Invencible_ (the Invincible Fleet), a name which has been taken over into English as the Spanish, or the Invincible, Armada. In all there were 131 ships, with over 25,000 sailors, soldiers, and officers. The evil effect of Philip's management followed the Armada to sea. He had given detailed instructions what to do, and the commander-in-chief would not vary from them. Many officers thought it would be best to make an attack on Plymouth, to secure that port as a base of operations, but Philip had given orders that the fleet should first go to the Low Countries to effect a junction with the troops held in readiness there. The story of the battle with the English fleet is well known. The contest was altogether one-sided, for the English ships were both superior in speed and equipped with longer range artillery. Nevertheless, storms contributed more than the enemy to the Spanish defeat. The Armada was utterly dispersed, and many vessels were wrecked. Only 65 ships and some 10,000 men were able to return to Spain.


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