CHAPTER XIV. THE SPANISH ARMADA
Philip, king of Spain, husband to the deceased queen Mary of England, was no less an enemy than that princess to the protestants. He had always disliked the English, and after her death, determined, if possible, to crown that infamous cruelty which had disgraced the whole progress of her reign, by making a conquest of the island, and putting every protestant to death.
The great warlike preparations made by this monarch, though the purpose was unknown, gave a universal alarm to the English nation; as, though he had not declared that intention, yet it appeared evident that he was taking measures to seize the crown of England. Pope Sixtus V. not less ambitious than himself, and equally desirous of persecuting the protestants, urged him to the enterprise. He excommunicated the queen, and published a crusade against her, with the usual indulgences. All the ports of Spain resounded with preparations for this alarming expedition; and the Spaniards seemed to threaten the English with a total annihilation.
Three whole years had been spent by Philip in making the necessary preparations for this mighty undertaking; and his fleet, which on account of its prodigious strength, was called the “Invincible Armada,” was now completed. A consecrated banner was procured from the pope, and the gold of Peru was lavished on the occasion.
The duke of Parma, by command of the Spaniards, built ships in Flanders, and a great company of small broad vessels, each one able to transport thirty horses, with bridges fitted for them severally; and hired mariners from the east part of Germany, and provided long pieces of wood sharpened at the end, and covered with iron, with hooks on one side; and 20,000 vessels, with a huge number of fagots; and placed an army ready in Flanders, of 103 companies of foot and 4000 horsemen. Among these 700 English vagabonds, who were held of all others in most contempt. Neither was Stanley respected or obeyed who was set over the English; nor Westmoreland, nor any other who offered their help, but for their unfaithfulness to their own country were shut out from all consultations, and as men unanimously rejected with detestation. And because Pope Sixtus the Fifth in such a case would not be wanting, he sent Cardinal Allen into Flanders, and renewed the bulls declaratory of Pope Pius the Fifth, and Gregory the Thirteenth.
He excommunicated and deposed queen Elizabeth, absolved her subjects from all allegiance, and, as if it had been against the Turks or infidels, he set forth in print a conceit, wherein he bestowed plenary indulgences, out of the treasure of the church, besides a million of gold, or ten hundred thousand ducats, to be distributed (the one half in hand, the rest when either England, or some famous haven therein, should be won) upon all them that would join their help against England. By which means the Marquis of Bergau, of the house of Austria, the duke of Pastrana, Amadis, duke of Savoy, Vespasian, Gonzaga, John Medicis, and divers other noblemen, were drawn into these wars.
Queen Elizabeth, that she might not be surprised unawares, prepared as great a navy as she could, and with singular care and providence, made all things ready necessary for war. And she herself, who was ever most judicious in discerning of men’s wits and aptness, and most happy in making choice, when she made it out of her own judgment, and not at the discretion of others, designed the best and most serviceable to each several employment. Over the whole navy she appointed the Lord Admiral Charles Howard, in whom she reposed much trust; and sent him to the west part of England, where Captain Drake, whom she made vice-admiral, joined with him. She commanded Henry Seimor, the second son to the duke of Somerset, to watch upon the Belgic shore, with forty English and Dutch ships, that the duke of Parma might not come out with his forces; although some were of opinion, that the enemy was to be expected and set upon by land forces, accordingly as it was upon deliberation resolved, in the time of Henry the Eighth, when the French brought a great navy on the English shore.
For the land fight, there were placed on the south shore twenty thousand; and two armies beside were mustered of the choicest men for war. The one of these, which consisted of 1000 horse and twenty two thousand foot was commanded by the earl of Leicester, and encamped at Tilbury, on the side of the Thames. For the enemy was resolved first to set upon London. The other army was commanded by the Lord Hunsdon, consisting of thirty-four thousand foot, and two thousand horse, to guard the queen.
The Lord Gray, Sir Francis Knowles, Sir John Norris, Sir Richard Bingham, Sir Roger Williams, men famously known for military experience, were chosen to confer of the land-fight. These commanders thought fit that all those places should be fortified, with men and ammunition, which were commodious to land in, either out of Spain or out of Flanders, as Milford-Haven, Falmouth, Plymouth, Portland, the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, the open side of Kent, called the Downs, the Thames’ mouth, Harwich, Yarmouth, Hull, &c. That trained soldiers through all the maratime provinces should meet upon warning given, to defend the places; that they should by their best means, hinder the enemy from landing; and if they did happen to land, then they were to destroy the fruits of the country all about, and spoil every thing that might be of any use to the enemy, that so they might find no more victuals than what they brought with them. And that, by continued alarms, the enemy should find no rest day or night. But they should not try any battle until divers captains were met together with their companies. That one captain might be named in every shire which might command.
Two years before, the duke of Parma, considering how hard a matter it was to end the Belgic war, so long as it was continually nourished and supported with aid from the queen, he moved for a treaty of peace, by the means of Sir James Croft, one of the privy council, a man desirous of peace, and Andrew Loe, a Dutchman, and professed that the Spaniard had delegated authority to him for this purpose. But the queen fearing that the friendship between her and the confederate princes might be dissolved, and that so they might secretly be drawn to the Spaniard, she deferred that treaty for some time. But now, that the wars on both sides prepared might be turned away, she was content to treat for peace; but so as still holding the weapons in her hand.
For this purpose, in February, delegates were sent into Flanders, the earl of Derby, the lord Cobham, Sir James Croft, Dr. Dale, and Dr. Rogers. These were received with all humanity on the duke’s behalf, and a place appointed for their treating, that they might see the authority delegated to him by the Spanish king. He appointed the place near to Ostend, not in Ostend, which at that time was held by the English against the Spanish king. His authority delegated, he promised them to show, when they were once met together. He wished them to make good speed in the business, lest somewhat might fall out in the mean time, which might trouble the motions of peace. Richardotus, spoke somewhat more plainly, That he knew not what in this interim should be done against England.
Not long after, Dr. Rogers was sent to the prince, by an express commandment from the queen, to know the truth, whether the Spaniards had resolved to invade England, which he and Richardotus seemed to signify. He affirmed, that he did not so much as think of the invasion of England, when he wished that the business might proceed with speed; and was in a manner offended with Richardotus, who denied that such words fell from him.
The 12th of April, the count Aremberg, Champigny, Richardotus, Doctor Maesius, and Garnier, delegated from the prince of Parma, met with the English, and yielded to them the honour both in walking and sitting.
This conference, however, came to nothing; undertaken by, the queen, as the wiser then thought, to avert the Spanish fleet; continued by the Spaniard that he might oppress the queen, being as he supposed unprovided, and not expecting the danger. So both of them tried to use time to their best advantages.
At length the Spanish fleet, well furnished with men, ammunition, engines, and all warlike preparations, the best, indeed, that ever was seen upon the ocean, called by the arrogant title, The Invincible Armada, consisted of 130 ships, wherein there were in all, 19,290. Mariners, 8,350. Chained rowers, 11,080. Great ordnance, 11,630. The chief commander was Perezius Guzmannus, duke of Medina Sidonia; and under him Joannes Martinus Ricaldus, a man of great experience in sea affairs.
The 30th of May they loosed out of the river Tagus, and bending their course to the Groin, in Gallicia, they were beaten and scattered by a tempest, three galleys, by the help of David Gwin, an English servant, and by the perfidiousness of the Turks which rowed, were carried away into France. The fleet, with much ado, after some days came to the Groin, and other harbours near adjoining. The report was, that the fleet was so shaken by this tempest, that the queen was persuaded, that she was not to expect that fleet this year. And Sir Francis Walsingham, sec’y, wrote to the lord admiral, that he might send back four of the greatest ships, as if the war had been ended. But the lord admiral did not easily give credit to that report; yet with a gentle answer entreated him to believe nothing hastily in so important a matter: as also that he might be permitted to keep those ships with him which he had, though it were upon his own charges. And getting a favourable wind, made sail towards Spain, to surprise the enemy’s damaged ships in their harbours. When he was close in with the coast of Spain, the wind shifting, and he being charged to defend the English shore, fearing that the enemy might unseen, by the same wind, sail for England, he returned unto Plymouth.
Now with the same wind, the 12th of July, the duke of Medina with his fleet departed from the Groin. And after a few days he sent Rodericus Telius into Flanders, to advertise the duke of Parma, giving him warning that the fleet was approaching, and therefore he was to make himself ready. For Medina’s commission was to join himself with the ships and soldiers of Parma; and under the protection of his fleet to bring them into England, and to land his forces upon the Thames side.
The sixteenth, day, (saith the relator,) there was a great calm, and a thick cloud was upon the sea till noon; then the north wind blowing roughly; and again the west wind till midnight, and after that the east; the Spanish navy was scattered, and hardly gathered together until they came within sight of England the nineteenth day of July. Upon which day, the lord admiral was certified by Fleming, (who had been a pirate) that the Spanish fleet was entered into the English sea, which the mariners call the Channel, and was descried near to the Lizard. The lord admiral brought forth the English fleet into the sea, but not without great difficulty, by the skill, labour, and alacrity of the soldiers and mariners, every one labouring; yea, the lord admiral himself putting his hand to this work.
The next day the English fleet viewed the Spanish fleet coming along like the towering castles in height, her front crooked like the fashion of the moon, the wings of the fleet were extended one from the other about seven miles, or as some say eight miles asunder, sailing with the labour of the winds, the ocean as it were groaning under it, their sail was but slow, and yet at full sail before the wind. The English were willing to let them hold on their course, and when they were passed by, got behind them, and so got to windward of them.
Upon the 21st of July, the lord admiral of England sent a cutter before, called the Defiance, to denounce the battle by firing off pieces. And being himself in the Royal-Arch, (the English admiral ship) he began the engagement with a ship which he took to be the Spanish admiral, but which was the ship of Alfonsus Leva. Upon that he expended much shot. Presently Drake, Hawkins, and Forbisher, came in upon the rear of the Spaniards which Ricaldus commanded.—Upon these they thundered. Ricaldus endeavoured, as much as in him lay, to keep his men to their quarters, but all in vain, until his ship, much beaten and battered with many shot, hardly recovered the fleet. Then the duke of Medina gathered together his scattered fleet, and setting more sail, held on his course. Indeed they could do no other, for the English had gotten the advantage of the wind, and their ships being much easier managed, and ready with incredible celerity to come upon the enemy with a full course, and then to tack and retack and be on every side at their pleasure. After a long fight, and each of them had taken a trial of their courage, the lord admiral thought proper to continue the fight no longer, because there were forty ships more, which were then absent, and at that very time were coming out of Plymouth Sound.
The night following, the St. Catharine, a Spanish ship, being sadly torn in the battle, was taken into the midst of the fleet to be repaired. Here a great Cantabrian ship, of Oquenda, wherein was the treasurer of the camp, by force of gunpowder took fire, yet it was quenched in time by the ships that came to help her. Of those which came to assist the fired ship, one was a galleon, commanded by one Petrus Waldez; the fore-yard of the galleon was caught in the rigging of another ship, and carried away. This was taken by Drake, who sent Waldez to Dartmouth, and a great sum of money, viz. 55,000 ducats, which he distributed among the soldiers. This Waldez coming into Drake’s presence, kissed his hand, and told him they had all resolved to die, if they had not been so happy as to fall into his hands whom they knew to be noble. That night he was appointed to set forth a light, but neglected it; and some German merchant ships coming by that night, he, thinking them to be enemies, followed them so far, that the English fleet lay to all night, because they could see no light set forth. Neither did he nor the rest of the fleet find the admiral until the next evening. The admiral all the night proceeding with the Bear and the Mary Rose, carefully followed the Spaniards with watchfulness. The duke was busied in ordering his squadron. Alfonsus Leva was commanded to join the first and last divisions. Every ship had its proper station assigned, according to that prescribed form which was appointed in Spain; it was present death to any one who forsook his station. This done, he sent Gliclius and Anceani to Parma, which might declare to them in what situation they were, and left that Cantabrian ship, of Oquenda, to the wind and sea, having taken out the money and mariners, and put them on board of other ships. Yet it seemed that he had not care for all; for that ship the same day, with fifty mariners and soldiers wounded and half-burned, fell into the hands of the English, and was carried to Weymouth.
The 23d of the same month, the Spaniards having a favourable north wind, tacked towards the English; but they being more expert in the management of their ships, tacked likewise, and kept the advantage they had gained, keeping the Spaniards to leeward, till at last the fight became general on both sides. They fought awhile confusedly with variable success: whilst on the one side the English with great courage delivered the London ships which were enclosed about by the Spaniards; and on the other side, the Spaniards by valour freed Ricaldus from the extreme danger he was in; great and many were the explosions, which, by the continued firing of great guns, were heard this day. But the loss (by the good providence of God,) fell upon the Spaniards, their ships being so high, that the shot went over our English ships, and the English, having such a fair mark at their large ships, never shot in vain. During this engagement, Cock, an Englishman, being surrounded by the Spanish ships, could not be recovered, but perished; however, with great honour he revenged himself. Thus a long time the English ships with great agility were sometimes upon the Spaniards, giving them the fire of one side, and then of the other, and presently were off again, and still kept the sea, to make themselves ready to come in again. Whereas the Spanish ships, being of great burden, were troubled and hindered, and stood to be the marks for the English shot. For all that the English admiral would not permit his people to board their ships, because they had such a number of soldiers on board, which he had not; their ships were many in number, and greater, and higher, that if they had come to grapple, as many would have had it, the English being much lower than the Spanish ships, must needs have had the worst of them that fought from the higher ships. And if the English had been overcome, the loss would have been greater than the victory could have been; for our being overcome would have put the kingdom in hazard.
The 24th day of July they gave over fighting on both sides. The admiral sent some small barks to the English shore for a supply of provisions, and divided his whole fleet into four squadrons; the first whereof he took under his own command, the next was commanded by Drake, the third by Hawkins, and the last by Forbisher. And he appointed out of every squadron certain little ships, which, on divers sides might set upon the Spaniards in the night, but a sudden calm took them so that expedition was without effect.
The 25th, the St. Anne, a galleon of Portugal, not being able to keep up with the rest, was attacked by some small English ships. To whose aid came in Leva, and Didacus Telles Enriques, with three galeasses; which the admiral, and the Lord Thomas Howard, espying, made all the sail they could against the galeasses, but the calm continuing, they were obliged to be towed along with their boats; as soon as they reached the galeasses, they began to play away so fiercely with their great guns, that with much danger, and great loss, they hardly recovered their galleon. The Spaniards reported that the Spanish admiral was that day in the rear of their fleet, which, being come nearer to the English ships than before, got terribly shattered with their great guns, many men were killed aboard, and her masts laid over the side. The Spanish admiral, after this, in company with Ricaldus, and others, attacked the English admiral, who, having the advantage of the wind, suddenly tacked and escaped. The Spaniards holding on their course again, sent to the duke of Parma, that with all possible speed he should join his ships with the king’s fleet. These things the English knew not, who write that they had carried away the lantern from one of the Spanish ships, the stern from another, and sore mauled the third very much disabling her. The Non-Parigly, and the Mary Rose, fought awhile with the Spaniards, and the Triumph being in danger, other ships came in good time to help her.
The next day the lord admiral knighted the Lord Thomas Howard, the Lord Sheffield, Roger Townsend, John Hawkins, and Martin Forbisher, for their valour in the last engagement. After this, they agreed not to attack the enemy until they came into the straits of Calais, where Henry Seimor, and William Winter, waited for their coming. Thus with a fair gale the Spanish fleet went forward, and the English followed. This great Spanish Armada was so far from being esteemed invincible in the opinion of the English, that many young men and gentlemen, in hope to be partakers of a famous victory against the Spaniards, provided ships at their own expense, and joined themselves to the English fleet; among whom were the earls of Essex, Northumberland, and Cumberland, Thomas and Robert Cecil, Henry Brooks, William Hatton, Robert Cary, Ambrose Willoughby, Thomas Gerard, Arthur George, and other gentlemen of good note and quality.
The 27th day, at even, the Spaniards cast anchor near to Calais, being admonished by their skilful seamen, that if they went any further they might be in danger, through the force of the tide, to be driven into the North Ocean. Near to them lay the English admiral with his fleet, within a great gun’s shot. The admiral, Seimor and Winter, now join their ships; so that now there were a hundred and forty ships in the English fleet, able, and well furnished for fighting, for sailing, and every thing else which was requisite; and yet there were but fifteen of these which bore the heat of the battle, and repulsed the enemy. The Spaniard, as often as he had done before, so now with great earnestness sent to the duke of Parma, to send forty fly-boats, without which they could not fight with the English, because of the greatness and slowness of their ships, and the agility of the English, entreating him by all means now to come to sea with his army, which army was now to be protected as it were, under the wings of the Spanish Armada, until they should land in England.
But the duke was unprovided, and could not come out in an instant. The broad ships with flat bottoms being then full of chinks must be mended. Victuals wanted, and must be provided. The mariners being long kept against their wills, began to shrink away. The ports of Dunkirk and Newport, by which he must bring his army to the sea, were now so beset with the strong ships of Holland and Zealand, which were furnished with great and small munition, that he was not able to come to sea, unless he would come upon his own apparent destruction, and cast himself and his men wilfully into a headlong danger. Yet he omitted nothing that might be done, being a man eager and industrious, and inflamed with a desire of overcoming England.
But queen Elizabeth’s providence and care prevented both the diligence of this man, and the credulous hope of the Spaniard; for by her command the next day the admiral took eight of their worst ships, charging the ordnance therein up to the mouth with small shot, nails, and stones, and dressed them with wild fire, pitch, and rosin, and filling them full of brimstone, and some other matter fit for fire, and these being set on fire by the management of Young and Prowse, were secretly in the night, by the help of the wind, set full upon the Spanish fleet, which, on Sunday, the seventh of August, they sent in among them as they lay at anchor.
When the Spanish saw them come near, the flames giving light all over the sea, they supposing those ships, besides the danger of fire, to have been also furnished with deadly engines, to make horrible destruction among them; lifting up a most hideous cry, some pull up anchors, some for haste cut their cables, they set up their sails, they apply their oars, and stricken with extreme terror, in great haste they fled most confusedly. Among them the Pretorian Galleass floating upon the seas, her rudder being broken, in great danger and fear drew towards Calais, and striking in the sand, was taken by Amias Preston, Thomas Gerard, and Harvey; Hugh Moncada the governor was slain, the soldiers and mariners were either killed or drowned; in her there was found great store of gold, which fell to be the prey of the English. The ship and ordnance went to the governor of Calais.
The Spaniards report, that the duke, when he saw the fire ships coming, commanded all the fleet to heave up their anchors, but so as the danger being past, every ship might return again to his own station; and he himself returned, giving a sign to the rest by shooting off a gun; which was heard but by a few, for they were far off scattered some into the open ocean, some through fear were driven upon the shallows of the coast of Flanders.
Over against Gravelling the Spanish fleet began to gather themselves together. But upon them came Drake and Fenner, and battered them with great ordnance: to these Fenton, Southwel, Beeston, Cross, Riman, and presently after the lord admiral, and Sheffield, came in. The Duke Medina, Leva, Oquenda, Ricaldus, and others, with much ado in getting themselves out of the shallows, sustained the English ships as well as they might, until most of their ships were pierced and torn; the galleon St. Matthew, governed by Diego Pimentellas, coming to aid Francis Toleton, being in the St. Philip, was pierced and shaken with the reiterated shots of Seimor and Winter, and driven to Ostend, and was at last taken by the Flushingers. The St. Philip came to the like end; so did the galleon of Biscay, and divers others.
The last day of this month, the Spanish fleet striving to recover the straits again, were driven towards Zealand. The English left off pursuing them, as the Spaniards thought, because they saw them in a manner cast away; for they could not avoid the shallows of Zealand. But the wind turning, they got them out of the shallows, and then began to consult what were best for them to do. By common consent they resolved to return into Spain by the Northern Seas, for they wanted many necessaries, especially shot; their ships were torn, and they had no hope that the duke of Parma could bring forth his forces. And so they took the sea, and followed the course toward the north. The English navy followed, and sometimes the Spanish turned upon the English, insomuch that it was thought by many that they would turn back again.
Queen Elizabeth caused an army to encamp at Tilbury. After the army had come thither, her majesty went in person to visit the camp, which then lay between the city of London and the sea, under the charge of the earl of Leicester, where placing herself between the enemy and her city, she viewed her army, passing through it divers times, and lodging in the borders of it, returned again and dined in the army. Afterwards when they were all reduced into battle, prepared as it were for fight, she rode round about with a leader’s staff in her hand, only accompanied with the general, and three or four others attending upon her.[A]
I could enlarge the description hereof with many more particulars of mine own observation, (says the author,) for I wandered, as many others did, from place to place, all the day, and never heard a word spoke of her, but in praising her for her stately person and princely behaviour, in praying for her long life, and earnestly desiring to venture their lives for her safety. In her presence they sung psalms of praise to Almighty God, for which she greatly commended them, and devoutly praised God with them. This that I write, you may be sure I do not with any comfort, but to give you these manifest arguments that neither this queen did discontent her people, nor her people show any discontent in any thing they were commanded to do for her service, as heretofore hath been imagined.
This account was related by a popish spy, in a letter written here in England to Mendea. The copy of which letter was found upon Richard Leigh, a seminary priest in French and English: which priest was executed for high treason while the Spanish Armada was at sea.
The same day whereon the last fight was, the duke of Parma, after his vows offered to the lady of Halla, came somewhat late to Dunkirk, and was received with very opprobrious language by the Spaniards, as if in favour of queen Elizabeth he had slipped the fairest opportunity that could be to do the service. He, to make some satisfaction, punished the purveyors that had not made provision of beer, bread, &c. which was not yet ready nor embarked, secretly smiling at the insolence of the Spaniards, when he heard them bragging that what way soever they came upon England, they would have an undoubted victory; that the English were not able to endure the sight of them. The English admiral appointed Seimor and the Hollanders to watch upon the coast of Flanders that the duke of Parma should not come out; whilst he himself close followed the Spaniards until they were past Edinburgh Frith.
The Spaniards, seeing all hopes fail, fled amain; and so this great navy, being three years preparing with great expense, was within one month overthrown, and, after many were killed, being chased again, was driven about all England, by Scotland, the Oreades, and Ireland, tossed and damaged with tempests, much diminished, and went home without glory. There were not a hundred men of the English lost, and but one ship. Whereupon money was coined with a navy fleeing away in full sail, with this inscription, Venit, Vidit, Fugit. Others were coined with the ships on fire, the navy confounded, inscribed, in honour of the queen, Dux Fæmina Facti. As they fled, it is certain that many of their ships were cast away upon the shores of Scotland and Ireland. About seven hundred soldiers and mariners were cast away upon the Scottish shore, who, at the duke of Parma’s intercession with the Scotch king, the queen of England consenting, were after a year sent into Flanders. But they that were cast upon the Irish shore came to more miserable fortunes, for some were killed by the wild Irish, and others were destroyed for fear they should join themselves with the wild Irish, (which cruelty queen Elizabeth much condemned,) and the rest being afraid, sick and hungry, with their disabled ships, committed themselves to the sea, and many were drowned.
The queen went to public thanksgiving in St. Paul’s church, accompanied by a glorious train of nobility, through the streets of London, which were hung with blue cloth, the companies standing on both sides in their liveries; the banners that were taken from the enemies were spread; she heard the sermon, and public thanks were rendered unto God with great joy. This public joy was augmented when Sir Robert Sidney returned from Scotland, and brought from the king assurances of his noble mind and affection to the queen, and to religion; which as in sincerity he had established, so he purposed to maintain with all his power. Sir Robert Sidney was sent to him when the Spanish fleet was coming, to congratulate and return thanks for his great affection towards the maintenance of the common cause, and to declare how ready she would be to help him if the Spaniards should land in Scotland; and that he might recal to memory with what strange ambition the Spaniards had gaped for all Britain, urging the pope to excommunicate him, to the end that he might be thrust from the kingdom of Scotland, and from the succession in England: and to give him notice of the threatening of Mendoza, and the pope’s nuncio, who threatened his ruin if they could effect it: and therefore warned him to take special heed to the Scottish papists.
The king pleasantly answered that he looked for no other benefit from the Spaniards, than that which Polyphemus promised to Ulysses, to devour him last after his fellows were devoured.
It may not be improper here to subjoin a list of the different articles taken on board the Spanish ships, designed for the tormenting of the protestants, had their scheme taken effect.
1. The common soldiers’ pikes, eighteen feet long, pointed with long sharp spikes, and shod with iron, which were designed to keep off the horse, to facilitate the landing of the infantry.
2. A great number of lances used by the Spanish officers. These were formerly gilt, but the gold is almost worn off by cleaning.
3. The Spanish ranceurs, made in different forms, which were intended either to kill the men on horseback, or pull them off their horses.
4. A very singular piece of arms, being a pistol in a shield, so contrived as to fire the pistol, and cover the body at the same time, with the shield. It is to be fired by a match-lock, and the sight of the enemy is to be taken through a little grate in the shield, which is pistol proof.
5. The banner, with a crucifix upon it, which was to have been carried before the Spanish general. On it is engraved the pope’s benediction before the Spanish fleet sailed: for the pope came to the water side, and, on seeing the fleet, blessed it, and styled it invincible.
6. The Spanish cravats, as they are called. These are engines of torture, made of iron, and put on board to lock together the feet, arms and heads of Englishmen.
7. Spanish bilboes, made of iron likewise, to yoke the English prisoners two and two.
8. Spanish shot, which are of four sorts: pike-shot, star-shot, chain-shot, and link-shot, all admirably contrived, as well for the destruction of the masts and rigging of ships, as for sweeping the decks of their men.
9. Spanish spadas poisoned at the points, so that if a man received the slightest wound with one of them, certain death was the consequence.
10. A Spanish poll-axe, used in boarding of ships.
11. Thumb-screws, of which there were several chests full on board the Spanish fleet. The use they were intended for is said to have been to extort confession from the English where their money was hid.
12. The Spanish morning star; a destructive engine resembling the figure of a star, of which there were many thousands on board, and all of them with poisoned points; and were designed to strike at the enemy as they came on board, in case of a close attack.
13. The Spanish general’s halberd, covered with velvet. All the nails of this weapon are double gilt with gold; and on its top is the pope’s head, curiously engraved.
14. A Spanish battle-axe, so contrived, as to strike four holes in a man’s head at once; and has besides a pistol in its handle, with a match-lock.
15. The Spanish general’s shield, carried before him as an ensign of honour. On it are depicted, in most curious workmanship, the labours of Hercules, and other expressive allegories.
When the Spanish prisoners were asked by some of the English what their intentions were, had their expedition succeeded, they replied, “To extirpate the whole from the island, at least all heretics (as they called the protestants,) and to send their souls to hell.” Strange infatuation! Ridiculous bigotry! How prejudiced must the minds of those men be, who would wish to destroy their fellow-creatures, not only in this world, but, if it were possible, in that which is to come, merely because they refused to believe on certain subjects as the Spaniards themselves did.
A conspiracy by the Papists for the destruction of James I., the royal family, and both houses of Parliament; commonly known by the name of the Gunpowder Plot.
The papists (of which there were great numbers in England at the time of the intended Spanish invasion) were so irritated at the failure of that expedition, that they were determined, if possible, to project a scheme at home, that might answer the purposes, to some degree, of their blood-thirsty competitors. The vigorous administration of Elizabeth, however, prevented their carrying any of their iniquitous designs into execution, although they made many attempts with that view. The commencement of the reign of her successor was destined to be the era of a plot, the barbarity of which transcends every thing related in ancient or modern history.
In order to crush popery in the most effectual manner in this kingdom, James soon after his succession, took proper measures for eclipsing the power of the Roman Catholics, by enforcing those laws which had been made against them by his predecessors. This enraged the papists to such a degree, that a conspiracy was formed, by some of the principal leaders, of the most daring and impious nature; namely, to blow up the king, royal family, and both houses of parliament, while in full session, and thus to involve the nation in utter and inevitable ruin.
The cabal who formed the resolution of putting in practice this horrid scheme, consisted of the following persons:—Henry Garnet, an Englishman, who, about the year 1586, had been sent to England as superior of the English Jesuits; Catesby, an English gentleman; Tesmond, a Jesuit; Thomas Wright; two gentlemen of the name of Winter; Thomas Percy, a near relation of the earl of Northumberland; Guido Fawkes, a bold and enterprising soldier of fortune; Sir Edward Digby; John Grant, Esq.; Francis Tresham, Esq.; Robert Keyes and Thomas Bates, gentlemen.
Most of these were men both of birth and fortune; and Catesby, who had a large estate, had already expended two thousand pounds in several voyages to the court of Spain, in order to introduce an army of Spaniards into England, for overturning the protestant government, and restoring the Roman Catholic religion; but, being disappointed in this project of an invasion, he took an opportunity of disclosing to Percy (who was his intimate friend, and who, in a sudden fit of passion, had hinted a design of assassinating the king) a nobler and more extensive plan of treason, such as would include a sure execution of vengeance, and, at one blow, consign over to destruction all their enemies.
Percy assented to the project proposed by Catesby, and they resolved to impart the matter to a few more, and, by degrees, to all the rest of their cabal, every man being bound by an oath, and taking the sacrament (the most sacred rite of their religion), not to disclose the least syllable of the matter, or to withdraw from the association, without the consent of all persons concerned.
These consultations were held in the spring and summer of the year 1604, and it was towards the close of that year that they began their operations; the manner of which, and the discovery, we shall relate with as much brevity as is consistent with perspicuity.
It had been agreed that a few of the conspirators should run a mine below the hall in which the parliament was to assemble, and that they should choose the very moment when the king should deliver his speech to both houses, for springing the mine, and thus, by one blow cut off the king, the royal family, lords, commons, and all the other enemies of the catholic religion in that very spot where that religion has been most oppressed. For this purpose, Percy, who was at that time a gentleman-pensioner undertook to hire a house adjoining to the upper house of parliament with all diligence. This was accordingly done, and the conspirators expecting the parliament would meet on the 17th of February following, began, on the 11th of December, to dig in the cellar, through the wall of partition, which was three yards thick. There was seven in number joined in this labour: they went in by night, and never after appeared in sight, for, having supplied themselves with all necessary provisions, they had no occasion to go out. In case of discovery, they had provided themselves with powder, shot, and fire arms, and formed a resolution rather to die than be taken.
On Candlemas-day, 1605, they had dug so far through the wall as to be able to hear a noise on the other side: upon which unexpected event, fearing a discovery, Guido Fawkes, (who personated Percy’s footman,) was despatched to know the occasion, and returned with the favourable report, that the place from whence the noise came was a large cellar under the upper house of parliament, full of sea-coal which was then on sale, and the cellar offered to be let.
On this information, Percy immediately hired the cellar, and bought the remainder of the coals: he then sent for thirty barrels of gunpowder from Holland, and landing them at Lambeth, conveyed them gradually by night to this cellar, where they were covered with stones, iron bars, a thousand billets, and five hundred fagots; all which they did at their leisure, the parliament being prorogued to the 5th of November.
This being done, the conspirators next consulted how they should secure the duke of York,[B] who was too young to be expected at the parliament house, and his sister, the Princess Elizabeth, educated at Lord Harrington’s, in Warwickshire. It was resolved, that Percy and another should enter into the duke’s chamber, and a dozen more, properly disposed at several doors, with two or three on horseback at the court-gate to receive him, should carry him safe away as soon as the parliament-house was blown up; or, if that could not be effected, that they should kill him, and declare the princess Elizabeth queen, having secured her, under pretence of a hunting-match, that day.
Several of the conspirators proposed obtaining foreign aid previous to the execution of their design; but this was over-ruled, and it was agreed only to apply to France, Spain, and other powers for assistance after the plot had taken effect; they also resolved to proclaim the princess Elizabeth queen, and to spread a report, after the blow was given, that the puritans were the perpetrators of so inhuman an action.
All matters being now prepared by the conspirators, they, without the least remorse of conscience, and with the utmost impatience, expected the 5th of November. But all their counsels were blasted by a happy and providential circumstance. One of the conspirators, having a desire to save William Parker, Lord Monteagle, sent him the following letter:
“Out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care for your preservation; therefore I advise you, as you tender your life, to devise you some excuse to shift off your attendance at this parliament; for God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of this time: and think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into the country, where you may expect the event with safety, for though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow, this parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be contemned, because it may do you good, and can do you no harm; for the danger is past so soon (or as quickly) as you burn this letter; and I hope God will give you the grace to make good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you.”
The Lord Monteagle was, for some time, at a loss what judgment to form of this letter, and unresolved whether he should slight the advertisement or not; and fancying it a trick of his enemies to frighten him into an absence from parliament, would have determined on the former, had his own safety been only in question: but apprehending the king’s life might be in danger, he took the letter at midnight to the earl of Salisbury, who was equally puzzled about the meaning of it; and though he was inclined to think it merely a wild and waggish contrivance to alarm Monteagle, yet he thought proper to consult about it with the earl of Suffolk, lord chamberlain. The expression, “that the blow should come, without knowing who hurt them,” made them imagine that it would not be more proper than the time of parliament, nor by any other way likely to be attempted than by gunpowder, while the king was sitting to that assembly: the lord chamberlain thought this the more probable, because there was a great cellar under the parliament-chamber, (as already mentioned,) never used for any thing but wood or coal, belonging to Wineyard, the keeper of the palace; and having communicated the letter to the earls of Nottingham, Worcester, and Northampton, they proceeded no farther till the king came from Royston, on the 1st of November.
His majesty being shown the letter by the earls, who, at the same time acquainted him with their suspicions, was of opinion that either nothing should be done, or else enough to prevent the danger: and that a search should be made on the day preceding that designed for this execution of the diabolical enterprise.
Accordingly, on Monday, the 4th of November, in the afternoon, the lord chamberlain, whose office it was to see all things put in readiness for the king’s coming, accompanied by Monteagle, went to visit all places about the parliament-house, and taking a slight occasion to see the cellar, observed only piles of billets and fagots, but in greater number than he thought Wineyard could want for his own use. On his asking who owned the wood, and being told it belonged to one Mr. Percy, he began to have some suspicions, knowing him to be a rigid papist, and so seldom there, that he had no occasion for such a quantity of fuel; and Monteagle confirmed him therein, by observing that Percy had made him great professions of friendship.
Though there was no other materials visible, yet Suffolk thought it was necessary to make a further search; and, upon his return to the king, a resolution was taken that it should be made in such a manner as should be effectual, without scandalizing any body, or giving any alarm.
Sir Thomas Knevet, steward of Westminster, was accordingly ordered, under the pretext of searching for stolen tapestry hangings in that place, and other houses thereabouts, to remove the wood, and see if anything was concealed underneath. This gentleman going at midnight, with several attendants, to the cellar, met Fawkes, just coming out of it, booted and spurred, with a tinder-box and three matches in his pockets, and seizing him without any ceremony, or asking him any questions, as soon as the removal of the wood discovered the barrels of gunpowder, he caused him to be bound, and properly secured.
Fawkes, who was a hardened and intrepid villain, made no hesitation of avowing the design, and that it was to have been executed on the morrow. He made the same acknowledgment at his examination before a committee of the council; and though he did not deny having some associates in this conspiracy, yet no threats of torture could make him discover any of them, he declaring that “he was ready to die, and had rather suffer ten thousand deaths, than willingly accuse his master, or any other.”
By repeated examinations, however, and assurances of his master’s being apprehended, he at length acknowledged, “that whilst he was abroad, Percy had kept the keys of the cellar, had been in it since the powder had been laid there, and, in effect, that he was one of the principal actors in the intended tragedy.”
In the mean time it was found out, that Percy had come post out of the north on Saturday night, the 2d of November, and had dined on Monday at Sion-house, with the earl of Northumberland; that Fawkes had met him on the road, and that, after the lord chamberlain had been that evening in the cellar, he went, about six o’clock, to his master, who had fled immediately, apprehending the plot was detected.
The news of the discovery immediately spreading, the conspirators fled different ways, but chiefly into Warwickshire, where Sir Everard Digby had appointed a hunting-match, near Dunchurch, to get a number of recusants together, sufficient to seize the princess Elizabeth; but this design was prevented by her taking refuge in Coventry; and their whole party, making about one hundred, retired to Holbeach, the seat of Sir Stephen Littleton, on the borders of Staffordshire, having broken open stables, and taken horses from different people in the adjoining counties.
Sir Richard Walsh, high sheriff of Worcestershire, pursued them to Holbeach, where he invested them, and summoned them to surrender. In preparing for their defence, they put some moist powder before a fire to dry, and a spark from the coals setting it on fire, some of the conspirators were so burned in their faces, thighs, and arms, that they were scarcely able to handle their weapons. Their case was desperate, and no means of escape appearing, unless by forcing their way through the assailants, they made a furious sally for that purpose. Catesby (who first proposed the manner of the plot) and Percy were both killed. Thomas Winter, Grant, Digby, Rockwood, and Bates, were taken and carried to London, were the first made a full discovery of the conspiracy. Tresham, lurking about the city, and frequently shifting his quarters, was apprehended soon after, and having confessed the whole matter, died of the strangury, in the Tower. The earl of Northumberland, suspected on account of his being related to Thomas Percy, was, by way of precaution, committed to the custody of the archbishop of Canterbury, at Lambeth; and was afterwards fined thirty thousand pounds, and sent to the Tower, for admitting Percy into the band of gentlemen pensioners, without tending him the oath of supremacy.
Some escaped to Calais, and arriving there with others, who fled to avoid a persecution which they apprehended on this occasion, were kindly received by the governor; but one of them declaring before him, that he was not so much concerned at his exile, as that the powder plot did not take effect, the governor was so much incensed at his glorying in such an execrable piece of iniquity, that, in a sudden impulse of indignation, he endeavoured to throw him into the sea.
On the 27th of January, 1606, eight of the conspirators were tried and convicted, among whom was Sir Everard Digby, the only one that pleaded guilty to the indictment, though all the rest had confessed their guilt before. Digby was executed on the 30th of the same month, with Robert Winter, Grant, and Bates, at the west end of St. Paul’s churchyard; Thomas Winter, Keyes, Rockwood, and Fawkes, were executed the following day in Old Palace yard.
Garnet was tried on the 28th of March, “for his knowledge and concealment of the conspiracy; for administering an oath of secrecy to the conspirators, for persuading them of the lawfulness of the treason, and for praying for the success of the great action in hand at the beginning of the parliament.” Being found guilty,[C] he received sentence of death, but was not executed till the 3d of May, when, confessing his own guilt, and the iniquity of the enterprise, he exhorted all Roman Catholics to abstain from the like treasonable practices in future. Gerard and Hall, two Jesuits, got abroad; and Littleton, with several others, were executed in the country.
The Lord Monteagle had a grant of two hundred pounds a year in land, and a pension of five hundred pounds for life, as a reward for discovering the letter which gave the first hint of the conspiracy; and the anniversary of this providential deliverance was ordered to be for ever commemorated by prayer and thanksgiving.
Thus was this diabolical scheme happily rendered abortive, and the authors of it brought to that condign punishment which their wickedness merited. In this affair Providence manifestly interposed in behalf of the protestants, and saved them from that destruction which must have taken place had the scheme succeeded according to the wishes of a bigoted, superstitious, and blood-thirsty faction.