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extensive preparations; and so popular was the project in Spain, and so ardent were its votaries, that there was not a family of any note which had not contributed some of its dearest and nearest members; there were also one hundred and eighty Capuchins, Dominicans, Jesuits, and Mendicant friars; and so great was the enthusiastic anticipation, that even females hired vessels to follow the fleet which contained those they loved; two or three of these were driven by the storm on the coast of France.
This Armada consisted of about one hundred and fifty ships, most of which were of an uncommon size, strength, and thickness, more like floating castles than anything else; and to this unwieldy size may, probably, be attributed much of their discomfiture. For the greater holiness of their action, twelve were called the Twelve Apostles; and a pinnace of the Andalusian squadron, commanded by Don Pedro de Valdez, was called the " Holy Ghost." The fleet is said to have contained thirty-two thousand persons, and to have cost every day thirty thousand ducats.
The Duke of Parma's contemporary preparations were also prodigious, and of a nature which plainly declared the full certainty and confidence in which the invaders indulged of making good their object. But the preparations were doomed not to be even tried. The finesse and manoeuvres of the shrewd Sir Francis Walsingham* had caused the invasion to be retarded for a whole year, and by this time England was fully prepared for her foes. The result is known. The hollow treaty of peace into which Parma had entered in order, when all preparations were completed, to take her by surprise, was entered into with an equal share of hypocritical policy by Elizabeth. "So (says an old historian) as they seemed on both sides to sew the foxe's skin to the lion's."
* He contrived, by means of a Venetian priest, his spy, to obtain a copy of a letter from Philip to the Pope; a gentleman of the bedchamber taking the keys of the cabinet from the pockets of his holiness as he slept. Upon intelligence thus obtained, Walsingham got those Spanish bills protested at Genoa which should have supplied money for the preparations.
So powerful was the effect on the public mind, not only of this projected enterprise, but of its almost unhoped for discomfiture, that all possible means were taken to commemorate the event. One method resorted to was the manufacture of tapestry representing a series of subjects connected with it. At that time Flanders excelled all others in the manufacture of tapestry, it was scarcely indeed introduced into England; and our ancestors had a series of ten charts, designed by Henry Cornelius Vroom, a celebrated painter of Haarlem, from which their Flemish neighbours worked beautiful draperies, which ornamented the walls of the House of Lords.
At the time of the Union with Ireland, when considerable repairs and alterations were made here, these magnificent tapestries were taken down, cleaned, and replaced, with the addition of large frames of dark stained wood, which set off the work and colouring to advantage. They formed a series of ten pictures, round which portraits of the distinguished officers who commanded the fleet were wrought into a border.
With a prescience, which might now almost seem prophetic, Mr. John Pine, engraver, published in 1739 a series of plates taken from these tapestries; and " because," says he,(< time, or accident, or moths may deface these valuable shadows, we have endeavoured to preserve their likeness in the preceding prints, which, by being multiplied and dispersed in various hands, may meet with that security from the closets of the curious, which the originals must scarce always hope for, even from the sanctity of the place they are kept in."
"On the 17th day of July, 1588, the English discovered the Spanish fleet with lofty turrets like castles, in front like a half moon, the wing thereof spreading out about the length of seven miles, sailing very slowly, though with full sails, the winds being as it were tired with carrying them, and the ocean groaning under the weight of them."
This forms the subject of the first tableau. The English commanders suffered the Spaniards to pass them unmolested, in order that they might hang upon their rear, and harass them when they should be involved in the Channel; for the English navy were unable to confront such a power in direct and close action. The second piece represents them thus, near Fowey, the English coast displayed in the back-ground, diversified perhaps somewhat too elaborately into hill and dale, and the foliage scattered somewhat too regularly in lines over each hill, but very pretty nevertheless. A small village with its church and spire appears just at the water edge, Eddystone lighthouse lifts its head above the waters, and, fit emblem of the patriotism which now burned throughout the land, and even glowed on the waters, a huge sea monster uprears itself in threatening attitude against the invading host, and shows a countenance hideous enough to scare any but Spaniards from its native shores.
No. 3 represents the first engagement between the hostile fleets, and also the subsequent sailing of the Spanish Armada up the channel, Closely followed by the English, whose ships were so much lighter, that in a running warfare of this kind they had greatly the advantage. The sea is alive too with dolphins and other strange fish, with right British hearts, as it has been said that "they seemed to oppose themselves with fierce and grim looks to the progress of the Spanish fleet." The view of the coast here is very good; and, where it retires from Start Point so as to form a bay or harbour, the perspective is really admirably indicated by two vessels dimly defined in the horizon.
The views of the coast are varied and interesting; and the distances and perspective views are much more accurately delineated than was usual at the time; but, as we have remarked, they were designed by an eminent painter, and one whose particular forte was the delineation of shipping and naval scenes.
The pictures are certainly as a series devoid of variety. In two of them the Calais shore is introduced; and the intermixture of fortifications, churches, houses, and animated spectators, eagerly crowding to behold the fleets sailing by, produces an enlivening and busy scene, which, set off by the varied, lively, and appropriate colouring of the tapestry, would have a most striking effect. But the man who, unmoved by the excitement about him, is calmly fishing under the walls, without even turning his head toward the scene of tumult, must be blessed with an apathy of disposition which the poor enraged dolphins and porpoises might have envied.
With these exceptions the tapestries are all sea pieces with only a distant view of the coast, and portray the two fleets in different stages of their progress, sometimes with engagements between single ships, but generally in an apparent state of truce, the English always the pursuers, and the Spaniards generally drawn up in form of a crescent. The last however shows the invading fleet hurriedly and in disorder sailing away, when bad weather, the Duke of Parma's delay, and a close engagement of fourteen hours, in which they "suffered grievously," having"had to endure all the heavy cannonading of their triumphant opponents, while they were struggling to get clear of the shallows," convinced them of the impossibility of a successful close to their enterprise, and made them resolve to take advantage of a southern breeze to make their passage up the North sea, and round Scotland home.
"He that fights and runs away,
So, however, did not the Spaniards. "About these north islands their mariners and soldiers died daily by multitudes, as by their bodies cast on land did appear. The Almighty ordered the winds to be so contrary to this proud navy, that it was, by force, dissevered on the high seas west upon Ireland; and so great a number of them driven into sundry dangerous bays, and upon rocks, and there cast