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 Armada - 12 days to save England?

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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Mon 08 Jun 2015, 20:05

I’ve just watched on Youtube the first two parts of the recent three-part BBC "documentary "Armada – 12 Days to save England", presented by that vacuous glove-puppet Dan Snow. The theme, yet again, seems to be that in 1588 England came within a whisker of being conquered and that it was only the superior seamanship of the plucky English sailors, plus some divinely providential bad weather (God was of course on the side of the English), that defeated the Armada. Shades of the Battle of Britain, the Nelson touch and the Angels of Mons, all rolled into one!

But I’m not convinced by this "saved by a whisker" portrayal. I acknowledge that I’m writing from the privileged position of having over 300 years of hindsight, and doubtless summer 1588 was a very worrying, fearful time for those in southern England, but I’m still not sure that Spain’s Great Enterprise of England was ever really a serious threat.

The Spanish plan was for 130 ships carrying 20,000 soldiers to sail from Lisbon, up the Channel to rendezvous off Calais with Parma’s large 30,000-man Army of Flanders. (The original plans had actually been for some 500 ships and an invasion force of 100,000 men but this had proved impossible to assemble). Protected by the warships of the Armada this combined force of some 50,000 men would then be transported across the Channel in shallow-draught barges to the Thames estuary, there to land, march on London and so take the realm. It was envisioned the crossing and landing would take 3 days and London, the Queen, her ministers, and the Treasury would all be taken within about one week.

But even if one discounts the bad weather that was ultimately responsible for scattering the Armada, I still feel that all the English had to do was keep being a nuisance and inevitably something on the Spanish side would go wrong and throw the whole enterprise into disarray ... as indeed happened.

In command of the Army of Flanders, Parma was a very experienced and capable commander, but by summer 1588 he had not managed to completely subdue the Dutch. He was supposed to have 30,000 men ready to invade England but in the event he wrote that he would have to keep some 10,000 in the Netherlands to protect his rear. His available forces were also supposed to have been bolstered by troops sent from Spain and Italy, although when they arrived they were generally in poor condition, badly equipped, and some were almost mutinous. In the event he wrote that he could only commit 20,000 men, rather than 30,000, to the invasion.

Parma’s army was to be transported across the Channel in hundreds of flat-bottomed river barges - which may or may not have been suitable given the sometimes rough conditions in the Straits of Dover. Anyway in the event these boats were for the most part completely unavailable since the rebellious Dutch still controlled most of the shallow inshore areas and the few barges that were available could not get to where Parma's army was intending to embark. The actual amphibious landings – possibly to be made on the wide beaches at Margate or the Thames shore at Gravesend – could not be supported close inshore by the deep-draught Spanish galleons, so half a dozen well-armed, shallow-draught, oar-powered galleys were planned to cover the landings. But by the summer these were all still stuck in Spain, unable to safely cross the open seas of the Bay of Biscay.

In the event, perhaps not surprisingly given 16th century communications, the Armada failed to rendezvous with Parma's army and there was no invasion.

For their part the English fleet, while harrying the Armada up the Channel, had failed to inflict any serious damage on the Spanish - though they were understandably probably holding back somewhat to be in readiness for when the Spanish amphibious invasion across the Dover Straits actually started. The Spanish forces, even when reduced by the need to garrison the Netherlands, would still have comprised some 40,000 seasoned troops, against which the English at Tilbury in Autumn 1588 had only mustered 16,000 troops, of which 10,000 were trained bands, the rest being just raw recruits ... though with an additional 21,000 troops supposedly on their way from throughout Southern England. (In April 1588 the total available militia force, the Trained Bands, for all England and Wales, comprised just 48,100 foot and 4,700 horse).

But even if the Spanish army had embarked successfully I’m not sure their landing would have been easy. Amphibious landings on a hostile shore are always very risky (think of the Dardenelles in 1915, Narvik in 1940, Dieppe in 1942). I’m really not sure how practiced the Spanish army was at landing on an enemy shore, but without specialist landing craft they presumably would have had to take a port to get the majority of their horses and artillery ashore. And all the time harassed by English ships, local English militias, and stoutly defended castles and coastal forts. It seems to me that it was almost inevitable that something would go seriously wrong for the Spanish and that such a large and difficult operation was in fact probably beyond the 16th century capabilities of even the wealthiest and most powerful state at the time.

So was great Enterprise for the Invasion of England ever really feasible? Or, rather than being, "12 days to save England", was it actually all a bit of a foregone conclusion?


Last edited by Meles meles on Thu 11 Jun 2015, 13:28; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Mon 08 Jun 2015, 23:56

I haven't seen the series so I hesitate to comment directly on it. That said - I haven't been drawn to it mainly because of a) the childish title and b) the 'vacuous glove-puppet' presenter. You're comments, however. seem to confirm my suspicions as have other reviews I've read here in the UK. It seems with this current production, the BBC has lurched back to 1955 or even 1895 in its narrative. It's a pity Meles that the BBC's 1988 series Armada produced by Alan Ereira isn't available to view online anywhere. That must surely be the sublime yin to Dan Snow's seemingly ridiculous yang.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 09 Jun 2015, 08:25

12 days to save protestant England, I would have said. Philip's plan was simply to return the country to the status quo that had prevailed immediately prior to Elizabeth's assumption of power. England wouldn't have been "lost", simply made catholic under a relative of Lizzie.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 09 Jun 2015, 13:42

The repetition in this presentation was deplorable unless used for year 12 (Remove) multi choice test
eg
Was Parma  a. the name of the Duke waitng to invade England?
                       b. A kind of ham.
                       c, small bits of cheese to go on spag bog. 

Was Elizabeth 1  a. The one who goes to Ascot every year
                         b  A nearly dead, balding, white painted queen?
                         c, A vey old (!980's) pop star

Who was Phillip?   a. A Catholic Snaniard who wore his hat indoors
                          b. A man who goes to Ascot with Elizabeth
                          c. None of the above.

Which side had more ships?
                         a. Spain
                         b. Barcelona
                         c. Manchester United.

Who won?           a, Spain
                          b. Neither
                           c, England


Last edited by Priscilla on Tue 09 Jun 2015, 13:49; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 09 Jun 2015, 13:44

If Santa Cruz' original plan had been followed, the First Armada might have succeeded. Whether the low-cost version that was all Philip could afford stood any real chance I doubt. The later attempts failed to make any impression (indeed it isn't clear that the English even noticed them)
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 09 Jun 2015, 21:17

@Meles meles wrote:
I’ve just watched on Youtube the first two parts of the recent three-part BBC "documentary "Armada – 12 Days to save England", presented by that vacuous glove-puppet Dan Snow. The theme, yet again, seems to be that in 1588 England came within a whisker of being conquered and that it was only the superior seamanship of the plucky English sailors, plus some divinely providential bad weather (God was of course on the side of the English), that defeated the Armada. Shades of the Battle of Britain, the Nelson touch and the Angels of Mons, all rolled into one!

But I’m not convinced by this "saved by a whisker" portrayal. I acknowledge that I’m writing from the privileged position of having over 300 years of hindsight, and doubtless summer 1588 was a very worrying, fearful time for those in southern England, but I’m still not sure that Spain’s Great Enterprise of England was ever really a serious threat.

The Spanish plan was for 130 ships carrying 20,000 soldiers to sail from Lisbon, up the Channel to rendezvous off Calais with Parma’s large 30,000-man Army of Flanders. (The original plans had actually been for some 500 ships and an invasion force of 100,000 men but this had proved impossible to assemble). Protected by the warships of the Armada this combined force of some 50,000 men would then be transported across the Channel in shallow-draught barges to the Thames estuary, there to land, march on London and so take the realm. It was envisioned the crossing and landing would take 3 days and London, the Queen, her ministers, and the Treasury would all be taken within about one week.

But even if one discounts the bad weather that was ultimately responsible for scattering the Armada, I still feel that all the English had to do was keep being a nuisance and inevitably something on the Spanish side would go wrong and throw the whole enterprise into disarray ... as indeed happened.

In command of the Army of Flanders, Parma was a very experienced and capable commander, but by summer 1588 he had not managed to completely subdue the Dutch. He was supposed to have 30,000 men ready to invade England but in the event he wrote that he would have to keep some 10,000 in the Netherlands to protect his rear. His available forces were also supposed to have been bolstered by troops sent from Spain and Italy, although when they arrived they were generally in poor condition, badly equipped, and some were almost mutinous. In the event he wrote that he could only commit 20,000 men, rather than 30,000, to the invasion.

Parma’s army was to be transported across the Channel in hundreds of flat-bottomed river barges - which may or may not have been suitable given the sometimes rough conditions in the Straits of Dover. Anyway in the event these boats were for the most part completely unavailable since the rebellious Dutch still controlled most of the shallow inshore areas and the few barges that were available could not get to where Parma's army was intending to embark. The actual amphibious landings – possibly to be made on the wide beaches at Margate or the Thames shore at Gravesend – could not be supported close inshore by the deep-draught Spanish galleons, so half a dozen well-armed, shallow-draught, oar-powered galleys were planned to cover the landings. But by the summer these were all still stuck in Spain, unable to safely cross the open seas of the Bay of Biscay.

In the event, perhaps not surprisingly given 16th century communications, the Armada failed to rendezvous with Parma's army and there was no invasion.

For their part the English fleet, while harrying the Armada up the Channel, had failed to inflict any serious damage on the Spanish - though they were understandably probably holding back somewhat to be in readiness for when the Spanish amphibious invasion across the Dover Straits actually started. The Spanish forces, even when reduced by the need to garrison the Netherlands, would still have comprised some 40,000 seasoned troops, against which the English at Tilbury in Autumn 1588 had only mustered 16,000 troops, of which 10,000 were trained bands, the rest being just raw recruits ... though with an additional 21,000 troops supposedly on their way from throughout Southern England. (In April 1588 the total available militia force, the Trained Bands, for all England and Wales, comprised just 48,100 foot and 4,700 horse).

But even if the Spanish army had embarked successfully I’m not sure their landing would have been easy. Amphibious landings on a hostile shore are always very risky (think of the Dardenelles in 1915, Narvik in 1940, Dieppe in 1942). I’m really not sure how practiced the Spanish army was at landing on an enemy shore, but without specialist landing craft they presumably would have had to take a port to get the majority of their horses and artillery ashore. And all the time harassed by English ships, local English militias, and stoutly defended castles and coastal forts. It seems to me that it was almost inevitable that something would go seriously wrong for the Spanish and that such a large and difficult operation was in fact probably beyond the 16th century capabilities of even the wealthiest and most powerful state at the time.

So was great Enterprise for the Invasion of England ever really feasible? Or, rather than being, "12 days to save England", was it actually all a bit of a foregone conclusion?

Meles meles,

I enjoy your post. I studied it in the time in detail for I don't know anymore what forum and it's a fair picture that you made about all the surrounding events. I would comment more but last week a bit ill (contaminated by the wife who is in the clinic for it) and "sowieso" already with a heavy workload, I have no time to contribute more.
PS: And have to start a thread on the French historyboard about Roosevelt, de Gaulle and AMGOT.
PPS: (learned it from Temperance) I found a whole interesting debate about Victor Hugo and Napoleon III on that same "Passion Histoire". Will interfere there and post it here too, as I presume you are fluent in French.

Kind regards and with esteem, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Wed 10 Jun 2015, 13:59

@Priscilla wrote:
The repetition in this presentation was deplorable unless used for year 12 (Remove) multi choice test
eg
Was Parma  a. the name of the Duke waitng to invade England?
                       b. A kind of ham.
                       c, small bits of cheese to go on spag bog. 

Was Elizabeth 1  a. The one who goes to Ascot every year
                         b  A nearly dead, balding, white painted queen?
                         c, A vey old (!980's) pop star

Who was Phillip?   a. A Catholic Snaniard who wore his hat indoors
                          b. A man who goes to Ascot with Elizabeth
                          c. None of the above.

Which side had more ships?
                         a. Spain
                         b. Barcelona
                         c. Manchester United.

Who won?           a, Spain
                          b. Neither
                           c, England


Excellent - loved it!

I'll go B, B, A, C (but only because Ferguson used to stand on Plymouth Ho, angrily jabbing his finger at an imaginary watch until the ref awarded the Red Scum an additional fleet) and C (obviously, as we were taking part).

The problem with Dan Snow is that he's always put up on programmes which offer a latter day recreation of a very 1950's view of English history, which is all about Wars and Fighting, Manly Derring-Do, Stout Fellows Doing Their Duty and Hairs' Breadth Escapes Against Perfidious Foreigners.  The postmodern sop at the end - 'wasn't Elizabeth awful to those poor chaps who got their legs blown off for her?' seems almost in bad taste after we have been subjected to several mawkishly prurient minutes of lovingly recreated maimings and dreadful things being done to pig carcasses in the name of historical versimilitude.

I don't blame Snow - he seems like a nice enough chap - but it does seem a shame that most TV history (with a few admirable exceptions on BBC 4) has to be reduced to very simple narratives with lots of pretty pictures and not a great deal of content.  For my money, that says rather more about the programme makers than it does about the audiences, but I yearn for the day when my thirteen part blockbuster 'Ecclesiastical Schism and British Ethnogenesis in the Early Medieval North West' replaces the dancing pixie show on Saturday night primetime.  The public, I feel, would value watching a middle aged man in a worn cord jacket standing in front of a badly placed whiteboard reciting long extracts from the Book of Taliesin in reconstructed Neo-Brittonic.

Regards,

AR
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Wed 10 Jun 2015, 15:31

AR! How good to see you again, I was thinking about you just the other day and wondering what you were up t. What's happening in old Rheged these days?

You're kinder than I am about young master Snow, isn't his twatter handle (get me!) the history guy? That says it all.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Thu 11 Jun 2015, 09:01

@nordmann wrote:
12 days to save protestant England, I would have said. Philip's plan was simply to return the country to the status quo that had prevailed immediately prior to Elizabeth's assumption of power. England wouldn't have been "lost", simply made catholic under a relative of Lizzie.

As I understand it Philip firmly believed he could expect a lot of local support from England’s repressed catholics …. although how much he would actually get, should his army have successfully landed, is moot.

Elizabeth’s government had generally handled personal religious belief with a comparatively light touch, unless there were political implications (which of course in the 16th century there very often were). Nevertheless her reign had not been particularly oppressive for catholic adherents. Furthermore when Philip had been king of England, by virtue of his marriage to Mary, he had never particularly won over the English establishment, nor had he made any attempt to do so. He had not generally been well-liked by those at court and in government, and his decision to effectively abandon Mary as soon as it was clear they would have no children and so no heir to the throne, was viewed as dishonourable (even while his actual departure was probably viewed with great satisfaction in many quarters). More generally throughout the kingdom he was also disliked for simply being a foreigner … and the 16th century English were notoriously, and often violently, xenophobic.

But if the Spanish army had successfully landed and taken London – with Elizabeth and her ministers evacuated perhaps to say, Oxford, Bristol or Winchester – would there actually have been widespread popular risings in support of Philip? Might there have been an immediate local rising in support of the Spanish landings in Kent – historically always a fairly rebellious county? Or would ‘The North’ have rallied to the catholic cause under those great families the Howards, the Nevilles and the Percys? Those families, catholic at heart and in mind, had reasons to be dissatisfied with the Tudor dynasty … although they had all prospered nonetheless. But in 1588 those northern lords would no longer be able to count on the support, or connivance, of Scotland. With James VI as king, Scotland (or at least the lowlands) was very staunchly protestant … and James’s potential succession to the English throne all rather depended on Elizabeth.

So if and when the Spanish landings had actually occurred, I wonder just how much English support would actually have been forthcoming for Philip’s Great Enterprise.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Thu 11 Jun 2015, 10:42

I think the Pope made a big mistake re-issuing, on the eve of the Armada, the sentence of excommunication against Elizabeth: it was followed up by a particularly nasty tract from the Douai Seminary: An Admonition to the Nobility and People of England and Ireland concerning the present wars, made for the execution of His Holiness' Sentence.

Such vituperative stuff was guaranteed to get English - Protestant or Catholic - hackles rising.

And I should like to know to what extent the "Catholic" noble families had benefited from the post-Reformation land bonanza. The idea of giving land back to the Church no doubt gave everyone pause for thought.

In haste.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Thu 11 Jun 2015, 12:05

The extent of support for or opposition to a return to Catholicism at the top level of government is an extremely moot issue. Ordinary people on the whole had not benefited materially from the imposition of Protestantism and in many ways indeed had lost out, so it is difficult to gauge just how sympathetic they might have been to their more noble compatriots' qualms about losing land and title back to the Catholic church. Also the notion that somehow Elizabeth headed up a relatively tolerant policy towards Catholics (as long as they didn't engage in open rebellion or plotting) is rather tenuous. It was Elizabeth and her various recusancy laws, after all, that systematically placed English Catholics on the periphery of society in terms of rights, title and status of citizenship and which forcibly held them there through quite severe sanctions, often including pain of death administered by crown agents acting with extreme autonomy and impunity (Richard Topcliffe being a notorious example of this practice).

There cannot be any doubt that Philip had certain Catholic nobles lined up to assume the reins of power and lend his planned coup a legitimacy in appearance at least. For these families any quibbles about possibly losing land and property back to the church would have been greatly outweighed by considerations of what they stood to gain through their promotion back to centre stage.

Bearing these two groups in mind, and also the already proven tendency for the bulk of people to "go with the flow" in matters of their expected religious affiliation, especially those with something in their ownership worth preserving, I am inclined to the view that Philip's coup - had he managed to pull it off - might well have led to a rather more solid and difficult to move Catholic hegemony in English society than most people tend (or like) to think.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Thu 11 Jun 2015, 12:27

British History Online. These are from the Venetian State Papers in July 1588 full of Armada based stories;

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/venice/vol8/pp363-372
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Thu 11 Jun 2015, 16:42

@nordmann wrote:

There cannot be any doubt that Philip had certain Catholic nobles lined up to assume the reins of power and lend his planned coup a legitimacy in appearance at least.


Is there any archival evidence of this? Which Catholic nobles were "lined up"? That suggests there had been communication between Philip and these potential traitors. Surely Walsingham, who was in charge of security after the Ridolfi Plot and the execution of the 4th Duke of Norfolk (ironically, this Howard was actually a Protestant), would have had a list of names. Had there been any evidence of wheeling and dealing between Philip and these nobles, would any of them have survived once the Armada set sail - or before that, for that matter? Surely not - Cecil would have been ruthless in his determination to eliminate them once it looked as if an invasion really was going to happen.

Wasn't it Elizabeth's great belief that her English Catholics were English first, Catholic second? Surely the Pope's - and Philip's - great error was that they didn't understand this. Or am I talking rubbish? Have I been watching too many Elizabeth - The Golden Age type movies?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Thu 11 Jun 2015, 23:13

Thus as you say Temps, where's the evidence? By 1588 there was a comfy understanding of where the faiths were at. mud had settled, the water clearer and as a recent election attitude here revealed, a swing back to the past was not to be entertained. Cecil would indeed have been active. I was going t ask about this Howard being Protestant; the family tree even now continues  to be fascinating.Did David Frost become a Caholic? I must look it up - or am I in a mess of muddled memory? You may put me right if you will.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Fri 12 Jun 2015, 08:10

Antonia Fraser once started researching the Jesuit network (amongst others) which kept the lines open between English Catholicism and the Vatican, especially via France and Spain, but gave up too - not because the data was lacking, she said, but because there was just so much of it. One could, through correspondence addressees, originators and content, link almost every Catholic family of note to a power base on the continent, the intermediaries being well aware and supportive of Philip's intentions - often in great detail. Seminary students abroad abounded, as did strategically placed courtiers, monks and fully ordained priests. These would have been primed where possible to support Philip's grand plan. However to those still based in England no direct entreaties could be made for obvious reasons.

His coup was to have two stages. An initial military campaign of indeterminate length would topple and purge the existing regime. Phase Two, which would have been conducted largely under the auspices of the papal authorities (such was the pope's own demand in his letter of endorsement sent to Philip) would have been when the English-based Catholics could finally come out of the woodwork.

What is left in the written record however is largely a huge amount of continent-based English Catholic family members and friends all approving heartily of the grand plan and then, after the balls-up, an understandably profound silence all round.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Fri 12 Jun 2015, 10:49

Thwarted exiles of all persuasions were and are ever in a fluff of 'what ifs' and 'when we's' from which little ever comes of consequence. Had the invasion happened there may have been more resilience to change than armed cohersion might indicate.

A side issue that interests me is the fleet of flat bottomed boats built to transport the Duke's army. They sound like landing craft - having let down slopes for the 30 horses each was designed to carry. Uncomfortable thought that - flat bottomed hulls bearing thirty nervous horses, militia weighted down with armour and weapons uncertain landing grounds - with, I assume, sails and crew to man them, sounds like a disaster in the making.

The Spanish were experienced in the sea transport of horses - as in their Americas voyages so perhaps they would have made it but I suspect these flat bottomed things were designed by the Duke's Army...........Caesar's army did something likewise by felling oaks for his invasion fleet only to suffered the problems of greenwood craft. Living on an island has its advantages.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Fri 12 Jun 2015, 10:52

Good Lord - makes you realise how tolerant Elizabeth was - all those nasty traitors lurking in the linenfold panelling.

Her father would have sent Rentokil in - pronto.

All this plotting - how much of it was just wishful thinking - on both Philip's and the Catholic families' part? And was it mainly the younger male members of those families who loved plotting and feeling important - ardent, rich, bored, young dreamers?

PS Crossed posts - haven't read P.'s, but will send this.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Fri 12 Jun 2015, 11:18

You're right, Temp, and I assume that's why Antonia gave up trying to figure it all out too. Prior to the Armada there was a lot of what Elizabeth and her ministers would have called open sedition abroad - but abroad in the literal sense so there was little they could do about it. As opposed to being "tolerant" she and Walsingham had a good go at pre-emptively punishing family members at home for intentions to transgress revealed by their relatives abroad. The Dacres, Nevilles and even the Howards were not immune from this persecution but in the main she was sure to aim it at less exalted families, though still sufficiently noble to send out the right signals.

It was indeed mostly wishful thinking, I suppose, at least in hindsight. Though in those days the questions of how long Elizabeth would live as well as the religion of her successor were not as easy to predict as one might think, so even wishful thinking could rapidly assume some political dimension depending on events. Philip, in planning a "great event" excited a lot of such thinking. However when it failed to materialise it appears the wishers kept their thoughts to themselves afterwards.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Fri 12 Jun 2015, 11:19

I wonder if Antonia Fraser chickened out because she realised that all that plotting was really just distant swagger as you and I, Temps, both see it. Nigel Farage would have been so good at what I think of as ex-colonial wishful thinking. And I have met with a fair old dollop of these types in my time. Not young and ardent but old and more inept than their mouths and patter would suggest.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Fri 12 Jun 2015, 11:21

Crosed posts with nordmann - should have read yours, n. Could it be tha we three are in agreement? I think I'll go to the bar to reflect on that.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Fri 12 Jun 2015, 11:23

It was swagger, but swagger that helped the intended conqueror identify who to promote after his invasion, and swagger also that was encouraged - and even rewarded - by the Vatican. In that sense it had rather more clout than your normal swagger.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Fri 12 Jun 2015, 11:30

Nothing changes does it? How else does one get noticed when it comes to climbing higher up the dunghill of power?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sat 13 Jun 2015, 08:29

@Priscilla wrote:
Nigel Farage would have been so good at what I think of as ex-colonial wishful thinking.


Interesting that you mention "ex-colonial wishful thinking", Priscilla. J. E. Neale agrees: he uses the word "émigré". Having commented on Elizabeth's "tolerance, sagacity and masterful nature", Neale continues:

"It was little wonder that Elizabeth's statesmen wrung their hands over what seemed her folly, for the outlook was very ominous. In the Netherlands, at Rome, and in Spain there were Catholic refugees, some of whom had fled for religion's sake at the beginning of the reign and recently had been joined by exiles of the Northern Rebellion, under whose influence they became a company of plotters, brooding upon a single idea, 'the Enterprise of England'.They lived for the day when the Pope and Philip of Spain would send an army to turn that wicked woman and 'she-devil' of England from her throne...These men developed the revolutionary's or émigré's mind. The wish was father to the thought, their judgement warped, their notions about the government and people of England quite fantastic; they were as optimistic about the ease with which Elizabeth could be overthrown as Ridolfi had been."

I'm not so sure nordmann's use of the word "persecution" above is fair. Is prudent Realpolitik in dealing with one's enemies the same as persecution? Ne fereari, feri and all that?

I'm still thinking about MM's questions about numbers of Catholics and where the Catholic hotspots were. Reading a bit of the Blessed Ms. Pinter on this. Back later when I've been to Sainsbury's.

PS Google doesn't like Latin: when I checked my spelling of Ne fereari, feri, it asked me: "Do you mean new Ferrari?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sat 13 Jun 2015, 10:07

What was France’s position in all this?

Historically France had been "the Catholic Church’s eldest daughter" but by mid 16th century was riven by religious wars between the Catholic League and the Huguenots. Inevitably Philip of Spain was a staunch and active supporter the Catholic League. By 1588 France was in a right mess and in December king Henri III would have the Catholic League leaders Henri de Guise and his brother, the Cardinal de Guise assassinated and the Duke's son imprisoned. The Duke of Guise had been highly popular in France, and so following his murder the Catholic League declared open war against King Henry III. The Parlement de Paris instituted criminal charges against the King, who now joined forces with his cousin, the Huguenot, Henry of Navarre, to war against the League.

So in 1588/89 France was in open civil war with no strong central control. Yet they still posed a threat to Spanish interests – part of the reason Parma thought he had to leave so many troops in the Netherlands because he was not sure what the French would do. In general terms the Catholic League held the North and East while the Huguenots held the South and West, but there was still much Huguenot sympathy in Franco-Flemish towns close to Spanish-occupied Netherlands.

Defeat in the Italian Wars had (by the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis signed between Henri II of France and Philip II of Spain in 1559) forced France to recognise Spanish sovereignty of France-Compte, and had given Spain direct control of Milan, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia, plus indirect control (through domination of local rulers) in Genoa and Tuscany. (The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis also led directly to King Henri II’s death in a fatal jousting accident during a tournament held to commemorate signing of the Peace Treaty). The Netherlands and what is now Belgium and Luxembourg, in the 1580s, although in partial revolt, were still nominally Spanish and under the boot of Parma’s 30,000 man army of occupation.

France in 1588 was close to being entirely encircled by Spanish-controlled lands. How would they have viewed a Spanish controlled England dominating the North Sea and the Channel – the maritime routes to France’s new and lucrative trading colonies in Arcadia and New France (Canada)? I'm not sure what the French could have done but Parma at least thought that France might attempt mischief in Flanders. Is it possible that France might have done something? Who knows, but finding themselves completely encircled by Spanish-dominated lands might have prompted the two sides in France to rally together against the common Spanish threat. And though France had little love for England, they had previously, even during the turmoil of the French Religious wars, teamed up with England to try and limit Spanish encroachment, such as the (unsuccessful) 1572 Anglo-French naval operation to try and stop the Azores falling to Spain.


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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sat 13 Jun 2015, 11:00

MM wrote:
What was France’s position in all this?


What a good question. Haven't a clue - will have to go and ferret in my books for some answers  Smile . Meanwhile here are some very random thoughts.

The Low Countries - and who controlled them - were an English nightmare, just as Scotland had always been. Hadn't Elizabeth's attitude to the Revolt of the Netherlands - and the Protestants there - baffling as it was at times, always had one object in mind: keep the French out, but ensure that Spanish sovereignty there was maintained "with native nobility and local liberties"? Elizabeth had managed to "close the postern gate of Scotland against her enemies" - she had to be sure that the strategic sea-gate of Flanders was shut too. Unfortunately, she didn't quite succeed.

France and Spain - "When in danger from one country, play the other against it" - that lesson she had learnt from her father. An alliance between the two European superpowers was the ultimate English nightmare - always had been. Didn't Don John of Austria, Philip's dashing, heroic, illegitimate half-brother, once consider - around 1577 - I think, joining forces with the Duke of Guise against England? I can't remember all the details.

PS Re numbers of Catholics in England:

According to Father Garnet, the Jesuit who had been stirring up trouble in England since 1586, and who was executed in 1606 after the Gunpowder Plot (he was the inspiration for all the "equivocator" jokes in Macbeth), there were 30,000 Catholics in the realm just after the Armada. The official records - the names of actual recusants listed as having paid fines between 1593 and 1600 - suggest fewer: some 5000 names are given. The Protestant bishops told James I, when he arrived in England, that there were about 8,500 adult Catholics in England. But then who knew for certain who was and who was not a Papist at heart?


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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sat 13 Jun 2015, 12:20

MM, just found this snippet in Leonie Freida's biography of Catherine de Medici. It's 1588:

"With the country effectively split into two states (the Protestants held territories in the south and the League in the north and centre) France now produced a curious and conflicting foreign policy. Though she was bound by a defensive alliance with England, the League had allied itself to Spain and the international fight against heresy,and must therefore aid the planned attack against England. The Guises, helped by Parma from the Netherlands, seized Picardy but were unable to capture Boulogne. Philip 'by whose grace he (Guise) lives' required Channel ports and their hinterlands for his invasion fleet and men; he also needed to be absolutely sure that the King would not come to the aid of Elizabeth or in any way obstruct his offensive. Accordingly it had been planned that, whipped up by League preachers and the Parisian Seize, the King would be taken captive by a popular uprising led by the League and neutralised as a political force before the Armada launched its attack."

Crikey. Encore un autre cauchemar!
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sat 13 Jun 2015, 13:29

If Parma HAD collected sufficient flat-bottomed boats etc to attempt the crossing, would Justinus of Nassau have been able to attack them with sufficient forces to scupper the attempt? Michael Lewis credits them with affecting Medina Sidonia's thinking after Gravelines IIRC.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sat 13 Jun 2015, 18:45

@Meles meles wrote:
But if the Spanish army had successfully landed and taken London – with Elizabeth and her ministers evacuated perhaps to say, Oxford, Bristol or Winchester – would there actually have been widespread popular risings in support of Philip? Might there have been an immediate local rising in support of the Spanish landings in Kent – historically always a fairly rebellious county? Or would ‘The North’ have rallied to the catholic cause under those great families the Howards, the Nevilles and the Percys? Those families, catholic at heart and in mind, had reasons to be dissatisfied with the Tudor dynasty … although they had all prospered nonetheless. But in 1588 those northern lords would no longer be able to count on the support, or connivance, of Scotland. With James VI as king, Scotland (or at least the lowlands) was very staunchly protestant … and James’s potential succession to the English throne all rather depended on Elizabeth.

So if and when the Spanish landings had actually occurred, I wonder just how much English support would actually have been forthcoming for Philip’s Great Enterprise.

It depends what we mean by 'popular' support. The lower strata of society would have continued as before merely bending in the prevailing wind whether that be catholic or protestant, Tudor or Stuart etc. The middling classes would have varying adopted principled or indifferent positions based on local circumstances but still ultimately pragmatic and thus essentially similar to the lowest stratum. Only the opinion and actions of the landed classes would have counted. It's a mistake, however, to dismiss their influence as just so much 'distant swagger'.

The staunch catholicism of northern England and the staunch protestantism of southern Scotland really only reflected the fickle allegiances of the landed classes in those areas. It was, after all, the person on Mary Queen of Scots around which Philip's 'Great Enterprise' had been originally based. He must have had good reason, therefore, to believe that a decisive military intervention by a major continental power would have had been sufficient to swing the balance in favour of the Counter-Reformation in both England and Scotland. James VI of Scotland really would have been small fry in Philip's eyes if Elizabeth was herself seemingly a minnow.

And in fact a generation later just such a scenario did indeed take place whereby a seemingly settled protestant state was overthrown following militarily intervention by a catholic power. This was Bohemia where in 1620 following the Battle of White Mountain the protestant king and queen where exiled. The triumphant Habsburg forces were also able to expel more than half of the nobility from the country. Those of the middling and lower classes who were of Lutheran or Calvinist persuasion then faced ultimata to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion. The overwhelming majority chose the former. And so Bohemia's brief protestant identity passed into history for hundreds of years.

And who was the queen who was expelled along with her protestant husband? Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James VI of Scotland.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sat 13 Jun 2015, 21:02

@Meles meles wrote:
What was France’s position in all this?

Historically France had been "the Catholic Church’s eldest daughter" but by mid 16th century was riven by religious wars between the Catholic League and the Huguenots. Inevitably Philip of Spain was a staunch and active supporter the Catholic League. By 1588 France was in a right mess and in December king Henri III would have the Catholic League leaders Henri de Guise and his brother, the Cardinal de Guise assassinated and the Duke's son imprisoned. The Duke of Guise had been highly popular in France, and so following his murder the Catholic League declared open war against King Henry III. The Parlement de Paris instituted criminal charges against the King, who now joined forces with his cousin, the Huguenot, Henry of Navarre, to war against the League.

So in 1588/89 France was in open civil war with no strong central control. Yet they still posed a threat to Spanish interests – part of the reason Parma thought he had to leave so many troops in the Netherlands because he was not sure what the French would do. In general terms the Catholic League held the North and East while the Huguenots held the South and West, but there was still much Huguenot sympathy in Franco-Flemish towns close to Spanish-occupied Netherlands.

Defeat in the Italian Wars had (by the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis signed between Henri II of France and Philip II of Spain in 1559) forced France to recognise Spanish sovereignty of France-Compte, and had given Spain direct control of Milan, Naples, Sicily and Sardinia, plus indirect control (through domination of local rulers) in Genoa and Tuscany. (The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis also led directly to King Henri II’s death in a fatal jousting accident during a tournament held to commemorate signing of the Peace Treaty). The Netherlands and what is now Belgium and Luxembourg, in the 1580s, although in partial revolt, were still nominally Spanish and under the boot of Parma’s 30,000 man army of occupation.

France in 1588 was close to being entirely encircled by Spanish-controlled lands. How would they have viewed a Spanish controlled England dominating the North Sea and the Channel – the maritime routes to France’s new and lucrative trading colonies in Arcadia and New France (Canada)? I'm not sure what the French could have done but Parma at least thought that France might attempt mischief in Flanders. Is it possible that France might have done something? Who knows, but finding themselves completely encircled by Spanish-dominated lands might have prompted the two sides in France to rally together against the common Spanish threat. And though France had little love for England, they had previously, even during the turmoil of the French Religious wars, teamed up with England to try and limit Spanish encroachment, such as the (unsuccessful) 1572 Anglo-French naval operation to try and stop the Azores falling to Spain.


Fair picture Meles meles and thank you for introducing the thread which was always of great interest for me as part of the 80 Years War. I thank also the other contributors for their interesting interferences.

Kind regards and with esteem to all, Paul.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sun 14 Jun 2015, 08:39

@Vizzer wrote:


It depends what we mean by 'popular' support. The lower strata of society would have continued as before merely bending in the prevailing wind whether that be catholic or protestant, Tudor or Stuart etc. The middling classes would have varying adopted principled or indifferent positions based on local circumstances but still ultimately pragmatic and thus essentially similar to the lowest stratum. Only the opinion and actions of the landed classes would have counted. It's a mistake, however, to dismiss their influence as just so much 'distant swagger'...


...James VI of Scotland really would have been small fry in Philip's eyes if Elizabeth was herself seemingly a minnow...

...And in fact a generation later just such a scenario did indeed take place whereby a seemingly settled protestant state was overthrown following militarily intervention by a catholic power. This was Bohemia where in 1620 following the Battle of White Mountain the protestant king and queen where exiled. The triumphant Habsburg forces were also able to expel more than half of the nobility from the country. Those of the middling and lower classes who were of Lutheran or Calvinist persuasion then faced ultimata to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion. The overwhelming majority chose the former. And so Bohemia's brief protestant identity passed into history for hundreds of years.



But England isn't Bohemia. I think the English would have put up a bit of a fight.

Was Elizabeth really viewed as "a minnow" by Philip? I don't think so: both he and the Pope had enormous respect for the woman. Three years before the Armada, Sixtus V said of her:

She certainly is a great queen, and were she only a Catholic she would be our dearly beloved. Just look how well she governs; she is only a woman, only mistress of half an island, and yet she makes herself feared by Spain, by France, by the Empire, by all.

( On Queen Elizabeth I of England, said to the Venetian ambassador in Rome in the autumn of 1585, reported in Walter Walsh, The Jesuits in Great Britain, p. 111.)

Is an examination of the Ditchley portrait (1593) of any relevance here - and patriotic references in the literature of the time? (Although, I admit, great care is needed with the latter - not wise to assume too much.)


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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sun 14 Jun 2015, 09:39

Temp wrote:
But England isn't Bohemia. I think the English would have put up a bit of a fight.

Which English? And what type of "fight"?

Even at the time of these events the Irish were "fighting" an English-imposed hegemony. Look how successful that was.

Bohemia is indeed a very good example of how critical a feature "critical mass" can be in these affairs, and probably how even more critical a role leadership can play. In a strictly hierarchical system if the head is effectively lopped off then what remains organises more organically and a lot less intelligently in both the normal and the military senses of the term. The definition of what constitutes critical mass changes fundamentally in the aftermath of a traumatic excision at the top of the pyramid. Common ideology as it related to the excised portion plummets in importance and is replaced by a survivalist commonality of purpose, emanating from the bottom of the structure as much as from anywhere else, by its nature vaguely expressed but strongly adhered to, and incredibly difficult to arrest or mould from that point on.

Elizabeth's parting shot in Ireland at the very end of her reign was to prove this point. She, and her chief appointees (as her father had also done), understood this fundamental tenet of Realpolitik as it applied in her day and expended huge amounts in money and energy to ensure it came to pass, knowing the cost of failure and the huge rewards of success that this policy entails. The inference should also be then that she, and Philip of Spain, understood all too well how it could have been just as effectively used against her had his invasion succeeded.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sun 14 Jun 2015, 14:55

@nordmann wrote:




Bohemia is indeed a very good example of how critical a feature "critical mass" can be in these affairs, and probably how even more critical a role leadership can play. In a strictly hierarchical system if the head is effectively lopped off then what remains organises more organically and a lot less intelligently in both the normal and the military senses of the term. The definition of what constitutes critical mass changes fundamentally in the aftermath of a traumatic excision at the top of the pyramid. Common ideology as it related to the excised portion plummets in importance and is replaced by a survivalist commonality of purpose, emanating from the bottom of the structure as much as from anywhere else, by its nature vaguely expressed but strongly adhered to, and incredibly difficult to arrest or mould from that point on.


Absolutely.  drunken

I have had three glasses of wine with my Sunday lunch, so it is probably very unwise of me to attempt a reply to nordmann's post. Furthermore I must in all honesty admit that I do not understand the paragraph I have quoted. It is an example of our leader's masterly use of Derrida's technique of l'obscurantisme terroriste. I have looked up "organically" and "critical mass" (sociodynamics), and I am still none the wiser.

As for Irish politics at the end of the 16th century, please do not let us go there: does anyone agree on that topic?

@nordmann wrote:
Which English? And what type of "fight"?


Ah, now those two questions are nice and simple - and indeed good (and fair) ones to ask. They have genuinely made me pause and think a bit. Perhaps I - like many others who are not trained historians - have  a sentimental and romantic view of Gloriana: I like to think that she united all the people of England, high and low, at the time of the Armada crisis. But is that nonsense? Was she really a sort of Tudor Churchill? I think I had in mind (when I talked of fighting) the determination shown by the people of the Isle of Wight when, during the reign of Elizabeth's father, the French had actually dared set foot on English soil (or sand rather):

French strategy was to effect a landing at Whitecliff Bay and cross Bembridge Down to attack Sandown, and another landing at Bonchurch with a view to marching to link up at Sandown. The northern force was intercepted whilst crossing the Down, but fought its way to Sandown Castle, which was then under construction offshore. Both forces were repulsed after stiff fighting. The event is commemorated by a plaque in Seaview which reads: "During the last invasion of this country hundreds of French troops landed on the foreshore nearby. This armed invasion was bloodily defeated and repulsed by local militia 21st July 1545".

The veracity of this account has, of course, been challenged recently: patriotism isn't fashionable - as Patrick Collinson points out in his This England: Essays on the English Nation and Commonwealth in the 16th century. I'm ploughing through This England: race, nation, patriotism at the moment. I'm realising yet again that having a head full of Shakespeare and Spenser doesn't help. It certainly does not make one a good historian - quite the opposite.  Embarassed




O, let us pay the time but needful woe,
Since it hath been beforehand with our griefs.
This England never did, nor never shall,
Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,
But when it first did help to wound itself.
Now these her princes are come home again,
Come the three corners of the world in arms,
And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true.


King John Act V sc vii



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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Sun 14 Jun 2015, 15:38

Temp, your rather oblique mention of the 1545 French invasion is interesting as I think that the 'French Enterprise' was potentially quite as dangerous and formidible as the later and much better-known Armada scare ... yet it seems to have never gained much surrounding hype and myth.

In terms of simple numbers the French in 1545 had more ships than the Spanish Armada and their plans involved more troops, although I accept that that is certainly no measure of how successful they might have been. Like the Spanish Armada, the 'French Enterprise' suffered from a series of 'cock-ups', that with hindsight were often just general problems waiting to happen. But to their credit the French did actually land, aggressively engage the English fleet and see the English flagship (the Mary Rose) sunk under the very nose of Henry VIII who was watching from the shore ... albeit she sank more by the action of the wind, rather than by French gunfire.

But again I strongly feel that it was actually beyond the capabilities of France, or Spain, or indeed any 16th century state, to invade England at that time. Despite the generally deplorable state of her local defences, England nevertheless remained very effectively defended by the Channel - her moat defensive.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Mon 15 Jun 2015, 00:24

RE the deplorable defences - I wonder what the reaction was when beacons were lit. Is there a record of any useful activity/panic or were people generally unmoved?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Mon 15 Jun 2015, 08:02

It's worth remembering that the French territorial ambition in England in 1545 hardly extended beyond the Isle of Wight. The point was to plonk a strong reminder on Henry VIII's doorstep that he was to butt out of things that didn't concern him (the Italian Wars). His own disastrous "invasion" of France had, by July 1545, been reduced to a garrison of sick, elderly and hopelessly undermanned troops stuck in Boulogne. The Isle of Wight defences, if secured by the French, represented a tit-for-tat reprisal and - if successful - a more usable beachhead for the French than Boulogne now was for the English in their respective threats of general invasion at a later date.

Temp - there is a real danger historically of confusing theological belief with religious adherence. One only has to look at Northern Ireland in recent decades to see the modern equivalent of what was then quite literally "normal" in European politics - England included - at the time. As late as the 1640s, for example, the Earl of Ormonde could quite intelligibly "reason" with his "Old English" compatriots in Ireland (those who remained staunchly Catholic) that it would be prudent for them to switch to Protestantism, secure their titles and power, and then do what the hell they liked afterwards. In fact he submitted during the frantic re-alignments occasioned by the rise of Cromwell that this was exactly what his own family - the Butlers - were doing.

His argument was apparently convincing enough for some to follow suit and the proof of this practical ambivalence towards esoterically divisive and ostensibly strongly held theological beliefs were the thousands of land repatriation cases that then had to be processed in the wake of the ultimate fall of Cromwell's enforced Protestantly sectarian republican experiment and the reinstatement of the monarchy. A list of the Irish aristocracy in Victorian times (an exclusively Protestant body) contains almost seventy percent lineage back to leading lights in the Catholic Confederation with which Ormonde had negotiated.

It is always tempting to describe certain communities riven by strife as if along religious grounds - after all this is exactly the language the communities themselves often employ for the purpose, from Northern Ireland to Iraq - but beyond its function as a badge of identity religion rarely explains the actual issues of contention. In fact it obscures them, even in contemporary times, which is why it can obscure them all the more historically and render concepts such as "Protestant England" and "Catholic Ireland" historical minefields of exploration.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Mon 15 Jun 2015, 14:22

@Meles meles wrote:
Temp, your rather oblique mention of the 1545 French invasion is interesting as I think that the 'French Enterprise' was potentially quite as dangerous and formidible as the later and much better-known Armada scare ... yet it seems to have never gained much surrounding hype and myth.

In terms of simple numbers the French in 1545 had more ships than the Spanish Armada and their plans involved more troops, although I accept that that is certainly no measure of how successful they might have been. Like the Spanish Armada, the 'French Enterprise' suffered from a series of 'cock-ups', that with hindsight were often just general problems waiting to happen. But to their credit the French did actually land, aggressively engage the English fleet and see the English flagship (the Mary Rose) sunk under the very nose of Henry VIII who was watching from the shore ... albeit she sank more by the action of the wind, rather than by French gunfire.


I agree, MM: the French were not playing games. The invasion fleet of 1545 was indeed the biggest fleet that had ever been sent against this island. The threat was not just from the sea: the perfidious Scots had joined up with the French and a Franco-Scottish army was preparing to move down from the north; and Boulogne was under attack. A three-pronged assault.

But it was - as you rightly say - an almighty French cock-up.

It actually started dreadfully for them in Le Havre. The French Admiral, D'Annebaut, intended to host a splendid banquet on board his flagship, the Carraquon: Francis I, his queen and his sister all attended. Francis wished to bid his Admiral and fleet godspeed. Unfortunately, D'Annebaut's cook was obviously having a really bad omelette day: he lost control of the galley cooking ranges and managed to set fire to the ship. A veritable Masterchef nightmare. The Carraquon was soon ablaze and the royal party, along with the expedition's treasure, had to be hastily evacuated just before the vessel exploded, sending red-hot cannon-balls all over the place (and into the anchored fleet).

I don't know what they did to the cook (if he survived), but the unfortunate French Admiral had to move to a different flagship. That too proved to be a bit of a disaster: it ran aground in the Solent, sprang a bad leak and had to be towed home.

On a more serious note - what really defeated the French was the plague: it raged through the stinking ranks of thirty thousand French sailors, packed into ships which had been at sea for almost a month, and by the time the Admiral limped back home with his dying fleet, his men, it was reported, "would rather have been hanged than remain on board."

Young Elizabeth was there. She, along with Katherine Parr and other members of the court (including Archbishop Cranmer, who was probably extremely sea-sick), had been allowed on board her father's monstrous, lumbering flagship, the Great Harry: but as soon as the French fleet was sighted, she and the rest of the royal party - including the King - were bustled off the Harry and on to a very fast pinnace which took them all ashore to safety.

I wonder what she made of it all, her first experience of an invasion?

Incidentally, the  fortune-tellers at the time were saying that they had known all along that this was not the invasion England had to fear; her worst danger, worse than any she had faced since the Normans landed, would not come, they declared, for more than forty years when there would be four noughts in the date, because eight is a double nought, one on top of the other, so the year '88 would be quadruply unlucky. I expect Bess, a bright little girl, suggested that the unlucky noughts could well be for the invaders, whoever they were.

nordmann - points noted and taken. I find myself - with some dismay - agreeing with you again. It's an interesting topic - to "juggle" or not to "juggle".


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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Mon 15 Jun 2015, 23:42

It's not clear how English protestants are somehow supposed to be better at fighting than Bohemian protestants or Scottish protestants. Neither is it clear why the parallel story of Ireland should be deemed off limits on this thread.

That said - for the soothsayers in 1545 to claim that Francis I's show of strength (for that's all it was), was the worst danger England had faced 'since the Normans landed' only confirms precisely why they were soothsayers and not historians. They had obviously forgotten that only 60 years earlier England had indeed been successfully invaded. And while some English at that time had fought the invaders, others had welcomed them. Even more English in 1485, however, had simply hedged their bets. And thus it ever was. 

For example nearly 300 years before that, another Philip II (this time of France) had planned on invading England in 1213. And (also following a break with Rome) King John of England’s navy had humiliated an enormous French armada at Damme in Flanders and the invasion was called off. Hooray! Only 3 years later, however, in 1216 it was all changed. Philip’s son Louis landed unopposed, proceeded in triumph to London and was proclaimed King of England. Meanwhile a weakened John fled west. 

And 100 years after the Great Spanish Armada there was another invasion during a year ’88. This time a foreign prince born in Holland was welcomed while an anointed and crowned English king who had been born in St James’s Palace was forced to flee.

It really isn’t that difficult, therefore, to imagine a similar scenario unfolding in 1588. And as with the other examples, the importance of decisive and sometimes mere chance actions of powerful individuals such as William Marshall in 1216 or William Stanley in 1485 or John Churchill in 1688 can indeed play a critical role on such occasions.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 16 Jun 2015, 05:11

@Vizzer wrote:

It really isn’t that difficult, therefore, to imagine a similar scenario unfolding in 1588.


Except that it didn't. Why should that be? Was it really just bad luck and bad weather that defeated Philip? Were most English aristocrats as disappointed as he after the Armada was scattered? Did they too curse the "Protestant" wind?

The examples you give of other "invaders" - Louis, Henry Tudor and William of Orange - are indeed relevant and interesting. I know nothing about Louis (have just looked him up on Wiki) and very little about the Dutchman. I can only ask what I hope (really) is not a completely stupid question: did these men all have some claim, however tenuous, to the English throne, as indeed that earlier and more famous William I had had? William III was Charles I's grandson, wasn't he, and he was, of course, married to James II's daughter, Mary. Did this make a difference? Was Philip rejected because he was seen as entirely foreign - a potential alien conqueror, rather than a legitimate - using the word legitimate loosely - claimant? And a puppet king, chosen by Philip? Lord, what complications that would have caused!

Ironically, Philip's daughter, Isabella, was considered as a potential successor to Elizabeth. Didn't Essex accuse the Cecils of favouring her? She was a direct descendant, through her grandmother, Isabella of Portugal, of John of Gaunt. Bloodlines - whether in horses, dogs or kings - do seem to matter a great deal to the English aristocracy, plus a good dollop of unenlightened self-interest where the kings are concerned, of course.

Vizzer, please note that I did ask nordmann whether I was talking rubbish:

I wrote:
Ah, now those two questions are nice and simple - and indeed good (and fair) ones to ask. They have genuinely made me pause and think a bit. Perhaps I - like many others who are not trained historians - have  a sentimental and romantic view of Gloriana: I like to think that she united all the people of England, high and low, at the time of the Armada crisis. But is that nonsense?


And I did add:


I wrote:
I'm realising yet again that having a head full of Shakespeare and Spenser doesn't help. It certainly does not make one a good historian - quite the opposite.  Embarassed



N. is (usually) far too polite to confirm that I am talking nonsense, but I really am aware, you know, for all my incessant chattering here, that I, like those silly Tudor soothsayers, am no historian.

And I would not dream of declaring anything off-limits here: how presumptuous would that be? I am sure you have forgotten more about Irish politics in the 16th century than I could ever hope to know.

Right, back to finding out a bit more about this here Louis I of England. What happened to him? Googling about him should keep me quiet and happy this morning.

PS No one has responded to Priscilla's interesting question about beacons. I've searched for info about the beacons lit on Dartmoor, but can find nothing about how the locals reacted. Did we all panic, or just reach for our pitchforks?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 16 Jun 2015, 08:04

King Louis of England is one of seven monarchs who fit the criteria by which the term is deemed valid for the rest of them but who, for overtly political reasons some of which apparently are still valid, are left off the traditional list. King Bertram of Binn - ala Dr Seuss - for example is all we have left of one of them (and God help England if it ever comes under attack from nizzards in the future).

I am not sure that Ireland can be declared off-limits in any discussion about the Spanish Armada. Irish Catholic notables based in both Ireland and Spain were very instrumental in arranging the project and, when the whole thing failed so disastrously, Irish coastal dwellers played no small part in massacring the survivors. In any definition of defeat there must exist the aspect of annihilation and the removal of an ability to regroup or redeploy. In the events of August 1588 the Irish (and the Scottish) played no small part in ensuring this aspect applied to the Spanish navy which, after this event, was never the same again in terms of organisation or power.

Coastal beacons were never used in earnest as warnings of impending invasion, or indeed as general semaphoric communications of any specific description. Their value as indicators of where the coast actually lies in bad light or darkness far outweighs their potential as rudimentary telegraph. This does not of course stop them from featuring in several badly compiled or imagined histories.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 16 Jun 2015, 09:10

PS Did Philip intend to put his daughter on the English throne, had the Armada succeeded? Was that ever mooted?

PPS What is a nizzard? Was there ever a "Mother of NIzzards" claimant?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 16 Jun 2015, 09:29

Nizzards can be defeated through astute use of stilts. Think Labour Party.

Philip's plan for England seems to have been quite open to negotiation right up to the armada itself (as it was also during the three subsequent armadas). If the English nobility had put up a strong candidate he probably would have gone along with that - and even used his daughter Isabella as a means of copper-fastening the arrangement. She had just become "available" after 20 years of betrothal to a lad who had no interest in women but who also happened to be the Holy Roman Emperor. Queenship was the minimum compensatory position considered for the girl - the poor lass had to wait in the end until her prunedom before she was allowed marry (the gay lad's brother as it turned out and "king" of the Netherlands). She could well have become queen of England eleven years earlier, but only if she'd married a Howard, I imagine. Who was left after Arundel?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 16 Jun 2015, 10:08

She was hardly a prune, nordmann - Isabella was only thirty-three when she married Albert, the Archbishop of Toledo. By your reckoning, our Duchess of Cambridge is a crone too! Honestly.

Isabella is a very interesting character; she, of course, was the little Spanish girl (she was actually nineteen) who is shown at the beginning of Elizabeth: the Golden Age. She was a capable and very intelligent woman who governed the Netherlands well, I think?

Philip tried to make her Queen of France in her own right, too (according to Wiki), after the death of Henry III, and very nearly succeeded:

After her uncle, Henry III of France, was assassinated by the fanatical young monk Jacques Clément on 2 August 1589, Philip II claimed the French Crown on behalf of Isabella. However, she had no right to this claim, since France was under the Salic Law, which forbade succession in the female line. At any rate, Philip's third wife and Isabella's mother Elisabeth had already ceded any claim to the French Crown with her marriage to Philip II. However the Parlement de Paris, in power of the Catholic party, gave verdict that Isabella Clara Eugenia is "the legitimate sovereign" of France.

However, Henry of Navarre sensibly converted to Catholicism and that was the end of that.

How complicated all this is...
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 16 Jun 2015, 10:16

I have converted to Catholicism at least twice in my life that I have been told about (never on a Sunday,mind) and have been converted allegedly umpteen times. And that does not even begin to include my reversions, subversions and other general versions. If anything, Henry of Navarre sounds rather like an amateur to me.

33 was prunedom in Isabella's circles. However I cede that her prunedom, if anything, enhanced her looks, at least if the photographic capabilities of Frans Pourbus the Younger can be relied upon (and they generally can).



This is her at 33 patronising a dwarf.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Tue 16 Jun 2015, 13:40

Was this really all about what the aristocracy wanted or didn't want in 1588? Hadn't times changed? What about the rising and increasingly powerful middle classes? What was their attitude to this apparent collusion between the English right-wing, Papist aristocrats and a foreign power? Were the seeds of the bitter religious and political conflicts of the next generation being sown around this time?

If many of the ruling élite were acting like traitors, it's not surprising that only sixty years later the king himself was on trial for his life -  accused of treason against the English nation.

Were the Puritans in 1588 actually far more influential than has always been thought, a political, religious and economic power already to be reckoned with?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Wed 17 Jun 2015, 00:32

@Temperance wrote:
As for Irish politics at the end of the 16th century, please do not let us go there:

As nordmann has suggested, the Irish dimension was almost central to the story of the Great Spanish Armada. And neither is Ireland irrelevant to the other examples of invasion given. After fleeing England in 1688, James II ruled the three kingdoms from Dublin for 2 years (or at least he thought he did). Similarly William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke (in the earlier King John period) was married to the grand-daughter of the King of Leinster and the couple spent much of their married life at Kilkenny Castle. This meant that when Loui landed in Kent, large parts of Wales and Ireland were pretty much secure from John’s point of view so his withdrawal from the south-east of England was less precarious.

The exact number of bona fide monarchs who are absent from the ‘William, William, Henry, Stephen’ list is a matter of debate but seven seems a reasonable enough figure. Eleanor, Duchess of Brittany must surely be one of them. Her throne and crown were usurped by her uncle King John and she spent her whole life a prisoner of him and then later of his son, her cousin, Henry III. Eleanor was 32 when John died in 1216 - i.e. a year younger than Isabella was in 1588. Louis the Dauphin (who had previously been seen as an ideal suitor of Eleanor's when they were younger) was now already married and he showed no interest in her claim either. Neither did any of the great knights who had signed Magna Carta upholding their own rights. None of them decided to also stand up for Eleanor's rights and ride to her rescue and so she retired to a convent in Bristol.

It’s a neat device to apologise for top-down, Protestant authoritarianism during Elizabeth’s reign by decrying English catholics as ‘right-wing, Papist aristocrats’. Catholics, however, came from all walks of life. One only need consider the biographies of priests such as John Garnet and Nicholas Owen etc and also those incarcerated at Wisbech in 1588 to appreciate this. Neither can there be any simplistic equation of 'catholics = pro-Armada'. Many catholics would have been as appalled at the prospect of a Spanish invasion as any other English person. Philip was no doubt banking on political and opportunist ‘Catholics’ to assist in the new regime rather than on devout Roman catholics as such.    

That said – the rise of Puritanism during Elizabeth’s reign is indeed a valid topic. It’s a mistake, however, to characterise Puritans as all being middling and lower class. One need only think of the great families Dudley and Russell (dukes and earls etc) to consider the formidable extent of Puritan power at that time. For Anglicans, however, the puritans were possibly perceived as being just as much a threat as catholics. Puritanism was also suspiciously foreign, drawing inspiration from Frenchmen such as Calvin and Beza and immediately following the defeat of the Armada, the Martin Mar prelate tracts (a series of puritan pamphlets attacking the Church of England) sounded a sour note after the display of national unity. It led among other things to the quasi-historical tradition (rightly or wrongly) which held that puritans had been ‘faithless’ towards Elizabeth and England at the time of the peril and perhaps even worse than the catholics for that. So bad was the atmosphere that when the first parliament after the defeat of the Armada was convened in February 1589, the Lord Chancellor gave instruction from the Queen to the lawmakers that they should not ‘meddle with any such matters or causes of religion, except it be to bridle all those, whether papists or puritans, which are therewithall discontented’. Nevertheless 1588 does mark a watershed in the history of puritanism in England and the removal of the immediate continental catholic threat ironically weakened the Church of England and saw the exponential growth of an emboldened Puritanism over the next couple of generations.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Wed 17 Jun 2015, 07:45

Some excellent and interesting observations there, Vizzer. I too am especially intrigued by the establishment's volte face at the time of the succession of the Stuart king towards puritanism. On paper it is as sudden as it is profound and unexpected, and there are very few clues in the records leading right up to the event that such a radical realignment was on the cards at all. In fact the opposite - when James convened the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 the fact that several prominent puritan theologians were invited to attend dismayed the Anglicans to the extent that the Archbishop of Canterbury had to reassure congregations around the kingdom immediately through a letter read out at service that revoking the Catholic Summation was not on the table, a rumour that had caused much alarm. Whitgift privately deplored that he had been forced to sit under the same roof as these people, going so far as to say that if he had the power he would gladly excommunicate all those who so much as uttered the term "eirenic" again in his lifetime.

Yet 1604 can be seen as something of a watershed moment for puritanism and its acceptance thereafter as a political force in its own right, providing very much its own momentum from that point on with or without royal favour, and a genie that by 1605 was already proving infuriatingly impossible to place back in the bottle by the powers-that-be. Bancroft's appointment as Whitgift's successor in 1604 was a clear attempt to show puritan reformers that their time in the sun was over. By October 1605 however and the Gunpowder Plot - an event that hitherto would almost certainly have seen a state-driven clampdown on all "extremists" of every religious hue - their social and political standing was such that they gained high-level recruits rather than suffered as an organisation as a result.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Wed 17 Jun 2015, 09:32

Thank you for your detailed post, Vizzer: I have learnt a lot from it.


@Vizzer wrote:
Catholics, however, came from all walks of life. One only need consider the biographies of priests such as John Garnet and Nicholas Owen etc and also those incarcerated at Wisbech in 1588 to appreciate this.


Of course - but then so did Protestants come "from all walks of life". This was an ideological rather than a class divide, nothing to do with socio-economic status or age - rather like the choice between fascism or communism in the 1930s (or is that a daft comparison?).

It's interesting you mention Garnet: my interest in this man began with Macbeth. Not the time nor place here to write at length about a play, but the idea of equivocation, and the hilarity with which that word was bandied about in London at the time of Garnet's trial and execution, perhaps indicates that there was little sympathy for the ministers of a religion that seemed to regard lying under oath, "when used for a good object" as being acceptable. Garnet must have regretted bitterly that he ever used the word.

And it's  significant that WS in the Porter's scene has the traditional guardian of hell-gate cracking jokes about Garnet in the true Calvinistic fashion of damnation. And what's also perhaps more significant is that the groundlings loved it.

And it wasn't just Shakespeare who fastened on Garnet's unfortunate line of defence: Dudley Carleton, writing to John Chamberlaine on May 2nd 1606, mentions the postponement of Garnet's execution (he was executed on May 3rd 1606) and the priest's outrage and surprise when he was told he was to die. Carleton tells his correspondent that the Jesuit "shifts, falters and equivocates", but that he will "be hanged without equivocation".

Shakespeare echoed these words with his "Faith, here's an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to Heaven: O! come in, equivocator!"

But, alas, I am out of my depth here - but do hope you and nordmann will continue this interesting discussion.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Wed 17 Jun 2015, 10:02

Garnet's defence rested on the confidentiality of the confessional and what legal - as well as moral - strictures this placed on the priest who hears a confession of intent to commit a crime, however serious. He maintained he was right to "equivocate" based on both canon and state law as it existed at the time. Contrary to Salisbury and Northampton's insistence that Garnet had aided treason he argued that he had used the confessional to advise Catesby against the course of action confessed to and also notified his superiors in the church to intervene and dissuade English Catholics from extremism. The equivocation was that he could not in all conscience notify the secular authorities as this would have led to direct indictment and trial of the man confessing, a breach of trust amounting to mortal sin on the part of the confessor.

The upshot of all this was that a law had to be drafted to clarify things. The second Popish Recusants Act in November 1605 allowed magistrates to demand to know from a priest what had been said in confession, as obedience to the crown superseded that to any other power. A follow-up Act in 1606 back-dated this law as the 1605 Act hadn't made clear where Garnet's responsibilities stood with regard to a confession made in July 1605. The end result is that the UK, alone in Christendom, is the only country with a Christian majority and a sizeable Catholic population which actually has a law stating explicitly that there is no confessional privilege. All others at least pay the concept lip service, through statute or common law.
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Wed 17 Jun 2015, 12:34

@Vizzer wrote:
It depends what we mean by 'popular' support. The lower strata of society would have continued as before merely bending in the prevailing wind whether that be catholic or protestant, Tudor or Stuart etc. The middling classes would have varying adopted principled or indifferent positions based on local circumstances but still ultimately pragmatic and thus essentially similar to the lowest stratum. Only the opinion and actions of the landed classes would have counted.


I hesitate to add anything else here - for fear of saying/asking something utterly idiotic - but is it true to say that the above comment was no longer true by 1605 - if indeed it had been true in 1588?

And Peter Wentworth and Archbishop Grindal - are they of any interest or relevance in this discussion? Were they and their controversial opinions very early indications that the times were most definitely changing?
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PostSubject: Re: Armada - 12 days to save England?   Wed 17 Jun 2015, 12:56

I don't want to answer for Vizzer, to whom you address your question, but there is an important point about Puritanism here too. And also one that relates directly to the Armada and its time.

Have a look at English literature of the period - noble and gutter - and see when you can spot the term "papist" creep into the vernacular with the semantic overtones with which we now identify it. Amazingly, although one could be completely forgiven for presuming the opposite, the Armada and its immediate aftermath did not herald a propagandist backlash against Catholics in that way (even Elizabeth's use of "popish" was designed to distinguish between "good" Catholics and those who actively vaunted the pope's traditional but now unwelcome political role in English affairs). But equally amazingly the religious adherents who did find themselves suffering a rather vigorous and often cruel backlash from 1588 until the mid 90s were in fact the Puritans, and indeed the various strains with which that term was also identified, such as Presbyterians etc.

The reasons for this are complex but what lies at their root is - of all things - the right to preach, an incredibly thorny issue at the time. Elizabeth, like her father, and like the Catholic Church too, was of the strong opinion that sermons were bad news and that mass should stick to liturgy. Preaching represented political activity and could never be tolerated, even if it purported to support the status quo. It was not within her control and was therefore potentially treasonable behaviour almost by default. Puritans on the other hand insisted on their right to organise a nationwide network of preachers, beholden to no bishop and - horror of horrors - recruited largely from the then middle classes.

Spain, and by extension Catholicism, might have been currently in the state's bad books, but both were old adversaries who had often proven good allies. Crucially, they were expressions of elite power and therefore completely compatible in terms of expectation and diplomacy with Elizabeth's own regime. The Puritans on the other hand, by their very definition, were anarchical underminers of the very authority which intended to deal with Catholic super-powers as an equal. It was they, and not Catholics, who were the real enemy within.

A dictionary of slang published in the late 1580s therefore would have struggled to find more than a handful of pejorative terms used for Catholics in the vernacular as it then stood. For Protestants of a puritanical bent however the list was already long indeed.
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