Lord Howard of Effingham, the Trusted of the Queen.
Charles, eldest son of Lord William Howard, was born I. in 1536, his mother being Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Gamage of Glamorganshire. His father, brother of the Duke of Norfolk and uncle of Queen Catherine Howard, was, on that lady's execution, condemned to life imprisonment for having concealed her faults; but the sentence was soon remitted, and in Mary's reign he was appointed High Admiral of England. It was under such a father that Charles was trained both on land and sea service. He was about twenty-two years of age at the accession of Elizabeth, and his "most proper person," or handsome appearance, at once won the Queen's favour; for she liked a jewel set in a goodly case.
So Charles was sent to France on an embassy of condolence after the death of Henry II., and to congratulate the young king. Soon he was elected one of the knights for his native county of Surrey in the Parliament of 1562. We next hear of him as being a General of Horse under the Earl of Warwick, in the army sent against the rebel Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland in 1569.
In 1570, when Lord Lincoln was Lord Admiral, Howard was ordered to command a squadron of ships-of-war sent by Queen Elizabeth to escort Anne of Austria, sister of the Emperor Maximilian, from Zealand into Spain, whither she was going for the purpose of being married to Philip II. Howard of course knew that Philip had no love now for the Queen of England; so, when the great Spanish galleons came into British waters he first made them salute the Queen's flag, and then gave them all honourable escort, to show his Queen's respect for the house of Austria. It was a deed which gave promise of great exploits hereafter. Richard Hakluyt thus describes it in a letter to Lord Charles Howard: -
"When the Emperor's sister, the spouse of Spain, with a fleet of one hundred and thirty sail, stoutly and proudly passed the narrow seas, your Lordship, accompanied by ten ships only of her Majesty's Royal Navy, environed their fleet in most strange and warlike sort, enforced them to stoop gallant and to vail their bonnets for the Queen of England, and made them perfectly to understand that old speech of the Prince of Poets, Virgil,
'Non illi imperium pelagi saevumque tridentem, Sed tibi sorte datum."
('It was not to him that fate had given the Empire of the deep and the fell trident, but to thee.')
"Yet after they had acknowledged their duty, your Lordship, on her Majesty's behalf, conducted her safely through our English Channel, and performed all good offices of honour and humanity to that foreign Princess."
No doubt this proud demand for homage to the flag of England went far to secure for Lord Charles the post of Lord High Admiral in 1585. For relations between Spain and England were growing ever more strained, and war conducted at first by private adventurers was bound to issue in a national contest. The Queen began to prepare for this by purchasing arms and powder abroad. She had many pieces of great ordnance of brass and iron cast, and luckily a rich vein of stone was found in Cumberland, near Keswick, which helped much in the works for making brass. How patriotic our forefathers were can be seen by the cheerful way in which both nobles and peasants helped in providing weapons.
In every nobleman's house complete armouries were provided, private individuals built ships-of-war, and poor men flocked to the ports to offer their services. When Spain insolently warned off all the English from trading with America, when she instigated revolt in Ireland, and hired assassins to murder Elizabeth, patriotism was awakened from a long sleep. The near approach of danger had evoked the nation's dormant spirit and indomitable courage.
When the Prince of Orange had been assassinated and the Prince of Parma had taken Antwerp, Elizabeth hesitated no longer to conclude a treaty with the Netherlands against their Spanish oppressors, and issued a long statement of the reasons for so doing. Other Christian princes admired such manly fortitude in a woman. The King of Sweden said she had taken the crown from her head and adventured it upon the chance of war.
There was no need in those days to compel the men to bear arms and defend their country. Englishmen were not then devoted to sports and games, but hastened from north to south to offer their maligned Queen bands of horse and foot. Amongst the first was Lord Montague, a Roman Catholic peer, with two hundred horsemen led by his own sons, and with them a young child, very comely, seated on his pony, the eldest son to his lordship's heir; so there were grandfather, father, and son at one time on horseback before the Queen, ready to do her service.
There were many Roman Catholics who remained loyal, and not least among them was Lord Charles Howard, who had been for many months looking after the welfare of the fleet, seeing all was in good order, and now and then issuing out to check or pursue pirates.
"The Queen," we are told by Fuller, "had a great persuasion of his fortunate conduct, and knew him to be of a moderate and noble courage, skilful in sea matters, wary and provident, valiant and courageous, industrious and active, and of great authority and esteem among sailors."
Another admirer of Lord Howard's admits that he was no deep seaman like Sir Humphrey Gilbert; but he had sense enough to know those who had more skill than himself, and to follow their instructions; he was not one to go his own wilful way, but ruled himself by the experienced in sea matters - thus the Queen had a navy of oak and an admiral of osier. With the help of Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher, the new Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard, formed his plans of defence. Sir Philip Sidney, too, was deep in their counsels, planning expeditions, subscribing money, and persuading rich friends to volunteer or fit out ships.
Early in January 1588 Philip, to gain time for his preparations, had proposed through the Duke of Parma, his Governor in the Netherlands, that commissioners should meet to negotiate a treaty of peace. Both Elizabeth and Burghley were in favour of this, not seeing that it was but a blind to cover their exertions to repair the damage done by Drake at Cadiz the year before.
Howard wrote at once to Walsingham: "There never was such a stratagem and mask to deceive her Majesty as this treaty of peace. I pray God that we do not curse for this a long grey beard with a white head witless (Burghley's), that will make all the world think us heartless.... Therefore, good Mr. Secretary, let every one of ye persuade her Majesty that she lose no time in taking care enough of herself."
Lord Charles does not forget his wife as danger begins to face him: "I request that, if it please God to call me to Him in this service of her Majestie, which I am most willing to spend my life in, that her Majestie of her goodness will bestow my boy upon my poor wife" (he was probably a page at Court), "and if it please her Majestie to let my poor wife have the keeping either of Hampton Court, or Oatlands, I shall think myself most bound to her Majestie; for" (in his own spelling) "I dow assur you, Sir, I shall not leve heer so well as so good a wyfe dowthe desarve."
It is strange to mark from the letters written a few weeks before the Armada set sail how very parsimonious both the Queen and Burghley seemed to the admiral to be in providing for the expenses of fitting out the fleet. Drake had been prevented from getting his fleet in order for sea-service at Plymouth. "The fault is not in him," wrote Howard, "but I pray God her Majestie do not repent her slack dealing." Four ships, which Howard had asked for, the Queen was loth to use, and especially the Elisabeth Jonas, a stout vessel of 900 tons burthen, which carried more guns and not fewer seamen than any of the other ships. "Lord! when should she serve if not at such a time as this?" wrote Howard to Walsingham on the 7th of April; "either she is fit now to serve, or fit for the fire. I hope never in my time to see so great a cause for her to be used. The King of Spain doth not keep any ship at home, either of his own or any other that he can get for money. I am sorry that her Majestie is so careless of this most dangerous time. I fear me much, and with grief I think it, that she relieth on a hope that will deceive her and greatly endanger her, and then it will not be her money nor her jewels that will help. Well, well! I must pray heartily for peace, for I see the support of an honourable war will never appear. Sparing and war have no affinity together."
Lord Howard had been painfully riding from port to port all along the south coast of England, to scan the outfit and crews of all the ships. He had written letter after letter for more ships, better victuals, more guns. He had dared to say to the Queen what few others could say, and had awakened her at last from her false hopes of peace. On the 21st of May, after leaving with Lord Henry Seymour a fleet strong enough to protect the narrow seas from any invasion that the Prince of Parma might attempt, Lord Howard left Dover with most of the Queers ships and a great number of private vessels, some fifty sail, that were furnished by London and the east coast. On the 23rd of May he entered Plymouth Road and was met by Sir Francis Drake and a fleet of sixty vessels, Queen's ships and stout barques and pinnaces fitted out by the town and nobles of the west coast. Here he was detained a week by contrary winds. On the 28th he wrote to Burghley, saying that his fleet of a hundred sail had only victuals for eighteen days: "With the gallantest company of captains, soldiers, and sailors ever seen in England, it were a pity they should lack meat." However, he did go out to meet the Armada, which they thought was on its way, but a violent gale from the south scattered his ships, which "danced as lustily as the gallantest dancers in the Court."
On Howard's return to Plymouth on the 13th of June, he found a letter from Walsingham, reproving him in the Queen's name for having gone so far away, and for leaving England almost unprotected.
He was obliged to defend himself and his advisers, Drake, Hawkins, Frobisher, and Fenner, against the lady's private view of sea-tactics. "I hope her Majestic will not think we went so rashly to work, or without a choice care and respect of the safety of this realm." And then at grave length he painfully explained that he was more likely to miss the enemy near home than off the coast of Spain, as they must needs pass Cape Finisterre on their way from Lisbon, but after that they might go eastwards towards the Netherlands, or coast the west of Ireland, or seize the Isle of Wight - and thus humbly he vails his bonnet to the imperious Mistress of the Sea: "But I muste and will obeye, and am glad there be suche in London as are hable to judge what is fitter for us to doe than we here."
Let us hope that the Queen and Burghley were able to note the bitter sarcasm; for we can imagine how Drake and Hawkins and Frobisher discussed the matter, not without "old swearing."
It was at the end of May that the Invincible Armada sailed from the Tagus for Corunna, there to take on board the land forces and stores. Cardinal Albert of Austria gave it his solemn blessing before it departed, and the Spaniards were full of confidence and enthusiasm.
Its total tonnage was about 60,000, its fighting force 50,000; while the English tonnage was 30,000, and the mariners and fighting men some 16,000.
Howard sailed in the Ark Royal, Sir Francis Drake in the Revenge as vice-admiral, Sir John Hawkins in the Victory as rear-admiral, while Lord Henry Seymour in the Rainbow, with four Queen's ships and some Dutch vessels, watched the narrow seas.
The English admirals were united by good feeling and patriotism; no jealousy disturbed their counsels. Drake, in a letter to Burghley, writes: "I find my Lord Admiral so well affected for all honourable service in this action as it doth assure all his followers of good success and hope of victory."
The storm which had driven back the English fleet from the Spanish coast dispersed or dismasted many of the enemy. One sunk and three were captured by their own galley-slaves under a Welshman, David Gwynne; he had been a galley-slave eleven years, and encouraged the rest to rise and strike for liberty. After killing the Spaniards on board, he took the three galleys to a French port. The Armada had to put back to Corunna to refit, and spent a month or more in harbour.
Then the news was carried to Court that the Spanish fleet was so broken they would not attempt any invasion this year. Some of our ships were ordered to the Irish coast, the men at Plymouth were allowed ashore, some were even discharged, while the officers amused themselves with revels, dancing, bowls, and making merry.
The Queen and Burghley were again keeping a tight hand on the slender finances, and Walsingham had to write to Lord Howard, bidding him send back to London four of the tallest ships-royal. This made the Lord High Admiral write a strong letter to the Queen on June 23rd, in which he breaks out boldly, " For the love of Jesus Christ, madame, awake thoroughly, and see the villainous traitors around you and against your Majestie and your realm: draw your forces round about you like a mighty Prince, to defend you. Truly, madame, if you do so, there is no cause to fear; if you do not, there will be danger."
The safety of England was surely in great part due to this nobleman's brave conduct in standing up against the rigid measures of Lord Burghley. He even offered to pay the cost of the four ships which he retained, if they were not wanted in battle.
Meanwhile conflicting reports kept coming into Plymouth respecting the Spanish fleet; sometimes it was said they were at sea, at other times they were reported to be still in harbour. Lord Howard's scouts were of course on the watch for their first appearance.
On the 17th of July the Lord Admiral had to write to the Lord High Treasurer for a supply of money: "Our Companies grow into great neede. I have sent herein enclosed an estimate thereof, praying your Lordship that there may be some care had, that we may be furnished with moneye, withoute the which we are not hable to contynewe our forces togeather."
On the 19th of July the Spanish fleet steered across the Channel from France to the Lizard; bat they mistook it for the RamVhead, just west of Plymouth Sound, and night being at hand they tacked off to sea, intending in the morning to attempt to surprise the ships in Plymouth. For they had heard that the crews were off their vessels, all making merry in the town. Had they sailed in that night they might have done much damage, and anticipated the Japanese surprise at Port Arthur.
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