Elizabeth I: The Golden Age - SPANISH SHIPS on IRISH ROCKS

SPANISH SHIPS on IRISH ROCKS (Illustration) Geography Government Legends and Legendary People Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs World History

While the Armada’s ships were returning home, along the western coast of Ireland, a tremendous gale developed on September 21, 1588. This weather map depicts the gale. Eyewitness accounts tell us what the men saw: “...there sprang up so great a storm on our beam with a sea up to the heavens so that the cables could not hold...” Sixteen Armada ships were wrecked in the storm.  Map image from the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, included in “Navigation: The Key to the Armada Disaster,” by Ken Douglas (published in the August 2003 issue of Journal for Maritime Research).


When the battles were over, the defeated Armada had to return to Spain. The wind - which had previously favored the British, even though their cannons were mostly ineffective against the Spanish - had pushed the Armada's ships into the North Sea. 

As the British fire ships had previously damaged the Armada, now the wind insured there would be no backtracking through the English Channel.  The voyage home, for the Spaniards, would be long and arduous.  The only way back was to pass by Scotland and Ireland.

People in Britain (including the Queen) wondered how the Scottish king (James VI) would interact with the Spaniards. Elizabeth, after all, had signed his mother's death warrant. Mary, Queen of Scots - Elizabeth's cousin and heir - had lost her head because she was a perceived threat. Could anyone blame James if he assisted the Spanish fleet?

Recognizing it would be helpful to herself, and to her country, if she befriended her cousin's son, Elizabeth sent emissaries to Scotland. One could say they came with royal bribes

For some there were which feared least they would have recourse to the King of Scotts, who was already exasperated for his mothers death. Certainely, Ashley the Queenes Embassadour in Scotland, to pacifie his minde, offered him this moneth large conditions, to weete, the title of a Dukedome in England, a yearely pension of 5000 pounds, a guard to bee maintayned at the Queenes charge, and other matters ... (Camden, Annales Rerum Angliae et Hiberniae Regnante Elizabetha, 1588, Section 31)

She needn't have worried. James must have known that if he did not make friends in wrong places, he would ultimately be Elizabeth's heir. The Spanish fleet sailed around Scotland without being a further problem for Britain.

People aboard the ships were the ones who faced serious problems. They knew it would take a long time before they reached Spain. As the North Sea weather worsened, so must have the spirits of the sailors. Camden's story continues:

But the Spanyards, now casting away all hope of returning, and seeking to save themselves by no other meanes by flight, stayed in no place.

And thus the Armado, which had beene full three yeares in rigging and preparing with infinite expence, was within one moneth many times assailed, and at the length defeated with the slaughter of many men; not an hundred of the English being lacking, nor one small shippe lost, save only that of Cock's (for all the shott out of the tall Spanish shippes flew quite over the English shippes), and after it [the Armada] had been driven round about all Britaine, by Scotland, the Orcades, and Ireland, most grievously tossed, and very much distressed and wasted by stormes, wrackes, and all kind of miseries ... (Camden, Annales Rerum Angliae et Hiberniae Regnante Elizabetha, 1588, Section 32)

It is difficult to comprehend the extent of suffering the Spaniards would have endured as they simply tried to return home. But some of the men, whose ships were ruined along the Irish shore, would soon face misery of the worst possible kind.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: Feb 26, 2015

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"SPANISH SHIPS on IRISH ROCKS" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 2007. Nov 12, 2019.
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