Page images
PDF
EPUB

1596]

CADIZ TAKEN.

105

He was

any man had a desire to see hell itself, it was there most lively figured.”

The fleet was beaten in little over three hours; then the English landed their forces, and attacked the town. Ralegh was severely wounded in the leg; but he had himself carried ashore on men's shoulders to see how things were going. not able to remain more than an hour in the town, for the torment that he suffered from his wound. He returned to take charge of the fleet, as there was no admiral left on board, and he himself was unfit for anything but rest at that time. The town was carried “with a sudden fury, and with little loss." By the evening it was in the hands of the English, and early the next morning the citadel capitulated.

At break of day Ralegh sent to the Admiral for orders to follow the fleet of ships bound for the Indies, which lay in the roads of Puerto Real; but Howard and Essex were too busy to attend to him. It was a great mistake not to take vigorous steps to complete the victory by the capture of this great fleet. Ralegh saw what ought to be done, but could get none to second him. In the afternoon the merchants of Cadiz and Seville offered the Generals two millions to spare the fleet. “Whereupon,” says Ralegh, “there was nothing done for the present." Meanwhile, much of the merchandize on board the ships was being carried on land by the Spanish sailors; and early next morning the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, the admiral of the fleet, whose pride could not brook the idea of his vessels falling into the hands of the English, ordered them to be set on fire, and all the mighty fleet of men-of-war and merchantmen were reduced to ashes. So the English lost the chance of gaining possession of this rich prize, though the loss to the Spaniards was as great as if the ships had been taken by the English.

Whilst the fleet was burning the English soldiers were busy sacking the town. Orders were given that there should be no kind of violence or hard usage offered to

any,
either

man, woman, or child, on pain of death. These orders seem to have been obeyed; except that the Dutch, who had done little in the fight, showed a desire to revenge themselves on the Spanish women and children for the horrible outrages committed by Spaniards in the Netherlands; but they were restrained by the English. Howard wrote to the Queen's council: “The mercy and clemency that hath been showed here will be spoken of throughout the world; no aged or cold blood touched, no woman injured, but all with great care embarked and sent to St. Mary's Port; and other women and children were likewise sent thither, and suffered to carry away with them all their apparel, and divers rich things which they had about them, which no man might search for under pain of death.” The town however was fired by Essex's orders in four quarters, and was left a smoking ruin.

1596]

RALEGH ON THE EXPEDITION.

107

Essex gave counsel that the English should hold the town of Cadiz, which would have been a perpetual thorn in Philip's side. The position of the city rendered this an easy task; but Howard would not consent. He had done as much as his orders allowed, and he would go no further. He knew that the Queen and Council at home would not second Essex in his desire for a prolonged war. Essex, much disgusted, had to give way. He next asked that the fleet might go round by the Azores, to intercept a rich fleet of Indiamen, which he knew was daily expected there. Howard would not consent to this either, but adhered strictly to his orders, and sailed back to England. The fleet reached Plymouth again on the 8th of August.

Ralegh had hurried back two days before the rest of the fleet, as there was much sickness on board his ship; so he brought the first news of the victory to the anxious Queen and Council. Writing to Sir Robert Cecil about the battle, he says, “The King of Spain was never so much dishonoured, neither hath he ever received so great loss. The Earl hath behaved himself, I protest unto you by the living God, both valiantly and advisedly in the highest degree; without pride, without cruelty, and hath gotten great honour and much love of all. I hope her most excellent Majesty will take my labours and endeavours in good part. Other riches than the hope thereof I have none; only I have received a blow, which now I thank God is well amended, only a little eyesore will remain. If my life had ended withal, I had then paid some part of the great debts which I owe her. But it is but borrowed; and I shall pay it, I hope, to her Majesty's advantage, if occasion be offered.”

The spoils on this occasion were not nearly so great as the Court had hoped; and disappointment on this account diminished the cordiality with which the victors were received by the Queen. There was, as usual, much quarrelling over the spoils; and those who had done the most probably got the least. On this point Ralegh writes: “What the Generals have gotten I know least; they protest it is little. For my own part I have gotten a lame leg and a deformed. I have not wanted good words, and exceeding kind and regardful usance; but I have possession of naught but poverty and pain.”

Though some might be disappointed at the smallness of the spoils, others could see the great importance of this victory. A third of the King of Spain's navy, and a great city with its citadel, had been destroyed in thirty-six hours by the audacity of a small fleet of English and Dutch. The loss to Philip II. was enormous; and once more a stop was put to the growth of his power. Essex and Ralegh, and others of the younger nobles, were eager to go on; hatred to Spain burnt as fiercely as ever in their breasts, and they longed to crush her utterly. But Elizabeth was old and worn out, and could no longer share their young

1596]

LETTER TO CECIL.

109

enthusiasm ; peace was what she wanted, and now that England was safe, she would consent to no

more war.

Even now Ralegh was not allowed to resume his duties as Captain of the Guard; but he continued on good terms with Essex and Cecil. His relations with Cecil may be judged from the tone of a letter which he wrote to Cecil on the death of his wife. It is worth while to quote some portions of this on account of the light which it throws upon the character of the writer. It shows his strength and firmness, and how clearly he saw that a man must be self-summed, not swayed by every blast of passion; but that, taking life as a whole, he must look upon it as something out of which he has to make the best he can for himself and for others.

It apertaineth,” he writes, “to every man of a wise and worthy spirit to draw together into sufferance the unknown future to the known present, looking no less with the eyes of the mind than those of the body, the one beholding afar off, the other at hand; that those things of this world in which we live be not strange unto us when they approach, as to feebleness, which is moved with novelties. But that like true men participating immortality, and knowing our destinies to be of God, we do then make our estates and wishes, our fortunes and desires, all one. It is true that you have lost a good and virtuous wife, and myself an honourable friend and kins

« PreviousContinue »