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10: A true report of a worthy fight,...

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A true report of a worthy fight, performed in the voyage from Turkey by five ships of London, against eleven galleys and two frigates of the King of Spain's, at Pantalarea, with the Straits, Anno 1586. Written by Philip Jones.

The merchants of London, being of the incorporation for the Turkey trade, having received intelligences and advertisements from time to time that the King of Spain, grudging at the prosperity of this kingdom, had not only of late arrested all English ships, bodies, and goods in Spain, but also, maligning the quiet traffic which they used, to and in the dominions and provinces under the obedience of the Great Turk, had given orders to the captains of his galleys in the Levant to hinder the passage of all English ships, and to endeavour by their best means to intercept, take, and spoil them, their persons and goods; they hereupon thought it their best course to set out their fleet for Turkey in such strength and ability for their defence that the purpose of their Spanish enemy might the better be prevented, and the voyage accomplished with greater security to the men and ships. For which cause, five tall and stout ships appertaining to London, and intending only a merchant's voyage, were provided and furnished with all things belonging to the seas, the names whereof were these:—

1. The Merchant Royal, a very brave and goodly ship, and of great report. 2. The Toby.
3. The Edward Bonaventure.
4. The William and John.
5. The Susan.

These five departing from the coast of England in the month of November, 1585, kept together as one fleet till they came as high as the isle of Sicily, within the Levant. And there, according to the order and direction of the voyage, each ship began to take leave of the rest, and to separate himself, setting his course for the particular port whereunto he was bound—one for Tripolis in Syria, another for Constantinople, the chief city of the Turk's empire, situated upon the coast of Roumelia, called of old Thracia, and the rest to those places whereunto they were privately appointed. But before they divided themselves, they altogether consulted of and about a certain and special place for their meeting again after the lading of their goods at their several ports. And in conclusion, the general agreement was to meet at Zante, an island near to the main continent of the west part of Morea, well known to all the pilots, and thought to be the fittest place for their rendezvous; concerning which meeting it was also covenanted on each side and promised that whatsoever ship of these five should first arrive at Zante, should there stay and expect the coming of the rest of the fleet for the space of twenty days. This being done, each man made his best haste, according as wind and weather would serve him, to fulfil his course and to despatch his business; and no need was there to admonish or encourage any man, seeing no time was ill-spent nor opportunity omitted on any side in the performance of each man's duty, according to his place.

It fell out that the Toby, which was bound for Constantinople, had made such good speed, and gotten such good weather, that she first of all the rest came back to the appointed place of Zante, and not forgetting the former conclusion, did there cast anchor, attending the arrival of the rest of the fleet, which accordingly (their business first performed) failed not to keep promise. The first next after the Toby was the Royal Merchant, which, together with the William and John, came from Tripolis in Syria, and arrived in Zante within the compass of the aforesaid time limited. These ships, in token of the joy on all parts conceived for their happy meeting, spared not the discharging of their ordnance, the sounding of drums and trumpets, the spreading of ensigns, with other warlike and joyful behaviours, expressing by these outward signs the inward gladness of their minds, being all as ready to join together in mutual consent to resist the cruel enemy, as now in sporting manner they made mirth and pastime among themselves. These three had not been long in the haven but the Edward Bonaventure, together with the Susan her consort, were come from Venice with their lading, the sight of whom increased the joy of the rest, and they, no less glad of the presence of the others, saluted them in most friendly and kind sort, according to the manner of the seas. And whereas some of these ships stood at that instant in some want of victuals, they were all content to stay in the port till the necessities of each ship were supplied, and nothing wanted to set out for their return.

In this port of Zante the news was fresh and current of two several armies and fleets, provided by the King of Spain, and lying in wait to intercept them: the one consisting of thirty strong galleys, so well appointed in all respects for the war that no necessary thing wanted, and this fleet hovered about the Straits of Gibraltar. The other army had in it twenty galleys, whereof some were of Sicily and some of the island of Malta, under the charge and government of John Andreas Dorea, a captain of name serving the King of Spain. These two divers and strong fleets waited and attended in the seas for none but the English ships, and no doubt made their account and sure reckoning that not a ship should escape their fury. And the opinion also of the inhabitants of the isle of Zante was, that in respect of the number of galleys in both these armies having received such strait commandment from the king, our ships and men being but few and little in comparison of them, it was a thing in human reason impossible that we should pass either without spoiling, if we resisted, or without composition at the least, and acknowledgment of duty to the Spanish king.

But it was neither the report of the attendance of these armies, nor the opinions of the people, nor anything else, that could daunt or dismay the courage of our men, who, grounding themselves upon the goodness of their cause and the promise of God to be delivered from such as without reason sought their destruction, carried resolute minds notwithstanding all impediments to adventure through the seas, and to finish their navigation maugre the beards of the Spanish soldiers. But lest they should seem too careless and too secure of their estate, and by laying the whole and entire burden of their safety upon God's Providence should foolishly presume altogether of His help, and neglect the means which was put into their hands, they failed not to enter into counsel among themselves and to deliberate advisedly for their best defence. And in the end, with general consent, the Merchant Royal was appointed Admiral of the fleet, and the Toby Vice-Admiral, by whose orders the rest promised to be directed, and each ship vowed not to break from another whatsoever extremity should fall out, but to stand to it to the death, for the honour of their country and the frustrating of the hope of the ambitious and proud enemy.

Thus in good order they left Zante and the Castle of Grecia, and committed themselves again to the seas, and proceeded in their course and voyage in quietness, without sight of any enemy till they came near to Pantalarea, an island so called betwixt Sicily and the coast of Africa; into sight whereof they came the 13th day of July, 1586. And the same day, in the morning, about seven of the clock, they descried thirteen sails in number, which were of the galleys lying in wait of purpose for them in and about that place. As soon as the English ships had spied them, they by-and-bye, according to a common order, made themselves ready for a fight, laid out their ordnance, scoured, charged, and primed them, displayed their ensigns, and left nothing undone to arm themselves thoroughly. In the meantime, the galleys more and more approached the ships, and in their banners there appeared the arms of the isles of Sicily and Malta, being all as then in the service and pay of the Spaniard. Immediately both the Admirals of the galleys sent from each of them a frigate to the Admiral of our English ships, which being come near them, the Sicilian frigate first hailed them, and demanded of them whence they were; they answered that they were of England, the arms whereof appeared in their colours. Whereupon the said frigate expostulated with them, and asked why they delayed to send or come with their captains and pursers to Don Pedro de Leiva, their General, to acknowledge their duty and obedience to him, in the name of the Spanish king, lord of those seas. Our men replied and said that they owed no such duty nor obedience to him, and therefore would acknowledge none; but commanded the frigate to depart with that answer, and not to stay longer upon her peril. With that away she went; and up came towards them the other frigate of Malta; and she in like sort hailed the Admiral, and would needs know whence they were and where they had been. Our Englishmen in the Admiral, not disdaining an answer, told them that they were of England, merchants of London, had been in Turkey, and were now returning home; and to be requited in this case, they also demanded of the frigate whence she and the rest of the galleys were. The messenger answered, "We are of Malta, and for mine own part, my name is Cavalero. These galleys are in service and pay to the King of Spain, under the conduct of Don Pedro de Leiva, a nobleman of Spain who hath been commanded hither by the king with this present force and army of purpose to intercept you. You shall therefore," quoth he, "do well to repair to him to know his pleasure; he is a nobleman of good behaviour and courtesy, and means you no ill." The captain of the English Admiral, whose name was Master Edward Wilkinson, now one of the six masters of Her Majesty's Royal Navy, replied and said, "We purpose not at this time to make trial of Don Pedro his courtesy, whereof we are suspicious and doubtful, and not without good cause;" using withal good words to the messenger, and willing him to come aboard him, promising security and good usage, that thereby he might the better know the Spaniard's mind. Whereupon he indeed left his frigate and came aboard him, whom he entertained in friendly sort, and caused a cup of wine to be drawn for him, which he took, and began, with his cap in his hand and with reverent terms, to drink to the health of the Queen of England, speaking very honourably of Her Majesty, and giving good speeches of the courteous usage and entertainment that he himself had received in London at the time that the Duke of Alencon, brother to the late French king, was last in England. And after he had well drunk, he took his leave, speaking well of the sufficiency and goodness of our ships, and especially of the Merchant Royal, which he confessed to have seen before, riding in the Thames near London. He was no sooner come to Don Pedro de Leiva, the Spanish General, but he was sent off again, and returned to the English Admiral, saying that the pleasure of the General was this, that either their captains, masters, and pursers should come to him with speed, or else he would set upon them, and either take them or sink them. The reply was made by Master Wilkinson aforesaid that not a man should come to him; and for the brag and threat of Don Pedro, it was not that Spanish bravado that should make them yield a jot to their hindrance, but they were as ready to make resistance as he to offer an injury. Whereupon Cavalero the messenger left bragging, and began to persuade them in quiet sort and with many words; but all his labour was to no purpose, and as his threat did nothing terrify them, so his persuasion did nothing move them to do that which he required. At the last he entreated to have the merchant of the Admiral carried by him as a messenger to the General, that so he might be satisfied and assured of their minds by one of their own company. But Master Wilkinson would agree to no such thing; although Richard Rowit, the merchant himself, seemed willing to be employed in that message, and laboured by reasonable persuasions to induce Master Wilkinson to grant it—as hoping to be an occasion by his presence and discreet answers to satisfy the General, and thereby to save the effusion of Christian blood, if it should grow to a battle. And he seemed so much the more willing to be sent, by how much deeper the oaths and protestations of this Cavalero were, that he would (as he was a true knight and a soldier) deliver him back again in safety to his company. Albeit, Master Wilkinson, who, by his long experience, had received sufficient trial of Spanish inconstancy and perjury, wished him in no case to put his life and liberty in hazard upon a Spaniard's oath; but at last, upon much entreaty, he yielded to let him go to the General, thinking indeed that good speeches and answers of reason would have contented him, whereas, otherwise, refusal to do so might peradventure have provoked the more discontentment.

Master Rowit, therefore, passing to the Spanish General, the rest of the galleys, having espied him, thought, indeed, that the English were rather determined to yield than to fight, and therefore came flocking about the frigate, every man crying out, "Que nuevas? que nuevas? Have these Englishmen yielded?" The frigate answered, "Not so; they neither have nor purpose to yield. Only they have sent a man of their company to speak with our General." And being come to the galley wherein he was, he showed himself to Master Rowit in his armour, his guard of soldiers attending upon him, in armour also, and began to speak very proudly in this sort: "Thou Englishman, from whence is your fleet? Why stand ye aloof off? know ye not your duty to the Catholic king, whose person I here represent? Where are your bills of lading, your letters, passports, and the chief of your men? Think ye my attendance in these seas to be in vain, or my person to no purpose? Let all these things be done out of hand, as I command, upon pain of my further displeasure, and the spoil of you all." These words of the Spanish General were not so outrageously pronounced, as they were mildly answered by Master Rowit, who told him that they were all merchantmen, using traffic in honest sort, and seeking to pass quietly, if they were not urged further than reason. As for the King of Spain, he thought (for his part) that there was amity betwixt him and his Sovereign, the Queen of England, so that neither he nor his officers should go about to offer any such injury to English merchants, who, as they were far from giving offence to any man, so they would be loth to take an abuse at the hands of any, or sit down to their loss, where their ability was able to make defence. And as touching his commandment aforesaid for the acknowledging of duty in such particular sort, he told him that, where there was no duty owing there none should be performed, assuring him that their whole company and ships in general stood resolutely upon the negative, and would not yield to any such unreasonable demand, joined with such imperious and absolute manner of commanding. "Why, then," said he, "if they will neither come to yield, nor show obedience to me in the name of my king, I will either sink them or bring them to harbour; and so tell them from me." With that the frigate came away with Master Rowit, and brought him aboard to the English Admiral again, according to promise, who was no sooner entered in but by-and-bye defiance was sounded on both sides. The Spaniards hewed off the noses of the galleys, that nothing might hinder the level of the shot; and the English, on the other side, courageously prepared themselves to the combat, every man, according to his room, bent to perform his office with alacrity and diligence. In the meantime a cannon was discharged from out the Admiral of the galleys, which, being the onset of the fight, was presently answered by the English Admiral with a culverin; so the skirmish began, and grew hot and terrible. There was no powder nor shot spared, each English ship matched itself in good order against two Spanish galleys, besides the inequality of the frigates on the Spanish side. And although our men performed their parts with singular valour, according to their strength, insomuch that the enemy, as amazed therewith, would oftentimes pause and stay, and consult what was best to be done, yet they ceased not in the midst of their business to make prayer to Almighty God, the revenger of all evils and the giver of victories, that it would please Him to assist them in this good quarrel of theirs, in defending themselves against so proud a tyrant, to teach their hands to war and their fingers to fight, that the glory of the victory might redound to His name, and to the honour of true religion, which the insolent enemy sought so much to overthrow. Contrarily, the foolish Spaniards, they cried out, according to their manner, not to God, but to our Lady (as they term the Virgin Mary) saying, "Oh, Lady, help! Oh, blessed Lady, give us the victory, and the honour thereof shall be thine." Thus with blows and prayers on both sides, the fight continued furious and sharp, and doubtful a long time to which part the victory would incline, till at last the Admiral of the galleys of Sicily began to warp from the fight, and to hold up her side for fear of sinking, and after her went also two others in like case, whom all the sort of them enclosed, labouring by all their means to keep them above water, being ready by the force of English shot which they had received to perish in the seas. And what slaughter was done among the Spaniards the English were uncertain, but by a probable conjecture apparent afar off they supposed their loss was so great that they wanted men to continue the charging of their pieces; whereupon with shame and dishonour, after five hours spent in the battle, they withdrew themselves. And the English, contented in respect of their deep lading rather to continue their voyage than to follow in the chase, ceased from further blows, with the loss of only two men slain amongst them all, and another hurt in his arm, whom Master Wilkinson, with his good words and friendly promises, did so comfort that he nothing esteemed the smart of his wound, in respect of the honour of the victory and the shameful repulse of the enemy.

Thus, with dutiful thanks to the mercy of God for His gracious assistance in that danger, the English ships proceeded in their navigation. And coming as high as Algiers, a port town upon the coast of Barbary, they made for it, of purpose to refresh themselves after their weariness, and to take in such supply of fresh water and victuals as they needed. They were no sooner entered into the port but immediately the king thereof sent a messenger to the ships to know what they were. With which messenger the chief master of every ship repaired to the king, and acquainted him not only with the state of their ships in respect of merchandise, but with the late fight which they had passed with the Spanish galleys, reporting every particular circumstance in word as it fell out in action; whereof the said king showed himself marvellous glad, entertaining them in the best sort, and promising abundant relief of all their wants; making general proclamation in the city, upon pain of death, that no man, of what degree or state soever he were, should presume either to hinder them in their affairs or to offer them any manner of injury in body or goods; by virtue whereof they despatched all things in excellent good sort with all favour and peaceableness. Only such prisoners and captives of the Spaniards as were in the city, seeing the good usage which they received, and hearing also what service they had performed against the foresaid galleys, grudged exceedingly against them, and sought as much as they could to practise some mischief against them. And one amongst the rest, seeing an Englishman alone in a certain lane of the city, came upon him suddenly, and with his knife thrust him in the side, yet made no such great wound but that it was easily recovered. The English company, hearing of it, acquainted the king of the fact; who immediately sent both for the party that had received the wound and the offender also, and caused an executioner, in the presence of himself and the English, to chastise the slave even to death, which was performed, to the end that no man should presume to commit the like part or to do anything in contempt of his royal commandment.

The English, having received this good justice at the king's hands, and all other things that they wanted or could crave for the furnishing of their ships, took their leave of him, and of the rest of their friends that were resident in Algiers, and put out to sea, looking to meet with the second army of the Spanish king, which waited for them about the mouth of the Strait of Gibraltar, which they were of necessity to pass. But coming near to the said strait, it pleased God to raise, at that instant, a very dark and misty fog, so that one ship could not discern another if it were forty paces off, by means whereof, together with the notable fair Eastern winds that then blew most fit for their course, they passed with great speed through the strait, and might have passed, with that good gale, had there been five hundred galleys to withstand them and the air never so clear for every ship to be seen. But yet the Spanish galleys had a sight of them, when they were come within three English miles of the town, and made after them with all possible haste; and although they saw that they were far out of their reach, yet in a vain fury and foolish pride, they shot off their ordnance and made a stir in the sea as if they had been in the midst of them, which vanity of theirs ministered to our men notable matter of pleasure and mirth, seeing men to fight with shadows and to take so great pains to so small purpose.

But thus it pleased God to deride and delude all the forces of that proud Spanish king, which he had provided of purpose to distress the English; who, notwithstanding, passed through both his armies—in the one, little hurt, and in the other, nothing touched, to the glory of His immortal name, the honour of our prince and country, and the just commendation of each man's service performed in that voyage.

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