Armada isn ‘t really over, because history isn’t.
That’s what one feels as one lays aside the discussions, investigations
and arguments that accompany bringing out an issue devoted to this tremendous historic confrontation.
One can hear Drake’s call for the gentleman to haul and draw with the marinerechoed in Lord Harry Seymour’s apology,
writing to Walsingham from aboard the Rainbow on blockade duty off Dunkirk in June 1588,
that his report was not written in his own hand because he ‘d strained his hand “with hauling on a rope.”
And one can hear, on another level, the dread might and purpose of Spain expressed in Santa Cruz writing
to Philip after taking the Azores five years earlier,
in 1583: “Now that we have all Portugal, England is ours.” Well, as it turned out, not quite.
And the reason for that lay much in the concept of leadership Seymour expressed
and in the terrific energies liberated by the English approach to seafaring, as most brilliantly embodied in Francis Drake.
It was not the weather that defeated the Armada, it was the often frightened and divided
(but stout-hearted) resistance of people defending their freedoms,
and drawing not only fresh spirit from that, but innovative ways of fi ghting a power that had indeed, begun to seem invincible.
The magnitude of the victory they won is expressed in the famous conference aboard the San Martin after Gravelines, on the evening of 9 August.
Medina Sidonia later reported to his sovereign that the decision was to get back to Calais and Parma ‘s invasion army, if the wind permitted.
But the only other witness to report on this conference says that ” it was resolved they should set course for Spain.”
The Spanish courage and discipline that had held the Armada together was what got its battered surviving ships back to Spanish ports.
So history lives on, sometimes terrifying, often bewildering, always challenging.
Our review of the new learning on the Armada, and there is plenty of it to hand, shows the rev isionists revised. T
he conflict was not just over loot or empire at its root, but was ideological, and it was won by the power of freedom,
that endlessly generative, very positive force among people, which so often proves to be its own best defense.
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