State Papers Relating to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada

Author: Walter Raleigh  | Date: 1895

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Laughton 1895

England Repels Invasion


Raleigh’s story of the Revenge:

The rumors are diversely spread, as well in England as in the low countries and elsewhere, of this late encounter between her Majesty’s ships and the Armada of Spain; and the Spaniards, according to their usual manner, fill the world with their vainglorious vaunts, making great appear-once of victories, when on the contrary themselves are most commonly and shamefully beaten and dishonored, thereby hoping to possess the ignorant multitude by anticipating and forerunning false reports. . . .

And it is no marvel that the Spaniards should seek by false and slanderous pamphlets, advisos, and letters, to cover their own loss, and to derogate from others their due honors (especially in this fight, being performed far off), seeing they were not ashamed in the year 1588, when they purposed the invasion of this land, to publish in sundry languages in print, great victories (in words) which they pleaded to have obtained against this realm, and spread the same in a most false sort over all parts of France, Italy, and elsewhere. . . .

The Spanish fleet, having shrouded their approach by reason of the island, were now so soon at hand as our ships had scarce time to weigh their anchors, but some of them were driven to let slip their cables and set sail. Sir Richard Grenville was the last weighed, to recover the men that were upon the island, which otherwise had been lost. The Lord Thomas with the rest very hardly recovered the wind, which Sir Richard Grenville not being able to do, was persuaded by the master and others to cut his mainsail and cast about, and to trust to the sailing of his ship: for the squadron of Seville were on his weather bow. But Sir Richard utterly refused to turn from the enemy, alleging that he would rather choose to die, than to dishonor himself, his country, and her Majesty’s ship; persuading his company that he would pass through the two squadrons in despite of them, and enforce those of Seville to give him way. Which he performed upon divers of the foremost, who, as the mariners term it, sprang their luff, and fell under the lee of the Revenge. But the other course had been the better, and might right well have been answered in so great an impossibility of prevailing. Notwithstanding out of the greatness of his mind he could not be persuaded.

In the meanwhile, as he attended those which were nearest him, the great San Philip, being in the wind of him, and coming towards him, becalmed his sails in such sort as the ship could neither way nor feel the helm: so huge and high cargoed was the Spanish ship, being of a thousand and five hundred tons; who after laid the Revenge aboard. When he was thus bereft of his sails, the ships that were under his lee, luffing up, also laid him aboard; of which the next was the admiral of the Biscayans, a very mighty and puissant ship commanded by Brittan Dona. The said Philip carried three tiers of ordinance on a side, and eleven pieces in every tier. She shot eight forthright out of her chase, besides those of her stern ports.

After the Revenge was entangled with this Philip, four others boarded her, two on her larboard, and two on her starboard. The fight thus beginning at three of the clock in the afternoon continued very terribly all that evening. But the great San Philip, having received the lower tier of the Revenge, discharged with crossbarshot, shifted herself with all diligence from her sides, utterly misliking her first entertainment. Some say that the ship foundered, but we cannot report it for truth, unless we were assured.

After the fight had thus without intermission continued while the day lasted and some hours of the night, many of our men were slain and hurt, and one of the great galleons of the Armada and the Admiral of the Hulks both sunk, and in many other of the Spanish ships great slaughter was made. Some write that Sir Richard was very dangerously hurt almost in the beginning of the fight, and lay speechless for a time ere he recovered. . . .

All the powder of the Revenge to the last barrel was now spent, all her pikes broken, forty of her best men slain, and most part of the rest hurt. In the beginning of the fight she had but one hundred free from sickness, and fourscore and ten sick, laid in hold upon the ballast. A small troop to man such a ship, and a weak garrison to resist so mighty an army! By those hundred all was sustained, the volleys, boardings, and enterings of fifteen ships of war, besides those which beat her at large. On the contrary the Spanish were always supplied with soldiers brought from every squadron, all manner of arms, and powder at will. Unto ours there remained no comfort at all, no hope, no supply either of ships, men, or weapons; the masts all beaten overboard, all her tackle cut asunder, her upper work altogether razed; and, in effect, evened she was with the water, but the very foundation or bottom of a ship, nothing being left overboard either for flight or defense.

Sir Richard finding himself in this distress, and unable any longer to make resistance,—having endured in this fifteen hours’ fight the assault of fifteen several armados, all by turns aboard him, and by estimation eight hundred shot of great artillery, besides many assaults and entries, and that himself and the ship must needs be possessed by the enemy, who were now cast in a ring round about him, the Revenge not able to move one way or other but as she was moved by the waves and billow of the sea,—commanded the master gunner, whom he knew to be a most resolute man, to split and sink the ship, that thereby nothing might remain of glory or victory to the Spaniards, seeing in so many hours’ fight, and with so great a navy, they were not able to take her, having had fifteen hours’ time, fifteen thousand men, and fifty and three sail of men-of-war to perform it withal; and persuaded the company, or as many as he could induce, to yield themselves unto God, and to the mercy of none else, but, as they had, like valiant resolute men, repulsed so many enemies, they should not now shorten the honor of their nation by prolonging their own lives for a few hours or a few days.

The master gunner readily condescended, and divers others. But the Captain and the Master were of another opinion and besought Sir Richard to have care of them, alleging that the Spaniard would be as ready to entertain a composition as they were willing to offer the same, and that there being divers sufficient and valiant men yet living, and whose wounds were not mortal, they might do their country and prince acceptable service hereafter.

A few days after the fight was ended, and the English prisoners dispersed into the Spanish and Indian ships, there arose so great a storm from the west and northwest that all the fleet was dispersed, as well the Indian fleet which were then come unto them, as the rest of the Armada which attended their arrival. Of which, fourteen sail, together with the Revenge (and in her two hundred Spaniards), were cast away upon the isle of St. Michaels. So it pleased them to honor the burial of that renowned ship the Revenge, not suffering her to perish alone, for the great honor she achieved in her lifetime.


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Chicago: Walter Raleigh, "England Repels Invasion: Raleigh’s Story of the Revenge," State Papers Relating to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, ed. Laughton in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed April 24, 2024,

MLA: Raleigh, Walter. "England Repels Invasion: Raleigh’s Story of the Revenge." State Papers Relating to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, edited by Laughton, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 24 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Raleigh, W, 'England Repels Invasion: Raleigh’s Story of the Revenge' in State Papers Relating to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, ed. . cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 24 April 2024, from