A true report of a worthy fight, performed in the voyage from Turkie, by fiue ships of London, against 11. Gallies, and two frigats of the King of Spaines, at Pantalarea within the Streights. Anno, 1586. Written by Philip Iones.
The Marchants of London, being of the incorporation of the Turkey trade, hauing receiued intelligencies, and aduertisements, from time to time, that the King of Spaine grudging at the prosperitie of this kingdome, had not onely of late arrested al English ships, bodies, and goods in Spaine, but also maligning the quiet trafique which they vsed to and in the dominions, and prouinces, vnder the obedience of the Great Turke, had giuen order to the Captaines of his gallies in the Leuant, to hinder the passage of all English ships, and to endeuour by their best meanes, to intercept, take, and spoile them, their persons, and goods: they hereupon thought it their best course to set out their flete for Turkie, in such strength and abilitie for their defence, that the purpose of their Spanish enemie might the better be preuented, and the voyage accomplished with greater securitie to the men and shippes. For which cause, fiue tall, and stoute shippes, appertaining to London, and intending onely a Marchants voyage, were prouided and furnished with all things belonging to the Seas; the names whereof were these:
1. The Marchant Royal, a very braue and good shippe, and of great report.
2. The Tobie.
3. The Edward Bonauenture.
4. The William and Iohn.
5. The Susan.
These fiue departing from the coast of England, in the moneth of Nouember 1585. kept together as one fleete, til they came as high as the Isle of Sicilie, within the Leuant. And there, according to the order and direction of the voyage, each shippe began to take leaue of the rest, and to separate himselfe, setting his course for the particular port, whereunto hee was bounde: one for Tripolie in Syria, another for Constantinople, the chiefe Citie of the Turkes Empire, situated vpon the coast of Romania, called of olde, Thracia, and the rest to those places, whereunto they were priuatly appointed. But before they diuided themselues, they altogether consulted, of and about a certaine and speciall place for their meeting againe after the lading of their goods at their seuerall portes. And in conclusion, the generall agreement was to meet at Zante, an Island neere to the maine continent of the West part of Morea, well knowen of all the Pilots, and thought to be the fittest place of their Rendeuous. Concerning which meeting, it was also couenanted on eche side, and promised, that whatsoeuer ship of these 5. should first arriue at Zante, should there stay and expect the comming of the rest of the fleete, for the space of twentie dayes. This being done, ech man made his best hast according as winde and wether woulde serue him to fiulfill his course, and to dispatch his businesse: and no neede was there to admonish or incourage any man, seeing no time was ill spent, nor opportunitie omitted on any side, in the performance of ech mans duetie, according to his place.
It fell out that the Tobie which was bound for Constantinople had made such good speede, and gotten such good weather, that she first of al the rest came back to the appointed place of Zante, and not forgetting the former conclusion, did there cast ancre, attending the arriuall of the rest of the fleete, which accordingly (their busines first performed) failed not to keepe their promise. The first next after the Tobie was the Royal Marchant, which together with the William and Iohn came from Tripolie in Syria, and arriued at Zante within the compasse of the foresaide time limitted. These ships in token of the ioy on all parts concerned for their happy meeting, spared not the discharging af their Ordinance, the sounding of drums and trumpets, the spreading of Ensignes with other warlike and ioyfull behaviours, expressing by these outward signes, the inward gladnesse of their mindes, being all as ready to ioyne together in mutuall consent to resist the cruel enemie, as now in sporting maner they made myrth and pastyme among themselues. These three had not bene long in the hauen, but the Edward Bonauenture also, together with the Susan her consort, were come from Venice with their lading, the sight of whom increased the ioy of the rest, and they no lesse glad of the presence of the others, saluted them in most friendly and kinde sort, according to the maner of the Seas: and whereas some of these ships stoode at that instant in some want of victuals, they were all content to stay in the port, till the necessities of ech shippe were supplied, and nothing wanted to set out for their returne.
In this port of Zante, the newes was fresh and currant, of two seuerall armies and fleetes prouided by the king of Spaine, and lying in waite to intercept them: the one consisting of 30. strong Gallies, so well appointed in all respects for the warre, that no necessary thing wanted: and this fleete houered about the Streights of Gibraltar. The other armie had in it 20. Gailies, whereof some were of Sicilie, and some of the island of Malta, vnder the charge and gouernment of Iohn Andrea Dorea, a Captaine of name seruing the king of Spaine. These two diuers and strong fleetes waited and attended in the Seas for none, but the English shippes, and no doubt made their accompt and sure reckoning that not a shippe should escape their furie. And the opinion, also of the inhabitants of the Isle of Zante was, that in respect of the number of Gallies in both these armies, hauing receiued such straight commandement from the king, our ships and men being but few, and little in comparison of them, it was a thing in humane reason impossible, that wee should passe either without spoiling, if we resisted, or without composition at the least, and acknowledgement of duetie to the Spanish king.
But it was neither the report of the attendance of these armies, nor the opinions of the people, nor any thing else, that could daunt or dismay the courages of our men, who grounding themselues upon the goodnesse of their cause, and the promise of God, to bee deliuered from such as without reason sought their destruction, carried resolute mindes, notwithstanding all impediments to aduenture through the Seas, and to finish their Nauigations, maugre the beards of the Spanish souldiers. But least they should seeme too carelesse, and too secure of their estate, and by laying the whole and entire burden of their safetie vpon Gods prouidence, should foolishly presume altogether of his helpe, and neglect the meanes which was put into their handes, they failed not to enter into counsell among themselues, and to deliberate aduisedly for their best defence. And in the end with generall consent, the Marchant Royall was appointed Admirall of the fleete, and the Tobie Viceadmiral, by whose orders the rest promised to be directed, and ech shippe vowed not to breake from another, whatsoeuer extremitie should fall out, but to stand to it to the death, for the honour of their Countrey, and the frustrating of the hope of the ambitious and proud enemie.
Thus in good order they left Zante and the Castle of Græcia, and committed themselues againe to the Seas, and proceeded in their course and voyage in quietnes, without sight of any enemie, till they came neere to Pantalarea, an Island so called, betwixt Sicilie, and the coast of Africke: into sight wherof they came the 13. day of Iuly 1586. And the same day in the morning about 7. of the clocke they descried 13. sailes in number, which were of the Gallies, lying in waite of purpose for them, in and about that place. As soone as the English ships had spied them, they by and by according to a common order, made themselues ready for a fight, layd out their Ordinance, scoured, charged, and primed them, displayed their ensignes, and left nothing vndone to arme themselues throughly. In the meane time, the Gallies more and more approched the ships, and in their banners there appeared the armes of the Isles of Sicilia, and Malta, being all as then in the seruice and pay of the Spaniard. Immediatly, both the Admirals of the Gallies sent from ech of them a frigate, to the Admiral of our English ships, which being come neere them, the Sicilian frigat first hailed them, and demanded of them whence they were? They answered that they were of England, the armes whereof appeared in their colours. Whereupon the saide frigat expostulated with them, and asked why they delayed to sende or come with their Captaines and pursers to Don Pedro de Leiua their Geuerall, 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 duetie nor obedience to him, and therefore would acknowledge none, but commanded the frigat to depart with that answere, and not to stay longer a brabling, vpon her perill. With that away she went, and vp comes towards them the other frigat of Malta, and shee in like sort hailed the Admiral, and would needs know whence they were, and where they had bene. Our Englishmen in the Admirall, not disdaining an answere, tolde them that they were of England, Marchants of London, had bene at Turkie, and were now returning home: and to be requited in this case, they also demaunded of the frigat whence she and the rest of the gallies were: the messenger answered, we are of Malta, and for mine owne part my name is Cauallero. These gallies are in seruice and pay to the king of Spaine, vnder the conduct of Don Pedro de Leiua a noble man of Spaine, who hath bene commanded hither by the King with this present force and armie, of purpose to intercept you. You shall therefore (quoth he) do well to repaire to him to know his pleasure, he is a noble man of good behauiour and courtesie, and meanes you no ill. The Captaine of the English Admiral, whose name was M. Edward Wilkinson, replied and said. We purpose not at this time to make triall of Don Pedro his courtesie, whereof we are suspitious and doubtful, and not without good cause: vsing withall good words to the messenger, and willing him to come aboord him, promising securitie and good vsage, that thereby he might the better knowe the Spaniards minde: whereupon hee in deed left his frigat, and came aboord him, whom hee intertained in friendly sort, and caused a cuppe of wine to be drawne for him, which be tooke and beganne, with his cap in his hand, and with reuerend termes to drinke to the health of the Queene of England, speaking very honourably of her Maiestie, and giving good speeches of the courteous vsage and interteinement that he himselfe had receiued in London, at the time that the duke of Alenson, brother to the late French king was last in England: and after he had well drunke, hee tooke his leaue, speaking well of the sufficiencie and goodnesse of our shippes, and especially of the Marchant Royal, which he confessed to haue seene before, riding in the Thames neere London. He was no sooner come to Don Pedro de Leiua the Spanish general, but he was sent off againe, and returned to the English Admirall, saying that the pleasure of the Generall was this, that either their Captaines, Masters and Pursers should come to him with speed, or else hee would set vpon them, and either take them or sinke them. The reply was made by M. Wilkinson aforesaid, that not a man should come to him; and for the bragge and threat of Don Pedro, it was not that Spanish brauado that should make them yeeld a iot to their hinderance, but they were as ready to make resistance, as he to offer an iniurie. Whereupon Cauallero the messenger left bragging, and began to persuade them in quiet sort and with many wordes, but all his labour was to no purpose, and as his threat did nothing terrifie them, so his perswasion did nothing mooue them to doe that which hee required. At the last he intreated to haue the Marchant of the Admirall caried by him as a messenger to the Generall, so that he might be satisfied, and assured of their mindes by one of their owne company. But M. Wilkinson would agree to no such thing, although Richard Rowit the marchant himselfe seemed willing to bee imployed in that message, and laboured by reasonable perswasions to induce M. Wilkinson to graunt it, as hoping to be an occasion by his presence and discreet answeres to satisfie the Generall, and thereby to saue the effusion of Christian blood, if it should grow to a battel. And he seemed so much the more willing to be sent, by how much deeper the othes and protestations of this Cauallero were, that he would (as hee was a true knight and a souldier) deliuer him backe againe in safetie to his company. Albeit, M. Wilkinson, which by his long experience had receiued sufficient triall of Spanish inconsistencie and periurie, wished him in no case to put his life and libertie in hazard vpon a Spaniards othe. But at last, vpon much intreatie, he yeelded to let him go to the General, thinking in deed, that good speeches and answeres of reason would haue contented him, whereas otherwise refusall to do so, might peraduenture haue prouoked the more discontentment.
M. Rowit therefore passing to the Spanish Generall, the rest of the Gallies hauing espied him, thought in deed that the English were rather determined to yeelde, then to fight, and therefore came flocking about the frigat, euery man crying out, Que nueuas, que nueuas, Haue these Englishmen yeelded? the frigate answered, Not so, they neither haue nor purpose to yeeld, onely they haue sent a man of their company to speake with our Generall: and being come to the Gallie wherein he was, he shewed himselfe to M. Rowit in his armour, his guard of souldiers attending vpon him in armour also, and began to speake very proudly in this sort: Thou Englishman, from whence is your fleete, why stand ye aloofe off, knowe ye not your duetie to the Catholique King, whose person I here represent? Where are your billes of lading, your letters, pasports, and the chiefe of your men? Thinke ye my attendance in these seas to be in vaine, or my person to no purpose? Let al these things be done out of hand as I command, vpon paine of my further displeasure and the spoyle of you all: These wordes of the Spanish Generall were not so outragiously pronounced as they were mildly answered by M. Rowit, who tolde him that they were al Merchantmen, vsing trafique in honest sort, and seeking to passe quietly, if they were not vrged further then reason. As for the king of Spaine, he thought (for his part) that there was amitie betwixt him and his Souereigne the Queene of England, so that neither he nor his officers should goe about to offer any such injurie to English Marchants, who as they were farre from giuing offence to any man, so they would be loath to take an abuse at the handes of any, or sit downe to their losse, where their abilitie was able to make defence. And as, touching his commandement aforesaide, for the acknowledging of duetie, in such particular sort, he told him, that were there was no duetie owing, there none should be performed, assuring him that the whole company and shippes in generall stood resolutely vpon the negatiue, and would not yeeld to any such vnreasonable demaund, joyned with such imperious and absolute maner of commanding. Why then, said he, if they wil neither come to yeeld, nor shew obedience to me in the name of any king, I wil either sinke them or bring them to harbor, and so tell them from me. With that the frigat came away with M. Rowit, and brought him aboord the English Admiral againe according to promise: who was no sooner entred in, but by and by defiance was sounded on both sides: the Spaniards hewed off the noses of the Gallies, that nothing might hinder the leuell of the shot, and the English on the other side courageously prepared themselues to the combat, euery man according to his roome, bent to performe his office with alacritie and diligence. In the meane time a Cannon was discharged from the Admirall of the gallies, which being the onset of the fight, was presently answered by the English Admirall with a Culuering; so the skirmish began, and grew hot and terrible, there was no powder nor shot spared: ech English ship matched it selfe in good order against two Spanish Gallies, besides the inequalitie of the frigats on the Spaniards side: and although our men performed their parts with singular valure according to their strength, insomuch that the enemie as amased therewith would oftentimes pause and stay, and consult what was best to be done, yet they ceased not in the midst of their businesse to make prayer to Almighty God the reuenger of al euils, and the giuer of victories, that it would please him to assist them in that good quarell of theirs, in defending themselues against so proud a tyrant, to teach their handes to warre, and their fingers to fight, that the glory of the victory might redound to his Name, and to the honor of true Religion which the insolent enemie sought so much to ouerthrowe. Contrarily, the foolish Spaniardes cried out according to their maner, not to God, but to our Lady (as they terme the virgin Mary) saying O Lady helpe, O blessed Lady giue vs the victory, and the honour thereof shalbe thine. Thus with blowes and prayers on both sides the fight continued furious and sharpe, and doubtfull a long time to which part the victorie would incline: til at the last the Admiral of the Gallies of Sicilie began to warpe from the fight, and to holde vp her side for feare of sinking, and after her went also two others in like case, whom al the sort of them inclosed, labouring by all their meanes to keep them aboue water, being ready by the force of English shot which they had receiued to perish in the seas: and what slaughter was done among the Spaniards themselues, the English were vncertaine, but by a probable coniecture apparant afar off, they supposed their losse was so great that they wanted men to continue the charging of their pieces: A fight of fiue houres. whereupon with shame and dishonor, after 5. houres spent in the battell, they withdrew themselues: and the English contented in respect of their deepe lading, rather to continue their voyage then to follow the chase, ceased from further blowes: with the losse onely of two men slaine amongst them all, and another hurt in his arme, whom M. 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 duetiful thankes to the mercy of God for his gracious assistance in that danger, the English ships proceeded in their Nauigation, and comming as high as Alger, a port towne vpon the coast of Barbary, they fell with it, of purpose to refresh themselues after their wearinesse, and to take in such supply of fresh water and victuals, as they needed: they were no sooner entred into the port, but immediatly the king thereof sent a messenger to the ships to knowe what they were, with which messenger the chiefe master of ech shippe repaired to the king, and acquainted him not onely with the state of their ships in respect of marchandize, but with the late fight which they had passed with the Spanish Gallies, reporting euery particular circumstance in word as it fell out in action: whereof the said king shewed himselfe marueilous glad, interteining them in the best sort, and promising abundant reliefe of all their wants, making generall proclamation in the city vpon paine of death, that no man of what degree or state soeuer he were, should presume either to hinder them in their affaires, or to offer them any maner of inurie in body or goods. By vertue whereof they dispatched al things in excellent good sort, with al fauor and peaceablenesse: only such prisoners and captiues of the Spaniards as were in the Citie, seeing the good vsage which they receiued, and hearing also what seruice they had performed against the foresaide Gallies, grudged exceedingly against them, and sought as much as they could to practise some mischiefe against them: and one amongst the rest seeing an Englishman alone in a certaine lane of the Citie, came vpon him suddenly, and with his knife thrust him in the side, yet made no such great wound, but that it was easily recouered. The English company hearing of it, acquainted the king with the fact, who immediatly sent both for the party that had receiued the wound and the offender also, and caused an executioner in the presence of himselfe and the English, to chastise the slaue euen to death, which was performed to the ende that no man should presume to commit the like part, or to doe any thing in contempt of his royal commandement.
The English hauing receiued this good justice at the kings hands, and al other things that they wanted, or could craue for the furnishing of their shippes; tooke their leaue of him, and of the rest of their friends, that were resident in Alger, and put out to Sea, looking to meete with the second army of the Spanish king, which waited for them about the month of the Straights of Gibraltar, which they were of necessitie to passe. But comming neere to the said Straight, it pleased God to raise at that instant a very darke and mistie fogge, so that one ship could not discerne another, if it were 40. paces off: by meanes whereof; together with the notable faire Easterne winds that then blewe most fit for their course, they passed with great speed through the Straight, and might haue passed with that good gale, had there bene 500. Gallies to withstand them, and the aire neuer so cleare for euery ship to be seene. The second Spanish fleete lying in watie for the English. But yet the Spanish Gallies had a sight of them when they, were come within 3. English miles of the towne, and made after them in all Pøssible haste, and although they saw that they were farre out of their reach, yet in a vaine fury and foolish pride, they shot off their Ordinance, and made a stirre in the Sea as if they had bene in the midst of them, which vanitie of theirs ministred to our men notable matter of pleasure and mirth, seeing men to fight with shadowes, and to take so great paines to so small purpose.
But thus it pleased God to deride, and delude all the forces of that proud Spanish king, which, he had prouided of purpose to distressethe English, who notwithstanding passed through both his Armies, in the one, little hurt; and in the other nothing touched, to the glory of his immortall Name, the honour of our Prince and Countrey, and the just commendation of ech mans seruice performed in that voyage.
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