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in her broadsides, being animated by the hope of a considerable prize. But they soon sheered off again, being surprised at the tallness of the ship, and the number of men to defend her, till Cross, whom he calls Sir Robert, laid the Queen's ship named the Providence across her stern, and stood the brunt singly for three hours together. After which the rest of the ships, together with two belonging to the Earl of Cumberland, joining them, plied her so warmly, especially at the stern, that no man had the courage to stand at the helm any longer. The first that boarded her was Cross himself, followed by several others. The victory being obtained, they found every place full of slaughtered bodies, and a confused heap of dead and dying men, which, with the maimed and wounded, who lay everywhere scattered up and down, made a very lamentable spectacle."*
The carrack was called the Madre de Dios (the Mother of God)—was 165 feet from stem to stern, a seven-decked ship of 1600 tons, most richly laden, was armed with 32 brass guns, and had a crew of 600 men on board. This prize, when brought home, was valued by report at 150,0001. sterling, besides what the officers and seamen had pilfered and got into their own clutches.
On this subject; Raleigh himself, the most interested, complains bitterly, in a letter to the Lord
Treasurer, of the conduct of some of the officers and men who had pillaged the carrack, by which both himself and Sir Martin Frobisher were sufferers. “ Mercenary men,” he says, “ are not so affectionate or religious but they can, with safe conscience, lick their own fingers.”
The Queen, as usual, assumed to herself the power of making the distribution to the adventurers, with which some were satisfied. As a matter of favour, she is said to have awarded to the Earl of Cumberland some 36,0001.
The King of Spain, anxious, as he always was, and ever ready, to assist the enemies of England, joined the faction in France, known by the name of the League, against the legitimate king, then in alliance with Queen Elizabeth. Philip, in 1591, had sent 3000 Spanish troops to the neighbourhood of Brest, where they had taken up and fortified themselves in a strong position. The Queen, desirous to give assistance to the King of France, ordered a body of about 3000 troops, under the command of Sir John Norris, to be conveyed to Brest. No progress being made on either side, a squadron, with a fresh supply of troops, was ordered from Spain; whereupon the Queen of England was a second time applied to for naval assistance, which she was the more ready to grant, as the Spaniards were already in possession of the fort of Crozon, near Brest, which, if suffered to become a
port for the reception of a Spanish fleet, this powerful rival would then be likely to prove an unwelcome and dangerous neighbour to England.
The Queen, therefore, lost no time in ordering a squadron to be prepared; the command of which was given to Sir Martin Frobisher. It consisted of four of her ships-of-war, exclusive of some small vessels; with orders to proceed off Brest, and to communicate with Sir John Norris. The ships were, the Vanguard, Sir Martin admiral; the Rainbow, Captain Fenner vice-admiral; the Dreadnought, Captain Clifford; the Quittance, Captain Saville.
At this time Norris had succeeded in driving the Spaniards out of several places in their possession along the coast of Bretagne, and was proceeding to the attack of Fort Crozon. Norris, on landing his forces before this fort, was delighted to find Sir Martin Frobisher with his squadron at anchor before the same place. The Admiral immediately landed his troops, with a party of seamen; a joint attack was commenced, and carried on with great vigour: and the defence on the part of the besieged was so bravely contested, and persevered in with such obstinacy, that a great number of our gallant English officers and men lost their lives.
Intelligence of what was going on having reached the Queen, the tender concern, which she so invariably manifested for the lives and safety of her people, prompted her on the present occasion to write to Norris, entreating him to put some check to the boundless valour of her brave people, and to stay their impetuosity. “The blood of man,” she says, “ ought not to be squandered away at all adventures; that the boiling heat of pushing men forward had need be curbed, and not encouraged and egged on into danger and ruin: that if he observed these measures, he would gain the credit of his conduct, and sit free at the same time from the charge of cruelty; and that she herself should, upon better ground, commend his care and regard for her subjects.” The work of destruction had, however, been completed before the receipt of this letter; but another was written at or about the same time to Frobisher, bearing date the 14th of November.*
ELIZABETA R. Trustie and welbeloved, wee greet you well : wee have seen your [letter] to our Threasuror and our Admyrall, and thereby perceive your [love] of our service, and also, by others, your owne good carriage, whereby [you] have wonne yourself reputation ; whereof, for that wee imagine it wil be comfort unto you to understand, wee have thought good to vouchsafe to take knowledge of it by our owne hand writinge. Wee know you are sufficientlie instructed from our Admyrall, besides your owne circumspection, howe to prevent any soddaine mischiefe, by fire or otherwise, upon our fleete under your charge ; and yet doe wee thinke it will worke in you the more impression, to be by ourself againe remembred, who have observed by former experience that the Spaniards, for all their boaste, will trust more to their devices than that they dare in deede with force look upon you.
* This MS. letter being partly burnt, the defective words are supplied between brackets.
For the rest of my directions, we leave them to such letters as you shall receave from our counsaile.
Given under our privie signet, at our mansion of Richmond, the 14th of November, in the 36th yeare of our reign, 1594.
( L. S. ) To our trustie and welbeloved Sir Martine Furbussher, Knight.*
Though the Spanish garrison of Crozon, on ac.count of their obstinate resistance, was ultimately put to the sword, and the fort razed to the ground, this signal vengeance was more than counterpoised by the loss of that brave and skilful officer Sir Martin Frobisher. He was wounded in the hip by a musket-ball, to which he seems to have paid little regard, and the surgeon who dressed the wound, less; for, either through ignorance or carelessness, he merely extracted the ball, leaving the wadding behind, which, very shortly after the return of the squadron to Plymouth, festered, and brought on a fever, that carried him off in a few days.
In a letter, addressed apparently to the Lord High Admiral, the last he ever wrote, and after receiving his death-wound, he relates with great coolness the taking of the fort, and the loss sustained in the siege; and then says,
* Cottonian MS., Otho E 9.