Drake Attacks Cadiz

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Drake Attacks Cadiz

The 19th of April 1587 AD

Francis Drake , feared by the Spanish for whom he was a pirate and a figure of deep loathing, was one of those bold adventurers who made the first Elizabethan era such a special one in British history. This was an age of discovery, innovation and of danger. Drake managed to encapsulate all those elements in one man.

Born in 1540, the son of an ardent protestant father, Drake learned his seamanship as apprentice to a Thames merchant captain in the 1550s. With his cousin John Hawkins he made his first fortune as a slaver, capturing Africans on the west coast of that continent and selling them, contrary to the local law which prohibited foreigners from the trade, to Spanish plantations in the West Indies.

Regular clashes with the Spanish in his early career, allied to his innate hatred of Catholicism, created in him a hatred for Spain and its people. His public image as the heroic figure who had circumnavigated the globe, humbled the mighty Spanish in their New World colonies when he raided and plundered them, and his undoubted expertise as a seaman, all combined to make him the ideal man to lead a pre-emptive strike against the Spanish when war loomed in 1587.

England was not yet at war with Spain, and Drake’s action was highly provocative. Given somewhat ambiguous instructions by the authorities the practical Drake cut straight to the heart of the matter with his plan – attack and destroy the fleet being readied in Cadiz. His own words, from a letter written after the raid, tell the story:

The 19th of April we arrived within Cádiz Road, where we found much shipping; but, among the rest, thirty two ships of exceeding great burthen, laden, and to be laden, with provision and prepared to furnish the King's Navy, intended with all speed against England; the which, when we had boarded and thereout furnished our ships with such provision as we thought sufficient, we burned; and, although for the space of two days and nights that we continued there we were still endangered, both with thundering shot from the town, and assaulted with the roaring canons of twelve galleys, we yet sunk two of them and one great argosy, and still avoided them with very small hurt so that at our departure we brought away four ships of provision, to the great terror of our enemies and honour to ourselves, as it might appear by a most courteous letter written and sent to me with a flag of truce by Don Pedro, general of the galleys.
But whereas it is most certain that the King doth not only make speedy preparation in Spain, but likewise expecteth a very great fleet from the Straits and divers other places to join with his forces to invade England, we purpose to set apart all fear of danger, and by God's furtherance to proceed by all good means that we can devise to prevent their coming.

Drake’s attack on Cadiz was dubbed “singeing the King of Spain’s beard,” but it might better be remembered as breaking his barrels. In all Drake destroyed more than 30 vessels, at the cost of some 300,000 crowns to the Spanish authorities. More damaging in the long run to the Spanish was his capture or destruction of around 1600 tons of wood for barrel making, a loss that meant newer wood was used for the Armada’s stores the following year – indeed the raid almost certainly delayed the Armada by a year - with catastrophic consequences for much of the supplies this new wood eventually contained, and thus a serious reduction in effectiveness of the Spanish Armada when it finally sailed in 1588.

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Comment

From Bubble on 30th April 2013
Can you PLEASE put some kids stuff in there for prep?!?!

Brit Quote:
I venture to say no war can be long carried on against the will of the people. - Edmund Burke
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On this day:
Oxford surrenders to the Roundheads - 1646, The Legendary Newbury Coat Made - 1811, Worlds First Live Satellite Broadcast - 1967
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