A map of the subjection of England by the Spanish and their allies (Welsh and Irish) according to my scenario. The arrows denote their operations for the capture of London, Bristol and other cities.
By Periklis Deligiannis
CONTINUED FROM PART I
The next day Santa Cruz sent message to the Duke of Parma who was waiting with his army in Dunkirk and the neighboring ports, to be ready for the departure of his shallow landing crafts for the English coasts (Note).
Most of the English naval squadron of Dover which by then was guarding Parma’s landing fleet, had to join Howard’s main fleet during his desperate attempt to protect Portsmouth. The English reckoned that the Dutch navy allied to them, was guarding Parma’s fleet but they were mistaken. The Hollanders never really trusted their unnatural friendship with the English, although Elizabeth’s defeat would probably mean also their own subjection to Spain. They were furious by the fact that the Queen was still negotiating with the Duke of Parma on a peace treaty, ignoring their own war against him. They feared that Elizabeth and the Duke had moved much closer to a peace treaty which would leave the Spaniards undisturbed to subdue the Netherlands.
The Duke of Parma had contributed to their confusion by spreading misleading information that his landing fleet would not be heading to England but to the coasts of Holland. After that, the Dutch did not hesitate to keep their warships moored in their ports in order to protect themselves from the threat of Parma’s landing army.
The bad weather delayed the military operations for two days. Santa Cruz was urgent to operate because the English were rapidly concentrating land forces in neighboring Southampton to recapture Portsmouth. After the improvement of the weather, the Armada ships covered the maritime area from Portsmouth to Dunkirk in order to protect Parma’s shallow landing crafts. The English navy attacked for the ultimate deterrence effort. The Englishmen fought furiously unleashing a barrage of shells and thus managed to destroy many galleons of Santa Cruz and sink some of the vessels of the Duke of Parma. But they were finally fought off with heavy losses, by the Spanish who kept unbreakable their “wooden wall” that had set up in the Channel waters. Captain Hawkins, a renowned Sea Dog, was among the casualties, lost together with his galleon.
At the same time, the attacks of the English Army under Leicester (from Southampton) against the Spanish garrison of Portsmouth, had no success because Santa Cruz’s marines and mercenaries who were guarding the city, were experienced soldiers and protected by strong fortifications reinforced by the rapid work of Italian and Spanish engineers. In the final attack, Leicester’s English and a few mercenary troops came very close to recapture the city killing many Spaniards, but they were finally pushed back. Thereby in two days, 17,000 soldiers of the Duke of Parma were in Portsmouth, in the English coast ready for the land invasion. Soon the nearly unprotected ports of Brighton and Dover fell into Parma’s troops.
The English Navy began to dissolve and Santa Cruz immediately sent 20 of his ships in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. It did not take long for the Spanish captains and officers to persuade the Irishmen to revolt against the hated English authorities. Besides, many of the English troops of Ireland had been transferred to Britain in order to fight Parma. The Catholic Scottish Highlanders who also came in concert with the Spanish officers who dropped anchor in their waters, prepared to invade the English territory. After a week, the Scottish Protestant King James came to the conclusion that everything had been lost for Queen Elizabeth. In order to keep his throne, he was baptized Catholic and allowed the invasion of his army in England (late September). However, a large part of the Highlander troops remained in the Scottish Lowlands to oversee the pro-English local Protestants.
Meanwhile, Parma had transported his remaining troops from Flanders to Portsmouth, Brighton and Dover. With his 35,000 men concentrated, he began to slowly and carefully advance in the enemy mainland under the close supervision of the smaller English army under Leicester, who however could not yet give the decisive battle because he was expecting reinforcements from all over the English territories. Thus the Duke of Parma was able to approach London while he sent a second expedition to conquer Bristol in order to geo-strategically isolate Southwestern England with her strategic ports and make contact with the West Welshmen. The latter had not forgotten the bloody suppression of their revolution under Owen Glendower (Owain Glyndwr, 1400-1412) by the English. They joined the Irish warriors who had crossed the Irish Sea in their fishing and other vessels, and all together marched against England proper.
Admiral Howard understood that soon there would be no free harbors for his remaining galleons. The main body of the English mariners and marines landed at Bournemouth to help the land war effort against the general invasion of their country. Other young Englishmen chose to sail to the Atlantic in order to reach the allied Northern European Protestant countries, coasting Ireland and Highland Scotland from the north.
Because of the bad weather many English ships were wrecked on the coasts of the two Celtic countries, where their survivors were massacred by the natives. The vessels which managed to escape followed different directions. Others sailed to the North Sea where their crews perished because of hunger and epidemics. There could be no replenishment in food and fresh water in Ireland and Scotland. Finally, only eleven ships managed to reach Norway and Denmark. Other English survivors felt that North America was a better option. The next few years, they used its uninhabited coves as bases for piracy against Spanish, Portuguese and French vessels. Finally most of them were killed or arrested and hanged until 1599. Later a few survivors were found to live among the native Algonquian tribes.
Meanwhile, the Scottish army with the formidable Highlanders at the top of its battle line, managed to defeat the weakened military forces of Northern England in the Battle of the Wear River (October 1588). In the south, the other Celts (Irish and Welsh) captured much of West England including Bristol, while Parma’s army had conquered the English territory south of the Thames, thus beginning the siege of London. Most of Leicester’s men had already been killed or wounded in the defensive battles against the invaders. Leicester himself was heavily wounded and retired from the leadership of the army. The remaining English troops consisted mostly of untrained and warless militiamen who had been hastily gathered from throughout their country.
Except for a few mercenaries and volunteers already in the island, the Dutch, Scandinavian and German Protestants could not help Elizabeth because the Armada was overseeing them, now anchored at Calais and Dover. Moreover, the fragmentation and the small populations of the Protestant states did not allow them to coordinate their efforts and thus sent help of some account in England, even if they could.
The ultimate battle for the fate of London took place at Blackheath, in the south of the city. The 20,000 professional troops of the Duke of Parma crushed the 22,000 English troops under the leadership of the Earl of Essex, killing many; among them Captain Frobisher, a Sea Dog who fought as a common soldier (November 5, 1588). The heavy casualties of the Englishmen were due to their fierceness and stubbornness in this final battle, realizing that this was the last chance for them and their Queen.
The victorious Spanish army entered London. Many of its terrified citizens had left the city while the rest were closed in their homes, praying for their salvation. But the disciplined and civilized Spaniards did not fall into atrocities, except for a few mercenaries searching for loot who were punished for their actions. The last English troops (2,500 men in all) were fortified in the palace, determined to protect the Queen with their lives. But there was no need for that. Elizabeth surrendered voluntarily to the Duke of Parma in order to avoid further bloodshed.
Santa Cruz sent the deposed Queen in Lisbon with a strong naval escort for the possibility of some Protestant corsairs trying to liberate her. Elizabeth remained in the city for a few days. Neither King Philip nor any Spanish high official met with her. Her fate had been decided in advance: the transport convoy sailed shortly after for New Spain (Mexico) where she would be exiled for the rest of her life. The place of her exile was the old city Tlaxcala, the great enemy of the Aztecs. The Spanish did not choose Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) for her exile, because in this large colonial city she could be helped by Protestant agents to escape with the assistance of native Aztecs. The Tlaxcalans were still loyal to the Spanish. Eighteen months later news reached Europe that Elizabeth died in Tlaxcala, not withstanding the climate of the region. However, there were rumors that she was poisoned by her guards.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE SPANISH VICTORY
In England, the papal envoys and many Catholic priests set about the task of restoring the Catholic doctrine in England, the East Wales and the Scottish Lowlands. The Inquisition had a long and laborious work; however there were explicit instructions of both the Pope and King Philip to avoid abuses and excesses that had led the people to the “error of Protestantism”. A few thousand Englishmen were burned on the pyres and after ten years the country seemed to be again Catholic. Nevertheless, it was a common secret that there were still many crypto-Protestants being a large proportion of the population. Many thousands English and Scottish Protestants had already fled to Germany and Scandinavia.
Returning to December 1588, the Spaniards made sure to get rid of several threatening English officials by hanging them on various charges, in the main squares of London. Of course the intriguer Lord Burghley was one of the first executed nobles. However, the Spanish troops did not harm the common people despite the excessive rumors that could be heard in London in the winter of 1587-1588 for a general massacre of the population in case of victory of the Armada. Those rumors were a contrivance of the Protestant nobles in order to assure that the common people will fight the Spanish until the end. Admiral Santa Cruz remained in England as the country’s temporary military commander, supported by 30,000 soldiers: among them many Irish, Scots and Welsh. Deep down in his heart, the great commander wanted to return to his beloved Spain as soon as possible in order to rest after an intense military lifetime.
In December 1588, the Duke of Parma returned to the Netherlands which was finally subjugated by March 1590. Four hundred thousands Dutch trying to avoid the return to Papism, migrated to neighboring Saxony and to other German states. The great kingdom of France became a Spanish protectorate. Although the powerful king Philip could expel or exterminate the Huguenots, he tacitly tolerated them because the instability that they were causing in France served his plans. On the other hand, he and the Spanish envoys in the kingdom were very cautious not to provoke the national sentiment of the French nobles and common people. The French king was forced to renounce the Protestant successor Henry of Navarre. The real power passed to the Duke of Guise until 1598, the year of King Philip’s death. France got rid of the Spanish custody and gradually expelled or absorbed the Huguenots, becoming the greatest rival of Spain in the 17th century.
Philip’s first political settlements concerning the British Isles (February 1589) were designed for the weakening of the English Kingdom so that it would be permanently a subservient of Spain. Philip proclaimed Ireland an independent Kingdom with an offspring of the Spanish branch of the House of Hapsburg as its monarch. Another Spanish Hapsburg prince, a nephew of Philip, was proclaimed King of the newly independent Welsh Kingdom in which Cornwall, Cumbria (Cumberland), Lancashire and a few more former English regions were annexed. The weakening of England was secured by the proclamation of the independent Kingdom of Northumbria which included all the former English lands north of Nottingham to the Scottish borders. The Austrian Hapsburg prince who became its king received the symbolic name Arthur I, a personal choice of King Philip. In this way the latter wanted to clearly demonstrate that the Northumbrian territory would never again become English.
However, the throne of the remaining English Kingdom was a different matter. Some Spanish officials advised Philip to take the English crown for himself, but the victor excluded this option at once. In addition, he considered that the new Catholic king of England should not be a Spaniard in order not to further provoke the national sentiment of the people who had already been displeased with the dismemberment of the country. The subjection of England had cost to Philip immense sums of money, and for this reason he was cautious as to avoid rebellions of her people. On the other hand, the new king had to be a confidant of Philip, a relative of him, someone Hapsburg. As in the case of Northumbria, the solution was found in the Austrian Hapsburgs.
Philip came in contact with his close relative, the Hapsburg Emperor of Germany and King of Austria and Hungary, in order for the latter to propose someone from his House as monarch of England. The throne of London was a much more critical matter than that of Northumbria, where a distant nephew of the Emperor was installed. The eleven-year old Ferdinand, grandson of the former Emperor Ferdinand, was a good choice. In March 1589 the Hapsburg prince moved with his father Charles (the Archduke of Styria) in London. The following month he was crowned King of England, founder of the Hapsburg dynasty in the country. He would be a trusted monarch – actually a regent – of the circle of Philip, the leader of the House of Hapsburg. The real power was in the hands of the Spanish military commander, the successor of Marquis Santa Cruz.
Finally, Philip decided to leave King James on the Scottish throne because he acceded in time to Catholicism. In essence he was a vassal of the Hapsburgs and a ‘hostage’ of the Highlander warlords who held the real power.
There were even linguistic consequences. The Goidelic and Brythonic (Brittonic) languages of the Irish, the Highlander Scottish, the Welsh, the Cornish and the Manx were gradually reborn and gained new speakers at the expense of English. Especially the Welsh language expanded in East Wales, Cornwall, Lancashire and Cumberland, and the Scottish Gaelic in the Scottish Lowlands. The Cornish dialect which came close to extiction was reborn and also expanded in East Cornwall.
That political and religious settlement of the British Isles was maintained until the mid 17th century. Then the Spanish power began to decline because of the uncontrolled influx of the American gold and silver which brought about their devaluation, high inflation and the gradual collapse of the economic system. This situation gave the opportunity to the Crypto-Protestants of Britain and the Netherlands (who were superficially baptized Catholics because of the terror of the Inquisition) to revolt. The fierce civil wars with their Catholic compatriots convulsed their countries.
The Spanish conquest of England and Holland had another greater consequence. The Spanish ensured the safety of their American colonies until the end of the 17th century and further on, by prohibiting the English and Dutch ships to sail to the Americas. They also managed to expand them without being disturbed by any other European rival except the French. The latter were their new opponent colonizers, who after 1599 began to colonize the east coasts of North America.
I have to refer to an historical injustice on the Duke of Parma. In the historical facts and till nowadays, Parma has repeatedly been ‘accused’ that he had not prepared his army for the landing in England under the protection of Armada, when she would appear in Flanders. But the truth is quoted by Dutch and Spanish official sources. The Duke had his forces more than ready for the landing and waited for the Armada which never appeared. Indeed, Parma used to exercise daily his men on the rapid boarding in their landing crafts.
(1) Martin C. and Parker G .: THE SPANISH ARMADA, London 1997
(2) CAMBRIDGE MODERN HISTORY, Cambridge.
(3) Parker G.: THE GRAND STRATEGY OF PHILIP II, Redwood Books, London 1998
(4) Creasy E .: FIFTEEN DECISIVE BATTLES OF THE WORLD, London 1994
(5) Banks Arthur: A WORLD ATLAS OF MILITARY HISTORY, Vol. Two, London 1979