Spanish Armada - Rebellion in Ireland

In 1588, the Spanish Armada, consisting of 130 great vessels, with 20,000 land forces on board, set sail against England, while 34,000 more land forces prepared to join from the Netherlands. Amidst the consternation which prevailed in England, active measures were taken to de fend the country; thirty vessels prepared to meet the Armada, and another fleet endeavored to block up the Netherlands forces in port. The command was taken by Lord Howard of Effingham. Troops were also mustered on land to repel the invaders. The English fleet attacked. the Armada in the Channel, and was found to have a considerable advantage in the lightness and manageableness of the vessels. As the Armada sailed along, it was infested by the English in the rear, and by a series of desultory attacks, so damaged as to be obliged to take refuge on the coast of Zealand. The Duke of Parma now declined to embark the Netherlands forces, and it was resolved by the admiral, that they should return to Spain by sailing round the Orkneys, as the winds were contrary to their passage directly back. Accordingly they proceeded northward, and were followed by the English fleet as far as Flamborough Head, where they were terribly shattered by a storm. Seventeen of the ships, having 5,000 men on board, were cast away on the Western Isles and the coast of Ireland. Of the whole Armada, fifty-three ships only returned to Spain, and these in a wretched condition. The seamen, as well as the soldiers who remained, were so overcome with hardships and fatigue, and so dispirited by their discomfiture, that they filled all Spain with accounts of the desperate valor of the English, and of the tempestuous violence of that ocean by which they were surrounded.

Though the Protestant church had meanwhile been established in Ireland, the great bulk of the people continued to be Roman Catholics. The native rudeness of the people and their chiefs, and the discontent occasioned by what was considered as a foreign church establishment, rendered the country turbulent and difficult to govern. Sir John Perrot, the deputy, proposed to improve the country by public works and English laws; but it was thought injurious to England to improve the condition of Ireland. A series of rebellions under chiefs named O'Neill was the consequence, and the English government was maintained with great difficulty, and at an enormous expense. The rebellion of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, was particularly formidable. The English officers were at first unsuccessful, and met with some serious defeats. In 1599, Tyrone gained so great a victory, that the whole province of Munster declared for him. He then invited the Spaniards to make a descent on Ireland, and join him. The queen sent over her favorite, the Earl of Essex, with 20,000 men; but he did not proceed with vigor, and soon after found it necessary to return to England to justify himself. Next year Tyrone broke the truce he had formed with Essex, overran the whole country, and acted as sovereign of Ireland. If Spain had at this time given him the support he asked, Ireland might have been dissevered from the English crown.

Elizabeth now selected as her deputy for Ireland, Blount, Lord Mountjoy, who was in every respect better fitted than Essex to conduct such a warfare. As a preliminary step, this sagacious officer introduced jealousy and disunion among the Irish chiefs. The very celerity of his movements tended to dispirit the insurgents. In 1601, six thousand Spaniards landed in Kinsale harbor, for the purpose of supporting the Irish. Mountjoy immediately invested the place, and prevented them from acting. Tyrone marched from the south of Ireland to their relief, and was met and overthrown by a much inferior English force, after which Kinsale was surrendered. About the time when Elizabeth died (1603), Tyrone submitted, and Ireland was once more reduced under the authority of the English crown.