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Philip II, the Catholic King of Spain,
was on the verge of changing the shape of Europe.
The most powerful naval force on Earth,
the mighty Spanish Armada, had sailed through the Channel.
Its aim? To crush heretic England...
..and take the crown of Queen Elizabeth.
SHOUTING AND GUNFIRE
Our mission is a sacred one.
This was a war fought in the name of religion,
but it was also a war of power and politics.
And for the two great monarchs who started the whole thing off,
it was deeply personal,
the result of 30 years of increasing bitterness.
There you go. Look at that!
Now, to understand this defining moment in history,
I'm sailing the waters I love...
..following the course of the English navy
as it battled the Spanish Armada.
There's now a howling gale,
similar conditions to the ones that Drake and the fleet faced.
While access to unique, eye-witness accounts...
This is one of the most remarkable letters I have ever seen.
..will take us, for the very first time,
inside the minds of the commanders themselves...
For their heavy guns to have the greatest effect,
they've got to go in for the kill.
..and offer unprecedented insight into the corridors of power.
Bring me good tidings.
GUNFIRE AND SHOUTING
..allowing us to bring to life 12 days in the summer of 1588...
..when England's very survival...
..hung in the balance.
Army and navy together, their might would be...
For nine days, the English navy had pursued the Spanish Armada
from Plymouth to the Isle of Wight.
But despite three ferocious battles,
the huge invasion force remained almost entirely intact.
On 7th August, 1588, the Spanish Armada was anchored
just here off Calais, on the coast of France.
It now appeared that they were within
a whisker of achieving their goal,
which was to link up with a Spanish army,
about 21 miles in that direction,
and then together invade England across the Straits of Dover.
This was the endgame.
Somehow, the English had to deal a killer blow.
or the nation and its queen would fall.
Just 100 miles away, Elizabeth was about to receive
the latest reports from her most trusted advisors.
The two most powerful men in England.
Lord Burghley, her Lord High Treasurer
and Sir Francis Walsingham,
her Secretary of State and spy master.
They were coordinating the troops, they were organising supplies.
They were dealing with the Catholic threat and, of course,
they also had to provide counsel to the Queen.
Her mood will be most vile.
Where's the trumpeting porter when you need him?
How a commoner's fart can leave the Queen in more stitches
than an army of jesters...
Are you volunteering?
Both men knew that despite the navy's valiant efforts,
the Spanish were closing in
and England stood on the brink of defeat.
Gentlemen, bring me good tidings.
The Spanish are at Calais.
The peril is closing.
I do know where Calais is.
Yes, Your Majesty.
JESSIE CHILDS: 'The longer the Armada was in the Channel,
'the greater the threat to Elizabeth, and her future was pretty bleak.
'If the Spanish could land,'
if they could overrun England,
then she would either be captured or she would be killed on the spot.
It was a pretty grim prospect.
Elizabeth's arch-enemy, King Philip II,
was the most powerful man on Earth...
..ruler of the world's greatest empire.
But over 700 miles from the action,
he was out of touch with unfolding events.
There are rumours reverberating around Europe.
But, of course, unlike Elizabeth, who is only,
say half a day away from communication,
Philip is waiting more than two weeks at times
to hear conflicting reports about what is going on.
With no reliable news,
Philip was wise enough to ignore stories of the Armada's success.
The Spanish ambassador told Philip that half the English fleet
has been sunk.
First of all, Drake had had his legs blown off
by a cannon ball and then he'd been captured.
But in Madrid, Philip was wary of this optimistic talk.
Philip's master plan for
the invasion was for the Armada
to sail east up the Channel
to the Straits of Dover.
Then the 27,000-strong Spanish army,
based in Flanders,
commanded by the Duke of Parma,
would embark on 300 barges...
..sail out to meet the Armada,
and conquer England.
With his two huge forces joined
and God on his side,
the King of Spain remained piously confident of victory.
Soon the news would surely come
that the Spanish had landed and London had fallen.
The English navy knew what lay in store.
Lord High Admiral Charles Howard realised that the two halves
of Spain's invasion force must now be in direct contact.
Howard of Effingham had very little naval experience.
He'd been appointed Lord High Admiral but he was an administrator.
Just two miles away from the anchored Spanish fleet,
Howard needed to decide what his next move should be.
Don't dither, boy. Don't dither.
He was advised by his maverick second-in-command,
an experienced seaman...
Don't leave anything.
..who knew how to fight.
Sir Francis Drake,
a farmer's son from Devon who'd spent his entire life at sea.
He had made a very profitable career out of plundering Spanish ships.
Elizabeth had knighted him for his plunder.
Play the long game to become rich.
Nobody had shown more courage,
sometimes reckless courage,
in taking on the enemy.
Nobody was better equipped to deal with the Spanish Armada
when it arrived.
Over a week of fighting, Drake had taken some extreme risks
and learned some valuable lessons.
He'd known the English ships were faster.
But when he'd plundered a stricken Spanish galleon,
he'd discovered that English cannon were superior too.
And during another attack, he'd worked out just how close
he needed to be to cause the enemy real damage.
Now, though, it seemed the English position was dire.
They were desperately low on ammunition
because Elizabeth was too broke and too mean to properly equip her navy.
And the Armada was now more threatening than ever.
Howard and Drake were worried.
The Spanish Armada was anchored here in friendly Catholic waters.
They were being re-supplied with vital food and water.
But worst of all, they were only 21 miles away from a vast
Spanish army, 27,000 men commanded by the Duke of Parma.
Drake and Howard were very worried that if these two forces were on the
verge of joining hands, then that would create an invincible enemy.
For Elizabeth, sheltered in her country palace at Richmond,
this news was crushing.
Parma's army is waiting in Flanders.
Ready to embark?
We should assume so.
If the Queen falls, England falls effectively.
She has no successor, she has no children, no direct heirs.
The throne would naturally pass to the invader.
Historians have never been sure of Elizabeth's precise
movements during the 12 days of the Armada threat.
But brand-new research now suggests that on the 7th August,
she made the dramatic decision to relocate her entire court
to the very centre of her capital.
Defence of the realm is fundamentally
hinged on protection of the person of the Queen.
Elizabeth moves from Richmond to St James's Palace,
closer to the heart of London.
Moving Elizabeth and her court is no mean feat.
She routinely travels with about 200 attendants.
But St James's Palace, it's much more defendable and she can be
instantly surrounded by her own troops and safeguarded in that way.
The vast royal household would be rowed downriver by barge...
..the very next morning.
As they prepared for the worst, neither Elizabeth nor her navy
had any idea the Spanish fleet was facing
some serious problems of its own.
The king's orders are the king's orders.
(If only it were that simple.)
For a start, its commander, the Duke of Medina Sidonia,
was at loggerheads with his deputy, Admiral Juan Martinez de Recalde.
We're gaining the wind, closing for the kill.
We will sail forth and fulfil the king's plan.
Medina Sidonia was another administrator.
He had spent barely any time at all at sea
and would be seasick in a rowing boat.
This is war, sir.
Recalde is a sort of Spanish counterpart to Drake.
A man of action who believes, "This is my objective.
"Nothing is going to get in my way from achieving it."
Recalde had wanted to take an English harbour to secure
a safe base and wait for news from Parma and his army.
But he was overruled by the inexperienced Medina Sidonia,
who'd ordered the fleet to sail for the exposed coast of Calais
to be as close to the army as possible.
The problem was that despite repeated efforts,
Medina Sidonia hadn't received any word from the Duke of Parma
as to where or when their forces would meet.
Now, within touching distance, news finally came from Parma.
But it was devastating.
Parma wrote that he "had not yet embarked
"so much as a barrel of beer, let alone a single soldier"
and he couldn't possibly be ready to join forces
"until at least the following Friday,"
which was a whole week away.
Medina Sidonia was horrified.
He'd raced all the way up the Channel trying to make this
rendezvous that turned out not to be a rendezvous at all.
To be fair, Saul,
the Duke of Parma has got every reason not to be ready.
He's got 300 barges ready
for his troops to embark.
But he can't get his troops on
until he knows where the Armada is.
Remember, they haven't been able to
talk to each other at all until now.
That's true but, of course,
he's been a little bit too clever for his own good, I think,
the Duke of Parma, because
to put English spies off the scent,
to try and confuse them about his intentions,
he's actually dispersed his forces
and it's going to take him time to regroup them.
So, pretty much you're stuck on the wrong side of the Channel.
This is no place to tarry.
The king's plan... We are trapped.
There is no sign of our valiant army.
We wait for Parma.
Medina Sidonia was taking a huge risk.
Now he had to spend an entire week with his fleet on this
exposed stretch of coast with his English enemy
looming out there to the west.
The vast Armada was, for the first time,
unexpectedly vulnerable to attack.
Isolated in his palace,
the usually meticulous Spanish king had never realised
that his invasion plan depended on some very complex logistics.
There was a fatal flaw in Philip's master plan.
Bizarrely, he was astonishingly vague about exactly how and where
the Spanish Armada would meet up with the army of the Duke of Parma.
It's almost as though he thought the English Channel
was a small scrap of water on which it would be easy to meet.
In fact, of course, it's a long stretch of sea,
350 miles long, 20 miles wide at its narrowest point.
Philip assumed that his army and his Armada could simply send
notes to one another saying where and when they should meet.
But at sea, surrounded by the enemy, that had so far proved impossible.
Now, on 7th August, Philip at last became aware of the problem.
From a messenger.
Parma has written to Philip before
pointing out the failure,
the absence of any mechanism
for the fleet and the army to join together,
but perhaps he was too subtle.
Professor Geoffrey Parker is the world's foremost expert
on King Philip
and has spent a lifetime unearthing documents that take us
to the very heart of the Armada.
This letter had been sent from the Duke of Parma
a full two months earlier
and it made very uncomfortable reading.
This letter arrives at The Escorial on the 7th August,
the very day on which the Armada is stationed off Calais.
And in it, the Duke of Parma expresses just one more time
his worry that there's still no mechanism for joining
the Armada from Spain with the army.
This time the penny drops
because we see in the margin the king has written,
"Please, God, may there not be a screw-up."
"Embarazo" is the word he uses.
So for the first time, the king becomes aware that
there's a fatal flaw in the master plan.
The funny thing was that both sides,
English and Spanish, thought the other had the upper hand.
But the strategic balance had shifted.
Without Parma's army, the Spanish plan was falling apart.
The Spanish Armada, by itself, probably didn't have enough troops
to mount a successful invasion of England.
And Parma's army, without the Spanish Armada,
would struggle to get across the Channel.
And if it did, it wouldn't have the heavy artillery it needed
to capture English towns like London.
So, although they didn't know it at this stage,
the English had the upper hand.
But as far as Drake and Howard were concerned,
an invasion could be just hours away.
We have no choice but to strike now.
That is the only choice I want.
The English had to act fast.
But they knew it was dangerous to attack the Armada
anchored in its defensive formation.
So they came up with a desperate, last-ditch plan.
The idea was to cause maximum panic on the Spanish ships,
paving the way for the English to strike them hard the following day.
The plan called for eight old ships,
plenty of cannonballs and explosives.
It was time for the fireships.
Fireships had been used since the ancient Greeks.
They were a classic method for disrupting a fleet, destroying
it by fire or at least breaking it up and forcing it to flee.
An Italian engineer called Giambelli had already given
the Spanish every reason to fear fireships.
He created these things called the Hellburners of Antwerp
that had killed 800 Spanish troops.
Drake and Howard remembered just how devastating his fireships
had been at Antwerp and they decided to copy his idea.
They didn't have enough explosives to make them
quite as apocalyptic as Giambelli's ships
but they did gamble on the fact that the Spanish would panic
at the mere sight of burning ships heading towards their fleet.
Tides and westerly breeze are in our favour.
Pray God they remain so.
Pray God, Elizabeth and St George and even bloody Neptune!
I don't care, we must seize this moment.
Howard asked his commanders to volunteer eight ships between them.
With little hesitation, Drake handed one over...
..and the other commanders quickly followed.
Their alacrity at offering up boats to be sacrificed wasn't
quite as generous or as patriotic as it might at first appear.
They realised they'd be able to claim compensation
and of course that amount would be a lot more
than the old boat was worth.
Once a pirate, always a pirate.
Ball's here, wadding...
The principle is quite simple. You strip off anything of value.
You paint the masts and rigging with tar, you fill it with combustible
material and you double shot the guns so the heat sends them off.
Load Cherubim and Seraphim with two shots apiece.
Aye, sir, 'tis done.
A little present from El Draco.
Given the flood tide, you send them off,
sailed by skeleton volunteer crews who leap into their little boats
just before the fireships reach their target.
The obvious danger of a fireship is that if it rams your ship,
your ship will catch fire as well.
The greatest fear of any sailor in a wooden ship is fire at sea.
There's no escape, you either drown or you burn to death.
-Are we ready?
-We can hurt them.
At midnight, the skeleton crews
on board the fireships
ignited their hulls and let them
drift toward the anchored Spanish.
Medina Sidonia had suspected that the English might try
something like this so he'd put a screen of small boats
around the Armada to protect it.
They did manage to tow away two of the fireships.
But the rest of the burning vessels sailed on
right into the heart of the Spanish Armada.
As the six remaining fireships drifted ever nearer,
the Spaniards looked on in horror.
Raise the anchor. Move! And fast!
The problem with fireships is that, by very definition,
they are on fire, they've got no crew on, so actually
they are relatively easy to avoid. Medina Sidonia had given
orders to avoid the fireships.
And all of his captains managed to do that.
They do it but how do they do it?
They panic, of course, because he's effectively said to them
you can manoeuvre, bring up your anchors and get out of the way.
They don't do that, they cut their anchors.
And the problem with cutting an anchor
is you cannot then re-anchor.
It's a tactical disaster in terms
of the overall plan here.
And the Armada is heading, in flight,
away from Calais.
I'll accept that there was extreme panic in Calais Roads.
But they all still managed to get out,
leaving just a handful of ships
fighting for their lives, I admit,
on the Flanders' banks.
Drake's audacious plan worked.
The enemy's ships were scattered and vulnerable.
Now, for the first time, the English could launch an all-out attack.
And just possibly save England and Elizabeth.
As her household made the last arrangements to leave Richmond,
Elizabeth awoke knowing nothing of the night's events.
As far as she knew, the Spanish army might already be crossing
the Channel, escorted by a victorious Armada.
The Queen didn't know
if she'd still be wearing England's crown by nightfall.
Do stop fussing.
You act as if what you do is more important than
the defence of England.
Ladies, please grant Her Majesty some peace.
We can only imagine Elizabeth's state of mind.
I mean, this is a conflict she sought to avoid,
this a confrontation that
has now moved beyond her control and she simply is in a position
of waiting for the inevitable news of England falling to the Spanish.
As Elizabeth prepared for the journey downriver to London...
I am drained.
..Walsingham and Burghley continued to organise the country's
preparing the English for invasion
by spreading propaganda about the hated Spanish.
Hispanophobia, the fear of Spanish, is rife and Walsingham
and Burghley ramped up this fear for very good reasons, they wanted to
stiffen the resolve of the English people if there was an invasion.
Because, after all, every able-bodied man over the age of 16
would be expected to take up arms to defend the country.
I have here a proclamation, a draft proclamation,
which was sent enclosed in a letter from Burghley to Walsingham.
It shows the heightened rhetoric that they are playing on.
It refers to "A full tyrannical conquest of the country,
"the depriving of Her Majesty and the slaughter of her subjects."
Walsingham went even further in his rhetoric
in trying to inculcate a sense of fear.
And he almost referred to
a sort of sense of genocide and ethnic cleansing,
that children over the age of seven would be slaughtered,
that babies would be branded in the face,
that women would be raped and whipped.
And what this did was to whip up a sense of fear in the people
of England, a fear of Spanish invasion.
In fact, on the morning of the 8th August,
the Spanish were in disarray and further from invasion than ever.
As morning mass was celebrated, Medina Sidonia
and Recalde took stock of the previous night's disastrous events.
Most of the Armada had fled and was now scattered.
Only five Spanish ships remained anchored off Calais,
including Medina Sidonia's flagship.
Facing them, the entire English fleet,
preparing to attack.
All was now set for the largest confrontation
of the Armada campaign.
Monday, 8th August, 1588 has gone down as the date of one
of the greatest naval battles in history -
the Battle of Gravelines -
named after the town of Gravelines just here on the coast.
The stakes were high - the fate of England and its queen,
the primacy of Spain as a military and imperial power,
and the future of Christianity, all hung in the balance.
Howard's fleet was now joined by 35 ships from Kent,
filled with fresh stocks of ammunition.
For the first time, the English navy outnumbered the Armada.
Shot and wad, boys, shot and wad!
Make sure that coin is fast!
And with all he'd learned over the past ten days,
Drake was determined to destroy the Spanish once and for all.
Sailing as close as he dared,
so that the English cannon could do maximum damage to the enemy ships.
Until I say, you never stop!
At 6 o'clock in the morning, Drake's squadron attacks,
led by the Vice-Admiral.
Drake sweeps in, firing his bow guns,
heels over and gives
the Spanish ships a rippling broadside from his port battery.
EXPLOSIONS AND SHOUTS
Clear the pigs!
And then the rest of the English fleet attack.
The English coming in close for the first time.
But the Spanish were not about to retreat from the fight.
Up till now, Sam, the English,
I think, have very sensibly
kept their distance, they've been fighting
maybe at 100 or 200 yards.
But this is different. This is the decisive battle developing now.
And Medina Sidonia knows
he needs to do something.
So he's here, Drake attacks him -
he goes straight for the Spanish flagship,
but the Spanish here fight a very, very important
rearguard action that allows the
rest of the ships time to reform.
And so, displaying immense seamanship,
the rest of the ships
turn around and face the English.
EXPLOSIONS AND SHOUTS
The battle was very fierce but also very confused.
The weather was terrible.
There was cloud, rainstorms and wind.
And that was made even worse by the huge banks of gun smoke,
caused by all the cannons firing so much.
Through it all, the English pressed home their attacks with new energy.
Keep pressing, men!
The English are closing in, causing structural damage.
Now, the Spanish ships are taking a terrible pounding.
It goes on for eight hours with
the English just coming again
and again and again at them.
You get a real sense that this proximity of fighting,
this new way of doing it is having a
massive effect on the Spanish ships.
Part of the problem is the disparity in the rate of fire
between the two sides.
The San Martin fires off 300 cannon balls
but it's got almost 50 cannon,
that's just over one an hour.
I mean, the English are firing five times as quickly.
The Spanish have no respite.
They simply haven't got the time to reload their cannon.
It helps you understand just how
one-sided this battle was.
The battle damage is becoming severe.
We have Spanish warships who are struggling to keep afloat.
The carnage is terrifying to see.
You like what we're giving to you?
On board the Spanish ships,
the salvos of cannon fire caused devastation.
Forward and then the two back.
Using a pig carcass, it's possible to understand the mortal
peril the sailors faced that day.
A four-pound ball was one of the smallest
used during the battle of Gravelines.
Others were up to 15 times the size.
Four, three, two, one.
We've hit it fair and square on this massive oak target.
On the inside, you've got all these splinters.
You can see the jagged effect. Huge splinter come off.
This would not do you any good at all if it hit you.
There's a nasty hole there
and inside the flesh there's a chunk of oak.
A nasty jagged chunk of oak.
This is really a serious injury.
Onboard, the air was filled with splinters of oak
that mowed down hundreds of Spanish soldiers and sailors.
For gun crews below deck there was no escape.
If you were hit during the Armada battles, then you've got
several problems to contend with.
First of all, there's the immediate problem of the massive trauma
wound you may have suffered, either from some piece of flying
wood or if you were unlucky enough to get hit by a cannon ball.
Has it ruptured your internal organs, has it blown a limb apart?
If you survive that, you've then got to survive what the
barber surgeon is about to do to you.
Major amputation causes one of the biggest
problems for the barber surgeon and especially for the patient.
First of all, there's the physical difficulty of hacking through
the bone and flesh of a patient.
They would need to use something like this, which is
a Tudor bone saw. Now, bearing in mind, if we're amputating the arm,
that's going through one of the biggest bones in the body
and some of the most hefty tendons.
It's physically very difficult to saw through the arm.
It requires the services not only of this,
but of several large, burly men to hold the patient down.
But then even if you survive that,
you've got a further stage, which is to stop the bleeding
but then to survive the infections that can creep in from infected,
dirty instruments or even the surgeon's hands.
As the battle raged on, 85 Spanish doctors on board the Armada
were overwhelmed by the wounded and the dying.
It was a bloodbath.
Official Spanish casualty figures put the number of Spanish dead
at 600, the wounded at 1,000.
But some historians think this is very conservative and they've
calculated that as many as 6,000 Spanish could have been wounded.
But whatever the numbers, the fact was that the English fleet
here at the Battle of Gravelines
had given the Spanish Armada a terrible battering.
Finally, the Spanish fleet was at England's mercy.
I mean, it looks at this point that it's going to be a famous
decisive victory and that the Spanish fleet are going to be
by this superior English gunnery.
There's just one problem,
the English are running out of ammunition.
And so, finally, at about 5 o'clock, Howard calls off the attack.
Even with the fresh supplies of gunpowder and shot from Kent,
Howard did not have enough ammunition to finish the job.
A spirited fight, they are smarting more than we are.
The English have not landed any kind of killer blow. Why?
Because they were handicapped all the time by a shortage
of ammunition, shortage of gunpowder.
So even though English sailors had outfought the greatest
military fleet the world had ever seen,
the Armada escaped total destruction.
Now safely ensconced in St James's Palace,
Elizabeth was about to receive news of the victory at Gravelines.
But Walsingham and Burghley were acutely aware that even badly
damaged, the Armada still remained a dangerous threat.
The Spanish are heading north.
So we have prevailed?
They could turn back. They could even land.
I pray not. This whole enterprise is bankrupting us.
There is more to war than book-keeping.
Elizabeth always wanted
to achieve her results
at the cheapest possible price.
She hated spending a penny on anything and she simply
refused any more supplies, either of food or of ammunition.
Walsingham, we all know that your ideal would be for England to
spend everything on building your war machine.
We only follow where you lead, Your Majesty.
It is the Almighty who has kept us safe.
Elizabeth's concern for her cash-strapped economy
rather than the will to press home victory,
meant she was still gambling with her own -
and her country's - future.
And at 11 o'clock on the 9th August, that gamble paid off.
The wind direction suddenly changed and the Armada was blown north,
far from the Duke of Parma's army.
The wind had finally done what the English had been trying to do
all along, which was push the Spanish Armada
out of the English Channel and into the North Sea.
It's long been thought that this was the moment the Armada threat
was finally at an end.
Many ships were in a desperate state.
And sailing back into the Channel, against prevailing winds,
was almost impossible.
So it seemed like the planned invasion was over.
But a remarkable recent discovery has revealed one more twist...
..an incredible eyewitness account of the Armada,
written by Recalde, and discovered by Professor Geoffrey Parker.
He was the first person to read it in over 400 years.
And this account revealed something utterly unexpected.
That even after the Battle of Gravelines,
Recalde believed the Armada could still fight,
rendezvous with Parma
Recalde kept a log and it's the log of a very, very irritated man.
Recalde clearly thought that honour required a second attempt.
And he must have made his views felt at the Council of War.
We must resolve how to proceed.
We owe it to our king to return to the Channel
and execute what he commanded.
We must come to blows with our enemies once more.
Medina Sidonia could still do his duty
and fulfil his monarch's wishes.
But his courage failed him.
The Duke of Medina Sidonia also keeps a log
and his log for that day suggests that they discussed what to do next
and there was a unanimous decision to set sail for Spain going north,
about going round Scotland and Ireland
and heading back to Spain that way.
I propose that we sail westwards around the British Isles
and return home.
It is our duty to save as many of the king's ships as possible.
And face his wrath...
Are we in agreement?
Then it is decided.
Nothing is impossible!
We hold firm, we make rendezvous with Parma and proceed.
We are homeward bound.
HE HITS THE TABLE
The plague on whoever is responsible.
Medina Sidonia says there's a unanimous decision.
We go back to Spain.
Recalde says, "I didn't like this. I protested but I was overruled."
They can't both be right.
It just happens that we have another account from a senior commander
who backs Recalde's account to the hilt and says there was
a decision to go back to Spain and, "We protested and we were overruled."
I think I believe Recalde.
What is certain is that on the following day,
the 10th August, Medina Sidonia announced that the
remnants of the Spanish Armada would travel back to Spain.
And they'd go via the North Sea and the North Atlantic,
around England, Scotland and Ireland.
Humiliated and depressed, Medina Sidonia took to his cabin.
The Spanish Armada had been defeated.
Back in London, Elizabeth remained closeted away in St James's Palace.
But as the vanquished Armada sailed north and the danger clearly
passed, she decided it was time to present herself to her subjects.
It's very important for Elizabeth
to be publicly identified with
the victory, particularly as she is a female ruler.
Women do not know anything about matters of war.
And so, Elizabeth wants to be identified
as this great warrior queen.
She wants to show herself in victory.
Elizabeth's emergence from St James's Palace was quite deliberate,
and absolutely necessary.
I mean, London was full of rumour, of speculation,
and disorder was feared.
She needed to come out and put on a show.
It was time for Elizabeth to write one of the greatest political
speeches in history.
Wherefore I am come among you at this time...
..not for my recreation or pleasure,
but being resolved in the heat and midst of battle...
..to live and die amongst you all.
What comes next?
"Die amongst you all..." To lay down.
To lay down, yes, of course.
Tilbury Fort was where Elizabeth's troops were billeted,
and it gave her the perfect opportunity
to show herself to her people.
She could progress all the way from Westminster to Tilbury,
across the length of the Thames, and her people could see her.
It's almost like she's saying, "Here I am. I'm fine."
This was great PR, it was like a river pageant.
With church bells ringing in her ears, she mounted a white horse.
Accompanied by an honour guard
of 1,000 cavalrymen and 2,000 infantrymen,
she made her way here to where her army was encamped at Tilbury Fort.
Legend has it that she was wearing an armoured breastplate over her
dress as she reviewed all 17,000 men in her army.
Then came the piece de resistance.
..to lay down, for my God
and for my kingdom and for my people...
..my honour and my blood, even in the dust.
I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman
but I have the heart and stomach of a king.
And a king of England too.
And take foul scorn that Parma or any prince of Europe
should dare invade the borders of my realm.
The speech was pure gold. It was magnificent.
It's up there with Shakespeare's Henry V.
She was acknowledging that she's a woman, but she's saying
she has the heart and stomach of a king and a king of England!
You know, this is all part of the Gloriana myth.
As a piece of propaganda,
Elizabeth's speech here at Tilbury was unrivalled.
Word of it quickly spread throughout the rest of the kingdom.
She knew full well that she wasn't just addressing
the men in the army here - she was talking to the whole nation.
This great heroine, a Protestant heroine who had defeated
the Spanish advance, who had defended England
against the Spanish, against this Catholic crusade.
So it was absolutely central to the myth making of Elizabeth.
It was central to understandings of the success of Elizabeth's
reign and very much explains why she is celebrated
today as one of England's greatest monarchs.
Medals were cast.
It shows the Spanish Armada foundering on these rocks.
It's got the date and it's got the words from a psalm
written around the edge.
"You God art great and doest wondrous things."
Even Elizabeth got in on the action, she wrote poems and hymns,
But behind Elizabeth's glorification, there was a cold
disregard for those who had saved her life and won her victory.
The English fleet limped home, short of stores
with the crews exhausted from battle,
only to be shunned by a queen who cared more for money than
for the men who'd brought her glory.
One would have thought that Elizabeth's navy would have
been covered in glory after the defeat of the Armada,
but in fact, there's an astonishing audacity
to what Elizabeth does next,
because she actually criticises the commanders of her navy for not
looting the Spanish ships enough and bringing her more riches.
Victory, apparently, was not enough.
And if her lack of gratitude to her commanders was surprising,
the treatment of her sailors was far, far worse.
When Howard and the ships returned, there was an epidemic of typhus,
which swept through the English fleet,
killing many of the sailors who had fought so bravely for her.
Elizabeth refused to spend any money looking after them.
One statistic tells the horrific story.
Though England did not lose a single ship during the course
of the battle with the Armada, yet the losses of men to disease
and starvation meant that their losses equalled
those of the Spanish, which lost half their fleet.
And had Elizabeth's commanders not used their own money to
provide some food and sustenance for these men,
the death toll would have been even more horrific than it was.
It's a stain on her character that I believe can never be erased.
What does this treatment of the sailors tell us about Elizabeth?
Well, Elizabeth is a lonely woman in a man's world.
She has to be more hardnosed than anybody else.
And so, those Tudor genes she inherited
enabled her to look very callous,
to look very cruel in her treatment,
but in the 16th century this wasn't unusual.
She was just better at it than others.
-HE PRAYS IN SPANISH:
-Padre nuestro que estas en los cielos
Santificado sea tu nombre
Venga tu reino...
Whilst England and Elizabeth celebrated victory,
far away in Spain, Philip II continued to pray for success.
More than three weeks after the decisive battle,
he was still unaware of the Armada's terrible fate.
He had heard nothing from the Armada as to their progress,
even where they were,
but he was now becoming worried
that his plan had been fatally flawed.
And he prayed three hours at a time,
on his knees.
I mean, victory should be his.
"Isn't God on my side?"
Then, at last, on the 31st August, as the remnants of his Armada
struggled past the Hebrides, news finally arrived.
It's a letter from Parma himself
saying that the vital precondition for invasion has not been met,
that is to say the fleet and the army have not 'joined hands'.
That's bad but even worse is the news that comes three days later
that the Armada has decided to set sail for home,
going around Scotland and Ireland.
Philip has to shoulder a lot of responsibility for the failure
of the Armada.
And above all, Philip trusted too much in God,
he had this blind faith that it didn't matter how bad or how
flawed his strategy was, because God would make it work.
Too much could go wrong and lo, it did all go wrong.
God not only deserted the Spanish monarch,
but also the Armada as it struggled home.
Because for the sailors who'd survived battle,
there was even worse to come.
Terrible storms drove many of the Spanish Armada ships
onto the rocky coasts of Scotland and Ireland.
Perhaps 40 ships were lost.
Around 12,000 men drowned, died of exhaustion and hunger,
or were killed by the Irish or English.
Perhaps as little as 65 ships ended up returning home.
Around half the men were killed, including many of the commanders.
No wonder one monk in The Escorial called it
"The worst disaster to affect Spain for 600 years."
The Duke of Medina Sidonia was one of the lucky few.
His ship limped home in late September.
But he was utterly humiliated.
As he passes through the towns of Castile, people call him
Chicken Duke - Duque de Gallina.
And people ring his residence where he's sleeping
and say, "Drake, Drake, Drake is coming.
"Drake, Drake, Drake is coming."
But hey, he survives, the rest of them don't.
For Juan Martinez de Recalde, exhausted and sick with typhus,
this would be his last campaign.
Recalde gets back. I mean, he's a superb sailor,
but when he comes ashore he already knows that the Armada has
failed, he already knows that many, many other ships are not coming home.
And three days later, he dies.
Before he dies, he puts together this incriminating dossier,
and he sends it all to the king,
hoping to take down the Duke of Medina Sidonia.
Its pages reveal every beat of the Armada campaign from the inside.
From the moment it approached Plymouth
to the battle for the Isle of Wight,
and the tragedy of Gravelines,
this is an experienced warrior's indictment
of his pen-pushing commander.
We know the king reads it because Philip writes, "I've read it all,
"although I would rather not have done because it hurts so much."
But because Recalde's dead, he files it away
and it stays in these files until I find it 400 years later.
-As for Philip himself,
he also never recovered from his Armada's destruction.
Philip's health started to deteriorate, he suffered from
malarial fevers, his gout got worse,
and he had this incapacitating arthritis,
but he still believed that God was on his side.
So he sent two more Armadas against Elizabeth
and they were both foiled by the weather,
but he remained at war with England until his death.
Philip's great Protestant enemy, Elizabeth, was also ageing.
Her physical powers waning.
But her public image went from strength to strength.
And we can see that in one glorious painting - the Armada Portrait.
Behind Elizabeth, through two windows,
are the defeated Armada
and her victorious navy.
But a youthful queen sits centre stage,
bedecked in pearls and wearing the imperial crown.
We don't see the frail, fading woman that Elizabeth's ladies saw.
It says that her best years are ahead of her.
And where the codpiece should have been, had she been a king,
there is a pretty pink bow with a pearl pendant.
This is the Virgin Queen,
she is impregnable, and she is invincible, and so is England.
She was now firmly established as the great Gloriana,
the triumph of England.
It was really the birth of national identity
and that identity was inextricably bound with Elizabeth herself.
I think this is a pivotal point really in the development
of England as a world power.
This victory goes to England's head in a way that, perhaps,
has never really died.
If Spain had won,
the chances are her empire would have gone from strength to strength.
Instead, the defeat of the Armada is seen as the beginning
of Spain's decline and the start of England's formidable rise.
In the painting, Elizabeth is resting her hand on a globe,
her fingers touching the Americas.
In the decades that followed the Armada,
England and its navy would set about constructing what would
become the greatest empire in the history of the world.
# They swear they'll invade us These terrible foes
# They frighten our women Our children and beaus
# But should their flat bottoms in darkness get o'er
# Still Britons they'll find to receive them on shore
# Heart of oak are our ships Heart of oak are our men
# We always are ready Steady, boys, steady!
# We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again. #
The final episode of a three-part drama-documentary series telling the story of how England came within a whisker of disaster in summer 1588.
Newly discovered documents reveal a remarkable web of misunderstandings that stopped the Spanish from invading, and show how the English victory forged the reputation of Elizabeth.