A True Report Of A Worthy Fight





The merchants of London, being of the incorporation for the Turkey

trade, having received intelligences and advertisements from time to

time that the King of Spain, grudging at the prosp
rity of this kingdom,

had not only of late arrested all English ships, bodies, and goods in

Spain, but also, maligning the quiet traffic which they used, to and in

the dominions and provinces under the obedience of the Great Turk, had

given orders to the captains of his galleys in the Levant to hinder the

passage of all English ships, and to endeavour by their best means to

intercept, take, and spoil them, their persons and goods; they hereupon

thought it their best course to set out their fleet for Turkey in such

strength and ability for their defence that the purpose of their Spanish

enemy might the better be prevented, and the voyage accomplished with

greater security to the men and ships. For which cause, five tall and

stout ships appertaining to London, and intending only a merchant's

voyage, were provided and furnished with all things belonging to the

seas, the names whereof were these:--1. The Royal Merchant, a very

brave and good ship, and of great report. 2. The Toby. 3. The Edward

Bonaventure. 4. The William and John. 5. The Susan.

These five departing from the coast of England in the month of November,

1585, kept together as one fleet till they came as high as the Isle of

Sicily, within the Levant. And there, according to the order and

direction of the voyage, each ship began to take leave of the rest, and

to separate himself, setting his course for the particular port

whereunto he was bound--one for Tripolis in Syria, another for

Constantinople, the chief city of the Turk's empire, situated upon the

coast of Roumelia called of old Thracia, and the rest to those places

whereunto they were privately appointed. But before they divided

themselves, they altogether consulted of and about a certain and special

place for their meeting again after the landing of their goods at their

several ports. And in conclusion, the general agreement was to meet at

Zante, an island near to the main continent of the west part of Morea,

well known to all the pilots, and thought to be the fittest place for

their rendezvous; concerning which meeting it was also covenanted on

each side and promised that whatsoever ship of these five should first

arrive at Zante, should there stay and expect the coming of the rest of

the fleet for the space of twenty days. This being done, each man made

his best haste, according as wind and weather would serve him, to fulfil

his course and to despatch his business; and no need was there to

admonish or encourage any man, seeing no time was ill-spent nor

opportunity omitted on any side in the performance of each man's duty,

according to his place.

It fell out that the Toby, which was bound for Constantinople, had

made such good speed, and gotten such good weather, that she first of

all the rest came back to the appointed place of Zante, and not

forgetting the former conclusion, did there cast anchor, attending the

arrival of the rest of the fleet, which accordingly (their business

first performed) failed not to keep promise. The first next after the

Toby was the Royal Merchant, which, together with the William and

John, came from Tripolis in Syria, and arrived in Zante within the

compass of the aforesaid time limited. These ships, in token of the joy

on all parts conceived for their happy meeting, spared not the

discharging of their ordnance, the sounding of drums and trumpets, the

spreading of ensigns, with other warlike and joyful behaviours,

expressing by these outward signs the inward gladness of their minds,

being all as ready to join together in mutual consent to resist the

cruel enemy, as now in sporting manner they made mirth and pastime among

themselves. These three had not been long in the haven but the Edward

Bonaventure, together with the Susan her consort, were come from

Venice with their lading, the sight of whom increased the joy of the

rest, and they, no less glad of the presence of the others, saluted them

in most friendly and kind sort, according to the manner of the seas.

In this port of Zante the news was fresh and current of two several

armies and fleets, provided by the King of Spain, and lying in wait to

intercept them: the one consisting of thirty strong galleys, so well

appointed in all respects for the war that no necessary thing wanted;

and this fleet hovered about the Straits of Gibraltar. The other army

had in it twenty galleys, whereof some were of Sicily and some of the

Island of Malta, under the charge and government of John Andreas Dorea,

a captain of name serving the King of Spain. These two divers and strong

fleets waited and attended in the seas for none but the English ships,

and no doubt made their account and sure reckoning that not a ship

should escape their fury. And the opinion also of the inhabitants of the

Isle of Zante was, that in respect of the number of galleys in both

these armies having received such straight commandment from the king,

our ships and men being but few and little in comparison of them, it was

a thing in human reason impossible that we should pass either without

spoiling, if we resisted, or without composition at the least, and

acknowledgment of duty to the Spanish king.

But it was neither the report of the attendance of these armies, nor the

opinions of the people, nor anything else, that could daunt or dismay

the courage of our men, who, grounding themselves upon the goodness of

their cause, and the promise of God to be delivered from such as without

reason sought their destruction, carried resolute minds notwithstanding

all impediments to adventure through the seas, and to finish their

navigation maugre the beards of the Spanish soldiers. But lest they

should seem too careless and too secure of their estate, and by laying

the whole and entire, burden of their safety upon God's Providence,

should foolishly presume altogether of His help, and neglect the means

which was put into their hands, they failed not to enter into counsel

among themselves, and to deliberate advisedly for their best defence.

And in the end, with general consent, the Royal Merchant was appointed

admiral of the fleet, and the Toby vice-admiral, by whose orders the

rest promised to be directed; and each ship vowed not to break from

another whatsoever extremity should fall out, but to stand to it to the

death, for the honour of their country and the frustrating of the hope

of the ambitious and proud enemy.

Thus in good order they left Zante and the Castle of Grecia, and

committed themselves again to the seas, and proceeded in their course

and voyage in quietness, without sight of any enemy till they came near

to Pantalarea, an island so called betwixt Sicily and the coast of

Africa; into sight whereof they came on July 13th, 1586. And the same

day, in the morning about seven o'clock, they descried thirteen sails in

number, which were of the galleys lying in wait of purpose for them in

and about that place. As soon as the English ships had spied them, they

by-and-by, according to a common order, made themselves ready for a

fight, laid out their ordnance, scoured, charged, and primed them,

displayed their ensigns, and left nothing undone to arm themselves

thoroughly. In the meantime, the galleys more and more approached the

ships, and in their banners there appeared the arms of the Isles of

Sicily and Malta, being all as then in the service and pay of the

Spaniard. Immediately both the admirals of the galleys sent from each of

them a frigate to the admiral of our English ships, which being come

near them, the Sicilian frigate first hailed them, and demanded of them

whence they were; they answered that they were of England, the arms

whereof appeared in their colours. Whereupon the said frigate

expostulated with them, and asked why they delayed to send or come with

their captains and pursers to Don Pedro de Leiva, their general, to

acknowledge their duty and obedience to him, in the name of the Spanish

king, lord of those seas. Our men replied and said that they owed no

such duty nor obedience to him, and therefore would acknowledge none;

but commanded the frigate to depart with that answer, and not to stay

longer upon her peril. With that away she went, and up came towards them

the other frigate of Malta; and she in like sort hailed the admiral, and

would needs know whence they were and where they had been. Our

Englishmen in the admiral, not disdaining an answer, told them that they

were of England, merchants of London, had been in Turkey, and were now

returning home; and to be requited in this case, they also demanded of

the frigate whence she and the rest of the galleys were. The messenger

answered, "We are of Malta, and for mine own part, my name is Cavalero.

These galleys are in service and pay to the King of Spain, under the

conduct of Don Pedro de Leiva, a nobleman of Spain, who hath been

commanded hither by the king with this present force and army of purpose

to intercept you. You shall therefore," quoth he, "do well to repair to

him to know his pleasure; he is a nobleman of good behaviour and

courtesy, and means you no ill." The captain of the English admiral,

whose name was Master Edward Wilkinson, now one of the six masters of

Her Majesty's Royal Navy, replied and said, "We purpose not at this time

to make trial of Don Pedro his courtesy, whereof we are suspicious and

doubtful, and not without good cause;" using withal good words to the

messenger, and willing him to come aboard him, promising security and

good usage, that thereby he might the better know the Spaniard's mind.

Whereupon he indeed left his frigate and came aboard him, whom he

entertained in friendly sort, and caused a cup of wine to be drawn for

him, which he took, and began, with his cap in his hand and with

reverent terms, to drink to the health of the Queen of England, speaking

very honourably of her majesty, and giving good speeches of the

courteous usage and entertainment that he himself had received in

London at the time that the Duke of Alencon, brother to the late French

king, was last in England. And after he had well drunk, he took his

leave, speaking well of the sufficiency and goodness of our ships, and

especially of the Royal Merchant which he confessed to have seen

before riding in the Thames near London. He was no sooner come to Don

Pedro de Leiva, the Spanish general, but he was sent off again, and

returned to the English admiral, saying that the pleasure of the general

was this, that either their captains, masters, and pursers should come

to him with speed, or else he would set upon them, and either take them

or sink them. The reply was made by Master Wilkinson aforesaid, that not

a man should come to him; and for the brag and threat of Don Pedro, it

was not that Spanish bravado that should make them yield a jot to their

hindrance, but they were as ready to make resistance as he to offer an

injury. Whereupon Cavalero, the messenger, left bragging, and began to

persuade them in quiet sort and with many words; but all his labour was

to no purpose, and as his threat did nothing terrify them, so his

persuasion did nothing move them to do that which he required. At the

last he entreated to have the merchant of the admiral carried by him as

a messenger to the general, that so he might be satisfied and assured of

their minds by one of their own company. But Master Wilkinson would

agree to no such thing; although Richard Rowit, the merchant himself,

seemed willing to be employed in that message, and laboured by

reasonable persuasions to induce Master Wilkinson to grant it--as hoping

to be an occasion by his presence and discreet answers to satisfy the

general, and thereby to save the effusion of Christian blood, if it

should grow to a battle. And he seemed so much the more willing to be

sent, by how much deeper the oaths and protestations of this Cavalero

were, that he would (as he was a true knight and a soldier) deliver him

back again in safety to his company. Albeit, Master Wilkinson who, by

his long experience, had received sufficient trial of Spanish

inconstancy and perjury, wished him in no case to put his life and

liberty in hazard upon a Spaniard's oath; but at last, upon much

entreaty, he yielded to let him go to the general, thinking indeed that

good speeches and answers of reason would have contented him, whereas,

otherwise, refusal to do so might peradventure have provoked the more


Master Rowit, therefore, passing to the Spanish general, the rest of the

galleys having espied him, thought, indeed, that the English were rather

determined to yield than to fight, and therefore came flocking about the

frigate, every man crying out, "Que nuevas? que nuevas? Have these

Englishmen yielded?" The frigate answered, "Not so; they neither have

nor purpose to yield. Only they have sent a man of their company to

speak with our general." And being come to the galley wherein he was, he

showed himself to Master Rowit in his armour, his guard of soldiers

attending upon him, in armour also, and began to speak very proudly in

this sort: "Thou Englishman, from whence is your fleet? Why stand ye

aloof off? know ye not your duty to the Catholic king, whose person I

here represent? Where are your bills of lading, your letters, passports,

and the chief of your men? Think ye my attendance in these seas to be in

vain, or my person to no purpose? Let all these things be done out of

hand, as I command, upon pain of my further displeasure, and the spoil

of you all." These words of the Spanish general were not so outrageously

pronounced as they were mildly answered by Master Rowit, who told him

that they were all merchantmen, using traffic in honest sort, and

seeking to pass quietly, if they were not urged further than reason. As

for the King of Spain, he thought (for his part) that there was amity

betwixt him and his Sovereign, the Queen of England, so that neither he

nor his officers should go about to offer any such injury to English

merchants, who, as they were far from giving offence to any man, so they

would be loth to take an abuse at the hands of any, or sit down to their

loss, where their ability was able to make defence. And as touching his

commandment aforesaid for the acknowledging of duty in such particular

sort, he told him that where there was no duty owing there none should

be performed, assuring him that their whole company and ships in general

stood resolutely upon the negative, and would not yield to any such

unreasonable demand, joined with such imperious and absolute manner of

commanding. "Why, then," said he, "if they will neither come to yield,

nor show obedience to me in the name of my king, I will either sink them

or bring them to harbour; and so tell them from me." With that the

frigate came away with Master Rowit, and brought him aboard to the

English admiral again, according to promise, who was no sooner entered

in but by-and-by defiance was sounded on both sides. The Spaniards hewed

off the noses of the galleys, that nothing might hinder the level of the

shot; and the English, on the other side, courageously prepared

themselves to the combat, every man, according to his room, bent to

perform his office with alacrity and diligence. In the meantime a cannon

was discharged from out the admiral of the galleys, which, being the

onset of the fight, was presently answered by the English admiral with a

culverin; so the skirmish began, and grew hot and terrible. There was no

powder nor shot spared, each English ship matched itself in good order

against two Spanish galleys, besides the inequality of the frigates on

the Spanish side. And although our men performed their parts with

singular valour, according to their strength, insomuch that the enemy,

as amazed therewith, would oftentimes pause and stay, and consult what

was best to be done, yet they ceased not in the midst of their business

to make prayer to Almighty God, the revenger of all evils and the giver

of victories, that it would please Him to assist them in this good

quarrel of theirs, in defending themselves against so proud a tyrant, to

teach their hands to war and their fingers to fight, that the glory of

the victory might redound to His name, and to the honour of true

religion, which the insolent enemy sought so much to overthrow.

Contrarily, the foolish Spaniards, they cried out, according to their

manner, not to God, but to our Lady (as they term the Virgin Mary),

saying, "Oh, Lady, help! Oh, blessed Lady, give us the victory, and the

honour thereof shall be thine." Thus with blows and prayers on both

sides, the fight continued furious and sharp, and doubtful a long time

to which part the victory would incline, till at last the admiral of the

galleys of Sicily began to warp from the fight, and to hold up her side

for fear of sinking; and after her went also two others in like case,

whom all the sort of them enclosed, labouring by all their means to keep

them above water, being ready by the force of English shot which they

had received to perish in the seas. And what slaughter was done among

the Spaniards the English were uncertain, but by a probable conjecture

apparent afar off they supposed their loss was so great that they wanted

men to continue the charging of their pieces; whereupon with shame and

dishonour, after five hours spent in the battle, they withdrew

themselves. And the English, contented in respect of their deep lading

rather to continue their voyage than to follow in the chase, ceased from

further blows, with the loss of only two men slain amongst them all, and

another hurt in his arm, whom Master Wilkinson, with his good words and

friendly promises, did so comfort that he nothing esteemed the smart of

his wound, in respect of the honour of the victory and the shameful

repulse of the enemy.

Thus, with dutiful thanks to the mercy of God for His gracious

assistance in that danger, the English ships proceeded in their

navigation. And coming as high as Algiers, a port town upon the coast of

Barbary, they made for it, of purpose to refresh themselves after their

weariness, and to take in such supply of fresh water and victuals as

they needed. They were no sooner entered into the port but immediately

the king thereof sent a messenger to the ships to know what they were.

With which messenger the chief master of every ship repaired to the

king, and acquainted him not only with the state of their ships in

respect of merchandise, but with the late fight which they had passed

with the Spanish galleys, reporting every particular circumstance in

word as it fell out in action; whereof the said king showed himself

marvellous glad, entertaining them in the best sort, and promising

abundant relief of all their wants; making general proclamation in the

city, upon pain of death, that no man, of what degree or state soever he

were, should presume either to hinder them in their affairs or to offer

them any manner of injury in body or goods; by virtue whereof they

despatched all things in excellent good sort with all favour and


The English, having received this good justice at the king's hands, and

all other things that they wanted or could crave for the furnishing of

their ships, took their leave of him and of the rest of their friends

that were resident in Algiers, and put out to sea, looking to meet with

the second army of the Spanish king, which waited for them about the

mouth of the Strait of Gibraltar, which they were of necessity to pass.

But coming near to the said strait, it pleased God to raise, at that

instant, a very dark and misty fog, so that one ship could not discern

another if it were forty paces off, by means whereof, together with the

notable fair eastern winds that then blew most fit for their course,

they passed with great speed through the strait, and might have passed,

with that good gale, had there been five hundred galleys to withstand

them and the air never so clear for every ship to be seen. But yet the

Spanish galleys had a sight of them when they were come within three

English miles of the town, and made after them with all possible haste;

and although they saw that they were far out of their reach, yet in a

vain fury and foolish pride they shot off their ordnance and made a stir

in the sea as if they had been in the midst of them, which vanity of

theirs ministered to our men notable matter of pleasure and mirth,

seeing men to fight with shadows and to take so great pains to so small


But thus it pleased God to deride and delude all the forces of that

proud Spanish king, which he had provided of purpose to distress the

English; who, notwithstanding, passed through both his armies--in the

one, little hurt, and in the other, nothing touched, to the glory of His

immortal name, the honour of our prince and country, and the just

commendation of each man's service performed in that voyage.