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Sir Francis Vere: Elizabeth I’s Greatest Soldier and the Eighty Years War

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Sir Francis Vere: Elizabeth I’s Greatest Soldier and the Eighty Years War
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Author(s): Clements R. Markham
Date Published: 2016/06
Page Count: 364
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-530-2
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-529-6

The general who thwarted the Spanish invasion of the British Isles

The final years of the 16th century saw an emergent Dutch nationalism and a determination by the Dutch to throw off the yoke of Spanish occupation in their homeland. The English queen, Elizabeth, was not only well aware of the dangers of the presence of a Catholic super-power so close to her nation’s shores, but had every sympathy with the cause of her Protestant neighbours. English volunteers soon flocked to the continent with her blessings to fight the Spanish in the Low Countries. This book describes the conflict there in fascinating detail, but also focuses on the military career of the finest English soldier of that time. Sir Francis Vere campaigned and fought for decades in this epic struggle, demonstrating a strategic and tactical talent equal to that of the enduringly famous British commanders of later generations. Ultimately Vere commanded the English Auxiliary Army. Much of this history is devoted to the battles for Dutch Independence, but it also covers the extraordinary British seaborne raid on Cadiz and the action known as ‘The Island Voyage’. This volume concludes with a short account of the military career of Horace Vere, Francis’ brother, who fought in the same cause. Contains maps and illustrations not present in the original edition of the text which was published as, ‘The Fighting Veres’.

Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket; our hardbacks are cloth bound and feature gold foil lettering on their spines and fabric head and tail bands.

Among the prisoners there were two commissaries of ordnance, named Pedro de Luco and Tomas Swegoe. They were committed to the safe-keeping of Master Redhead, the deputy provost, who dwelt in English Street. There was a good deal of conversation between the prisoners and the deputy’s friends, who often dropped in for a chat. Among these was one William Grimeston, who saw reason to suspect that the pretended Italian, Swegoe, was really an English deserter, who had gone over with the traitor Stanley. In order to draw him out, Grimeston observed that he wished he were fighting on the King of Spain’s side, under Sir William Stanley. Then the spy eagerly showed his cards. He told Grimeston and Redhead to be merry and of good cheer, for that he was born in Seething Lane, and he had a sister who attended on my Lady Lumley. He added that, if they would be guided by him, they would be rich men in no time; for that if they arranged to give up a certain fort to the duke, they would be bountifully rewarded.
The first object of the besieging general was to get possession of the water forts; for so long as they were in the hands of the besieged, the garrison could be regularly supplied with provisions. Parma, with the traitor Stanley, had concocted an elaborate scheme for surprising the north fort by treachery; but they were destined to be hoist with their own petard. Lord Willoughby, advised by Count Solms, was fully impressed with the importance of attending to the security of the water forts. He had entrusted the command to one of his most reliable officers, his cousin, Francis Vere. One day, Redhead and Grimeston came to Lord Willoughby, and repeated the conversations of the unsuspecting spy. The general approved a plan by which Grimeston should promise to deliver up the northern sconce to Parma, and so decoy the enemy’s troops to their overthrow.
The spy wrote letters to the duke and to Stanley, and Redhead, after having first shown them to Lord Willoughby, took them to the enemy’s camp. At midnight on Sunday, the 6th of October, both Redhead and Grimeston had an interview with Parma, and promised to deliver up the north fort on the next Wednesday night. Sir William Stanley then took them to his tent, where a banquet was prepared, and two gold chains were sent them from the Duke of Parma. An agreement was made that Robert Redhead should receive 1,200 crowns, and William Grimeston 700 crowns and a commission in Sir William Stanley’s regiment of traitors. They then took their leave, returned to Bergen-op-Zoom, and related all that had taken place to Lord Willoughby. He sent them back to induce Parma to agree to a delay of three days, which he considered necessary for making all his preparations. Vere was in the secret, and had everything ready at the north fort.
On the appointed night, the 22nd of October, Grimeston reported himself. He found, to his great alarm, that the Spaniards had become suspicious. He was bound, and led by a captain named Ortiz, with a drawn dagger, ready to stab him if there was treachery. The attacking column consisted of 3,000 picked men, including Stanley’s regiment. There were also many volunteer knights. The leader was the maestro de campo, Don Sancho de Leyva. With him were Don Juan de Mendoza, (afterwards Marquis of Hinajosa and governor of Milan), Don Alonzo de Idiaquez, (of a San Sebastian family, he was afterwards Viceroy of Navarre), and Sir William Stanley.
It was a dark, gloomy night; but, as they approached, the drawbridge of the north fort was seen to be down, and the portcullis up. It seemed as if Redhead had kept his word. In reality Vere was ready at the portcullis, calmly watching, and Lord Willoughby was there in person, with 2,000 men. It was a veritable mouse-trap. It was low water, for the drowned land over which the Spaniards advanced was flooded at high tide. On they marched, along the causeway, with Grimeston in front, guarded by Captain Ortiz. They crossed the drawbridge, and about fifty had entered, when Vere suddenly let fall the portcullis and the drawbridge was hauled up. At the same moment Grimeston tripped up the heels of Ortiz, and so escaped his avenging dagger. A furious discharge of musketry and artillery from the walls killed 150 of the attacking party, while those inside were quickly slain or taken prisoners.