Although the Tudor period is now regarded as a ‘golden age’ it was, for the English, a period of great potential instability for the nation was not yet as influential as it later became. Larger and more powerful neighbours were a constant threat, but the English possessed a distinction that above all contributed to the creation of the largest empire the world had known. As an island people they were destined to become seamen and builders of ships. The English naval tradition gave birth to famous sea captains whose names resound to this day. Great sea battles were fought including, of course, the defeat of the mighty Spanish Armada. This was also the age of great voyages of discovery, and this unique book describes the sea warfare and voyages undertaken by the English sailors during the reigns of Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. With the growth of sea-power came the need for greater numbers of vessels suitable for all purposes and this volume and its numerous illustrations describes them together in detail. This is an important book concerning the origins of the Royal Navy and an essential addition for every naval library.
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Henry VIII. came to the throne, a handsome and accomplished young man, in his eighteenth year. He was as able as his father, but in every other respect utterly unlike him. Generous, genial, and fond of amusement and display, he was also intensely ambitious; and, as his treasury was full, and the state of Europe was troubled, he was able to indulge his inclinations.
In the second year of his reign he joined Ferdinand of Spain and Maximilian of Germany in the Holy League against Louis XII. of France; and, about the middle of May, dispatched a body of a thousand archers under Thomas, Lord d’Arcy, to co-operate with Ferdinand against the Moors. The expedition left Plymouth, escorted by four men-of-war, and landed at Cadiz on June 1st. Its mere appearance was sufficient to secure the objects for which it had been demanded. The Moors made terms with the king, and the English, dismissed with presents, returned, without fighting, about August.
In July of the same year, another force of fifteen hundred men, under Sir Edward Poynings, was sent into Flanders to assist the Duke of Burgundy against the Duke of Gelderland. After effecting the desired ends, it returned with small loss and much honour.
But by far the most important naval event of 1511 was the action off the Goodwin with the famous Scotsman, Andrew Barton. Barton had obtained from his sovereign letters of marque and reprisals against the Portuguese, who were alleged to have killed his father, and seized his father’s ship, and who had afforded no satisfaction for the outrage. Barton had thereupon equipped two vessels, the Lion, carrying thirty-six, and the Jennet Perwyn, a “pinnace” or tender, carrying thirty guns, if we may trust the popular Elizabethan ballad on the subject. (Their gun strength, unless the guns were extremely small, must be greatly exaggerated in the ballad, for the tonnage of the vessels was but 120 and 70 respectively.) The one seems to have had upwards of three hundred, and the other, one hundred and eighty men on board.
But, under pretext of cruising against the Portuguese, Barton seized and plundered many neutral vessels, including English ones, under the pretence that they had Portuguese goods on board; and complaints on the subject were made to Henry VIII. (Surrey, on hearing the complaints, remarked that “The Narrow Sims should not be so infested while he had estate enough to furnish a ship, or a son capable of commanding it.” Lloyd’s State Worthies.)
To Lords Thomas and Edward Howard, the two sons of Thomas, Earl of Surrey, and subsequently second Duke of Norfolk, was apparently entrusted the duty of dealing with this piratical adventurer. According to the generally received account, they were assigned by the king two ships for the purpose; but Colliber, (Colunma Hostrata), though he does not say on what authority, states that these young noblemen fitted out two vessels at their own charges. (Surrey’s words quoted in the note above seem to indicate that he fitted out the vessels.) Lord Edward Howard, the younger of the two brothers, had been knighted for his bravery in the expedition against Kleve-Ravenstein, and, perhaps on account of the experience thus gained, was appointed senior officer.
The brothers fell in with Barton off the Goodwin, brought him to action, and, after a determined struggle, killed him, and captured his vessels. (Stowe, says that the Lion struck to Lord Thomas. Herbert’s Life of Henry VIII., says that both ships were brought into the Thames on August 2nd, 1511.) The ballad has it that they sunk the pinnace with all on board, and took only the Lion; but the fact is that both vessels were added to the English navy.