There are times when history research can be extremely frustrating! For instance – the date for Francis Drake’s ‘singing of the King of Spain’s beard’ is quoted by some as Wednesday 19th April 1587 while others place it 10 days later on Saturday 29th April 1587. There is one thing that is clear though – in the Bay of Cadiz the Spanish ships were gathering as part of the force being prepared for the attack on England!
However – Queen Elizabeth and her government had already become convinced that a war with Spain was inevitable and that they could benefit by striking first. She had one man that could do the job – Francis Drake. So, on 12th April 1587, he was sent out from Plymouth to perform his duty. It was on Saturday 29th April 1587 that he appeared before Cadiz and, late in that afternoon, he sailed boldly into the harbour. To say that this was a complete surprise to the defenders was, I suspect, an understatement. It certainly appeared to throw the Spanish land and naval forces there into a panic.
All the remainder of that day, and all the next, Drake cannonaded, plundered and burned the harbour collection. Thirty-seven Spanish naval and merchant vessels were destroyed – Drake’s losses were minimal. During the next month Drake sailed back and forth on the Iberian coasts between Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent, capturing ships and destroying supplies being sent to Lisbon for the Spanish Armada.
No single campaign by Drake better illustrates his qualities as a commander than the famous “singeing of the beard” of King Philip II of Spain, in his enormously successful attack on the port of Cadiz. BUT – there was to be a follow-up and that arrived in the middle of 1588. We’ll be here to tell you about it!