22 Con­tro­versy at Cádiz

This suc­cess­ful raid was im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by a scram­ble for glory – and an in­quiry over where all the money had gone “RALEIGH AND ES­SEX WERE EACH DE­TER­MINED TO LEAD THE NAVAL AS­SAULT INTO THE BAY OF CÁDIZ, AND ES­SEX FUMED WHEN HE WAS AS­SIGNED A BACKUP

History of War - - ISSUE 51 -

Al­though a suc­cess, the af­ter­math of the 1596 cam­paign sparked po­lit­i­cal scan­dal back home

The 1596 raid on Cádiz was a les­son in the dan­gers of a di­vided com­mand. Al­though Span­ish lead­er­ship at Cádiz was also weak (the Duke of Me­d­ina Si­do­nia, who had com­manded the Span­ish Ar­mada, was tech­ni­cally in com­mand but seemed paral­ysed at the ap­proach of the An­glo-dutch fleet) it did not come close to the lev­els of in­fight­ing and jostling for po­si­tion seen in the English forces. Not only did this im­pact on the or­gan­i­sa­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the raid, it had dire fi­nan­cial con­se­quences – the per­sonal ri­val­ries may have been at the heart of the fail­ure to cap­ture the Span­ish mer­chant­men in the har­bour.

A mat­ter of hon­our

The thirst for per­sonal hon­our was not seen as ob­jec­tion­able at the time. Of­fi­cers would com­pete brazenly for favour and glory, of­ten to the detri­ment of the ser­vice it­self. This was sel­dom more ev­i­dent than at the cap­ture of Cádiz, where it reached al­most com­i­cal lev­els.

Raleigh and Es­sex were each de­ter­mined to lead the naval as­sault into the Bay of Cádiz, and Es­sex fumed when he was as­signed a backup role. Raleigh was so jeal­ous of his po­si­tion, he ac­tu­ally po­si­tioned his ship, the War­spite, broad­side-on to the fleet to prevent other English ships from passing him but, be­ing in­ex­pe­ri­enced in war­fare, he was too far from the en­emy to prop­erly en­gage them (a big part of the rea­son ca­su­al­ties were so low among the English).

Sir Fran­cis Vere at­tempted to at­tach a ca­ble to War­spite and drag his own ship past it, but Raleigh, spot­ting the sub­terfuge, im­me­di­ately cut the ca­ble. Like­wise, Es­sex’s in­sis­tence on get­ting in­volved in the naval en­gage­ment, when he was sup­posed to be ready­ing troops for a land­ing, was cited by some as a cause for the de­layed cap­ture of the city and the sub­se­quent loss of the mer­chant fleet.

The scram­ble for per­sonal glory con­tin­ued after the ex­pe­di­tion started its voy­age home. Just about ev­ery man who could pen or dic­tate a let­ter sent ac­counts of the fight­ing back to Eng­land – ac­counts that in­evitably placed them­selves at the cen­tre of events.

The queen, seething at the loss of the main prize on of­fer, the fab­u­lously valu­able mer­chant fleet, quickly lost her pa­tience with the pos­tur­ing and de­clared it il­le­gal to pub­lish any ac­count of the bat­tle. She also in­sti­gated an in­quiry into ex­actly how the main prize had been missed.

Army ver­sus navy

Al­ways will­ing to ig­nore au­thor­ity, Es­sex at­tempted to pub­lish his own “true rela­cion

[sic] of the ac­tion”, and re­sorted to distribut­ing man­u­script copies when this at­tempt failed.

Still, the war of words con­tin­ued. There was a bit­ter di­vid­ing line be­tween the army, which had sated its ap­petite for plun­der in the city of Cádiz, and the navy, which had been left mostly empty-handed.

The tide of opin­ion in the court was against Es­sex, who was also un­pop­u­lar for propos­ing the risky and prob­a­bly un­fea­si­ble plan of seiz­ing and hold­ing per­ma­nent bases in Spain. The queen’s key ad­vi­sors, Sir Robert Ce­cil (who be­came prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary of state in 1598) and his fa­ther, Lord Burgh­ley, were dis­trust­ful of Es­sex. Con­se­quently, they favoured his ri­vals, Raleigh and Howard. An of­fi­cial ac­count of the raid on Cádiz (which was never pub­lished) played up Raleigh’s role at the ex­pense of Es­sex, and Howard was made the Earl of Not­ting­ham after re­turn­ing home, send­ing Es­sex into a sulk.

“THE CON­TRO­VERSY ONLY BE­GAN TO DIE DOWN FOL­LOW­ING THE EX­E­CU­TION OF ES­SEX IN 1601”

The for­got­ten raid

The po­lit­i­cal in­fight­ing, sim­mer­ing re­sent­ment over the loss of mil­lions of pounds worth of prizes and in­creas­ing ex­as­per­a­tion with the an­tics of Es­sex meant that the largely suc­cess­ful raid was tem­porar­ily ex­punged from his­tory. A ma­jor work by the his­to­rian Richard Hak­luyt, sched­uled for pub­li­ca­tion at the end of 1598, was re­called to have a de­tailed ac­count of the Cádiz ex­pe­di­tion re­moved en­tirely.

The con­tro­versy only be­gan to die down fol­low­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of

Es­sex in 1601. That same year a book by John Stow in­cluded a de­scrip­tion of the raid very sim­i­lar to that pro­posed by Hak­luyt. After the death of the queen her­self, the po­lit­i­cal bit­ter­ness had left the af­fair and the raid was res­ur­rected as part of a new na­tional myth, that of the dar­ing ‘sea dogs’ of El­iz­a­bethan Eng­land.

The glory went to Raleigh, Drake and other no­ta­bles such as Sir John Hawkins, while Es­sex, whose rep­u­ta­tion was only slowly re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing, was left out.

As a com­mit­ted en­emy of Es­sex, Sir Robert Ce­cil was able to in­flu­ence the queen’s treat­ment of her old favourite

BE­LOW: Raleigh’s ship, War­spite, de­picted on a col­lectible cig­a­rette card in the act of en­gag­ing the Span­ish at Cádiz Sir Wal­ter Raleigh went to ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths to prevent other com­man­ders from shar­ing the glory at Cádiz

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