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This huge ship, so disproportionate to any service whereto it could be applied, was neither so successful as to have any of its exploits recorded, nor so unfortunate as to leave a tragical remembrance of its fate. No purpose was served by it except that of gratifying the king, who seems to have had a passion for ship-building. Louis XII., for obvious motives, encouraged him in his endeavours to create a maritime force, and with this view presented him with two large ships equipped for 1509. war.* But there was no remissness on the part of England, while its old enemies were increasing their 1511. naval strength. When " it was concluded by the body of the realm in the high court of parliament assembled, that war should be made on the French king and his dominions, Henry with all diligence caused new ships to be made, and repaired and rigged the old; and caused guns, bows, arrows, and all other artillery and instruments of war to be made in such number and quantity, that it was wonderful to see what things were done both for sea and land in so short a space."+ Sir Edward Howard was ordered with all diligence to take the sea; and, while his brother, sir Thomas, now called the lord Howard, proceeded to Spain, under the marquis of Dorset, with 10,000 men (where Ferdinand employed them, ingloriously for themselves, while he took possession of Navarre), he sailed with twenty ships for the coast of Bretagne, landed in divers parts near Conquet and Brest, and ravaged the country, burning and wasting towns and villages; the Bretons sadly exclaiming, "Alas! the king of England hath ever before this time been our ally, and now he intendeth to destroy us: shame come to him that is the cause thereof!" The want of concert among the people, rather than of courage or good-will, prevented them from making any vigorous resistance to these invaders. A council was held; and, seeing there was no trust in the commonalty, and that the gentry alone could not defend the country,
* Pinkerton, 69. n.
they resolved upon an appeal to the humanity of the English admiral. Certain of the nobles, therefore, having obtained his safe- conduct, went off to the fleet, and entreated him to surcease from his rigorous and cruel war, and especially from burning their towns, which, they said, could be no profit to him. If he wished to have Brest castle, it should be at his command, so he were able to defend it: for themselves, they desired nothing so much as peace." Whatever might have been the lord admiral's wishes, his commission allowed him no such discretion as he was now supplicated to use. And he replied, Nay, we are sent hither to make war, and not peace." They then requirted a six days' truce, for God's sake, that they might send to their king, and inform him of their distress. But to this he answered, that gentlemen ought to defend their country by force, rather than to sue for peace, a prouder answer than the occasion required or justified. The conference, however, terminated in mutual courtesies; the Breton lords were entertained with a banquet on board, and the admiral sent ashore for fresh provisions and water; then hearing that the French had ships of war at sea, he coasted Normandy, and scoured the seas in search of them, without success; and at length, thinking that they might perhaps appear on the English coast, he took his station by the Isle of Wight, to await them.*
The havoc which this expedition had made in Bretagne had provoked the French government to great and well-directed exertions in their marine; and they collected thirty-nine sail in Brest harbour, under a Breton admiral of doubtful name. Their preparations were such, that Henry, on his part, caused all his remaining ships and galleys to be made ready for reinforcing the lord admiral: the Regent, a ship royal, being "the chief ship of that navy." The soldiers for this fleet
*Hall, 532. Holinshed, 571.
+ Primaguet the French historians called him. This name it seems, is unknown in Bretagne ; and the historian of that province conjectures that it ought to be Porsmoguer: the English call him Pierce Morgan, with more appearance of being right.
were mustered on Blackheath, and sir Anthony Oughtred, sir Edward Ickynghame, and William (father of the excellent sir Henry Sydney, and grandfather of the admirable sir Philip), were appointed with other gentlemen captains, for that time. On the way to the Isle of Wight a galley was lost by the negligence of the master. "The king desiring," says Hall, "to see his navy together," rode to Portsmouth, and there appointed his master of the horse, sir Thomas Knevet, and sir John Carew, of Devonshire, captains of the Regent ; and to another ship-royal, called the Sovereign, he appointed sir Charles Brandon and sir Henry Guildford ; and with them in the Sovereign were put sixty of the tallest yeomen of the king's guard; and many other gentlemen were made captains. "The king made a great banquet to all the captains, and every one sware to another ever to defend, aid, and comfort one another without failing, and this they promised before the king, which committed them to God. And so, with great noise of minstrelsy, they took their ships, which were twentyfive in number, of great burden, and well furnished with all things." The lord admiral's force, after this junction, consisted of forty-five sail, and with these he resolved to sail and attack the enemy.*
The two fleets came in sight of each other, on St. Lawrence's day, off St. Mahé, on the coast of Bretagne. The English had the advantage in number, the French in the size of some of their ships: their admiral, Le Cordelier, which belonged to the queen, carried 1200 soldiers, besides seamen, according to the French; but the English estimate the whole number at 900, their own largest vessel, the Regent, carrying 700. There was another vessel in the enemy's fleet, large enough to be called the great ship of Dieppe. "When the Englishmen," says the chronicler, "perceived the French navy to be out of Brest haven, then the lord admiral was very joyous; then every man prepared according to his duty; the archers to shoot, the gunners to loose,
* Hall, 353. Holinshed, 572. Campbell, i. 260.
THE REGENT AND THE CORDELIER.
the men of arms to fight, the pages went to the top castle with darts. Thus all things being provided and set in order, the Englishmen approached towards the Frenchmen, which came fiercely forward, some levying his anchor, some with his foresail only, to take the most advantage; and when they were in sight, they shot ordnance so terribly together that all the sea coast sounded of it." "The lord admiral made for the great ship of Dieppe, and chased her still, and she was also attacked by the Regent; while the Sovereign made with the Cordelier, and laid to that huge carrack stem to stem: but whether by the master's fault, or mishap by reason of the smoke, the Sovereign was cast at the stern of the Cordelier, and with this advantage the Frenchmen shouted for joy." Knevett was at this time ready to have boarded the great ship of Dieppe, but seeing that the Sovereign had missed the Cordelier, he made for that carrack and grappled it ; and when the French saw that they could not loosen themselves, they let slip an anchor, and so with the stream the ships turned; and the carrack was on the weather side, and the Regent on the lee side. The fight then was 66 very cruel, for the archers of the English part, and the cross bows of the French part, did their uttermost;" but finally the English entered the carrack. In what manner the dreadful catastrophe was caused is variously reported, and never can be ascertained. One account says, that sir Anthony Oughtred "chased hard at the stern of the carrack, and bowged her in divers places, and set her on fire.” Another, that a varlet gunner, when he saw that the English had entered the ship, desperately fired her powder.* Both ships were presently in flames; they
* P. Daniel's story (T. 7. p. 314.) is, that the Cordelier was set on fire by fireworks thrown by an English vessel; that most of the men, when they saw that it was impossible to extinguish the flames, threw themselves into the sea, in hopes of swimming to the other ships; but that Primauguel resolved to perish, and at a dear cost to the enemy; il fit force de voiles, joignit l'amiral d'Angleterre, et l'accrocha sans jamais le lacher; il sauta à l'abordage, et le feu de son vaisseau, qui étoit au-dessus du vent, se communiqua a l'Anglois. He adds, that the action was très-glorieuse for the French, and that the English lost some ships. Campbell says, "It seems this accident struck both fleets with amazement, so that they separated without
were now so grappled, that it was impossible for them to separate, and both were consumed. The French, fear and horror struck, fled in all haste, some to Brest, some to the isles adjoining. The English, who were also "in manner dismayed," sent out boats to save their countrymen in the Regent; but the fire was so great, that none durst approach; and except some few Frenchmen, who were picked up by the James of Hull (worthy to be named for having thus distinguished itself), all on board both ships perished,-900 in the French, 700 in the English!*
This event is said to have been happy for the French navy, for otherwise "they would have been better assailed of the Englishmen, who were so amazed at this chance that they followed them not." The English fleet lay that night in the bay † where the action was fought. The lord admiral called his captains together, and exhorted them not to be abashed by this chance of war; it was the worse fortune, he said, that could happen to them, and they must now study to be revenged. So, as the enemy had dispersed, they resolved to scour the coasts of Bretagne, Normandy, and Picardy; many ships they took, and such as they could not carry away they set on fire, "to a great number, small and great, and thus they kept the sea."‡
It was because of the loss of the Regent that Henry is said to have advised “a great ship to be made, such as was never before seen in England," and which is well known in our naval history by the name of Henry Grace de Dieu, or the Great Harry. The Grace de Dieu was (as has been seen) a name of earlier date; and there is reason to suppose, that when the ship which bore it became, through age and decay, unfit for service, a successor was built to which the name was transferred;
fighting, each claiming the victory, to which probably neither had a very good title."
* Hall, 534. Holinshed, 573. Campbell, 260.
It is variously called by the chroniclers Bretayne Bay, Bartram and Bertram.
+ Hall, 535.