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FRENCH FLEET AT ST. HELENS.
the 16th of July, and arriving off Brighthelmston on the 18th, landed troops there to burn and spoil the country; but the beacons were fired, and the people collected in such strength, and exerted themselves with such good speed, that the invaders re-embarked with some loss.* They then proceeded to the Isle of Wight, with the intention of provoking the English fleet to come out from Portsmouth, and giving it battle. They cast anchor at St. Helens, and sent sixteen of their galleys to insult the English in the harbour: baron de la Garde commanded this part of the fleet; a person infamous in history for the atrocities which he had recently perpetrated against the Vaudois at Cabrières and Merindol. The English were neither unprepared for this defiance nor unwilling to accept it: they set forth to meet the bold invaders, “and still the one shot hotly at the other; but the wind was so calm that the king's ships could bear no sail, which greatly grieved the minds of the Englishmen, and made the enemy more bold to approach with their galleys, and to assail the ships with their shot, even in the haven." On the admiral's return to St. Helens, after this day's ineffectual action, he was informed that La Maîtresse, which was the best ship in his fleet, and the one in which he meant to have fought himself, had sprung so dangerous a leak, in consequence of some injury which she had received in leaving Havre, that it was necessary to take every thing out of her, and send her back to be repaired. A more fatal mishap occurred on the morrow in the English fleet, when they came out meaning to give battle; for "in setting forward, the goodly ship called the Mary Rose was, through too much folly, drowned in the midst of the haven; by reason that she was overladen with ordnance, and the ports, which were very low †, had been left open, and
observes, "nous semblent d'autant plus déplacés que la relation de cette campagne de mer est la première dont il soit question dans l'Histoire de la Marine Françoise. Quoique cette marine fût dans son enfance, les efforts qu'elle tenta contre l'Angleterre méritent l'attention du lecteur."
+"The under sill of the lower tier was not more than sixteen inches from the water's edge."
the great artillery unbreeched, so that when the ship should turn, the water entered, and suddenly she sunk.' Her captain, sir George Carew, was on board, with 400 soldiers, and not more than forty persons were saved.*
M. d'Annebault thought at this time, by means of his galleys, to draw the English out, and he arranged his fleet to receive them, taking the van himself with thirty ships, and having thirty-six in each flank. The loss of the Mary Rose was not the only unfortunate circumstance with which the action commenced: the wind fell, and the galleys, which were ably commanded, had for about an hour greatly the advantage; but then the wind rose, and they escaped destruction only by the skill of the sailors, and the great exertions of the rowers. The English row-barges † distressed them in their retreat; for the galleys, having no guns at the poop, were unable to defend themselves, and did not dare turn upon their pursuers lest the ships should be upon them. A
Grafton. Hall, 863. Holinshed, 848. Charnock, ii. 52. Du Bellay (218.) says, this ship was sunk by the enemy's fire, "à coupe de canon fût mis au fonds." This is proved to be false by the State Papers recently published, in which Russell, writing to Paget, says, "I am very sorry of the unhappy and the unfortunate chance of the Mary Rose, which through such rechenes and great negligence should be in such wise cast away, with those that were within her." P. 794. These papers contain (796.) "a remembrance of things necessary for the recovery, with the help of God, of the Mary Rose." In the list are thirty Venetian mariners and one Venetian carpenter, "and sixty English mariners to attend upon them." It seems, therefore, that it was upon the skill of the Venetians that they depended for raising her. "We have much-a-do to frame every thing for the Mary Rose; but all that may possibly be done is done for the same. The worst is, we must forbear three of the greatest hulks of the fleet till the thing be done, which must be emptied of all their victuals, ordnance, and ballast during the business, which will be a great weakening to the navy, if any thing in the mean time shall happen." (Lisle to Paget, Aug. 2.) "As touching the Mary Rose, her sails and sail-yards be laid on land; and to her masts there are tied three cables, with other engines, to weigh her up; and on every side of her a hulk to set her upright, which is thought by the doers thereof, God willing, to be done to-morrow, some time in the day. And that done, they purpose to discharge her of water, ordnance, and all other things, with as much diligence as is possible, and, by little and little, to bring her nearer to the shore; and as we shall from time to time work with her to save her, his majesty shall be advertised accordingly." (Suffolk to Paget, Aug. 5.) "The Mary Rose (which I trust, with the leave of God, shall be brought up right once to-morrow,) hath so charged all the king's majesty's shipwrights with making engines for the same, that they have had no leisure to attend any other thing, sithence his majesty's de parture hence." (Lisle to Paget, Aug. 5.)
+ Ramberges Du Bellay calls them.
FRENCH LAND ON THE ISLE OF WIGHT.
general action, however, was not brought on*; and, on
* Du Bellay says, "that the prior of Capua (one of the Strozzi) turned upon the row-barge that pursued him, and that, upon this movement of his, not only three vessels but the whole English fleet retired, when M. d'Annebault was on the point of giving the signal for battle." But in the State Papers, Russell says, "The king hath determined that my lord admiral shall give them battle if they abide." He adds, "that seventeen of their galleys came in the order of battle to the fight, of the which one was sunk, and the ships began to retire, which I believe will not come again." (P. 794.) The event justified his expectation.
the islanders, who in their turn retreated, till, having crossed a river, they broke down the bridge, and defied farther pursuit. The admiral then recalled his people, and held counsel how to proceed.*
But it was not an ordinary council of war that was held on this occasion: the admiral summoned all the pilots, captains, and sailors to a public meeting, that the nature of the coast might be better investigated, and the best means devised for overcoming the difficulties which it presented to their intended enterprise. He represented to them their great superiority in the number of ships, and also in the courage of their people, and what a benefit such a victory as they were sure of obtaining, if they could only get at the enemy, would be to the king and to the realm of France. Officers and men declared themselves all ready for the attempt; but the sea captains and the pilots affirmed that it could not be made without evident ruin: the channel by which they must enter, they said, would not admit of more than four ships abreast, and might, therefore, easily be de fended by the enemy, who could oppose to them an equal number. It could only be entered by favour of the wind and tide; but if any thing impeded the foremost ships, those which followed would be driven against them by the force of the current. Moreover, the battle must be fought near the shore, consequently they would be exposed to a fire from thence; and if they could succeed in laying the English ships aboard, and grappling them, the force of the tide would carry them ashore together. Here it was proposed by some one, that, to avoid this danger, they should anchor as soon as they had closed with the enemy: to this the pilots replied, that their cables might be cut; and that even if they were not cut, the danger would be quite as great; for the nature of the tide was such that it always made the prow of the vessels turn towards it, and thus their ships would expose the poop to the enemy, instead of presenting to them the prow or the broadside. They
* Du Bellay, 218–224.
added, also, that were they to cast anchor, the ship could not immediately be brought to, and if it strained it would either slip the anchor or break the cable: therefore it would be necessary to give out the cable little by little, and so arrest the ship's way; but while this was doing, they might touch the ground, and be lost.*
To these representations no reply was attempted. The admiral and the captains, however, would not yield to them without farther investigation, fearing, it is said, that the pilots, who were unanimous in their opinion, had for cowardly motives magnified the difficulties and dangers of the attempt. Three pilots and three captains, therefore, were sent to sound the channel in the night, and measure its breadth, and ascertain what facilities for defence the English would derive from the nature of the port. These persons, on their return, confirmed all that had been stated at the public council; and they added, that the entrance of the channel was so winding, that a strange ship could hardly enter without a pilot, even though coming in peace, and with no apprehension of being opposed. All thought, then, of attacking the English fleet at Portsmouth was abandoned. It was then debated whether they should make for the coast of Picardy, to co-operate with the army there, and prevent the enemy from throwing succours into Boulogne; or if they should establish themselves in the Isle of Wight, and fortify themselves there, which would be to the great damage of the realm of England. The chiefs who supported this latter proposal argued, that having once got possession of the Isle of Wight, they might easily make themselves masters of Portsmouth, which was one of the finest harbours in England; by this .neans they should put the English to an incredible expense, seeing that it would be necessary for them continually to keep up a force both by sea and land to make head against an enemy who was thus established. The passage to Spain and Flanders would then be secure ; and in time the island itself might be cultivated so as to * Du Bellay, 224-226.
ISLE OF WIGHT,