The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True History of the Spanish Armada

The Confident Hope of a Miracle: The True History of the Spanish Armada

by Neil Hanson
     
 

The real story of the Spanish Armada.

In the winter of 1587 the Spanish Armada, the largest force of warships ever assembled, set sail to crush the English navy. This breathtaking overview of one of the most fascinating campaigns in European history begins with the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, the event that precipitated the launching of the Armada. From the

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Overview

The real story of the Spanish Armada.

In the winter of 1587 the Spanish Armada, the largest force of warships ever assembled, set sail to crush the English navy. This breathtaking overview of one of the most fascinating campaigns in European history begins with the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, the event that precipitated the launching of the Armada. From the first whispers of the threat against England and the English crown, to the return of the battered remnants of the fleet to Spain eighteen months later, it is a story rich in incident and intrigue. In this controversial study, Neil Hanson claims that Francis Drake's intention was not to sink the Armada ships but to disable and plunder them. He further claims that Queen Elizabeth was a monarch who left many of the survivors of the battle to die of disease or starvation and whose parsimony, prevarication and cynicism left her unable to make crucial decisions.

Drawing on previously undiscovered personal papers, Neil Hanson conveys in vivid detail how the highest and the lowest in the land fared in those turbulent months when the destiny of all Europe hung in the balance.

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Editorial Reviews

Neil Hanson
A popular British author, Hanson writes with sweep, confidence and great verve. He re-creates the feel and sounds of 16th-century battle ("the dull bass thud of a ball striking a hull, the rending crash as a shot ripped through the upperworks, the whipcrack of a severed stay, the sound like a dry cough as a shot punched a hole through a sail, and the rattle of small-shot ripping through canvas, like hail drumming on a tile roof"). He is especially vivid when describing the appalling squalor of shipboard life.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This splendid volume takes its title from a Spaniard's description of his compatriots' mood when the Armada sailed; a miracle was not forthcoming, however, for the Spanish or English fleets. The Spanish lacked the strength to overcome the inherent strategic disadvantages of having to bring a fleet and an army together over such a long distance; the English achieved their naval victory by sheer hard fighting, which nearly exhausted their ammunition and in which not only Sir Francis Drake displayed a freebooter's contempt toward disciplined obedience. Hanson (The Custom of the Sea) is superlative in doing justice to the social complexities of the time and the suffering of the many who fought on both sides. He does an equally fine job capturing the epic scope of this naval confrontation, which may not have caused the decline of Spain but certainly prevented that of England. The annotation is thorough, and the 16-page color insert (along with 21 b&w illustrations) includes a rare unglamorized portrait of Elizabeth-no legendary Gloriana this, but a shrewd working monarch. Agent, Lucas Alexander Whitley (London). (Jan. 20) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Designs turn to accidents, and great ships to splinters, in this rousing tale of the Elizabethan navy's finest hour. Spain and England were relatively recent rivals in the late 16th century, but their competition was fierce-pirate raid here, sea skirmish there, blood spilled wherever Spanish and English ships met. Among other things, Spain's Philip II, a Habsburg ruler, had to keep England and France from allying. That possibility, writes British journalist Hanson (The Custom of the Sea, 2000, etc.), was real enough when Mary, Queen of Scots, was alive. In those days, Philip avoided trying to overthrow Elizabeth "lest it prove a Pyrrhic victory, restoring England to the true faith only by placing a French queen upon the throne." Readers without a keen sense of early-modern royal intrigues and alliances may be lost in the early pages of Hanson's sprawling history, but in time things become clearer: with the French-hating (and, Hanson notes, memorably foul-breathed) Elizabeth safely on the throne, Philip was free to set his navy against hers in an effort not just to gain supremacy of the seas, but to launch Catholic revolts against the crown in Ireland and Scotland. It was a pretty plan, but, Hanson observes, it overlooked the fact that the Armada "was never equal to the task it had been set." Received wisdom to the contrary, Spain's ships were fewer and less technologically advanced than the lighter, faster British ships they faced, and Philip made some tactical decisions that may well have doomed his fleet in advance. Hanson's account of the great naval battle off the southern coast of England will thrill fans of C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brian, whose fictional creations would seem toowe much to the Francis Drake the author ably portrays here. The aftermath, with Spanish survivors straggling ashore only to meet gruesome ends, is just as well told-and just as full of intrigue. Richly detailed, concisely narrated: a superb, myth-shattering portrait of an epochal event. Agent: Kim Witherspoon/Inkwell Management

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400042944
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/18/2005
Pages:
512
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.14(h) x 1.61(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Confident Hope of a Miracle is a gripping account of the defeat of the Spanish Armada–the defining international event of the Elizabethan age. In 1588, determined to reclaim England for the Catholic Church, King Philip II of Spain launched a fleet of huge castle-crowned galleons that stretched for miles across the ocean. A battle-hardened Spanish Army waited in Holland, ready to crush England’s barely trained conscripts, many armed only with scythes, stakes or longbows. All that stood between Spain and victory was the English Navy. But English ships, tactics, weapons and crews were much superior to those of the Armada, and the pious and ascetic Philip’s “confident hope of a miracle” to give him victory was not fulfilled.

The story of the Spanish Armada is one of the great epics, with a cast of characters as rich and varied as any in history, with results that shaped Europe for centuries to come. Neil Hanson, the acclaimed author of The Great Fire of London and The Custom of the Sea, brings the story to vivid life, tracing the origins of the conflict from the Old World to the New, delineating the Armada campaign in rousing prose, and illuminating the lives of kings and popes, spymasters and assassins, military commanders and common sailors, and the ordinary men and women caught up in this great event when the fate of nations hung in the balance. Hanson also depicts the terrible fate that befell the seamen of both sides long after the decisive battles were over, and he takes a fresh, hard look at Elizabeth I, shaking the pedestal of “England’s greatest ever monarch.”

The Confident Hope of aMiracle is authentic and original history written with the pace and drama of a novel.

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