[This immense armament, the greatest that has ever been fitted out against England, consisted of one hundred and thirty vessels of all sizes, manned with the bravest veteran troops in Europe. Such, indeed, was the number of ships and men, that this fleet was called the Invincible, while it was confidently expected that Britain would succumb to the invaders, and return to the Popish faith.
But not more than sixty weather-beaten shattered vessels came back to Spain, the rest having been destroyed chiefly by tempests, upon the English, Scottish, and Irish coasts.” –Ed.]
For a long time, the news of a Spanish navy and army had been blazed abroad…
…about August 1 of 1588, this island of Scotland found itself in a fearful state of affairs, which was the prospect of utter devastation of both Church and State, which would have happened if God had not wonderfully watched over us, and had not mightily fought and defeated that army by his soldiers the elements, which he made all four most fiercely to afflict them unto almost utter destruction.
Terrible was the fear, piercing were the preachings, earnest, zealous, and fervent were the prayers, along with were the sounds of sighs and sobs. Also abounding, were the tears at that Fast and General Assembly kept at Edinburgh, when the news were credibly told, sometimes of their landing at Dunbar, sometimes at St. Andrews, and in Tay, and now and then at Aberdeen, and Cromarty Firth. And, in very deed, as we certainly knew soon after, the Lord of armies, who rides upon the wings of the winds, the keeper of his own Israel, was in the meantime conveying that monstrous navy about our coasts, and directing their hulks and galliots [ships] to the islands, rocks, and sands, whereupon He had destined their wreck and destruction.
But it was within two or three months thereafter, early in the morning, by break of day, one of our bailies [sheriffs] came to my bed-side saying (but not with fear): “I have to tell you news, Sir. There is arrived within our harbor, this morning, a ship full of Spaniards, but not to give mercy, but to ask;” and so shows me that the commanders had landed, and he had commanded them to their ship again, till the magistrates of the town had advised; and the Spaniards had humbly obeyed. He therefore desired me to rise and hear their petition with them. Up I got with diligence, and assembling the honest men of the town, came to the Tolbooth; and, after consultation taken to hear them, and what answer to make, there presents to us a very reverend man, of big stature, and grave and stout countenance, gray-haired, and very humble like, who, after much and very low courtesy, bowing down with his face near the ground, and touching my shoe with his hand, began his speech in the Spanish tongue, whereof I understood the substance; and being about to answer in Latin, he having only a young man with him to be his interpreter, began and told over again to us in good English, that King Philip, his master, had rigged out a navy and army to land in England, for just causes, to be avenged of many intolerable wrongs he had received of that nation; but God, for their sins, had been against them, and by storm of weather had driven the navy past the coast of England, and him with certain captains, being the general of twenty hulks, upon an isle of Scotland, called the Fair Isle, where they made shipwreck; and where so many as had escaped the merciless seas and rocks, had more than six or seven weeks suffered great hunger and cold; till bringing that bark out of Orkney, they were come hither, as to their special friends and confederates, to kiss the king’s majesty’s hands of Scotland (and therewith he bowed even to the earth), and to find relief and comfort thereby to himself, these gentlemen, captains, and the poor soldiers, whose condition was for the present most miserable and pitiful.
I answered like this: That howbeit neither our friendship, which could not be great, seeing their king and they were friends to the greatest enemy of Christ, the Pope of Rome, and our king and we defied him, nor yet their cause against our neighbors and special friends of England could procure any benefit at our hands for their relief and comfort, nevertheless they should know by experience that we were men, and so moved by human compassion, and Christians of better religion than they, which would show in the fruits and effect plainly contrary to theirs. For whereas our people, resorting amongst them in peaceable and lawful affair of merchandise, were violently taken and cast into prison, their goods and gear confiscated, and their bodies committed to the cruel flaming fire for the cause of religion, they should find nothing amongst us but Christian pity, and works of mercy and alms, leaving to God to work in their hearts concerning religion as it pleased him. This being truly reported again to him by his interpreter, with great reverence he gave thanks, and said, he could not make answer for their Church, and the laws and order thereof; only for himself, that there were divers Scotsmen who knew him, and to whom he had shown courtesy and favor at Cadiz, and, as he supposed, some of this same town of Anstruther. So we showed him that the bailies granted him license, with the captains, to go to their lodging for their refreshment; but to none of their men to land, till the overlord of the town were advertised, and understood the king’s majesty’s mind about them.
Thus with great courtesy he departed. That night, the laird (of Anstruther) being advertised, came, and on the morrow, accompanied with a good number of the gentlemen of the country round about, gave the said general and the captains presence; and after the same speeches in effect as before, received them into his house, and entertained them humanely, and suffered the soldiers to come to land, and he altogether, to the number of thirteen score, for the most part young beardless men, foot-sore and hungered to whom, a day or two of broth, pottage, and fish were given; for the advice was conformed to the Prophet Elisha, which he gave to the King of Israel, in Samaria: “Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.” The names of the commanders were –Jan Gomez de Medina, general of twenty hulks; Captain Patricio; Captain de Legoretto, Captain de Luffera, Captain Mauritio, and Seignor Serrano.
But verily, all the while my heart melted within me for desire of thankfulness to God, when I remembered the prideful and cruel nature of these people, and how they would have used us, had they landed with their forces among us; and saw the wonderful work of God’s mercy and justice, in making us see them, the chief commanders of them, to make such salutation and courtesy to poor seamen, and their soldiers so abjectly to beg alms at our doors, and in our streets.
In the meantime, they knew not of the wreck of the rest, but supposed that the rest of the army was safely returned; till one day I got in St. Andrews, in print, the wreck of the galliots in particular, with the names of the principal men, and how they were used in Ireland and our Highlands, in Wales, and other parts of England; the which when I recorded to Jan Gomez, by particular and special names, oh! Then he cried out for grief, sobbed, and wept.
Later, after this time, this same Jan Gomez showed great kindness to a ship of our town which he found arrested at Cadiz, at his home-coming. He rode to court for, and made great commendation to his king. Then he took the honest men to his house, and inquired for the Laird of Anstnither, for the minister, and his host, and sent home many commendations.
But we thanked God with our hearts that we had seen them amongst us in that form.