Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
A very peculiar account of the Armada
Hugh Yeman | Millburn, NJ United States | 09/05/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"On the one hand, there are good things about this production. For instance, they go into some detail on Drake's raid on Cadiz in 1587 in which he burned the barrel staves, and how this actually did more damage to the Armada than anything the English did in the channel. And they do a pretty good job of describing the English ship design innovations, and the ways in which they gave them advantages over the Spanish. However, there are some glaring and some just plain confusing things as well.
The writer seems determined to follow the old-school method of setting Medina Sidonia up as a straw man and then throwing pies in his face before setting him on fire. Near the beginning, the narrator says "On May the 9th, 1588, orders were finally given for the Armada to set sail from Lisbon and begin its slow progress up the coast towards England. The Spaniards were under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who was a brave soldier but a less-than-capable admiral, as events were to prove. He suffered constantly from sea-sickness, which often incapacitated him at crucial moments - a far from ideal situation." First of all, Medina Sidonia *complained* of a propensity for sea-sickness in his famous letter to Phlip II, but to the best of my knowledge he was right in the thick of things during the entire voyage. Someone's confused, mehthinks, but anyway. At this point I would expect them to cite Medina Sidonia's failure to attack Drake's fleet while it was bottled up in Plymouth; this is how some historians compare the duke unfavorably to Santa Cruz who, they say, would have ignored Philip's orders and attacked Drake. However, oddly enough, they never mention this. The *only* even remotely cogent reason they give for disparaging Medina Sidonia comes when John Tincey, author of _The British Army 1660-1704_ and _The Armada Campaign 1588_, makes this rather peculiar statement: "As the wind swung 'round, for once in his favor, he took a decision to seek safety in the port of Calais. It was to prove a disastrous choice." I've never heard this presented as much of a choice, since the danger of being driven onto the Flanders shoals was very real, and in fact proved very nearly fatal to the Armada when it did move further east. This sort of a priori declaration of Medina Sidonia's incompetence is just... silly. Medina Sidonia had to meet Parma somewhere, after all.
Now here's the really peculiar thing. During the bit about the fireships being sent in amongst the Armada at Calais, the narrator does *not* mention the Hellburner of Antwerp, Giambelli's exploding ship that killed eight hundred Spaniards during the seige of Antwerp just three years earlier. This omission is always disappointing in any account of the Armada, since it gives the context necessary for understanding why the Spaniards were so afraid of the fireships. But this account is particularly weird, because despite the fact that Hellburner is not mentioned, it is actually *shown on the screen*! Among the procession of images of burning ships and etc. we see a fade-in, zoom, fade-out sequence that lasts about five seconds and clearly shows a famous illustration of the Hellburner exploding at the pontoon bridge near Antwerp. It's an astonishingly bad production decision because, lacking explanation, the otherwise edifying image makes it look as though there was somehow a pontoon bridge off Calais!
And we finish with a particularly bad bit of history-telling that is perhaps more explicable. The narrator says "However, even if Sidonia has succeeded in reaching his rendezvous with the army of Flanders, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Parma was still unprepared, and could not have made the crossing on any account." Then Mr. Tincey says "The Spanish were intending to land at Cape Margate in the Thames Estuary. Parma would have found his way to London blocked by the River Medway, so the question really resolves on whether the army at Tilbury would have been able to cross with rigid boats they were building and get behind the line of the Medway to block Parma's advance. If this had happened, Parma would have found it very difficult to cross such a wide river while being opposed by even militia forces. He would therefore probably have to turn south to maneuver around the Medway, where he would have exposed his flank to the Tilbury army and met the force that was marching up the coast head-on." Excuse me??? This supposed historian is saying that the primary impediment to Parma's army was the *English* forces in the Medway??? What about the logistical impossibility of getting out of the Scheldt? What about the fact that the Dutch forces had ships that could navigate these waters, Parma had virtually none, and the English ships had relatively shallow-draught warships which could get closer to the coast than the Spaniards ever could? It's really quite a striking bit of historical myopia, and I can only assume that Mr. Tincey would rather make the British the star of the show than acknowledge the Dutch forces in Flanders.
Overall, it's a rather breathtakingly hit-and-miss production."