The Creation of the Maps

Despite being an incredibly detailed account of the events of the Spanish Armada there is little surface evidence about who made them and for what purpose. That is not to say that there are no clues to work with, just that we must dig into the content of our maps to find it, as well as understand the political allegiances of the larger European landscape.  

There is only one caption in the entirety of the collection, and it may come as a surprise that it is not in English but Flemish. Thanks to Queen Elizabeth I’s support of Dutch Protestants within the newly created Dutch Republic, relations between the two countries were strong. There were many Flemish speakers working in England, one such individual was Thomas Fleming, Captain of the Golden Hind, the ship that first spotted the Spanish Armada’s approach.  

Caption reads: ‘On the 19th June [the date is from the Julian calendar, still in use in Protestant countries at the time] the Spanish fleet arrived from Spain they were seen by Captain Thomas Fleming sailing [literally being washed] towards the Lizard by a south-westerly wind.’

Whilst there are no more captions on the maps there are inscriptions in both English and Flemish, most notably on the wind roses, which mix English and Flemish names for the points of the compass. Add the fact that Cartography was more developed in The Netherlands then it is no surprise that a Flemish hand played a part in the creation of these maps.  

We can also analyze the very paper the maps are made from for further answers, which can be seen to bear a watermark with the arms of Austria and Burgundy. This is not unexpected as very little white paper was being made in England at the time. Similar marks have been found on documents from Strasbourg and other areas now in northeast France, with the paper most likely made in a mill along the Rhine.  

So, from this we now know that at least some of maps were drawn up by a Dutch hand and on paper that was sourced from the Rhine region. But this then leads to a bigger question, why were they created in the first place

Ryther’s work was clearly written in order to glorify the English defeat of the Armada and present Howard and his fleet in a good light. Attached to this account were engraved maps which were produced by Robert Adams (1540 – 1595), surveyor of the Queen’s works. These engravings look very much like our maps, with an interesting aside being that the original drawings for these engravings have been lost. It is possible that our maps are the same ‘lost’ originals.  

Whilst it is easy to presume that these maps are simply a record of events, it’s in looking at other contemporary works that other, more politically motivated intent may be found. Our maps tell a story which strikingly resembles another account published in 1590 by Augustine Ryther (1576 – 1593). Ryther was himself Flemish, and dedicated the work to the Lord High Admiral Howard, who was in command of the English defense against the Spanish Armada. Ryther’s account was a translation of a text by Petruccio Ubaldini (1524 – 1600), an Italian adventurer, writer and artist, who was presented to the English court by his patron the Earl of Arundel.  

So to recap, we can confidently state that the maps were created, at least in part, by Dutch Cartographers. As both England and the Dutch Republic were Protestant countries it is likely that our maps were produced for that self-same audience, and as a way to circulate the defeat of the Catholic Spanish Armada to a receptive audience. 

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