THE ADVOCATE 631
VOL. 80 PART 4 JULY 2022
The Honourable Wally Oppal, Q.C., a man of many accomplishments, adds
to that list an Honorary Doctorate of Laws, recently bestowed upon him by
Thompson Rivers University.
By the 1580s, Spain and England were firmly at odds, including over religion
(Spain’s Philip II was a devout Catholic whereas Elizabeth I was Protestant)
and English privateers’ raids on Spanish ships. Philip II planned an
invasion, with his fleet (armada) to unite at the coast of Flanders with
troops commanded by the Duke of Parma, who was the governor of the
Lengthy planning and provisioning was required in the lead-up to this
endeavour, and by 1587, England knew of the planned Spanish invasion. Sir
Francis Drake led a raid (the “singeing of the kind of Spain’s beard”) on
Cadiz, a Spanish port, destroying several dozen ships as well as supplies,
delaying the invasion and allowing England time to improve its defences.
Ultimately the Spanish Armada, under the command of the Duke of Medina
Sidonia, left Lisbon in May 1588. From the outset it encountered difficulties.
As the Irish High Court described in King & Chapman v. The Owners
& All Persons Claiming an Interest in “La Lavia”, “Juliana” and “Santa Maria de
la Vision”, 1994 Lexis Citation 5402, which related to the discovery of three
Spanish wrecks off the Irish coast, “the enterprise was dogged by misfortune
from the beginning”, as the already cumbersome square-rigged ships
faced strong headwinds travelling north. After the armada reached the English
Channel in July 1588, on several occasions the Spanish and English
(with Sir Francis Drake as vice-admiral and Sir John Hawkins as rear admiral
of the English fleet) tussled in the Channel, with inconclusive battles.
On August 8, the Spanish ships at anchor at Calais Roads along the
French coast were scattered by English fireships (empty burning hulks that
the English set adrift and let the wind and tide carry toward the enemy).
Some Spanish ships cut their anchors and the fleet as a whole was forced
out of its usual half-moon formation into the open sea. At dawn, in the Battle
of Gravelines, the English attacked with cannon fire and damaged or
destroyed several Spanish ships.
Although the English attack drew to a close after several hours as English
supplies of shot and powder ran low, the Spanish were unable to muster an
attack on English soil: the Spanish fleet was driven by a strong wind into the
North Sea and the Duke of Medina-Sidonia—out of position and also running
out of rations, as well as facing disease among Spanish crew—determined
to return home around Scotland and Ireland, not being able to sail
against the wind or through the English fleet. The Spanish faced terrible