by Keith Milton Vice-Admiral Sir John Pennington’s jolly-boat nudged against the accommodation ladder that had been rigged aboard the Santiago, flagship of Admiral Don Rafael d’Oquendo’s Spanish fleet. How different from 50 years ago, thought Pennington, as he mounted the ladder and received the ritual honors due his rank. Then, a Spanish armada even larger than this one was met and bested by a much smaller English fleet, one commanded by Howard and Drake, men who had become his heroes. Now, the English fleet under his command—17 ships of the line along with 10 frigates and 10 fast sloops and brigs—lay within sight of the Spaniards. The difference was that Britain was now neutral in the prolonged war between Spain and Spain’s provinces in the Netherlands. [text_ad] This would be his third trip to visit with the Spanish commander-in-chief, and he felt that this latest offer from Dutch Lieutenant-Admiral Marten Tromp would goad d’Oquendo into action. He hated his role of messenger boy, and would have much preferred to bring the matter to a head, by force if necessary. Instructions from the Admiralty, through which King Charles I made his wishes known, were exasperatingly vague. Here was a belligerent fleet anchored in English waters with its enemy waiting in the wings to bring on a battle, and Pennington’s only orders were to prevent it from being fought in England’s coastal waters and to come to the aid of whomever was fired upon first, any such firing b


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