My Favourite Hero in History
An air of romance surrounds the Elizabethan, age sand gives. It a fascination that no other period of English history possesses. The great Armada sent by a bloated enemy, insolent with wealth and pride, and defeated by the inhabitants of a little island, whose courageous defence seems to have been aided by the winds of Heaven, provides a story which never fails to quicken the pulses of the brave. There are many great names which give a lustre to this period the names of men eminent in literature, of whom Shakespeare, though the greatest, is only one of great statesmen like Burleigh, of fighters and adventurers like. Drake of men like Sidney and Raleigh, distinguished as courtiers, Soldiers and scholars. Among these one name, that of a man not otherwise pre-eminent, who won immortal fame by his death, arouses the profoundest admiration, whenever mentioned. Many great deeds of valour were done by the sea heroes of England in this age, but, the greatest was the last fight of Sir Richard Grenville.
He was sent out to the Azores to intercept the Spanish La Plata fleet. Philip of Spain dispatched a fleet of fifty-three ships to frustrate the attempt, and to bring the gold ships into port. The ships met, six English against fifty-three Spanish. The superiority of, the latter was so great that five of the English ships were compelled to give way. A number of Sir Richard Grenville’s men were lying sick on shore, and, rather than abandon them to the Spaniards who would hand them over to the inquisition, he chose to remain in the Revenge, the old ship in which Sir Francis Drake had fought the Armada up the English Channel.
He had only a hundred men with him to fight the whole Spanish fleet, but they were each as brave as himself. For twelve hours, the Spaniards poured their shot into the doomed ship. They boarded her fifteen times, and were repulsed with determined bravery. Sir Richard was twice wounded. He was carried below, and received another shot in the head, while the surgeon who was dressing him was killed by his side. In this helpless state he advised that the ship should be sunk rather than yield; but most of the crew opposed this, and the Revenge struck the only ship yet taken by the Spaniards. But she was so terribly injured by the shot poured into her from all sides that she could not be kept afloat, and went down in two days.
The death of the hero was as noble as his life. “Here”, he said, “I, Richard Grenville, die with a joyful, and quiet, mind, for that I have ended my life as a true soldier ought to do, fighting for his country, queen, religion and honour my soul willingly “departing from the body, leaving behind the lasting fame of having behaved as every valiant soldier is in his duty bound to do.” And so passed away the brave Sir Richard Grenville.