A Protestant Wind or Hot Air? A study of the Astor Armada drawings
In January 2021 a set of ten ink and watercolour drawings were acquired by the National Museum of the Royal Navy. The re-discovered manuscripts are the earliest visual representations of the progress of the Spanish Armada and depict one of the greatest events in British naval history. The chronicle events from the sighting of the fleet at the Lizard on 29 July 1588 to the Battle of Gravelines on 8 August 1588. The drawings had, in 1828, been identified as preparatory sketches for Robert Adams and August Ryther’s engravings, Expeditionis Hispanorum in Angliam Vera Descriptio– the first commercially-produced English prints – published in 1590, to accompany Ryther’s description of the battle, A Discourse Concerninge the Spanishe Fleet. The lecture discusses the penmanship, provenance and production of the maps, and raises the possibility that, rather than being preparatory sketches for a printed work, they comprise separately-produced illustrations to accompany a now lost manuscript despatch of the campaign. In either case, both the drawings and the prints are shown to have played a vital role as part of Protestant propaganda and the Tudor spin machine.