Ninety vessels, under Howard, Drake, and Frobisher, followed the flying Spaniards into the North Sea.
"We have the army of Spain before us," Drake wrote, "and hope, with the grace of God, to wrestle a fall with him. There was never anything pleased me better than seeing the enemy flying with a southerly wind to the northward. God grant you have a good eye to the Duke of Parma, for, if we live, I doubt not to handle the matter with the Duke of Sidonia, as he shall wish himself at St. Mary's Port, among his orange-trees."
The wind, now strong from the south, had risen to a gale. The Spanish ships, so fashioned as to sail only before the wind, were driven northward. Between them and the shore, where lay possible safety, was the dreadful English fleet, which had battered them so sorely during the past ten days. Before them was the sea, full of unknown perils.
"Not only man but God was against them. His wind blew discomfiture to their meditated enterprise. More than one poor; crippled ship dropped behind as her spars snapped, or the water made its way through her wounded seams in the straining seas. The Spaniards, stricken with a wonderful fear, made no attempt to succor their consorts, but pressed heavily on, leaving them to founder."
The pursuit continued until Friday, August 2nd. There was now no more danger to be apprehended from the scattered enemy. The wind was threatening, and, the supply of provisions beginning to fail, Howard and Drake determined on returning homeward, leaving a couple of pinnaces to dog the Spaniards past the Scottish isles. Though the wind was contrary, they beat back against it without loss, and in four or five days the vessels, with their half-starved crews, all safely arrived in Margate Roads, having done the noblest service that fleet ever rendered to a country in the hour of supreme peril.
Meanwhile, so much as remained of the Invincible Armada was buffeted to and fro by the resistless gale, like a shuttlecock between two invisible players. The monster left its bones on the iron-bound shore of Norway and on the granite cliffs of the Hebrides. Its course could be traced by its wrecks. Day followed day, and still God's wrath endured. On the 5th of August Admiral Oguendo, in his flag-ship, together with one of the great galliasses and thirty-eight other vessels, were driven by the fury of the tempest upon the rocks and reefs of Ireland, and nearly every soul on board perished. Of one hundred and thirty-four vessels which, gay with gold and amid triumphal shouts and loud music, had sailed from Corunna July 12th, only fifty-three battered and useless hulks returned to the ports of Spain.
The fate and exploits of the Armada are graphically summed up in the emphatic language of Sir Francis Drake. "It is happily manifested," he says, "indeed, to all nations how their navy which they termed invincible, consisting of nearly one hundred and forty sail of ships, were by thirty of her Majesty's ships of war, and a few of our own merchants, by the wise and advantageous conduct of Lord Charles Howard, High Admiral of England, beaten and shuffled together from Lizard in Cornwall to Portland, from Portland to Calais; and from Calais, driven by squibs from their anchors, were chased out of sight of England, round about Scotland and Ireland. With all their great and terrible ostentation, they did not, in all their sailing round about England, so much as sink or take one ship, bark, pinnace, or cock-boat of ours, or even burn so much as one sheep-cote on the land."