Singeing the Spanish King's beard


Spanish Armada, battle in August 1588
Spanish Armada, battle in August 1588
16th Centuary English School

In an article about Ewell copyholds on this website reference is made to Nicholas Saunder's tenure of Plot 234, the Red Lion public house and other properties along the High Street and to Plot 320, a tenement known as Windsmer Hill (on the site of the future Garbrand Hall).

Nicholas Saunder died in 1587 leaving a will that named Sir Francis Carew as one of its supervisors. The main beneficiary was his eldest son, also called Nicholas, but amongst the pecuniary legacies was a sum of 400 marks payable to the youngest daughter, Jane, who married Luke Ward in March 1589/90. On 26 June 1593 at St Olave, Hart Street, London, however, a widowed Jane Ward(e) took as her second husband Alexander Clifford (Clefforde) of Bobbing Court, Kent.

Clifford may be found in command of 40 men on the 60 ton 'Moon', in a volunteer squadron, among the Queen's ships sent out to counter the Spanish Armada during July 1588.

In 1595, Clifford and his wife, Jane, were given real estate in Ewell by her brother Nicholas Saunder, junior.

Fearing a repeat of the Armada an expedition was sent during the following year to destroy Spanish ships preparing in the port of Cadiz. The English fleet, commanded by Lord Howard, consisted of 126 ships in total including troop transports. The soldiers were under the command of the Earl of Essex. The attack was a surprise, the soldiers took the town and its fortifications and the fleet either captured or destroyed a total of forty Spanish ships. The fortifications were destroyed and the harbour blocked with sunken vessels. The English invaders then put the town 'to the torch'.

a striped ensign with St Goerge's cross as a canton
a striped ensign with St Goerge's cross as a canton
Image by Martin Grieve and courtesy of the FOTW Flags Of The World website

Captain Alexander Clifford took part on the Dreadnought as Rear-admiral in Effingham's squadron flying at the mizzen of his ship a striped ensign with St Goerge's cross as a canton. He had been "authorised to take into his charge the ships following, viz., Vanguard, Rainbow, Alcedo, Centaur, and Daisy, the ships assigned him by the Admiral of the Low Countries, and the two Generals' bigger hoys. With all these to bear along the shore, as soon as the fleet comes thwart Rota, and come to an anchor as near the mouth of St. Mary Port as convenient. If he finds the galleys within the port he shall endeavour to keep them from coming forth. If he finds them at sea or in the Bay of Calez [Cadiz], shall do his best to chase them into St. Mary Port, or at least to keep them from troubling the disembarking of the army, or from attempting anything upon any part of the fleet. If he finds no galleys in St. Mary Port and sees none at sea, shall come to an anchor with the said ships north of that part of the fleet where the Due Repulse is admiral, to be ready to cover the weakest ships from any galleys that may come into the bay of Calez". He was one of many knighted for his valour at Cadiz in June 1596.

In 1600, Sir Alexander Clifford is reported to have been in charge of 150 foot soldiers fighting the rebellion in Munster [Part of the 'Nine Years' War' (In Irish: Cogadh na Naoi mBliana) or Tyrone's Rebellion that took place in Ireland from 1594 to 1603].

He was granted a pension by Signet Bill from November 1604.

The Cliffords gave up the Ewell property in 1616 and Alexander died five years later to be buried at Bobbing, Kent, 24 May 1621 (Will proved 1622).


Brian Bouchard © 2010
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society



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