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Spain’s Revenge: The Battle of Cornwall

Seven years after the remnants of the Spanish Armada blew back into Cadiz, the ongoing war between Spain and England still hadn’t ended. Pirates were attacking each others’ ships, and a daring Spanish captain landed in Cornwall. Carlos de Amesquita had an eventful two weeks pillaging and pirating, and he ended up saying a Catholic mass on English soil, torching villages, and evading Francis Drake in what has become known as the Battle of Cornwall.

Amesquita set sail from Brittany at the end of July. It’s possible that he only wanted to refill water and take supplies in Cornwall. It went a bit further than that, though.

He had already had success sinking a French ship bound for England with an English crew. His trip was already a success. But he had with him an English Catholic, a Richard Burley of Weymouth. Together they took several hundred soldiers to Mousehole.

The locals were terrified, and put up barely any resistance. Only one man, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall and his dozen soldiers resisted. One man, Jenkyn Keigwin was killed defending his home. You can still see his sword and the cannon ball that killed him on display at the Penzance Museum. Later on his house became a pub, “the Keigwin Arms.”

The Battle of Cornwall lasted several days.

Well, that’s if you can even call it a battle. Considering only a dozen people resisted, and the rest ran for it, it was more a case of Amesquita having a field day in the Cornish sunshine. He burned Penzance, Mousehole, Paul and Newlyn. Then he said a Catholic mass. He sunk three ships in the harbor. The men vowed to come back and build a Catholic church, then let loose their prisoners, and sailed back to Brittany.

Sir Francis Drake tried to help, but only could find 100 men willing to come fight. So Amesquita evaded any kind of punishment from the English. On his way back home he met up with 46 Dutch ships, and sank two of them. A quick stop for repairs, and he was back in Brittany, his two weeks of pillaging and pirating successfully completed.

This would be the only time in the course of the war that Spanish ships actually landed in England.

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