Military Review

Anglo-French naval rivalry. Hunting for the treasures of the galleons of the bay of Vigo

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Anglo-French naval rivalry. Hunting for the treasures of the galleons of the bay of Vigo

Ludolph Bakhuizen "Battle of Vigo"



Old King Louis XIV lost interest in merry festivals, artsy balls and masquerades. His latest and last favorite and secret spouse who entered into history, as the Marquis de Maintenon, differed modesty, piety and mind. They spent a lot of time together talking about politics, history and philosophy. The once stormy Versailles was quiet, became more modest and stricter. Yes, and it was from what. Sun King died his appetites of love, which cannot be said about political ones.

Century XVIII France met, as a bright, brilliant summer flower elusively approaching autumn. It was still shining and shimmering in the sun, but attentive gaze showed signs of fading. Continuous wars in which Louis with varying success embodied his ambitions, exhausted the country. There was plenty of money, which seemed not too long ago, and they were enough for magnificent palaces and harsh fortresses, for unbridled masquerades and new battalions, for the marshals' diamonds decorated with diamonds and even more expensive necklaces of mistresses - this money suddenly disappeared. The treasury showed the bottom. It was in such a depressing situation that Louis decided to play the Spanish game. It was the 18th century. His exquisite laces will soon be spattered with blood, and lush and majestic wigs will smell like a powder around the fire.

Inheritance disputes

1 November 1700 died one of the closest neighbors of Louis XIV, the Spanish king Charles II. The fruit of an incestuous marriage, suffering from an impressive list of various congenital diseases, the unfortunate monarch did not leave direct heirs. Charles's will constantly changed and corrected, depending on which party prevailed at the court. In the final version, the grandson of Louis XIV, Philip of Anjou, inherited the throne, albeit with reservations. The whole question was that each side reads such subparagraphs and nuances in its own way. Louis was not at all away to decorate the final of his reign with a jackpot in the form of a huge Spanish empire. Do I need to point out that a number of other European states had some objections to such dreams? First of all, in Austria, which had its applicant for the throne, the Archduke Charles. Owing to the perspective conflict, the old rivals of France, England and the Netherlands, were going to solve their problems, both external and internal. Wilhelm III wanted the war almost more than the Austrians: the results of the war of the Augsburg League were in many ways completely unsatisfactory, because the end of this bloody conflict was a tasteless status quo. As a result, the last in dynastic discussions was expected to be a bronze, copper or steel argument. Depending on the variety and country of manufacture. Soon the roads of the rich duchy of Milan, which was part of a long list of Spanish possessions, were dusty from the columns of the battalions of Yevgeny of Savoy. Members of both opposing coalitions, bowing courteously, eagerly drew their swords and began to sort things out. The War of the Spanish Succession began.

The beginning of the war found the French fleet in a very dull condition. By the insistent efforts of the Minister of the Sea, Louis Ponchartren, his funding was reduced year by year. At the same time, occupying a very burdensome position as head of finance of the kingdom, this innovator and lover of fresh views has consistently advocated the need to move from fleet regular to large-scale privateering. That is, there was a very dangerous temptation to throw off the burden of the state in the form of the maintenance of expensive naval forces, shipyards, warehouses, arsenals and educational institutions and give private warfare to the sea. In the upcoming military conflict, the French were going to make the main bet on the raiders. Obviously, in the heads of guardians of such an “improvement” among the chests with looted gold circling in a crazy round dance there was no place for simple doubt. After all, the budget of France’s main ally, Spain, was based precisely on maritime communications, which needed to be protected. And it was necessary to do this precisely with a regular linear fleet, and not with numerous, but relatively weakly armed privateers. The concept of destroying the maximum number of enemy merchant ships was not bad in itself, but only in conjunction with the full-fledged struggle of a strong, regular fleet for supremacy at sea. The French decided to go on a more attractive path. The war for the Spanish inheritance has become an arena for fierce escort battles, not inferior in intensity, probably to even the most striking episodes of the Battle of the Atlantic.


Francois Louis Rousselet, Marquis de Chateau-Renault, Vice-Admiral


In the 1699 year, shortly before the war, Jérôme Ponshartrin, who had reached his age, took over the post of naval minister instead of his father. 28 May 1701 admiral comte de Tourville died at the age of 58 years, perhaps the best naval commander of the kingdom at that time. This event was perhaps the saddest thing for the French maritime policy. Tourville was a supporter of the classic mastery of the sea by defeating the enemy’s fleet. After his death, the kaner party gained additional strength at court. At the head of the fleet stood 23-year-old French admiral Earl of Toulouse, Louis' bastard. This naval commander was awarded the highest sea rank in five years, and in 18 he also became Marshal of France. Being four years younger than the naval minister, he was in a very strained relationship with him, which did not give orderliness to matters in the naval sphere.

Commander of the main forces of the Atlantic fleet was appointed constant ally Turvil Marquis de Chateau-Renault. By the beginning of the war, the French naval forces were still impressive. They consisted of 107 battleships, 36 frigates, 10 large firefighters and almost 80 ships of smaller classes. The main forces - the 64 battleship - were still based in Brest. A significant squadron was in Toulon, a number of ships were in the West Indies.

The state of France’s main rival to the sea of ​​England was by no means brilliant. By the end of the war of the Augsburg League, it was recognized by the main banking houses of Europe as an insolvent partner. The island nation was in fact in a state of default. Government spending under the “economy” policy was constantly declining, and by 1701, only half of the British battleships were able to go to sea. However, despite financial problems, Royal Navey was impressive. St. George's Red Cross fluttered over the 131 battleship, 48 frigates, 10 branders, 10 sloops and over more 90 ships of other classes. Due to the very poor quality of funding, most of this armada was of sky-hunting. The naval forces of the Netherlands were not as numerous as those of an ally. Opportunities for quantitative and qualitative growth were limited by the need to maintain an 100-thousandth army. By the beginning of the war, the Dutch fleet consisted of 83 battleships, 15 frigates, 3 flute and 10 firefighters.

INCOPEZO, or WHAT easy money is turning into a country

Of all the great powers participating in the war, Spain, the vast colonial empire, whose possessions were located on four continents, was in the worst situation. The state in which the once mighty state found itself after the 35-year rule of the ailing king can be characterized by the merciless word "decline." The greedy struggle of court factions for influence, the colossal corruption of the bureaucratic apparatus, famine and impoverishment among the population were accompanied by the impoverishment of the treasury, the degradation of trade and production. The once mighty army and navy represented no more than a shadow of past magnificence. For too long, Spain has been living through the virtually uncontrolled exploitation of the conquered rich colonies in America. The streams of gold and other precious trophies, gushing into the kingdom by a deep river and enthusiastically met, did not bring prosperity, but trouble. Swelling from wealth, Spain preferred to order and buy the very best abroad: handicrafts, weaponluxury goods - means allowed. The merchants of neighboring countries profited from trade with Spain - generous hidalgo paid without stint. Own production inexorably reduced and sickly. Why develop it if you can buy the best? In the end, the flow of gold began to decline as expected, the actions of the British, French and Dutch corsairs became rampant. The proud winners of the Moors remained with a devastated treasury, a ruined economy, inexorably lagging behind the more and more gaining power of predatory neighbors.

By the end of the 17th century, only the silver mines in South America that were mercilessly exploited remained the main source of state funding. In the XVI century, the Spanish conquistadors, invading the Inca Empire, incidentally discovered large deposits of silver in the Andes. Their development has allowed Spain to exist comfortably for a long time. By the beginning of the XVIII century, the deposits were depleted, but there were simply no other major sources of income. The main difficulty was in the delivery of resources extracted by sea directly to Spain. Too many were willing to get acquainted with the contents of the holds of the galleons hurrying to the shores of the Iberian Peninsula. For greater security, it was decided to abandon the use of single vessels for such a delicate mission, and the Spaniards began sending once a year a large and well-guarded convoy, which was supposed to take out resources and treasures extracted in the South American colonies to the metropolis. This convoy had several unofficial names. The Spaniards called it “la Flota de Oro”, or “golden fleet”, bearing in mind the times when the holds of their ships were crammed full of Inca and Aztec treasures. The French, by adjusting for the changed circumstances and the nature of the cargo, are the “silver convoy”. Of course, not all of the “silver convoys” consisted of silver. There were also valuable sorts of wood, jewelry, gold - though not in such quantities as before.

The convoy 1702 of the year was of strategic importance not only for Spain (for her, because of the extreme decline, each convoy was strategic), but also for her ally France. The delivery of silver would provide the possibility of giving the Spanish army a more or less efficient form. In addition, the purchase of food and other supplies needed for war would be greatly facilitated. The Spaniards, without having the necessary forces, appealed to their French allies with a request to provide security for the convoy. The previous convoy 1701 of the year was very few and consisted of only 7 transport ships. This was not enough for a gaping budget gap. In the 1702 year, right before the beginning of the war, they were preparing to send as many 20 ships. Of course, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic, infested with the international fraternity of the Knights of Fortune, was considered the most dangerous part of the route. Louis willingly agreed to help, but for a “moderate” fee in the amount of 2 million 260 thousand pesos, the French also needed money. The proud hidalgoes grimaced, but agreed. For the management of the operation, they requested Turville himself, but because of the death of the latter, the Marquis de Chateau-Renault was appointed commander of the escort forces. The British, through their numerous agents and other paid well-wishers, knew about the upcoming campaign and, of course, decided to play this risky game. After all, the value of the "silver convoy" for the Bourbon block was difficult to overestimate.

Collectors His Majesty

29 August 1701, the Château-Renault left Brest with the 15 battleships, 3 frigates, 5 branders and headed for Cadiz. On finding out about this, the British 12 September is setting Admiral John Benbow with 35 battleships in pursuit. He was given the task of following the French to the shores of Spain, observing their actions, and in case of loss of contact with the most high-speed ten ships, move to the West Indies, sending the remaining 25 battleships back. Benbow should have tried to get to the "silver convoy" before Chateau-Renault - the war had not yet been officially declared, but the situation was already heated to the limit. On October 10, Benbow reached the Azores, where he learned that the French had already arrived in Spain. According to the instructions received, he divided his forces and headed to the waters of the Caribbean. In Cadiz, meanwhile, the concentration of the French fleet. The maritime department was very concerned about the appearance of Benbou, and it, not knowing that it significantly reduced its strength, decided to strengthen the squadron of Chateau-Renault at the expense of the Mediterranean grouping. 1 November 1701 was joined by Vice-Admiral d'Estre's 14 battleships. Soon, the West Indies squadron left Spain and headed for the shores of America.

At the beginning of 1702, the Château-Renault reached a predetermined area. 9 April squadron as part of the 29 battleships entered Havana. The presence of French ships in tropical waters was not very simple: the crew mowed down the disease, there was not enough quality provisions. While the Spaniards were engaged in forming their own convoy, Château-Renault maneuvered on its own between large ports in the Caribbean, fearing that the ports could be attacked. The place of creation of the strategic caravan was the Mexican Veracruz. 11 June Spanish ships finally went to Havana, where an escort in the person of Chateau-Renault was waiting for them. After organizing events, loading supplies and fresh water on 24 in July 1702, the “silver convoy” went to the metropolis. It consisted of the actual 18 heavy galleons under the general command of Admiral Don Manuel de Velasco. The total value of the cargo, which was based on South American silver, was 13 million 600 thousand pesos. Only three galleons had more or less significant weapons, so the Spaniards had to rely on the protection of the allies. Château-Renault, after sending several ships to Brest, whose crews suffered the most from diseases, had battleships, 18 frigates, 2 corvettes, 2 branders to protect the 4 convoy.

Such a well-guarded prey was too tough for the local pirate brethren, and the only thing left was to dreamily swallow saliva. Having safely reached the Azores in the late summer of 1702, the Allies made a stop, deciding where to go further. The fact is that rumors reached the Spaniards about the English squadron waiting for them off the coast of Spain. At the military council, Château-Renault offered to go to Brest, which was a very well-protected base where it was possible to replenish crews and carry out repairs. If necessary, there it was possible to hide from the enemy. Such a thought provoked a storm of indignation from Velasco, who had clear instructions to deliver the cargo only to Spanish ports. Despite allied relations, suspicious hidalgo seriously feared that the French would simply master the treasures they had obtained with such difficulty. In the end, decided to go to Vigo, a port in northwestern Spain. Reaching its shores, the Allies received news that quite recently a large (near 50 ships) Anglo-Dutch squadron under the command of Admiral George Ruka attacked Cadiz, but failed and went in search of the "silver convoy." Before the Chateau-Renault, there was a choice: to go to El Ferrol, well-protected by coastal batteries, or to continue to the route previously planned by Vigo. The admiral did not change the decision. In his opinion, Vigo, which has a narrow passageway to the raid, was easier to defend, having blocked off with booms and coastal batteries. The main argument was that it was closer to Vigo. September 22 Spanish galleons reached the designated target, hiding in this port. The French ships anchored at the entrance to the bay, protecting the approaches. The first part of the task was completed - the treasures reached Spain.

GOP stop! The hand came up from the corner.

Upon arrival at the port, the French-Spanish command immediately took up the task of strengthening the site of the "silver convoy". The Vigo garrison was strengthened, two old guard towers, Randa and Corbeiro, at the entrance to the bay began to hastily put in order and install cannons on them, taken from Spanish ships. At the same time, a boom barrier was installed, which should have prevented unhindered entry to the harbor. What to do, spending huge funds on the magnificent palaces, villas and other various luxuries and tinsel, the Spaniards did not bother with coastal defense. But now everything had to be made up literally by assault methods.

On September 27, the long-awaited unloading of the galleons began, followed by Admiral Chateau-Renault and members of the merchant guild of Seville. Vigo urgently pulled at least 500 cargo carts. Local farmers were paid, not stint, - ducats for the league, which attracted the "truckers" even from other provinces. By October 14, the discharge at a high pace was completed. On the galleons, there remained only the cargo unaccounted for in the ship's documentation, or, to put it simply, smuggling. Theft, bribery and related activities flourished in the colonies, far from the great bosses, no less than in the metropolis. In total, according to the inventory of the commission overseeing the process of disposing of the cargo, 3650 silver boxes were delivered to the shore, which coincided with the inventory of Don Velasco, made during loading in Veracruz. It is now difficult to say how “mistaken” the accountants in Mexico or Spain.

October 18 Spanish agents reported that John's Anglo-Dutch fleet is still prowling, like a hungry wolf, across the Atlantic, finally divided. Part of the ships went to India, the other to the bases - to spend the winter in England. The Allies calmed down, the level of readiness on the forts and coastal batteries was reduced. Even the booms were set apart. As it turned out later, the information turned out to be fundamentally wrong - such information should always be rechecked. It was precisely these days that, through the much more efficiently working English intelligence, Rook received information that such a tasty prize in the form of a “silver convoy” was in Vigo. The leak came from one talkative Spanish priest, who in one of the Portuguese zucchini nabolt a lot of things too generous stranger. The Spaniards and the French were in complacent relaxation, when the 20 of October appeared on the horizon numerous sails. The hands approached Vigo. His squadron consisted of English and 30 Dutch battleships 20. To an additional misfortune for the battleships defending on board and the transports attached to them, Rook also had a landing corps in 13 of thousands of soldiers commanded by Count Ormond. The Dutch compound was commanded by Admiral van der Goes, subject to the Hand.

Franco-Spanish forces were significantly inferior to the enemy. They had total 17 battleships and 18 galleons. Among the battleships there was not a single 90 – 100-gun, because they were sent to Brest from the West Indies. From the galleons in battle, there was even less sense - they all had only 178 guns in total, with the largest caliber being 18-feet. On October 22, maneuvering, the Anglo-Dutch fleet anchored in Vigo’s mind. Heavy Spanish guns from the forts of Castro and San Sebastian opened fire, but soon ceased - the Hand was out of reach. In the evening of the same day, a military council was held on the flagship Royal Soverin where they decided on an action plan. Initially, it was planned to capture the old guard towers (Randa and Corbeiro) by the landing forces, while the fleet would try to force the booms and attack the French battleships.


Vigo Bay Battle Scheme


October 23 at 10 in the morning hours 4 thousand British soldiers were landed near the Randa tower. With them were a few light guns. The garrison of fortifications in the 200 of the French sailors had the strongest resistance, but in the end the tower was taken by storm. The commander of the English avant-garde, Vice Admiral Hopson, who was holding a flag on the battleship Torbay, sent his ships to the barrage. Soon he managed to break through, opening the entrance to the bay. Approaching a short distance to the French battleships, the British opened heavy fire. Their opponents showed desperate resistance, but the British superiority was overwhelming. Soon, many ships of the Château-Renault were engulfed in fires, some lost their spars. The fire of the French began to weaken. Seeing that the squadron’s position was almost hopeless, and in order to prevent the enemy from being captured by the ships entrusted to him, the Marquis of Château-Renault and Don Velasco decided to destroy them. Crews were ordered to set fire to their battleships and galleons and leave them. Above the bay of Vigo rose fire and smoke, which finished off the galleons, who managed to avoid tropical storms, sharp boarding sabers, pirates, nuclei of British and Dutch privateers.

The British were eager for booty, so their boarding parties were able to land and capture six French and one Spanish ship, which were in such poor condition that they had to be destroyed. Meanwhile, the main forces of the Anglo-Dutch fleet entered Vigo Bay and landed troops. Vigo itself was a fortified city, and he did not dare to storm his hands. Instead, the "enlightened navigators" frolicked around in abundance, for example, they plundered the monastery of San Felipe in the vicinity of Vigo, whipped off completely. For four days, the British and the Dutch were engaged in robbing any property available for this property, however, to their great disappointment, there was no riches promised by the agents on the burned and submerged Spanish and French ships. It was possible only to get hold of a certain amount of precious smuggling: silver coins, dishes and ornaments. The Vigo garrison did not intervene.

Having ruined everything that is possible, in the best traditions of craftsmen of gentlemen of good luck - Drake or Reilly - October 30. The hands left Vigo, taking away a rather modest booty (given the estimated size of a jackpot), which was estimated only at 400 thousand pesos. The battle at Vigo Bay cost the Anglo-Dutch forces about 800 people. The losses of the French and the Spaniards were significantly greater - 2000 killed and drowned. The most painful loss was the death of the Spanish transport fleet, with the help of which the state was actually financed. It was necessary to build new ships, because there were no more suitable ones. That was the sad result of the reign of the last Spanish Habsburg. The destruction of the squadron of the Château-Renault was a serious defeat at sea, but France still had ships and admirals.

"And when you're two steps away from a pile of fabulous wealth ..."


Sixpenny silver coin minted in honor of the British victory in Vigo bay


In the English Parliament held a very stormy hearings on the results of the raid of the Ruka squadron. I wouldn’t make any noise in gentlemen’s wigs, many of which were shareholders of this campaign - 400 thou. Pesos at the exchange rate at that time were equal to “modest” 150 thou. The lords were not particularly pleased with the destruction of the enemy’s large ship grouping, the destruction of its port. The main issue, angrily bursting out of the wide open noble gulp, was “Why so little ?!” In the end, the parliamentary scandal was hushed up, rightly believing that the winners are not judged, but the victory was on the face. In honor of the battle at Vigo Bay, on the orders of Queen Anne, a special golden guinea was minted with images of burning Spanish galleons.

Delivery of cargo from the South American mines was of great importance for Spain and France - the Spaniards were able to equip an impressive land army, which became a good help for the battalions of Louis XIV, with the proceeds. Treasures from the Spanish galleons gave rise to a lot of rumors, legends and rumors. Despite the fact that the information about the unloading of the precious contents of the holds onto the shore was not a special secret, almost immediately treasure hunters began stubborn searches for allegedly lost treasures. Say, not everyone has unloaded, missed something, - clever guys with a conspiratorial look showed a suspicious type of map and copies of cargo declarations, hinting that for a small fee "golden chests will become yours". Even the famous Jules Verne added fuel to the fire, describing the treasures of the bay of Vigo in “Twenty thousand li under the water” as the basis of the wealth of the legendary captain Nemo. Passions subsided relatively recently, when meticulous researchers finally proved that the ships resting at the bottom do not hide any treasures.

The war for the Spanish inheritance gained momentum - the French soon filled up the losses in the battleships and were eager for revenge. Their opponents, the British and the Dutch, also did not sit with folded arms. The sails of the new European war, which will stretch for more than ten years, were filled with the wind of profit and dynastic claims.
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  1. Good cat
    Good cat 16 February 2016 06: 44
    +2
    The Anglo-Saxons have always been pirates and robbers from the high road, I don’t understand how they with such a "pedigree", under the gentlemen "mow"?
    1. Almatinets
      Almatinets 16 February 2016 11: 35
      +1
      Gentlemen of luck - and there are robbers, that's right)
    2. Almatinets
      Almatinets 16 February 2016 11: 35
      +1
      Gentlemen of luck - and there are robbers, that's right)
    3. Oladushkin
      Oladushkin 16 February 2016 13: 25
      +4
      From recent history, we see that the most "gentlemen" gentlemen are from gangster circles. They took off their crimson pindjaks (:)), put irons and pistols in the safe and this is now our "elita". So it was before.
    4. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 16 February 2016 15: 06
      +1
      At the heart of any condition is starting capital. And starting capital is often based on a starting pistol. smile

      But in general, why are you surprised? Remember who Henry Morgan was before he became vice governor of Jamaica and an implacable and brutal fighter against pirates. And I still don’t remember the famous Sir Francis Drake ...
    5. 97110
      97110 16 February 2016 19: 33
      0
      Quote: Good cat
      under the gentlemen "mow"?

      As far as I remember, a gentleman is a person who does not have a profession, living not at the expense of his labor. If you do not recognize robbery as a profession, then arrogant Saxons are quite gentlemen.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 16 February 2016 07: 53
    +3
    The leak came from a talkative Spanish priest who, in a Portuguese zucchini, blabbed a lot of unnecessary information on a generous stranger...And of course I lied a little, and the Anglo-Saxons eyes lit up with greed .. Thank you, Denis! Bright, colorful ..
  3. Stirbjorn
    Stirbjorn 16 February 2016 09: 46
    +4
    Another great and interesting article! Hats off to the author hi
    1. Army soldier2
      Army soldier2 17 February 2016 18: 46
      +1
      Both the article is interesting and the presentation style is beautiful. Thanks to the author.
  4. aviator1913
    aviator1913 16 February 2016 10: 08
    +3
    Great article. I enjoyed reading, thanks to the author.
  5. alexej123
    alexej123 16 February 2016 13: 17
    +2
    Thanks to the author!
  6. Alex
    Alex 16 February 2016 14: 26
    +5
    Denis, I read your next article with pleasure. As always, an excellent syllable, relevant subtle humor and a sufficient amount of historical information.

    Many thanks and well deserved "+"!
  7. albert
    albert 16 February 2016 17: 03
    +1
    And I remembered Captain Nemo, how he mined gold from the sunken ships from Jules Verne, and that’s where Vigo Bay is all about. Respect to the author! hi
  8. Plombirator
    16 February 2016 23: 59
    +5
    Quote: Alex
    Many thanks and well deserved "+"!

    Thank you, and other readers who are interested in such a specific topic)) I will continue to try and work)
  9. Villiam wolf
    Villiam wolf 17 February 2016 08: 58
    +1
    Thank! I look forward to continuing! wink
  10. Trapperxnumx
    Trapperxnumx 18 February 2016 10: 27
    0
    Well, I know that there is almost no difference between the French and the British, they behaved the same in the colonies, they also robbed and killed, but for some reason, I still root for France in these battles))))
  11. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 18 February 2016 17: 38
    0
    A fascinating story, thanks.
  12. Jääkorppi
    Jääkorppi 20 February 2016 17: 35
    +1
    Hotel "Admiral Benbow", pirates, sea adventures! Captain Flint and John Silver must have watched this convoy with envy. Thanks!