This artistic interpretation of the Battle of Gravelines was painted by Philip James de Loutherbourg in 1796.
The painting shows the morning after the English fireship attack on the Spanish Armada in Calais Roads, which found the Spaniards in a north-westerly gale off Dunkirk. A shift in the wind direction prevented many of their ships from being wrecked on the surrounding shoals. Saved from this disaster, they fought all day with the English and Dutch until they turned northwards, defeated, on a long and costly retreat around Scotland.
In the left foreground, a boat-load of English sailors are fighting their way into the beak of a Spanish ship which is silhouetted against the flame and smoke. The Duke of Medina Sidonia’s flagship, ‘San Martin’ flying the Papal standard at the main above a religious banner and the Spanish ensign on her stern, is immediately beyond to the right.
The central Spanish ship beyond the ‘San Martin’ flies the flag of Leon and Castile at the main and the ragged saltire cross of Burgundy on a striped ground as an ensign. Immediately in front of her is a much smaller English galleon, while further Spanish ships lie to the left. In the foreground several more small boats contain men fighting at close quarters, some in full armor with swords and some preparing to fight with only oars.
In the small dismasted Spanish pinnace which is being overwhelmed in the immediate foreground, a monk stands with his arms spread wide, perhaps in desperate benediction over his comrades.
The English fleet is attacking from the right, with the ‘Ark Royal’ half into the canvas in the right foreground. The royal arms of Elizabeth I are visible on the foresail with the Royal Standard and St George’s flag flying from the main- and foremasts.
‘Ark Royal’, was the flagship of the English fleet during the Spanish Armada campaign of 1588, under the Lord Admiral, Charles Howard (Lord Howard of Effingham).