Battle of Lepanto, Sinking of Spanish Armada, and Pilgrim Governor William Bradford – American Minute with Bill Federer


News arrived in Europe that in 1570, Ottoman Turks under the command of Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha, captured Nicosia, Cyprus, after a 50-day siege.
20,000 captured Nicosians were executed. Women and boys were sold as slaves.
The Cathedral of St. Sophia was turned into the Selimiye Mosque …

In 1571, Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha surrounded the Christians in Famagusta, Cyprus, the last stronghold of Western Europe in the Eastern Mediterranean.
He promised the defenders of Cyprus that if they surrendered, they would be allowed to leave.
Lala Kara Mustafa Pasha broke his promise. He flayed alive Venetian commander, Marco Antonio Bragadin, and ordered the execution of all 6,000 Christian prisoners.
The beautiful St. Nicholas Church was turned into the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque. The Church of Saints Peter and Paul was converted into the Sinan Pasha Mosque.
After this, the Sultan planned on attacking Rome, and from there conquer the rest of western Europe.
The Sultan’s threat was taken serious, as centuries earlier, in 846 AD, Rome was attacked by 11,000 Muslim pirates.
They sacked the city, looted the old St. Peter’s basilica, and the church St. Paul Outside the Wall, and desecrated the graves of both St. Peter and St. Paul.
In response, Pope Leo IV built a 39 foot high wall around the Vatican.
In 1571, with the Sultan again threatening Rome, Pope Pius V used all his influence to get the Christian states of Spain, Naples, Sicily, Venice, Genoa, Sardinia, Savoy, Urbino, Papal States, Germans, and Croatians to assemble into the Holy League.
The Holy League insisted that their fleet be led by the 24-year-old son of King Charles V of Spain – Don John of Austria.
Spain used gold from the New World to fit out its navy to keep the Muslim Ottomans from taking over the Mediterranean.
On October 7, 1571, the largest and most decisive sea battle on the Mediterranean took place — the Battle of Lepanto off the western coast of Greece.
Don John of Austria led the 212 ships with nearly 68,000 soldiers and sailors of the Holy League.
A danger for soldiers fighting at sea, was that if they fell overboard, their armor would cause them to immediately sink.
Ali Pasha led the Muslim Ottoman Turks, consisting of 82,000 soldiers and sailors on 251 ships powered by thousands of Christian galley slaves rowing under the decks.
This was the last major battle with rowing vessels.
As the sun rose on the day of battle, the Holy League found itself at a great disadvantage, having to row against a strong wind.
Don John led his men on deck in a prayer, then suddenly the wind changed 180 degrees to favor the Holy League.
The Holy League’s ships collided into Ali Pasha’s ships.
Fierce fighting went on for hours.
Don John sailed his flagship Real crashing into Ali Pasha’s ship.
Ali Pasha was soon killed, his vessel’s crescent flag was lowered and his head was hung high in its place.
This cause Ottoman warriors to lose heart.
The Ottomans lost 200 of their 230 ships.
Some 12,000 Christian galley slaves were released from under the decks.
Had the Ottomans not been defeated, they would have invaded Italy and possibly conquered Europe.

Telling the story of the freeing of the Christian galley slaves, G.K. Chesterton wrote in his epic poem, “Lepanto”:
“… Above the ships are palaces of brown, black-bearded chiefs,
And below the ships are prisons, where with multitudinous griefs,
Christian captives sick and sunless, all a laboring race repines
Like a race in sunken cities, like a nation in the mines.
… They are lost like slaves that swat, and in the skies of morning hung
The stairways of the tallest gods when tyranny was young.
They are countless, voiceless, hopeless as those fallen or fleeing on
Before the high Kings’ horses in the granite of Babylon.
… And many a one grows witless in his quiet room in hell
Where a yellow face looks inward through the lattice of his cell,
And he finds his God forgotten, and he seeks no more a sign —
But Don John of Austria has burst the battle line!
… Don John pounding from the slaughter-painted poop (the rear stern deck),
Purpling all the ocean like a bloody pirate’s sloop,
Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labor under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.
Vivat Hispania! Domino Gloria!
Don John of Austria has set his people free!”
Hilaire Belloc wrote in The Great Heresies (1938):
“The last great Turkish organization working now from the conquered capital of Constantinople, proposed to cross the Adriatic, to attack Italy by sea and ultimately to recover all that had been lost in the Western Mediterranean.
There was one critical moment when it looked as though the scheme would succeed. A huge Mohammedan armada fought at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth against the Christian fleet at Lepanto.
The Christians won that naval action and the Western Mediterranean was saved.
But it was a very close thing, and the name of Lepanto should remain in the minds of all men with a sense of history as one of the half dozen great names in the history of the Christian world.”
One of the Spanish sailors in the Battle of Lepanto was Miguel de Cervantes. He was later captured and made a slave in Algiers, North Africa. After 5 years, he ransomed by Trinitarian Order, returned to Madrid, Spain, and there he wrote Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha, 1605, considered Europe’s first modern novel.
In an autobiographical passage, Cervantes wrote: “They put a chain on me … with several others … marked out as held to ransom … We suffered from hunger and scanty clothing … seeing at every turn the unexampled and unheard–of cruelties my master inflicted upon the Christians …
Every day he hanged a man, impaled one, cut off the ears of another … all with so little provocation … Turks acknowledged he did it merely for the sake of doing it … because he was by nature murderously disposed towards the whole human race.”
U.S. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts wrote in White Slavery in the Barbary States, 1853:
“Algiers, for a long time the most obnoxious place in the Barbary States of Africa, the chief seat of Christian slavery … the wall of the barbarian world …
… And Cervantes, in the story of Don Quixote … give(s) the narrative of a Spanish captive who had escaped from Algiers …
The author is supposed to have drawn from his own experience; for during five and a half years he endured the horrors of Algerine slavery, from which he was finally liberated by a ransom of about six hundred dollars.”

A missed opportunity followed the Battle of Lepanto.
Spain could have gone throughout the Mediterranean freeing ports, Greek Islands and even Constantinople from Ottoman control.
Instead, Spain sent its army and navy to crush the Reformation which was taking place in Holland and in England.
Over the next 35 years, Spain’s expensive military campaigns would result in depleted financial resources and bankruptcy.
In 1572, the Iron Duke of Alba began the Spanish Furies, decimating the cities of the Netherlands.
Tens of thousands were massacred at:
Mechelen, Guelders, Zutphen, Naarden, Haarlem, Maastricht, Aalst, and finally Antwerp, where soldiers torched a thousand buildings and killed an estimated 17,000 men, women and children.
In 1588, King Philip II of Spain sent his Invincible Armada to conquer Protestant England.
Queen Elizabeth, who had previously declined a marriage proposal from Philip, put on her armor and rallied Englishmen to defend their country in what is considered her most famous speech, August 9, 1588:
“Let tyrants fear …
I am come amongst you … resolved, in the midst and heat of battle, to live or die amongst you all — to lay down for my God, and for my kingdoms, and for my people, my honour and my blood even in the dust.
… I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king — and of a King of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm …
By … your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.”
Spain was repulsed by English and Dutch sailors, such as:
  • Sir Francis Drake,
  • Sir John Hawkins,
  • Sir Martin Frobisher,
  • Lord Howard of Effingham, and
  • Dutch Admiral Justinus van Nassau.
A hurricane smashed 56 Spanish ships, 10 more ships had to be scuttled.
Over 20,000 Spaniards died from battle, storms and disease.
Philip sent a second Spanish Armada in October of 1596, but it was destroyed in a storm.
He sent a third Spanish Armada in October of 1597, but it met the same fate.
In 1601, Philip’s son, Philip III, sent the Spanish navy to Ireland to mount an attack on Britain, but was defeated at the Battle of Kinsale.
Spain’s costly military losses led to the bankruptcy of the Spanish Empire and their loss of its monopoly over the new world.
This opened the door for other European nations to settle colonies in America.
Had the Spanish Armada won took control of England, there would have been:
  • No Anglican England;
  • No Puritans & Pilgrims;
  • No New England;
  • No United States.
North America would have just been an extension of New Spain-Mexico.
Writing for (Vol. 57 Issue 11 Nov. 2007), Richard Cavendish described the Spanish Bankruptcy:
“Spain had imported enormous quantities of treasure from the gold and silver mines of Mexico and Peru in the sixteenth century and yet the royal government was all too frequently in or close to bankruptcy.
Massive amounts were spent on crusading against both Islam and Protestantism, and the Netherlands cost more to administer than they brought in.
When Philip III became King of Spain and Portugal in 1598 … instead of being used to stimulate industry … the treasure from the Americas had created an attitude that held productive work in contempt, while foreigners – Genoese, Dutch, Germans – ran Spain’s trade and finance to their own profit …”
Cavendish continued, describing Spain’s version of deep state insiders:
The new king was far too idle and irresponsible to run the government himself, as his father had done.
Instead he spent fecklessly on frivolous entertainments while the government was managed by a favorite, the Duke of Lerma, who was just as torpid and incompetent as the king, and kept himself in power by dispensing grants and pensions to the leading Castilian nobles, who crowded the court.
He also lined his own pockets and moved the court from Madrid to Valladolid and back again to make profits from real estate dealings …”
Spain then attempted to stimulate the economy by debasing its money resulting in inflation, as Cavendish explained:
“The crown’s supply of money from the Americas … slumped by half during the first fifteen years or so of Philip’s reign, while money had to be spent on defending Spanish America from the English and the Dutch.
The government tried to escape its financial problems by issuing a debased copper coinage, the vellon, but was still forced to declare a moratorium on its debts, or in effect acknowledge bankruptcy on November 19th, 1607 …
By the time Philip III died in 1621, some Spaniards were starting to wonder whether their American empire was more of a liability than an asset.”
A pattern can be observed. When a nation reaches what could be considered “global superpower status,” the prosperity experienced causes those in political leadership to indulge in fiscal irresponsibility.
Enormous debt leads to national bankruptcy and a loss of international preeminence. When this happens there is a “great reset” where other nations quickly vie with each other to fill the power vacuum, resulting in a new global political structure.
Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations, 1776:
“The Spaniards, by virtue of the first discovery, claimed all America as their own, and … such was … the terror of their name, that the greater part of the other nations of Europe were afraid to establish themselves in any other part of that great continent …
But … the defeat … of their Invincible Armada … put it out of their power to obstruct any longer the settlements of the other European nations.
In the course of the 17th century … English, French, Dutch, Danes, and Swedes … attempted to make some settlements in the new world.”
Two years after the famed sinking of the Invincible Spanish Armada, a boy was born on March 19, 1590, in England, named William Bradford.


On November 5, 1605, the Gunpowder Plot was thwarted. An anonymous letter tipped it off. Guy Fawkes, who had fought for Spain, joined with conspirators to place 36 barrels of gunpowder in an unused cellar beneath Parliament’s House of Lords. 

The plot was to kill King James I, who was speaking in Parliament that day, and return England to a Catholic monarchy. The Gunpowder Plot caused James I to be suspicious and intolerant of any religious group: Catholic, Puritan, Presbyterian, as well as the Pilgrims. 

In 1605, St. Vincent de Paul was sailing from Marseille, France, when he was captured by Turks and sold into slavery in Tunis, North Africa. After sharing his faith with one of his master’s wives, she convinced her master to let him escape in 1607. He founded a hospital and an organization to ransom slaves.


When William Bradford was 17, Shakespeare was producing his play, “Anthony and Cleopatra,” 1607, and the Jamestown Colony was being founded in Virginia.
In 1609, William Bradford fled from England to Holland with the Pilgrim separatists, led by Pastor John Robinson and Elder William Brewster.
In 1620, after much hardship, William Bradford, age 30, sailed with the Pilgrims to America.
In 1621, Bradford was chosen governor and reelected 30 times till his death.
William Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, is the main historical record of the Pilgrims, published in 1650:
“Since ye first breaking out of ye light of ye gospel in our Honorable Nation of England … what wars and oppositions … Satan hath raised … against the Saints … by bloody death and cruel torments … imprisonments, banishments …
What could now sustain them but ye spirit of God and His grace? … Ought not the children of these fathers rightly say:
Our fathers … came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto ye Lord, and He heard their voice …”
Bradford continued:
“All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties … Out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing …
and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.”
American Minute is a registered trademark of William J. Federer.  Reposted with permission.