Battle of Muros Bay
|Battle of Muros|
|Part of the Italian War of 1542–1546|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Jean de Clamorgan||Álvaro de Bazán the Elder|
|25 warships||16 warships|
|Casualties and losses|
More than 3,000 casualties|
23 ships captured
1 ship sunk (Flagship)
|300 dead and 500 wounded|
The Battle of Muros Bay (Spanish: Batalla de Muros) took place on 25 July 1543, during the Italian War of 1542–1546, between the French fleet under Jean de Clamorgan, Lord of Soane and the Spanish fleet commanded by Don Álvaro de Bazán, 1st Marquis of Viso, father of Don Álvaro de Bazán, 1st Marquis of Santa Cruz, who was also present at the battle being no more than 18 years old. This battle is considered to be the first big Atlantic naval battle.
In 1541, Francis I of France violated the Truce of Nice and again declared war on Spain, allied with the Ottoman Empire, Denmark and Sweden. Because of this he prepared to enlist an army to fight the Spanish and English navies. The King himself went to the port of Le Havre to oversee the preparations for repelling any English attack.
Meanwhile, Vice Admiral De Bury instructed the assembly of a second fleet to attack Spain, he enlisted in the ports of Bayonne and Bordeaux, as at this time the Spanish presence in the Bay of Biscay was very small. The Emperor Charles, fearing action in these waters, designated Don Álvaro de Bazán, to proceed to the Bay of Biscay and assemble a fleet to try to prevent the French attack. Don Álvaro formed a fleet of vessels from Guipuzcoa and Vizcaya, stationing his operations base outside the port of Laredo, within reach of attacking both the French and Cantabrian coast.
Don Álvaro was ordered to transport a body of infantry to Flanders, so he had to split the fleet, and fifteen of their ships made the transportation of troops to the city of Bruges, where the infantry was landed at the end of June. Just then, the French finished their preparations, so that with thirty ships, which had been reinforced with 550 specially chosen arquebusiers, it sailed from the port of Bayonne due west to attack the Spanish coast. Although the French fleet had been enlisted by Vice-Admiral De Burye, it was at the time under the command of France's greatest seaman, Jean de Clamorgan.
The French fleet, on course to approach the coasts of Galicia, captured two Spanish merchant ships, an error which alerted the Governor at the time, Don Sancho de Leyva, who immediately sent emissaries to Bazán warning of the presence of the fleet and its course. Bazán, having been detached from his army and especially the soldiers sent to Flanders at that time, was doing his best to finish fitting out his ships, as he only had at his disposal a few thousand soldiers. Reading the messages of Leiva, he sent for reinforcements, and was quickly reinforced with 500 arquebusiers.
On 10 July, the French fleet passed through the waters of Laredo. Thinking that there were no Spanish ships in the area, looted the villages of Lage, Corcubión and more ports found on course, arriving at Cape Finisterre, finally throwing her anchor out at Muros where they demanded a ransom in exchange for not scorching the city.
Given the sensitivity of the situation, sailing as fast as he could to get to Muros in as short a time as possible and catch the French off guard.
The French remained at anchor in front of Muros when the fleet of the Marquis of Viso came over to them at full speed. He only had 16 ships, which were all that he could enlist and equip, but were, apparently, the largest available at the time, giving him a certain advantage over the 25 French ships. As it was 25 July, the Festivity of St. James, Patrón de España, Bazán harangued his troops by pointing out that it was impossible for the Spanish to lose a battle on this particular day. The Spanish troops attacked with such a raging fervour, that the French, were overwhelmed in a short time.
Don Álvaro turned to aim his flagship against the French Admiral which was positioned next to the corsair Hallebarde, he fought bitterly against them both with such a raging fury, as there were over a hundred men who were still, hors de combat in the Spanish ship. Seeing as the enemy had the advantage, Don Álvaro took advantage of a gust of wind which gave him the momentum necessary to charge Clamorgan's ship with such force and skill that he managed to sink it. Once he had sunk Clamorgan's ship, Don Álvaro then turned his attentions solely to Hallebarde's ship, which was finally boarded and captured.
Although the fighting was fierce, lasting a total of just under two hours, at the end of which the French were completely defeated. Of the 25 ships that made up the French fleet, only one escaped. The French casualties exceeded 3,000, but the Spanish a further 800, of which only 300 were killed.
The news of the victory reached the ears of the Emperor and his son, Prince Philip, who were satisfied with the great victory obtained by the Marquis of Viso. With the defeat of the fleet, the French, no longer posed a threat to the coastal towns of northern Spain and the Spanish obtained complete control of the Cantabrian Sea.
- The French casualties exceeded 3,000. Historia y Cultura Naval p.272
- Rodríguez González p.25
- Fernández de Navarrete (Vol1) p.7
- R. Thorp/J. Slavin p.206
- Instituto de Historia y Cultura Naval p.270
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