He blew with His winds, and they were scattered

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Armada Medal, bearing the inscription Flavit Jehovah et Dissipati Sunt

Jehovah blew with His winds, and they were scattered is a famous phrase on the aftermath of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, when the Spanish fleet was broken up by a storm, which was also called the Protestant Wind.[1] The phrase seems to have had its origin in an inscription on one of the many commemorative medals struck to celebrate the occasion.

Background[edit]

The conflict had clear religious dimensions. Relations between Catholic Spain and Protestant England had been souring for a considerable period of time, eventually leading the outbreak of the Anglo-Spanish War in 1585. Events had been brought to a head by the English support of the Dutch Protestant United Provinces in the Eighty Years' War. The Dutch were revolting against Spain, and to prevent further English support, Philip II of Spain planned an invasion of England. On 29 July 1587, he obtained Papal authority to overthrow Elizabeth, who had been excommunicated by Pope Pius V, and place whomever he chose on the throne of England.

An Armada, the Spanish word for a battle fleet, was prepared to invade England, defeat its armies and depose Queen Elizabeth. Consisting of around 130 ships, 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers, 1,500 brass guns and 1,000 iron guns, it was termed the "Great and Most Fortunate Navy". The Spanish Empire at this time was one of the wealthiest and most powerful in the world. England in comparison was considerably weaker, both economically and militarily, and since becoming Protestant on the accession of Elizabeth, lacked powerful allies on the continent.

Defeat of the Armada[edit]

Armada Medal, a Dutch jeton struck in Dort in 1588, showing people praying to God for divine deliverance. The text reads: Homo proponit et Deus disponit, or "Man proposes and God disposes"

The Armada was subsequently defeated by the English fleet under the English admirals Lord Howard of Effingham (later Earl of Nottingham), Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake. The Armada was unable to pick up the Spanish army waiting in the Netherlands, and was forced instead to flee Northwards, around the East Coast of Britain, and attempted to return to Spain by sailing around the North coast of Scotland and around Ireland. Here, in addition to the usually rough seas, the ships ran into a heavy storm, sometimes described one of the most northern hurricanes on record. Already in poor condition after an extended period at sea, many ships were sunk, or driven onto the Irish coast and wrecked. Over 50 ships were lost and the Armada ceased to be an effective force. The ships that returned to Spain were in poor condition and their crews weakened and diseased from the long journey.

Aftermath[edit]

Portrait of Elizabeth made to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588). In the background, the ships of the Armada are depicted in a storm tossed sea.

Phillip's plans to invade England had been effectively quashed, the weather having played a large part. A later legend had him declared, "I sent my ships to fight against the English, not against the elements". The Spanish-English conflict was viewed all over Europe as a contest between Catholicism and Protestantism. The unlikely victory was viewed by the English as being proof of God's support for the Protestant cause, church services in thanks were held across the country and a number of medals were produced in England and the Dutch Republic to commemorate the event.

One of the most famous bore the inscription Flavit Jehovah et Dissipati Sunt (with the word "Jehovah" in Hebrew letters, the Tetragrammaton יהוה). This translates as 'Jehovah blew with His wind and they were scattered'. It is a reference to Job 4: 9-11: (...)flante Deo perisse, et spiritu iræ ejus esse consumptos. Rugitus leonis, et vox leænæ, et dentes catulorum leonum contriti sunt. Tigris periit, eo quod non haberet prædam, et catuli leonis dissipati sunt. The inscription accompanied a scene of a fleet of ships on a stormy sea. The obverse displayed a church building, symbolizing the Protestant Church, remaining unmoved in a storm (symbolizing the Armada invasion). Other medals included one that showed a wrecked galleon, and on the obverse some people praying. Another large silver medal displayed a scene of some sinking ships on one side; on the other it satirized the Pope, King Phillip, and other clerics and rulers, who were shown with bandages over their eyes, and with their feet resting on a bed of sharp spikes. Yet another depicts a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, surrounded by her titles, and featuring on the obverse, an island on the sea with a large bay tree towering over a town, bearing the Latin inscription, Non Laedor Alidor, "Not even perils touch it."

Other medals used the Latin term for God, in the phrase Flavit Deus et Dissipati Sunt, and featured on the obverse, the biblical phrase of Matthew 2, 18:

In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Queen Elizabeth is supposed to have awarded a medal to her admirals, bearing the phrase. The alternative term, "The Protestant Wind" is sometimes used, again to emphasise the divine nature of the victory.

The phrase, along with Elizabeth's speech to the troops at Tilbury, has become part of the popular mythology of the event, in a similar way that England expects that every man will do his duty has become a part of the national heritage after the Battle of Trafalgar. Altered and abbreviated versions of the phrase exist, such as God blew and they were scattered or God breathed and they were scattered.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Europe - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31.