Historic Charts of the Spanish Armada Preserved for the Public

Image courtesy Royal Navy

Published Jan 27, 2021 5:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

A rare set of charts depicting the defeat of the Spanish Armada have been saved from being sold overseas thanks to quick action by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which raised $820,000 from the public in eight weeks.

The ten maps - a complete set - are thought to be the earliest surviving representations of the running naval battle, and they have not left the UK since they were first drawn in 1589. 

The ink and watercolor Armada Maps were completed by an unknown draftsman. They depict the Royal Navy's famous defense against invasion by Spain, and each map details the position in the English Channel of individual ships in the two fleets. 

In July, the UK government placed an export bar on the hand-drawn maps in order to prevent their sale to an overseas buyer. To secure ownership, the museum raised $820,000 in public donations, along with grants of $290,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and $275,000 from the Art Fund.

"The Armada Maps, first drawn in 1589, are an important piece of British heritage serving to remind us of this pivotal naval battle. The export bar system exists so we can keep nationally important works in the country and I am delighted that, thanks to the tireless work of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the Armada Maps will now go on display to educate and inspire future generations," said Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage. 

A period depiction of the Battle of Gravelines, a pivotal moment for the defeat of the Armada (unsigned)

To make the maps accessible to the public for the first time, the museum has begun a new phase of fundraising. The National Museum of the Royal Navy hopes to put the maps on display this year and has long-term plans for them to tour the country, when COVID restrictions allow.