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Rare Spanish Armada maps saved for the nation

Incredibly rare Spanish Armada maps will stay in the UK thanks to a campaign launched by the National Museum of the Royal Navy with Art Fund support.

Ten remarkable maps tracing the story of a defining moment in British history, the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, will remain in the UK thanks to a fundraising campaign launched by the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Exquisitely hand-drawn in ink and watercolor in the immediate aftermath of the victory, these maps are the only surviving contemporary drawings of the battle and had remained in private collections until now. Last July, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport imposed an export ban on the works, hoping that a UK gallery or institution would come forward to acquire the treasures for the nation.

Thanks to the public’s support and essential grants received from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Art Fund, the last-ditch fundraising campaign launched by the NMRN managed to raise £600,000 in only two months to save the Armada Maps for the nation. 

The 10 maps depict the battle in real time, from the first sighting of the Spanish Armada off the Lizard Peninsula on 19 July, 1588 to the defining Battle of Gravelines. Each drawing focuses on a key moment as the two fleets met in the English Channel, including Sir Francis Drake’s capture of the Spanish flagship, Nuestra Señora del Rosario, and the fighting between the Isle of Wight and Portland Bill.

Although the drawings were made by an unknown artist, it is believed that they’re based on a set of engravements by Queen Elizabeth’s cartographer Robert Adams.

The NMRN is hoping to place the Armada Maps on display during 2021.

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