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Rare maps charting England's defeat of the Spanish Armada to remain in the UK 


Rare maps giving a detailed account of England's defeat of the Spanish Armada have been saved for the nation after the public helped raise the funds to buy them.

The set of ten, dating back to 1589, are thought to be the earliest surviving representations of the battle and have not left the UK since they were drawn.

They were sold abroad in July, but a Government export ban prevented them leaving the country and gave the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth time to raise the £600,000 to buy them back.

The hand-drawn ink and watercolour maps depicting the 1588 battle were completed by an unknown draughtsman, possibly from the Netherlands, who is thought to have based them on a set of engravings by the Elizabethan cartographer Robert Adams.

The Armada had sailed for England after decades of hostility between Spain's Catholic King Philip II and the protestant Queen Elizabeth I.

In one of the greatest naval battles in history, 66 English ships – including the flagship Ark Royal – beat a Spanish fleet twice the size by sending fireships into it while anchored off Calais.

The museum raised the £600,000 in eight weeks from public donations and grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Art Fund.

Professor Dominic Tweddle, its director general, said the public 'dug deep in extremely difficult times', adding: 'I am incredibly proud that we made sure the Armada maps have been saved for generations to come.'

A museum spokesman said: 'They depict in real time a navy defending England against invasion by the 16th century's imperial superpower of Spain.'