A chain of 461 beacons, part of a series of events marking the 400th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, blazed across England early Wednesday to re-enact the warning that the galleons were approaching.

As then, the first fire was lit at Kynance, a headland near Lizard village in the southwest tip of Cornwall, where local people say the Armada was first sighted sailing up the English Channel in 1588.But it was a Spaniard, Ambasador Don Jose de la Bellacasa, who lit the Kynance beacon Tuesday night.

Using a long-handled flaming torch to fire the brazier atop an oak pole, he parried reporters' questions about how he felt celebrating one of his country's more spectacular reverses.

"It is not so clear it was a defeat," he said with a grin. "You were lucky with the weather."

Historians have long argued over which played the greater part in the defeat of the Armada - Queen Elizabeth I's navy or gales that decimated the ranks of the Spanish ships.

The line of beacons stretched up the country as far as Berwick-upon-Tweed about 450 miles northeast of Kynance.