The Spanish Armada was a great Spanish fleet sent by King Philip II of Spain in 1588 to invade England. It was ironically called “Invincible.” During the late 1500’s, Spain was the major international power over much of the known world (Goldman 1). Spain’s leader, King Philip II, wanted to conquer the Protestants from England and convert them to the Church of Rome. King Philip II also had hatred against Queen Elizabeth I, and wanted revenge because she had executed Mary Queen of Scotland in 1587 (Goldman 1).
King Philip II of Spain began the assembling and formation on the Spanish Armada. The Armada left Libson on the 20th of May 1588. The Armada consisted of about 130 ships. Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets had up to 8,000 sailors and around 19,000 soldiers (Collier’s Encyclopedia 559). They joined another 30,000 soldiers from Spain totaling 50,000 men. The commanders of the fleet were Duke of Madina Sidonia, Francis Drake, Duck of Parma, an admiral named Don Alvaro de Bazon, and Marquis of Santa Cruz, who had organized the Armada (Collier’s Encyclopedia 559). The English and Dutch knew that King Philip would attack, and sent small squadrons under Sir William Wynter and Lord Henry Seymour to patrol the Netherlands Coast (Goldman 1). The English sent 54 of the Queen’s best ships to Plymouth on the English Channel to Blockade and destroy the Armada before it left the Spanish Coast. On July 29, 1588, after the bad weather had passed, the Armada was spotted off the Sicily Isles near southwestern England (Goldman 1).
The battle between Spain and the English had begun when they first spotted each other. The two opposite sides first met off of Plymouth, near Eddystone Rocks on July 31, when three of the Spanish ships were lost (Collier’s Encyclopedia 660). The larger part of the English fleet was at Plymouth. The English fleet harassed the Spanish fleet but were unable seriously damage the Spanish formation. Thanks to new tactics, the English fleet pounded the Spaniards form beyond the range of Spanish guns (The Encyclopedia American 327). The Armada reached the Strait of Dover on August 6, and secured in an unprotected position off Calais. The English also secured in a position but were forced to retreat to guard the narrow seas (Collier’s Encyclopedia 660). As the Armada began their invasion, they no longer had a safe port. The Dutch and English warships cruised to intercept the Armada fleet. This defect in Spanish strategy was to prove disastrous (The Encyclopedia Britannica). Around midnight on August 7, Lord Howard sent three merchantmen to burn the Spanish fleet. The merchantmen only had time to burn the cables. The Spanish ships drifted away in panic and the Armada’s formation was completely broken. The Spanish regrouped but ran out of ammunition (Academic American Encyclopedia 151). One ship was severely damaged while the others were barely harmed. The English attacked again on August 8 before the Spanish ship could regroup. The battle went on for 8 hours straight, and three Spanish ships were sunk while the others were badly battered. During all the battles, the wind speed and waves had a great effect on the movement of the ships (Martin & Parker 200). On August 12, a storm separated the opposing fleet near the Firth of Forth, a bay on the east shore of Scotland, where Lord Howard gave up his pursuit (Collier’s Encyclopedia 660). Recognizing the power of the English fleet, the Spaniards headed back to Spain. The bruised Armada fought off storms and shipwrecks and finally returned to the Spanish Port of Santander, on the Bay of Biscay, five months later (Collier’s Encyclopedia 660). Only about 60 ships reached Spain, most of them too damaged to be repaired. The English lost thousands of men due to disease and casualties in battle.
The outcome of the battle made Spain less powerful then before. The defeat of the Spanish Armada saved England form invasion, and the Dutch Republic form extinction (The Encyclopedia Britannica). It marked the turning point between the era of Spanish world domination, and the risk of Britain to the position of international power (Goldman 1). The Armada’s action has had historical significance as the first major gun battle under sail, and as the moment from which the gun-armed sailing warship dominated the seas (The Encyclopedia Britannica). The fate of the Armada gave the English more power to someday takeover (Collier’s Encyclopedia 660). The once powerful Spain was now recognized as being defeated. England remained victorious and powerful, gaining the wealth that they once dreamed of (Goldman 1).
The Spanish Armada was a fleet organized to take over England. The fleet was thought of being “Invincible,” because the Spaniards thought that it could never be defeated. The English proved the Spaniards and the whole world wrong by defeating the Armada using smart tactics. Spain still was powerful, but now the other countries didn’t fear it. The fate of the Armada was said to have marked Spain’s decline (Academic American Encyclopedia 151).
Filed Under: English History, European History, History
A summary of the Spanish Armada
In the late 16th century, Spain was the most powerful empire in the known world. Spain's king, Philip II, ruled much of the New World and much of western Europe. England was helping Spain's Dutch rebels and English ships, under the command of Sir Francis Drake, to attack Spain's treasure fleet as they returned from the Caribbean.
Worst of all, England was now a Protestant nation. When Elizabeth I executed the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots in 1587, Philip was personally angered and, wanting England for himself, decided to invade.
Philip's plan was that an armada of 130 ships would sail to the Netherlands, pick up 30,000 Spanish troops and invade England. However, the Armada was delayed by an English attack on Cadiz harbour in 1587 where Drake made off with gold treaures and destroyed over 100 Spanish ships.
In 1588, Philip's Armada finally set sail. When the Armada anchored at Calais, the English used fireships to scatter the Spanish fleet and then attack it at the Battle of Gravelines in July 1588. The Armada was forced to abandon its invasion attempt and was destroyed by storms, which Philip I called the , whilst trying to sail home round the north of Scotland.
Queen Elizabeth had a portrait painted to publicise her 'famous victory'.
What did the battle represent?
The conflict with the Spanish Armada represented the height of the long struggle between Protestant England and Catholic Spain. Until recently, both English and Spanish historians believed that the Armada was the time when Spain's fortunes changed and England became great. Modern historians, however, think that the failure of the Armada – though a setback – was not the death-blow to Philip it was made out to be at the time although they agree that it did ‘make’ Elizabeth into a formidable queen.