The Battle Between the Spanish Armada and the British Fleet ~1588~ In the later part of the 16th century, Spain was the major international power and either ruled, colonized, or exercised influence over much of the known world. Spanish power was at it’s height and Spain’s leader, King Philip II, pledged to conquer the Protestant heretics in England that began as a result of the Reformation. Philip held personal hostility towards England’s Queen Elizabeth I and was desirous of eliminating a major sea-going rival for economic reasons. Elizabeth encouraged Sir Francis Drake and other English seamen to raid Spanish ships and towns to invest in some of their wealth. The English also began to aid the Dutch Protestants who were rebelling against Spanish rule.
The Treaty of Nonsuch (1585) along with damaging raids by Drake against the Spanish commerce finally convinced Philip that a direct invasion of England was necessary. Philip wanted to restore England to Catholicism, keep his wealth he discovered, and prove that his country is still looked upon as all-powerful. King Philip disliked Elizabeth with a passion. He tried to plot against her ages ago with Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, in 1568. She was beheaded in 1587 for she pose a threat to the queen and England’s safety.
Finally Philip decided he had to do something about it himself. He drew up a flawless plan that wouldn’t underrating England’s ability to defend herself, Philip organized a brilliant fleet, which he called his Spanish Armada. It was called ‘Invincible’, the fleet of unprecedented size and strength. His Armada consisted of about 130 ships from his Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets, from the Portuguese navy and his allies, with as many as 8,000 seamen and possibly 19,000 soldiers. These ships were to join 30,000 troops who had been fighting in the Spanish Netherlands under Philip’s commander, the Duke of Parma. Don lvaro de Bazn, Marquis of Santa Cruz, who had initially organized the Armada, did not live to command it. His successor, Alonso Prez de Guzmn, Duke of Medina Sidonia, was no less intelligent and courageous.
The men were inexperienced and their knowledge of ships and battles was poor. Their ships were mainly line-of-battle ships, and the rest being mostly transports and light craft. They were conscious that even their best craft were slower and less reliable than those of the English and less well armed with weapons, but they counted on being able to force boarding actions if the English offered battle. The Armada set sail from Lisbon on May 9, 1588, but gales forced it back soon after. The voyage was not resumed until July 22.
Since November 1587 the English and the Dutch had been aware of Philip’s intentions. To prevent a juncture of Parma’s army with the Armada, they had several troops patrolling the Netherlands coast. The English fleet was under command of Charles Howard, 2nd Baron Howard of Effingham Ships were anchored at Plymouth on the English Channel to blockade and destroy the Armada before it left the Spanish coast. On July 29, 1588, the wind direction made this impossible and the Armada was already first sighted off the Scilly Isles, near the coast of Cornwall in southwestern England. The Armada reached the Strait of Dover on August 61 (Having already entered the English Channel on July 30) and anchored at Calais, France.
This is where Medina Sidonia had planned to meet Parma in Flanders. The Dutch gunboats prevented the barges from meeting the Armada and this defect in their strategy was to prove disastrous. In the early hours of August 7-8, the English launched eight fire ships2 into the Spanish fleet, forcing the Spanish ships to cut or slip their cables, thus losing their anchors, and stand out to sea to escape the flames. The ‘Invincible’ Armada’s formation was thus completely broken. At dawn on the 8th about 60 English ships attacked the disorganized Spanish ships off the French port of Gravelines.
Three Spanish ships were sunk or driven ashore, and the others were badly battered. During all the battles, the wind direction and speed and waves and currents had a great effect on the movement of the ships. Both the west wind and the English fleet now prevented the Armada from rejoining Parma, and it was forced to make the passage back to Spain around the northern tip of Scotland. The English fleet turned back in search of supplies when the Armada passed the Firth of Forth and there was no further fighting, but the long voyage home through the autumn gales of the North Atlantic proved fatal to many of the Spanish ships. Only about 60 ships are known to have reached Spain, many too badly damaged to be repaired, and perhaps 15,000 men perished.
The English lost several hundred, possibly several thousand men to disease and casualties in battle. The Armada was victim of ill-trained and undermanned crews, and non organization in its command. The defeat of the Spanish Armada saved England from invasion and the Dutch Republic from extinction, and it marked a turning point between the era of Spanish world domination and the rise of Britain to the position of international supremacy. The once all-powerful Spain was now recognized as being defeated. Other nations could now take courage in colonizing and exploring in the Americas. The Protestant religion had survived its worst threat.
And England remained victorious and powerful, gaining the wealth they once envied. Summary & Conclusion The Spanish Armada was a fleet of armed ships that tried to invade England in 1588. The Spanish fleet had been called the “Invincible Armada” because the Spaniards thought it could not be defeated. But the English fleet defeated Spain. The failure of the Armada was a great blow to the prestige of Spain, the world’s most powerful country at that time. Spain remained a major power after the battle, but the English merchants and sailors challenged the Spaniards with greater confidence throughout the world.
I feel that the English deserved their victory. They had been trying to escape Spanish influence for some time and wanted to free themselves from religious disagreements. Spain was in over it’s head when Philip decided to organize his Armada. They already had so much power and wealth, but King Philip was selfish and corrupt, and he wanted more. The British fleet defeated the Spaniards with great courage and intelligence. They prove to the world that Spain was not higher than any of them; and that all the countries could challenge against Spain for a piece of wealth and power that it at once most highly possessed.
References Britannica Encyclopedia The Defeat of the Spanish Armada written by George W. Goldman New World Encyclopedia.