History of the Battle of the Spanish Armada

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History of the Battle of the Spanish Armada

The great naval battle between Spain and England in 1588- one of the

most important battles in the history of the world- is known as the Battle of

the Invincible Armada. But in a sense, this is a misnomer. An invincible armada

is one that cannot be defeated, yet the mighty fleet of warships that Spain sent

to invade England, was defeated so badly that Spain could never again rule the

oceans. How was it possible that this armada, which had awed all of Europe with

its size and strength, was unable to stand up against the forces of a much

smaller and less powerful enemy? The answer lies in the differences between

these two countries and their rulers, Elizabeth I of England and Philip II of


During the 16th century, Spain was at the height of her power. Newly

discovered worlds and conquests of different peoples had yielded Spain an

abundance of precious metals and gems, which made Spain the envy of all the

other European nations. By 1580, King Philip II was ruling over an empire that

covered three-fourths of the known world. Even the ancient Romans would have

been envious of its size. (Walker 15-19)

Religion was one of the compelling motives behind the actions and

ambitions of Spain. Philip's father, Emperor Charles V, had established himself

as the guardian of Christendom. He also had the dream of uniting all of the

Christian European nations against the Turks and the Moors, who had been

terrorizing Catholicism from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. However,

his dreams were hindered with the coming of the Protestant Reformation, which

split Christendom into two parts.(Marx 22-25)

Philip II continued in his father's footsteps as the defender of

Catholicism. After the Turks were defeated in a decisive sea battle in 1571,

Philip turned his attention to another serious threat to Christendom: his

Protestant neighbors. Devoutly religious and good friends with Pope Sixtus V,

he was willing to use all of his resources, including his treasures from the New

World, his large army, and his huge fleet of warships, just to unite Europe

under a common Catholic faith. (Marx 28-33)

He probably would have accomplished his goal too, if it weren't for the

Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England. England at this time, however, was not

nearly as powerful or as wea...

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...ost empty, but, with money collected from

the City of London and from her courtiers, she sent a fleet of 126 ships,

commanded by Drake, to attack the remains of the Armada in Santander. But Drake

and his captains wanted booty as well as naval victory and sailed to Corunna,

hoping to attack Lisbon. Sickness broke out among the crews, and bad weather

dispersed the ships. The dispirited fleet straggled back to Plymouth. The Queen

was furious and Drake was in disgrace for several years.

Five years later, Philip II sent 100 ships to invade England, but more

than half of them were destroyed by a fierce gale in the Bay of Biscay. The

following year another Spanish fleet almost reached the southern coast of

England, but again the "winds of fate" blew them back to Spain.

Overall, the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the hands of the English

had almost been like the defeat of the great Philistine Goliath by David. This

naval battle, however, did much more good for England, than just an increase in

pride. After this battle, England took the role as the greatest power in Europe,

and Spain, with a damaged army and damaged pride, could do nothing to prevent

this from happening.
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