Essay Why Did The Spanish Armada Fail

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.

The plan

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.

The battle

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.

On May 30, 1588, they left the Port of Lisbon confident and assured of victory. If they would succeed in victory and conquer the enemy, then they would be the sole world power. If they win they will be victors of the biggest battle the world has ever seen. The Spanish Armada, the biggest invading fleet Spain had ever launched, left Lisbon toward England and headed for the unknown.

During the 16th century Spain and England were colonizing the world and gaining power. In the 1560’s England was jealous of Spain, because the Spaniards were taking gold and silver from the Americas and the English wanted some of that wealth. Queen Elizabeth I encouraged some of her commanders to raid Spanish towns and ships, even though the two countries were still at peace. Some religious differences were also causing conflict between the two countries. England was a protestant country, who had just broke away from the Roman Catholic church, and Spain followed the Roman Catholic church. The English government also supported the Dutch Protestants, who were rebelling against Spanish rule. Spain and England also competed over trade routes and control of trade throughout Europe and the world.

In the early 1580’s King Philip II of Spain started to assemble his fleet. His plan was to have a two pronged attack. His fleet would meet with the Duke of Parma, in the Spanish Netherlands at Calais. The Armada would then ferry the Duke’s troops across the English Channel allowing them to march on London, capturing the city and the Queen. Soon after the entire country would fall to Spanish rule.

Once the fleet of 125 ships had been assembled, King Philip II ordered the Duke of Medina Sedonia, the Spanish commander of the fleet, to sail to Calias. In May 1588, the armada left Lisbon traveled up the coast toward England. The English were informed of the Spanish movements and quickly assembled a fleet of mostly merchant ships. They left England to intercept the advancing armada. Once the Spaniards had reached the South West coast of England on July 19, 1588, the 197 vessels of the English navy attacked the flanks of the great armada. The English avoided close-in combat, much to the Spanish dismay. The Spaniards continued attacking, yet the English fleet harassed the Spaniards doing much damage. The Spanish fleet continued on their path to Calais, with the English in tow. Once the Spanish fleet reached the port of Calais they found out that the Duke of Parma failed to show up with his men. This was devastating to the Kings plan. At this time the English saw an opportunity to attack and did. They sent fire ships into the Spanish formations, thus scattering them. The next day the English attacked the confused armada. The Battle of Gravelines, an eight hour struggle, left many Spanish ships damaged or lost.

The Spanish realized that their invincible armada was in danger of total annihilation, so the Spanish commander, the Duke of Media Sedonia ordered a retreat. The Spanish fleet was to forgo the invasion and head back home. He chose the route that went north of Scotland and Ireland. For three days the English ships followed the Spaniards, before they ran out of ammunitions, then they returned to England to restock. The Spanish fleet was battered by North Sea storms and finally the weakly defeated armada limped back to Spain. After the defeat of the Armada, Spain dropped from world domination. After that the British rose to international supremacy.

The defeat of the Spanish Armada brought change to the world scene in which England became the dominate leader in world trade and colonization. Spain lost most of it’s world control because of the loss of it’s navy. With out the navy they couldn’t control their colonies, thus lossing them to other world powers. England thrived and spread it’s power all over the world, becoming an influential and dominate world power.

Filed Under: European History, History

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