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The Spanish Armada

Queen Mary I

Queen Mary I

Mary I married Prince Philip of Spain in 1554 at Winchester Cathedral.  Once crowned Queen of England, Mary burned many Protestants at the stake on charges of heresy, and restored Catholicism across England.

Philip spent little time in England, during their four years of marriage, for in 1556; he became King of Spain, and always considered himself King of England, until Mary’s death in 1558.

On the 17th November 1558, Elizabeth ascended to Queen of England, upon the death of Mary I, and restored the Protestant faith across her kingdom.

So it was, Queen Elizabeth I of England and King Philip of Spain, never saw eye to eye with each other.  Things got worse in 1585, when Elizabeth sent aid to Dutch Protestants, fighting for Independence from Spanish rule.

Queen Elizabeth I.jpg

Queen Elizabeth I

Philip retaliated, and pushed forward plots to murder Queen Elizabeth I and replace her, with Mary, Queen of Scots, of Catholic faith … but these attempts failed.

In 1586, Mary, Queen of Scots was brought to trial on charges of treason, plotting against the life of Queen Elizabeth, and found guilty.

King Philip of Spain received the support of the Pope in 1586, for an invasion of England, and the removal of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, from the throne.

NPG 1766,Mary, Queen of Scots,by Unknown artist

Mary Queen of Scots

The final straw came, when Elizabeth signed the death warrant for Mary, Queen of Scots, to be executed, on charges of treason, notably plotting against the life of Elizabeth.  On the 8th February 1587, Mary was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle.

News reached the ears of Francis Drake, that the Spanish port of Cadiz was amassing ships and supplies, for an attack upon England.

Elizabeth sent Drake on a pre-emptive strike, to buy time for England.  In April of 1587, Drake rallied other ships for a raid, launching a surprise attack on Cadiz; destroying 24 Spanish ships and supplies.

By 1588, the Spanish had rebuilt their fleet, and the word was, they would sail first to the Netherlands to collect soldiers, and then attack London in force.

The English fleet was commanded by Lord Charles Howard and split into three forces, located at; Plymouth, Kent and Tilbury.

The Marquis de Santa Cruz, the intended choice to command the Spanish Armada, died in February 1588, to be replaced by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, but he lacked military and naval experience.

In July of 1588, 130 Spanish warships departed Lisbon, heading for Calais, and were first sighted on the 29th July, off the coast of Cornwall.  Southern coastal ports were notified, by fire beacons.

Drake playing bowls

Francis Drake Playing Bowls

According to legend, Francis Drake chose to finish his game of bowls, before setting sail from Plymouth, to engage the Spanish Armada.

Spanish Armada

Close Quarter Exchanges

Initially the English attempted to disable Spanish warships, with long range cannon fire, which only inflicted minor damage.  So they opted for repeated broadsides at close quarters, getting in and out quickly, resulting in many Spanish ships sunk.

Spanish Armada Fire Ships

English Fire Ships attack Spanish Ships

On the night of the 7th August 1588, eight fire ships, packed with explosives were pushed towards the Spanish fleet anchored between Dunkirk and Calais.  On the 8th August, English gunners crippled many Spanish ships as they tried to make their escape.

Fierce storms pushed remnants of the Spanish fleet northwards, and round the coast of Scotland.  King Philip’s attack upon England, and quest to remove Elizabeth from the throne, ended in disaster.

Both the Spanish and English ships flew flags displaying the Red Cross on white background.  The Spanish believed the Armada was a crusade to remove a heretic queen, and the English, because the cross of St.George had become England’s national emblem.

Wikipedia Images


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