Sir Walter Raleigh sold his ship, the Ark Royal, to Elizabeth. It soon became the flagship of the British fleet. Charles Howard (Lord Effingham) was Admiral of the Queen's naval defense and commander of the Ark Royal. Sir Francis Drake was his vice-admiral.
Elizabeth's fleet initially had fewer ships than the Armada. Each flew the flag of St. George which was white with a red cross. By the time it reached the English Channel, the Armada had about 130 ships. Each flew the Spanish flag which was red with a yellow cross.
Triumph, a one-thousand-ton ship with five hundred men commanded by Martin Frobisher, was England's largest vessel. Sir John Hawkins, Her Majesty's Admiral of the Fleet (and the man most credited with creating Britain's fast galleons), was aboard Victory. Other famous British ships involved in resisting the Armada were the Revenge (commanded by Sir Francis Drake), Dreadnought, Vanguard (commanded by Admiral Sir William Winter), the Swallow and the Mary Rose.
The entire fleet was not at sea. Some of the ships were positioned in (and near) key harbors - like Plymouth - to prevent the Spaniards from landing any troops. Elizabeth and her advisors desperately wanted to prevent the Spanish naval fleet from becoming an invasion force.
As the mighty Armada sailed through the English Channel, unseasonably bad weather and contrary winds continued, slowing its progress and damaging some ships. These unexpected and disruptive events reportedly caused King Philip to exclaim:
I sent my ships to fight against the English, not against the elements!
But the elements played a major role in the Armada's eventual defeat. Some of the battle scenes (including the direction of the wind) were depicted in tapestries which Hendrick Vroom (who died in1640) designed for Lord Admiral Howard (commander of the British fleet). Concerned that the priceless art could be damaged, John Pine made engravings of them and published his work (The Tapestry Hangings of the House of Lords) in 1739.
Pine was right to be worried about the tapestries. They were destroyed when the Houses of Parliament burned in 1834. Because of Pine's engravings, however, we can take a trip back in time to view scenes of battle between the Spanish and British fleets.