Elizabeth I: The Golden Age - PHILIP II and the ARMADA

PHILIP II and the ARMADA (Illustration) Government Social Studies Film Geography Legends and Legendary People Tragedies and Triumphs World History

Philip II (of Spain) was married to Mary I (of England) between 1554-1558. During their marriage, Philip was also King of England. This image of the royal couple was likely created by the Lucas English School (probably after de Heere) while the two were husband and wife. Thirty years after Mary's death, while her half-sister Elizabeth was on the throne, Philip sent the Spanish Armada to invade England. Image online via Wikimedia Commons.


Philip (King of Spain) was fed-up with Elizabeth (Queen of Britain). Once friends and relatives (through marriage), the two were at odds over Spain's control of The Netherlands and England's pirates on the high seas.

Using treasures which her subjects "took" from Spanish ships, Elizabeth was helping Dutch rebels as they tried to end Spanish rule in the neighboring Low Countries. Philip wanted to stop the interference.

There were other issues. In the fall of 1581, Philip was angry because Elizabeth had imprisoned, then executed, Edmund Campion (a Jesuit priest accused of stirring-up rebellion amongst English Catholics). Dispatching Bernardino de Mendoza to chide Elizabeth, Philip instructed his ambassador to threaten war if such things continued.

The Queen was unimpressed with his words, prompting Mendoza to wonder aloud if:

It would be necessary to see whether cannons would not make her hear them better. (Quoted in With the Heart of a King by Benton Rain Patterson, page 222.)

Reminding Mendoza who was in charge in her country, Elizabeth was quick to respond. Was he trying to frighten, or threaten, her? If so, she'd have him thrown

into a place where he could not say a word.

By January of 1584, Mendoza was expelled from England, never to return. No Spanish ambassador replaced him while Elizabeth was alive. War, in Philip's mind, was becoming inevitable.

As he envisioned a fleet of ships to invade and conquer Britain, Philip was one of the most powerful rulers in the world. He personally planned the great Armada at El Escorial,  the beautiful royal palace (which includes a basilica, royal tombs and more) northwest of Madrid.

The contrast between Spain and Britain, at the time, was remarkable. Although England's naval fleet was impressive (as Philip himself knew), it was not stronger than Spain's. And while Philip presided over vast territories (including lands in the "New World"), England was a small country with little wealth.

While most of Europe was Catholic (like Spain), England was Protestant (with few friends). Philip believed there was every reason for the Empresa de Inglaterra ("The England Expedition") to succeed.

The King’s handpicked leader, Álvaro de Bazán, 1st Marquis of Santa Cruz, not only agreed with the concept of an Armada, he enthusiastically supported it. Santa Cruz, believing that Britain was Spain’s most dangerous enemy at sea, began making plans and recommendations for the expedition. Then, in February of 1588, he died.

Philip appointed his cousin, Don Alonso Pérez de Guzmán (the 7th Duke of Medina-Sidonia) to replace Santa Cruz. A running dialogue ensued between the King (who believed his Armada could not lose) and the Duke (who was a sceptic from the beginning).

With the blessing of the Pope (then Sixtus V), Philip prepared for war. He perceived his reasons to be legitimate. Chief among them, according to a letter he sent his Papal ambassador (on the 2nd of January, 1586), were two issues:

The justification and purpose of the Enterprise has to be to reduce that kingdom [England] to the obedience of the Roman Church and to place the queen of Scotland in possession of [England's crown]. (Quoted by Patterson, page 226.)

Deciding that Mary, Queen of Scots would rule Britain (after his army successfully invaded the country and captured Elizabeth), Philip (ever the absolute monarch) also determined her successor. The Infanta, Isabel Clara Eugenia (Philip's daughter) - twenty-two years old when the Armada reached the eastern end of the English Channel in 1588 - would become England's Queen.

Events, however, did not proceed as Philip had planned.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: Mar 21, 2015

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"PHILIP II and the ARMADA" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 2007. Jan 19, 2020.
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