Spanish Armada - Preparing to Attack England

Philip II, King of Spain in 1588, had assembled a vast fleet of Spanish ships.  His objective was to invade, then conquer, England.

The great Spanish Armada sailed to England in the summer of 1588.  For a week, Britain’s future was in the hands of sailors employing new tactics who had to push themselves and their ships.  Their job was to hold-off the Spanish fleet.

Chance, of course, played a role in the battles (as it often does).  And, because these were sailing ships fighting in the English Channel, wind direction was always significant.

At the time, Spain was the world’s largest superpower.  A Catholic country, its King (for a short time) was once King of England, too ... when he was married to Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary Tudor (Mary I).  After Mary’s death, Philip II was at-odds with his former sister-in-law (Queen Elizabeth I) who was Protestant.  

When Elizabeth made clear she had no intention of returning England to the Catholic faith, Philip (who was driven by religious obsession) decided to bring England into line (and drive them - at least figuratively - into the sea).

It wasn’t just a different view of religion which motivated Philip, however. 

He, and other Spaniards, were tired of England’s pirates and privateers who repeatedly raided Spanish ships (laden with riches from the “new world”).  British privateers, like Sir Francis Drake, often had the blessing of their Queen (who also benefitted from the ship-taking plunder).

And ... in another move which greatly bothered Philip ... around 30,000 Spanish troops were defending Spain’s right to occupy low-country territory.  England was helping Dutch rebels who resisted Spain’s right to control part of Flanders.  

So Philip, spurred-on by his perceived reasons to fight a war with Britain, had a plan:

  • His fleet, with hundreds of soldiers aboard the ships, would make their way, non-stop, across the English Channel until they landed in Spanish-controlled Flanders.  There they would join with other Spanish soldiers to form an invasion force.
  • Along the way, if they were able, the Spanish soldiers would use grappling hooks to board defending English vessels, destroying as many ships and killing as many Englishmen as they could.

To carry out the King’s plan, his men and ships would have to travel about 1,000 miles.  Philip II chose an inexperienced but aristocratic gentleman—the Duke of Medina-Sedonia—to command the Armada after the King's first choice (the Marquis of Santa Cruz) died. 

The Duke was rich but had never fought at sea.  He tried everything he could think of to get out of the assignment, but the King’s mind was made-up.  Medina-Sedonia was in charge of the mission which the King believed could not fail.

Queen Elizabeth’s spies told her that Spain was planning to attack Britain - and - that an attack was imminent.  England’s only hope was its navy - such as it was - and the Queen ordered that every available ship be sent to Plymouth (in Devon) to await the arrival of the Spanish ships.

On the 29th of July, 1588, an English scout reported that he’d seen a huge fleet approaching.  He may not have had the details at that early stage:

  • 130 Spanish ships
  • Around 7,000 sailors
  • About three times as many soldiers

In other words, an unbelievably huge concentration of naval power was bearing-down on England’s southern coast ... and ... people living there were getting very nervous.

See, also:

Spanish Armada - English and Spanish Ships Differ

Spanish Armada - British Cannon Ineffective

Spanish Armada - Unable to Make Port

Spanish Armada - British Fire Ships

Spanish Armada - Weather Helps Britain Win

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Aug 20, 2019

Media Credits

Clip from "Battlefield Britain," an 8-episode series (produced by Danielle Peck) and distributed by the BBC.  This clip is from Episode 4, “The Spanish Armada,” which originally aired on 27 August 2004. 

Presented by Peter and Dan Snow; produced and directed by Nathan Willians. 

Copyright, BBC, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the program.


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"Spanish Armada - Preparing to Attack England" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Aug 20, 2019.
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