THE SPANISH ARMADA (1588)
Why did Philip II try to invade England?
· He had despaired of Elizabeth becoming a catholic; he saw his duty as being that of
bringing England back to Catholicism.
· As the husband of Mary Tudor he had some claim to the English throne especially as
Marie Stewart was by then dead.
· Any hesitation he might have had in helping Marie to the throne had now been removed
and he could claim he was avenging the death of a Catholic martyr.
· Drake and the other English Sea Dogs had been raiding Spanish treasure ships and
ports; they (and Elizabeth) needed to be stopped and punished.
· Similarly the English had to be stopped from aiding the Protestant Dutch rebels.
What was the Spanish plan? What were its flaws?
The Spanish fleet would sail in strict formation to rendez vous with the Duke of Parma’s
army; which would then be escorted and transported across the Channel to the Thames
Estuary. English Catholics would support the Spaniards.
It was an inflexible plan (shown by Medina Sidonia’s refusal to contemplate an attack on
the English fleet in Plymouth. Inadequate resources had been collected.
Philip left too much to fate (or God) and chose an unsuitable and inexperienced
No proper arrangements had been made for the rendez vous with Parma and little
thought had been given to how the army would be embarked.
By August the weather in the English Channel would be unpredictable; the Mediterranean
galleys & galleasses were unsuited for the Channel and the Atlantic.
Why did the Armada fail?
All the above reasons contributed to its failure but the lack of coordination between
Sidonia and Parma was crucial. That in itself would have led to the failure of “the
Enterprise of England”.
If Sidonia had successfully attacked Plymouth there might have been time to coordinate
Parma’s embarkation; the Spanish fleet would not have been attacked by the English
fleet, in particular the Fire Ships.
The panicked and scattered Armada was then vulnerable to the storms of the North Sea
& Atlantic. By this time the enterprise had already failed; the weather would now ensure
that many of the ships would be wrecked and would not return. (The Armada had already
been unlucky in being hit by storms after leaving Lisbon, they had to put into Corunna
before sailing towards England.)
The weather and unseasoned barrels meant the Armada soldiers and sailors were
already in a state of poor health and morale by the time they reached the English
Channel they were attacked by the Fire Ships; they were obviously in no fit state to face
the fierce storms off Scotland & Ireland.
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