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Armada, Spanish

ARMADA, SPANISH

ARMADA, SPANISH. Often called the "Invincible Armada," the Spanish Armada was the invasion fleet launched against England in 1588 by Philip II of Spain. Its defeat left England Protestant, aided the Dutch Revolt, and compounded the tax burden on Spain's strained economy.

In 1585 worsening relations between Philip II of Spain and Elizabeth I of England erupted into war. Elizabeth signed the Treaty of Nonesuch with the Dutch and permitted Sir Francis Drake to maraud in response to a Spanish embargo. Drake surprised Vigo, Spain, in October, then proceeded to the Caribbean and sacked Santo Domingo and Cartagena.

Philip ordered the marquis of Santa Cruz in Lisbon to form an armada of thirty-four ships to pursue and "punish" Drake. He also asked Santa Cruz and the duke of Parma, his commander in the Netherlands, to submit plans for the "Enterprise of England," that is its invasion, for which he asked blessing and money from Pope Sixtus V. Parma thought that 35,000 men might cross in twelve hours with favorable weather and sufficient secrecy. He eventually collected over two hundred barges and eighty coasters.

Santa Cruz prepared a plan that called for some one hundred fifty fighting galleons and ships, six galleasses, forty galleys, and over three hundred other vessels large and small to transport fifty-five thousand infantry and sixteen hundred cavalry, artillery, and supplies. The troops would land in either Wales or Ireland. Considering the plans, Philip decided on a smaller armada. When English land and sea forces responded to its landing force, Parma would invade Kent, overthrow Elizabeth, and establish a Catholic regime.

Santa Cruz assembled at Lisbon nine Portuguese galleons and another three dozen vessels. From Basque ports Juan Martínez de Recalde and Miguel de Oquendo would bring two dozen armed ships. At Cádiz, Pedro de Valdés assembled fifteen armed Indiamen, while another dozen great ships and four galleasses sailed from Italy with Alonso Martínez de Leyva.

Drake attacked Spain in AprilMay 1587, destroyed over twenty ships in Cádiz Bay, and disrupted coastal shipping. Too late, Santa Cruz sailed in pursuit. Storms pounded him on his return to Lisbon, where he found plans changed. He was to sail forthwith to the Strait of Dover, cover Parma's invasion of England, and deliver six thousand men. Communication between the armada and Parma, who had to be ready, posed an immediate problem. The Armada had no safe port where it might wait. Communication had so far been through Philip. Despite Philip's demands, Santa Cruz did not sail, prevented by damage, shortages, and weather. Ailing, he died 9 February 1588.

THE ARMADA CAMPAIGN

Philip appointed as successor the duke of Medina Sidonia, experienced in naval administration if not at sea. A council of war would assist him. Though reluctant to take command, the duke had the Armada's 130 vessels, 8,000 seamen, and 19,000 infantry to sea by the end of May. Storm struck off Cape Finisterre, forcing the Armada into La Coruña. On 21 July the repaired Armada sailed, reaching the English Channel on 28 July.

Ordered to join Parma and fight only if compelled, the Spaniards expected to find the English fleet in the Narrows. For battle, they would close, grapple, and board. The Armada's sixty fighting ships were big but bulky, loaded with men and stores; their guns were of mixed sizes and quality, and trained shipboard gunners were scarce. The remaining ships were transports or small craft.

Elizabeth's navy, under Lord Admiral Charles Howard of Effingham, with Drake as vice admiral and Martin Frobisher and John Hawkins commanding squadrons, chose not to wait in the Narrows. Over sixty galleons and great ships, and forty smaller, concentrated at Plymouth, leaving some three dozen under Lord Henry Seymour to watch Parma. Aware of the Spaniards' advantage in ship-board infantry, the English hoped to gain the weather gauge and use their handier ships and superior gunnery to avoid boarding and defeat any invasion attempt. When the Armada reached the Channel, Howard put to sea.

Leyva and Recalde urged Medina Sidonia to assault Plymouth. Prompted by Philip's orders and Diego Flores de Valdés, his chief of staff, Medina Sidonia refused and held course. Using the cover of night, the English by daybreak of 31 July gained the weather gauge. The Armada assumed battle formation, with two wings of twenty strong vessels each, and a main force of another three dozen, behind which sailed the transports. Howard and Drake formed two lines and pounded the Armada, doing little damage. But that evening, collisions and an explosion cost the Armada two big ships. Flores de Valdés persuaded Medina Sidonia to abandon them and hold course, a decision that many argued hurt morale and lost a chance for a boarding action.

The Armada kept course the next three days and sparred with the English, who could not break its formation. Lacking news of Parma, Medina Sidonia sought haven in the lee of the Isle of Wight. In a daylong battle on 4 August, the English kept the Armada from its aim and forced it toward Flanders. Late on 6 August the Armada anchored off Calais, to discover that Parma, who only learned on 2 August that the Armada was in the Channel, required several days to embark his army. Parma needed the Armada's protection against both the English and a Dutch blockade. On the night of 7/8 August, Howard sent eight fire ships blazing on breeze and tide toward the Armada, whose captains cut anchor cables and put out in disarray. A galleass grounded. On 8 August the English fleet, nearly 150 in number but with three dozen doing the fighting, attacked, employing their guns at closer range. It was mid-afternoon before the thirty outgunned ships that did the Armada's fighting recovered formation. One ship sank, two galleons beached, and eight hundred men were killed. With shifting winds the Armada cleared the Flemish banks and reached the North Sea. Its commanders agreed to return to Spain around Scotland and Ireland. Many damaged ships wrecked on the Irish coast; others succumbed to storm at sea. Perhaps sixty-five reached Spanish ports, while a few hired Hanseatic hulks returned home. Over half the crews were lost to battle, shipwreck, and disease. While the English lost no ships, hundreds of seamen perished of sickness.

Elizabeth and the Dutch hailed God's favor, Philip accepted God's punishment, although Flores de Valdés was court-martialed to placate military critics. The Enterprise had too many flaws, while the English wisely counted on gunnery. In 1596 and in 1597 other armadas sailed against England, to be stopped by storm. Peace came only in 1604, after Philip and Elizabeth were dead.

See also Elizabeth I (England) ; Medina Sidonia, Alonso Pérez de Guzmán, 7th duke of ; Parma, Alexander Farnese, duke of ; Philip II (Spain) ; Santa Cruz, Álvaro de Bazán, first marquis of.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Calvar Gross, Jorge, et al. La Batalla del Mar Océano: Corpus Documental de las hostilidas entre España e Inglaterra (15681604). 3 vols. Madrid, 19881993. Documentary background.

Martin, Colin, and Geoffrey Parker. The Spanish Armada. Rev. ed. Manchester, U.K., 1999. Best treatment; benefits from the many books and the 1988 symposia on the armada, when the first, lavishly illustrated, edition appeared; updated bibliography.

Mattingly, Garrett. The Armada. Boston, 1959. Marvelously written and atmospheric, fine on diplomacy, outdated on ships and battles.

Parker, Geoffrey. The Grand Strategy of Philip II. New Haven, 1998. Masterful.

Rodríguez-Salgado, M. J., ed. Armada, 15881988: An International Exhibition to Commemorate the Spanish Armada. London, 1988. Splendid catalogue of the exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.

Rodríguez-Salgado, M. J., and Simon Adams, eds. England, Spain and the Gran Armada: Essays from the Anglo-Spanish Conferences, London and Madrid, 1988. Savage, Md., and Edinburgh, 1991.

Peter Pierson

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Armada, Spanish

Armada, Spanish. The invasion fleet sent against England by Philip II of Spain in July 1588 comprised some 138 vessels (including warships, ancillary craft, and requisitioned transports), perhaps 7,000 seamen, and 17,000 soldiers, and siege equipment for use in England. The number of soldiers would be doubled once the forces of the duke of Parma in Flanders were embarked in the Armada at Calais for passage to England. The English naval forces comprised 34 royal warships and some 170 privately owned ships, preponderantly drawn from East Anglia and Kent. Variable in quality, these ships did have a national identity, whereas the Armada included ships from Portugal, Naples/Sicily, Venice, Ragusa, and north Germany. Quite apart from the unmanageable scale of the Armada's preparation and the Spanish government's financial weakness, the quality of English guns and their handling were of an order with which the Spaniards could not compete. Yet the English, in their turn, could not compete with Spanish soldiery if it came to hand-to-hand fighting at sea, or in a land campaign. Hence the English fleet, under Lord Howard of Effingham's overall command out of Plymouth, and including Lord Henry Seymour's patrols in the Dover Straits, looked to its more manœuvrable ships and more effective fire-power to avoid being grappled by the enemy.

Philip II's purposes behind the Armada were to end English attacks on Spain's commerce with her American dominions, to assert his sovereignty in Flanders, which Elizabeth had been impugning since 1585, and, above all, to bring heretic England back into the fold of Rome. He had himself a claim to Elizabeth's crown which, if success was granted to the enterprise, Philip would use in the best interests of Spain and the true faith. On the English side the issues were the defence of a protestant realm that included catholic Ireland, vigilance against the threat posed by Spanish power in Flanders, and the protection of Elizabeth's person and the ‘Englishness’ of her queenship.

Under the command of the duke of Medina-Sidonia, not a professional commander but experienced in fleet logistics, the Armada took three weeks to make Corunna from Lisbon. From the Lizard Point in Cornwall on 29 July its disciplined crescent formation was only twice broken by English forces (two of its ships were lost) before it reached Calais on 6 August. Here Parma had failed to prepare his troops, and had critically underrated Dutch naval forces, which sealed off his sea exits. The Armada's congestion made it vulnerable to Howard's fireship attack on the night of 7 August, and on the following day there was heavy Spanish loss of life in a sustained battle off Gravelines. The shoaling coast and southerlies of increasing strength prevented Medina-Sidonia from standing in again for Calais, and deteriorating weather drove a dispersed Armada up the North Sea, pursued by Howard whose ordnance, and the health of his crews, were now spent. Driven round Scotland and Ireland, in unseasonably severe weather, two-thirds of the Armada were brilliantly navigated back home, but upwards of 30 ships were lost in the Hebrides and western Ireland. Some 11,000 Spaniards may have died. Although the elements had principally saved England, the campaign brought her high international repute, while Spain proved she could place a huge naval force in northern latitudes. The campaign's outcome saw neither state radically altering its policies.

David Denis Aldridge

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"Armada, Spanish." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Spanish Armada

Spanish Armada

Also known as the Great and Most Fortunate Navy, the Spanish Armada was a grand fleet of warships sent by Spain in 1588 to attack England. Spain's goal was to end English interference in the Spanishcontrolled Low Countries, and return the English kingdom to the Catholic fold. Philip II, the husband of the late queen Mary I of England, saw the return of the Protestant Church under Queen Elizabeth as a mortal threat to the Catholic Church, which he staunchly defended, and a challenge to Spanish domination in the Netherlands. He sent the Armada under the command of the Duke of Medina Sedonia, whose orders were to bring Spanish soldiers from the Low Countries to the vicinity of London, where a direct threat to the city would change English minds about supporting revolts against Spanish rule in the Netherlands. A secondary aim of the Spanish Armada was to end English interference with Spain's colonial empire in the New World.

In the spring of 1588 the Armada set sail with 130 ships, eight thousand sailors, and eighteen thousand soldiers. In the meantime England was fully informed of Spanish intentions through a network of spies in the Spanish royal court. On July 19 the Armada arrived in the English Channel, intending to rendezvous with a company of twenty thousand Spanish infantry on the continent. An English battle fleet of 55 ships immediately set out from the port of Plymouth, engaging the Armada at skirmishes at Eddystone and Portland. When the Spaniards took harbor at the Isle of Wight, the English commander Sir Francis Drake attacked, chasing the Armada out of the Channel. After passing the southern English coast the Spanish anchored off the port of Calais, where the English attacked with fireships. Greatly fearing these dangerous ships that were packed with explosives and gunpowder, the Spanish scattered from Calais and sailed north to Gravelines, prepared to rendezvous with the Spanish infantry under the Duke of Parma.

At Gravelines, the faster and more maneuverable English ships dodged the heavy Spanish cannons that were used ineffectively by the Armada, and stayed well out of grappling range in order to avoid hand-to-hand fighting. Several Spanish ships were lost, and the Armada retreated from the coast under strong northwesterly winds. With the threat of a land invasion thwarted, the English shadowed the Armada as it sailed up the eastern coast of England, then attempted a return home via the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. With food and water running low, the Spanish commander ran into a heavy storm that destroyed 24 of his ships off the western coast of Ireland. Hundreds of sailors were drowned or captured after swimming to land, where the Irishalways hostile to English powergave some of them food and shelter.

As the Spanish fleet limped home, the English gathered an armada of their own and prepared for a counterattack. This expedition failed, but the defeat of the Spanish Armada gave a boost to the Protestant cause in Europe and to the prestige of Queen Elizabeth, who at a crucial moment had rallied her country's troops with a stirring speech. England continued its support of the rebellion in the Low Countries and also supported the efforts of privateers and its navy against Spanish interests in the New World.

See Also: Drake, Sir Francis; Elizabeth I

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Armada, Spanish

Spanish Armada (ärmä´də), 1588, fleet launched by Philip II of Spain for the invasion of England, to overthrow the Protestant Elizabeth I and establish Philip on the English throne; also called the Invincible Armada. Preparations, under the command of the marqués de Santa Cruz, began in 1586 but were seriously delayed by a surprise attack on Cádiz by Sir Francis Drake in 1587. By the time the expedition was ready Santa Cruz had died, and command was given to the duque de Medina Sidonia. The Armada consisted of 130 ships, including transports and merchantmen, and carried about 30,000 men. It was to go to Flanders and from there convoy the army of Alessandro Farnese, duke of Parma, to invade England. It set out from Lisbon in May, 1588, but was forced into A Coruña by storms and did not set sail again until July. Medina Sidonia's orders were to proceed straight up the English Channel and refuse battle until he had made junction with Parma. This gave the initiative to the English, whose main fleet, commanded by Charles Howard (later earl of Nottingham), sailed out from Plymouth to achieve the windward side of the Spanish and attacked at long range. Three minor actions followed, in which the Armada was somewhat damaged but its formation unbroken. On Aug. 6, Medina Sidonia anchored off Calais, from which position he hoped to make contact with Parma. The following night the English sent fire ships into the anchorage, causing the Spanish fleet to scatter, and then attacked (Aug. 8) at close range off Gravelines. Unable to re-form, the Armada was severely battered, but a sudden change in the wind enabled most of the ships to escape northward. In attempting to sail home by Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, the Spanish ships were dispersed by storms; their provisions gave out; and many of those who landed in Ireland were killed by English troops. Only about half the fleet reached home.

See G. Mattingly, The Armada (1959); A. McKee, From Merciless Invaders (1964); W. Graham, The Spanish Armadas (1972).

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Armada, Spanish

Armada, Spanish (1588) Fleet launched by the Catholic Philip II of Spain against England to overthrow the Protestant Elizabeth I. English support for the rebels in the Spanish Netherlands and pirate attacks on Spanish possessions convinced Philip that England must be conquered. The 130 ships of the Armada were supposed to collect troops from the Netherlands but, hampered by English attacks and poor planning, it proved impossible. After an indecisive engagement with the English off Gravelines, the Spanish ships ran out of ammunition. Their commander, the Duke of Medina Sidonia, withdrew around n Scotland, suffering severe losses through shipwreck and disease. Though a blow to Spanish prestige, the defeat had little effect on the balance of naval power.

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Spanish Armada

Spanish Armada: see Armada, Spanish.

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Spanish Armada

Spanish Armada See Armada

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