Spanish Armada Essay, Research Paper
Spain-the most powerful country in the world is threatening the much weaker country of England. The British are almost bankrupt, have numerous rebellion problems, and a much weaker army than the Spaniards. This was the situation in the late 16th century. The tension between Philip II and Elizabeth escalated until it eventually resulted in war.
The conflict between Spain and England had many causes. First, Philip II wanted to convert England to Catholicism. King Philip II had a dream about uniting Catholic Europe against the Turks and Moors who had been terrorizing Christians throughout Europe. With England resisting his threats, the only way to convert was to attack (Invincible: Online). Also, Elizabeth awarded many pirates who stole riches from Spanish ships returning from the new world. The most famous of which was Sir Frances Drake. He was infamous to all Spanish merchants and sunk some 30 Spanish ships before the war even started (Spanish: Online). Last, King Philip felt the need to once again become King of England. He was King of England for four years (1584-1588) while being married to Mary I. She died of suddenly without naming and heir so her younger sister, Elizabeth, took her place as Queen. King Philip II of Spain felt that he was the rightful ruler of England. Also, Mary Queen of Scots named Philip II as her successor. Since she was executed, the Spanish king felt the English throne was rightfully his. He felt the need to reestablish himself as the rightful King of England. He, therefore, proposed to the new Queen, Elizabeth I, several times. Elizabeth declined his proposals and consequently sparked tension between the two leaders. Philip s want to become the King of England, his want to convert all Europe
to Catholicism, and the Spanish King s failed marriage proposals were all reasons for the conflict between the Spanish and the British in the late 16th century (Spanish: Online).
Before the war began, each country had considerable advantages over each other. First, Spain was much wealthier than England. With riches continuously pouring in from the newly discovered western world, Spain had an almost unlimited amount of money to spend on their navy. Another advantage for the Spaniards was their existing power (Donald 466). They intimidated most of their enemies because of their already great military. At the time, Spain was considered the most powerful country in Europe. Their 150 ships outnumbered England s 132 (Spanish 358). An advantage for the English was Spain s enormous pride. The country thought it was invincible and could never be defeated, but careful planning and preparation on England s behalf proved them wrong. Spain’s pride was also and advantage for the English because the Spanish made their invasion no secret. They boasted about how they were soon to attack the English and how the British stood no chance. They were so confident of their ability to take over Britain that 19 justices and 50 administrators went with the fleet to help serve as the new English government once the country was defeated. Their fleet even consisted of more priests than volunteered sailors. Even though Spain s ships greatly outnumbered the English ships, the battle tactics of and preparation the British helped them to slaughter the Spaniards in the war (Spanish: Online). The traditional style of sea battle was for ships to come within close range of one another, board each other s ships, and fight hand-to-hand, but the English used a different method to defeat the Spanish. Sir Francis Drake changed this method by training his sailors to fight by using long range guns and expert ship handling. They could then effectively destroy the Spanish fleet without putting their own ships in jeopardy. Another advantage for the English was the death of Santa Cruz, Spain s
Lord High Admiral. The Duke of Medina Sidonia took his place even though he was neither a soldier nor a sailor. The advantages each country had over the other played
a large role in their bloody conflict.
The well-trained English easily defeated vast numbers of Spanish ships. The
battle started when 150 Spanish ships were sent off to attack the British (Spanish: Online). Their plan was to cross the English Channel and land an army in Sussex in the southeast corner of England. They would help the English Catholics to rebel, set free the popular, imprisoned Mary Queen of the Scots free, and crown her Queen of England after killing Elizabeth. Since Mary was unexpectedly killed, the plan was changed to have King Philip II rule England in her place. However, the weather was not in the favor of the Spanish fleet. Horrendous winds forced the ships to dock along the mouth of the Tagus River (see map on page 6). After two weeks at the Tagus River mouth, they set sail once again. About three weeks after setting sail once again, they were forced to seek shelter in Corunna (see map on page 6) because of horrible weather conditions which had scattered the Armada. The fleet took about a month to reassemble and repair. Finally, the Armada approached the English coast. When the English received word of their advance, Sir Francis Drake sent out to cut them off with only 54 ships. Because of the rain, it made it impossible to determine the position of any other ship, therefore hardly a cannon was fired. Here, the English acquired 2,000 cannon balls and 140 barrels of gunpowder from two Spanish ships which had collided with one another. As the English followed the Spanish northward, two more squadrons, the Dover Squadron and Lord Howard s Squadron, joined Sir Francis Drake (Invincible: Online). Now the English almost equaled the Spanish in numbers with 134 ships. The Armada continued along the English Channel until they received word that they could not dock their ships at their designated location. Instead, they anchored off at Calais
(see map on page 6). When the English heard of this, they decided that it was time to take the offensive. The English wisely used the Spanish fear fire ships (burning ships sent to hit anchored opponents) against them. Since anchors took a long time to lift out of the water, the Spanish planned to cut the them off from the boats and sail away quickly, attaching the anchors to buoys so they could be retrieved soon after the attack.
The English, noticing this advantage, filled eight old ships with combustible material and waited for wind and tide (Spanish: Online). When the fire ships came close to the Armada, they overheated and exploded. This terrified the Spanish into making mistakes while trying to quickly get away. With it being pitch black, many ships in the fleet collided and were badly damaged. When the ships returned to Calais, they found, to their dismay, that the buoys had been cut off their anchors by the English. With no anchors, many ships went off coarse during the following nights, and only 1/10th of the Armada remained on coarse. The English, hearing this, decided to make an all-out attack. The Spanish and English ships were about 100 yards apart, which was a definite advantage for the English because of their extremely accurate cannons. With the wind behind them, and at close range, they blew huge holes in the Spanish hulls. During this battle, three Spanish ships were sunk, a dozen more badly damaged, 600 Spanish sailors were killed and at least 800 were wounded (Spanish: Online). After nine hours hours of battle, tremendous downpours of rain ended the Spanish naval slaughter.
After the battle, the Spanish ships were slowly being blown towards shore. If they landed, they would not be able to easily set sail again, and they could not stop because they had no anchor (Invincible: Online). Their luck changed when a southwest wind blew them away from the shore. The wind, once again changed their coarse for the worse. They were blown northward and forced to go around Britain and
try to attack on the western coast. They attempted a couple more raids on the western coast of England and Ireland with no success. The remaining ships took several years to finally reach Spain because of terrible weather. Over the next ten years, Philip II sent two other fleets to attack the English. Both were almost completely destroyed by
the winds of fate. This was thought, by some, to be a sign by God. The English greatly surprised the world with its victory over the much more powerful country of Spain.
There were many important results of the conflict between Spain and England.
First, Britain became the most powerful country in Europe. They were no longer a second rate country. They had defeated the strongest army in Europe. Also, the
outcome of the war made many common people question their own religion. Now that Britain, a protestant country, had defeated Spain, an Catholic country, many people began thinking that God was protestant. Last, the outcome of this war proved to Philip II that a woman could be a successful ruler (Spain: Online). Elizabeth I, a woman, defeated his army, and made England one of the most powerful countries in the world at the time proving that women could be great leaders.
A small, poor, country is attacked by a much larger, more powerful country. The whole war was a joke. The poor country, England, prevailed, and slaughtered the more powerful country, Spain. Money and power do not mean anything unless they are accompanied by intellect.
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