Defeat of the Spanish Armada

King Philip II conquest of England

In 1588 King Philip II launched an attempt to conquer England. King Philip was married to Henry VIII of England’s daughter Mary. After her death, the rule of England fell to Mary's half-sister, the Protestant Elizabeth II. King Philip felt that he was the rightful ruler of England and wanted to bring the country back under Catholic control. He believed that his powerful navy, the Spanish Armada could defeat the English at sea and pave the way for a land invasion. King Philip's armada was known as the “invincible armada” because it was made up of 130 ships and had won many victories in the past.

The Armada Sets Sail

The Armada first set sail from Lisbon, Portugal in May of 1588. The goal was for the armada to secure the English Channel, the stretch of water located between England and France. It was very hard for an Armada of this size to go unnoticed, so the English were ready and waiting for their arrival.

The English and Spanish first met off the coast of Plymouth on July 31, 1588. The fighting intensified on August 2 and 3rd. The goal was for the Armada to get close enough to the British that they could board their ships and fight hand to hand. The English were no match for the Spanish in hand to hand combat. However, the British stayed far away from the Armada and pounded them with long-range cannons. The Armada suffered heavy losses.

The End of the Spanish Armada

The Armada eventually reached the ports of Calais, France. The goal here was to load up a Spanish army from nearby Flanders for passage to England. This proved to be impossible because the English still largely controlled the channel between England and France. To make matters worse, The British set several of their own ships on fire and sent them toward the armada. The gamble paid off and several ships of the armada were burned.

The Spanish armada, already badly hurt, headed north. On August 8th, the English once again met the Spanish and beat them at the Battle of Gravelines. This sent the Armada fleeing north to escape the English fleet. The fleet rounded the northern coast of Scotland only to be caught in a terrible storm, which sank many more ships. The remaining ships were forced back to Santander Spain. This marked the end of the Spanish Armada.

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