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The Spanish Armada ( , "Great and Most Fortunate Navy" or Armada Invencible, "Invincible Navy") was the Spanish fleet that sailed against Englandmarker under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England.

Philip II of Spain had been co-monarch of England until the death of his wife Mary I in 1558. A devout Roman Catholic, he considered his Protestant sister-in-law Elizabeth a heretic and illegitimate ruler of England. He had supported plots to have her overthrown in favor of her Catholic cousin Mary I of Scotland, but Elizabeth had Mary imprisoned, and she was finally executed in 1587. In addition, Elizabeth, who sought to advance the cause of Protestantism where possible, supported the Dutch Revolt against Spain. In retaliation, Philip planned an expedition to invade and conquer England, thereby suppressing support for the United Provinces— that part of the Low Countries that had successfully seceded from Spanish rule — and cutting off attacks by the English against Spanish possessions in the New World and against the Atlantic treasure fleet. The king was supported by Pope Sixtus V, who treated the invasion as a crusade, with the promise of a further subsidy should the Armada make land.

The Armada's appointed commander was the highly experienced Álvaro de Bazán, but he died in February 1588, and Medina Sidonia took his place. The fleet set out with 22 warships of the Spanish Royal Navy and 108 converted merchant vessels, with the intention of sailing through the English Channelmarker to anchor off the coast of Flanders, where the Duke of Parma's army of tercios would stand ready for an invasion of the south-east of England.

The Armada achieved its first goal and anchored outside Gravelinesmarker, at the coastal border area between Francemarker and the Spanish Netherlands. While awaiting communications from Parma's army, it was driven from its anchorage by an English fire ship attack, and in the ensuing battle at Gravelines the Spanish were forced to abandon their rendezvous with Parma's army.

The Armada managed to regroup and withdraw north, with the English fleet harrying it for some distance up the east coast of England. A return voyage to Spainmarker was plotted, and the fleet sailed into the Atlanticmarker, past Irelandmarker. But severe storms disrupted the fleet's course, and more than 24 vessels were wrecked on the north and western coasts of Ireland, with the survivors having to seek refuge in Scotland. Edinger (2001) states that the Spanish Armada was sunk primarily by shipworms. Of the fleet's initial complement, about 50 vessels failed to make it back to Spain. The expedition was the largest engagement of the undeclared Anglo–Spanish War .

The expedition of the Spanish Armada led to a similar campaign by Britain the following year, the failed Drake–Norris Expedition of 1589, also known as the English Armada sent to occupy Portugal and northwestern Spain, which was also unsuccessful.

History

Planned invasion of England

Route taken by the Spanish Armada
Prior to the undertaking, Pope Sixtus V allowed Philip II of Spain to collect crusade taxes and granted his men indulgences. The blessing of the Armada's banner on 25 April 1588 was similar to the ceremony used prior to the Battle of Lepanto in 1571marker. On 28 May 1588, the Armada set sail from Lisbonmarker (occupied Portugalmarker), headed for the English Channel. The fleet was composed of 151 ships, 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers, and bore 1,500 brass guns and 1,000 iron guns. The full body of the fleet took two days to leave port. It contained 28 purpose-built warships: 20 galleons, 4 galleys and 4 (Neapolitan) galleasses. The remainder of the heavy vessels consisted mostly of armed carracks and hulk; there were also 34 light ships present.

In the Spanish Netherlands 30,000 soldiers awaited the arrival of the armada, the plan being to use the cover of the warships to convey the army on barges to a place near London. All told, 55,000 men were to have been mustered, a huge army for that time. On the day the Armada set sail, Elizabeth's ambassador in the Netherlands, Dr Valentine Dale, met Parma's representatives in peace negotiations, and the English made a vain effort to intercept the Armada in the Bay of Biscaymarker.

On 16 July negotiations were abandoned, and the English fleet stood prepared (although ill-supplied) at Plymouth, awaiting news of Spanish movements. The English fleet however did outnumber the Spanish, with 200 to 130 ships , however the Spanish outgunned the English fleet: its available firepower was 50% more than that of the English. The English fleet consisted of the 34 ships of the royal fleet (21 of which were galleons of 200 to 400 tons), and 163 other ships, 30 of which were 200 to 400 tons and carried up to 42 guns each; 12 of these were privateers owned by Lord Howard of Effingham, Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake.

The Armada was delayed by bad weather, forcing the four galleys and one galleon to leave the fleet, and was not sighted in England until 19 July, when it appeared off St Michael's Mountmarker in Cornwallmarker. The news was conveyed to London by a system of beacons that had been constructed all the way along the south coast. On that evening the English fleet was trapped in Plymouth harbour by the incoming tide. The Spanish convened a council of war, where it was proposed to ride into the harbour on the tide and incapacitate the defending ships at anchor and from there to attack England; but Medina Sidonia declined to act, because this had been explicitly forbidden by Philip, and chose to sail on to the east and toward the Isle of Wight. Soon afterwards, 55 English ships set out in pursuit from Plymouthmarker under the command of Lord Howard of Effingham, with Sir Francis Drake as Vice Admiral. Howard ceded some control to Drake, given his experience in battle, and the rear admiral was Sir John Hawkins.

The Armada in battle with the English Fleet


The next night, in order to execute their "line ahead" attack, the English tacked upwind of the Armada, thus gaining the weather gage, a significant advantage. Over the next week there followed two inconclusive engagements, at Eddystonemarker and the Isle of Portlandmarker. Two Spanish ships, the carrack Rosario and the galleon San Salvador, were abandoned after having been severely damaged by accidents; they were taken by the English who thereby captured a large supply of much-needed gunpowder. At the Isle of Wightmarker the Armada had the opportunity to create a temporary base in protected waters and wait for word from Parma's army. In a full-scale attack, the English fleet broke into four groups — Martin Frobisher of the Aid now also being given command over a squadron — with Drake coming in with a large force from the south. At the critical moment Medina Sidonia sent reinforcements south and ordered the Armada back to open sea to avoid sandbanks. There were no secure harbours nearby, so the Armada was compelled to make for Calais, without regard to the readiness of Parma's army.

On 27 July, the Armada anchored off Calaismarker in a tightly packed defensive crescent formation, not far from Dunkirkmarker, where Parma's army, reduced by disease to 16,000, was expected to be waiting, ready to join the fleet in barges sent from ports along the Flemish coast. Communications had proven to be far more difficult than anticipated, and it only now became clear that this army had yet to be equipped with sufficient transport or assembled in port, a process which would take at least six days, while Medina Sidonia waited at anchor; and that Dunkirk was blockaded by a Dutch fleet of thirty flyboats under Lieutenant-Admiral Justin of Nassau. Parma desired that the Armada send its light petaches to drive away the Dutch, but Medina Sidonia could not do this because he feared that he might need these ships for his own protection. There was no deep-water port where the fleet might shelter — always acknowledged as a major difficulty for the expedition — and the Spanish found themselves vulnerable as night drew on. At midnight on 28 July, the English set alight eight fireships, sacrificing regular warships by filling them with pitch, brimstone, some gunpowder and tar, and cast them downwind among the closely anchored vessels of the Armada. The Spanish feared that these uncommonly large fireships were "hellburners", specialised fireships filled with large gunpowder charges, which had been used to deadly effect at the Siege of Antwerp. Two were intercepted and towed away, but the remainder bore down on the fleet. Medina Sidonia's flagship and the principal warships held their positions, but the rest of the fleet cut their anchor cables and scattered in confusion. No Spanish ships were burnt, but the crescent formation had been broken, and the fleet now found itself too far to leeward of Calais in the rising south-westerly wind to recover its position. The English closed in for battle.

Battle of Gravelines

The small port of Gravelinesmarker was then part of Flanders in the Spanish Netherlands, close to the border with France and the closest Spanish territory to England. Medina Sidonia tried to re-form his fleet there and was reluctant to sail further east knowing the danger from the shoals off Flanders, from which his Dutch enemies had removed the sea-marks.

The English had learned more of the Armada's strengths and weaknesses during the skirmishes in the English Channel and had concluded it was necessary to close within 100 metres to penetrate the oak hulls of the Spanish ships. They had spent most of their gunpowder in the first engagements and had after Wight been forced to conserve their heavy shot and powder for a final attack near Gravelines. During all the engagements, the Spanish heavy guns could not be run in for reloading because of the quantities of supplies stowed between decks, as Francis Drake had discovered on capturing a Spanish ship in the Solent. Instead they fired once and then jumped to the rigging to attend to their main task as marines ready to board enemy ships. In fact, evidence from Armada wrecks in Ireland shows that much of the fleet's ammunition was never spent. Their determination to thrash out a victory in hand-to-hand fighting proved a weakness for the Spanish; it had been effective on occasions such as the Battle of Lepanto and the Battle of Ponta Delgadamarker (1582), but the English were aware of this strength and sought to avoid it by keeping their distance.

With its superior maneuverability, the English fleet provoked Spanish fire while staying out of range. The English then closed, firing repeated and damaging broadsides into the enemy ships. This also enabled them to maintain a position to windward so that the heeling Armada hulls were exposed to damage below the water line.

Five Spanish ships were lost. The galleass San Lorenzo ran aground at Calais and was taken by Howard after murderous fighting between the crew, the galley slaves, the English and the French who ultimately took possession of the wreck. The galleons San Mateo and San Felipe drifted away in a sinking condition, ran aground on the island of Walcherenmarker the next day, and were taken by the Dutch. One carrack ran aground near Blankenbergemarker; another foundered. Many other Spanish ships were severely damaged, especially the Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic-class galleons which had to bear the brunt of the fighting during the early hours of the battle in desperate individual actions against groups of English ships. The Spanish plan to join with Parma's army had been defeated, and the English had afforded themselves some breathing space. But the Armada's presence in northern waters still posed a great threat to England.

Tilbury speech

Elizabeth I, the Armada portrait.


On the day after the battle of Gravelines, the wind had backed southerly, enabling Medina Sidonia to move his fleet northward away from the French coast. Although their shot lockers were almost empty, the English pursued in an attempt to prevent the enemy from returning to escort Parma. On 2 August Old Style (12 August New Style) Howard called a halt to the pursuit in the latitude of the Firth of Forth off Scotland. By that point, the Spanish were suffering from thirst and exhaustion, and the only option left to Medina Sidonia was to chart a course home to Spain, by a very hazardous route.

The threat of invasion from the Netherlands had not yet been discounted by the English, and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester maintained a force of 4,000 soldiers at West Tilburymarker, Essex, to defend the estuary of the River Thames against any incursion up river towards London.

On 8 August Old Style (18 August New Style) Queen Elizabeth went to Tilbury to encourage her forces, and the next day gave to them what is probably her most famous speech:

Return to Spain

In September 1588 the Armada sailed around Scotland and Ireland into the North Atlantic. The ships were beginning to show wear from the long voyage, and some were kept together by having their hulls bundled up with cables. Supplies of food and water ran short, and the cavalry horses were cast overboard into the sea. The intention would have been to keep well to the west of the coast of Scotland and Ireland, in the relative safety of the open sea. However, there being at that time no way of accurately measuring longitude, the Spanish were not aware that the Gulf Stream was carrying them north and east as they tried to move west, and they eventually turned south much further to the east than planned, a devastating navigational error. Off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland the fleet ran into a series of powerful westerly gales, which drove many of the damaged ships further towards the lee shore. Because so many anchors had been abandoned during the escape from the English fireships off Calais, many of the ships were incapable of securing shelter as they reached the coast of Ireland and were driven onto the rocks. The late 1500s, and especially 1588, were marked by unusually strong North Atlantic storms, perhaps associated with a high accumulation of polar ice off the coast of Greenland, a characteristic phenomenon of the "Little Ice Age." As a result many more ships and sailors were lost to cold and stormy weather than in combat.

Following the gales it is reckoned that 5,000 men died, whether by drowning and starvation or by slaughter at the hands of English forces after they were driven ashore in Ireland; only half of the Spanish Armada fleet returned back home to Spain. Reports of the passage around Ireland abound with strange accounts of brutality and survival and attest to the qualities of the Spanish seamanship. Some survivors were concealed by Irish people, but few shipwrecked Spanish survived to be taken into Irish service, fewer still to return home.In the end, 67 ships and around 10,000 men survived. Many of the men were near death from disease, as the conditions were very cramped and most of the ships ran out of food and water. Many more died in Spain, or on hospital ships in Spanish harbours, from diseases contracted during the voyage. It was reported that, when Philip II learned of the result of the expedition, he declared, "I sent the Armada against men, not God's winds and waves". Greatly disappointed, he still forgave the Duke of Medina Sidonia.

Aftermath

A plaque in the Spanish Barn.


English losses were comparatively few, and none of their ships were sunk. But after the victory, typhus, dysentery and hunger killed many sailors and troops (estimated at 6,000–8,000) as they were discharged without pay: a demoralising dispute occasioned by the government's fiscal shortfalls left many of the English defenders unpaid for months, which was in contrast to the assistance given by the Spanish government to its surviving men.

Although the English fleet was unable to prevent the regrouping of the Armada at the Battle of Graveline, requiring it to remain on duty even as thousands of its sailors died, the outcome vindicated the strategy adopted, resulting in a revolution in naval warfare with the promotion of gunnery, which until then had played a supporting role to the tasks of ramming and boarding. The battle of Gravelines is regarded by specialists in military history as reflecting a lasting shift in the naval balance in favour of the English, in part because of the gap in naval technology and armament it confirmed between the two nations, which continued into the next century. In the words of Geoffrey Parker, by 1588 'the capital ships of the Elizabethan navy constituted the most powerful battlefleet afloat anywhere in the world.' However after its defeat in the Armada campaign the Spanish Navy also underwent a major organisational reform that helped it to maintain control over its own home waters and ocean routes well into the next century.

In England, the boost to national pride lasted for years, and Elizabeth's legend persisted and grew long after her death. The repulse of Spanish naval might gave heart to the Protestant cause across Europe, and the belief that God was behind the Protestant cause was shown by the striking of commemorative medals that bore the inscription, He blew with His winds, and they were scattered. There were also more lighthearted medals struck, such as the one with the play on Julius Caesar's words: Venit, Vidit, Fugit (he came, he saw, he fled). The victory was acclaimed by the English as their greatest since Agincourtmarker.

However, an attempt to press home the English advantage failed the following year, when a comparable English fleet sailed for Portugal and the Azores in 1589. The Norris–Drake Expedition or English Armada limped home after failing to co-ordinate its strategy effectively with the Portuguese.

High seas buccaneering and the supply of troops to Philip II's enemies in the Netherlands and France continued, but brought few tangible rewards for England. The Anglo-Spanish War dragged on to a stalemate that left Spanish power in Europe and the Americas largely intact.

In popular culture

The preparations of the Armada and the Battle of Gravelines form the backdrop of two graphic novels in Bob de Moors "Cori le Moussaillon" (Les Espions de la Reine and Le Dragon des Mers'). In them, Cori the cabin boy works as a spy in the Armada for the English.

The Armada and intrigue surrounding its threat against England formed the key backdrop to 1940's film, The Sea Hawk with Errol Flynn.

The Battle of Gravelines and the subsequent chase around the north of Scotland form the climax of Charles Kingsley's 1855 novel Westward Ho!, which in 1925 became the first novel to be adapted into a radio drama by BBC.

The Battle of Gravelines is the climax of the 2007 motion picture, Elizabeth: The Golden Age Starring Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen.

See also



Other meanings

  1. Spanish Armada (Armada Española) can also describe the modern navy of Spain, part of the Spanish Armed Forces. The Spanish navy has participated in a number of military engagements, including the dispute over the Isla Perejilmarker. This is not a reference to the Armada above—"armada" simply means "navy" in Spanish.
  2. In Tennis slang, Spanish Armada is used to refer to the group of highly ranked Spanish players, such as Rafael Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez, David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro, Felix Mantilla, Albert Portas, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Carlos Moyá, and others. It is also the nickname for their Davis Cup team.


References

  1. This term was of English origin.
  2. "…the widespread suffering and irritation caused by the religious wars Elizabeth fomented, and the indignation caused by her religious persecution, and the execution of Mary Stuart, caused Catholics everywhere to sympathize with Spain, and to regard the Armada as a crusade against the most dangerous enemy of the Faith." and "Pope Sixtus V agreed to renew the excommunication of the queen, and to grant a large subsidy to the Armada, but, knowing the slowness of Spain, would give nothing till the expedition should actually land in England. In this way he was saved his million crowns, and spared the reproach of having taken futile proceedings against the heretic queen."
  3. Edinger, E.N. (2001): Fossilization Processes. Bioerosion. In: Briggs, D.E.G. & Crowther, P.R. (eds): Palaeobiology II, Blackwell Science Ltd., pp.: 273-277; Oxford.
  4. Hart, Francis Rußel, Admirals of the Caribbean, Hougton Mifflin Co., 1922, pp. 28–32, describes a large privateer fleet of 25 ships commanded by Drake in 1585 that raided about the Spanish Caribbean Colonies.
  5. The English Mercurie published by Authoritie Whitehall July 23, 1588, Imprinted at London by Chriss Barker, Her Highnesse's Printer, 1588, p. 3, "…all the Spanish troops in the Netherlands, and consists of thirty thousand Foot and eighteen hundred Horse."
  6. http://britishbattles.com/spanish-war/spanish-armada.htm
  7. Colin Martin, Geoffrey Parker,The Spanish Armada, Penguin Books, 1999, ISBN 1 901341 14 3 , p. 185.
  8. .
  9. Colin Martin, Geoffrey Parker,The Spanish Armada, Penguin Books, 1999, ISBN 1 901341 14 3 , pp.189–190
  10. Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850,. New York: Basic Books, 2000
  11. Garrett Mattingly, The Armada, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1959, p.369, the English Lord Deputy's orders were for the English soldiers in Ireland to kill Spanish prisoners which was done on several occasions.
  12. Winston S. Churchill, The New World, vol. 3 of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, (1956) Dodd, Mead & Co., NY, p. 130.
  13. SparkNotes: Queen Elisabeth – Against the Spanish Armada
  14. Aubrey N. Newman, David T. Johnson, P.M. Jones (1985) The Eighteenth Century Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature 69 (1) , 93–109 doi:10.1111/j.1467-8314.1985.tb00698.
  15. Geoffrey Parker, 'The Dreadnought Revolution of Tudor England', Mariner's Mirror, 82 (1996): 273.
  16. Briggs, Asa. The BBC: The First Fifty Years. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1985. 63.


Bibliography

  • The Confident Hope of a Miracle. The True History of the Spanish Armada, by Neil Hanson, Knopf (2003), ISBN 1-4000-4294-1.
  • Holmes, Richard. The Oxford Campanion to Military History. Oxford University Press. 2001. ISBN 978-0198606963
  • From Merciless Invaders: The Defeat of the Spanish Armada, Alexander McKee, Souvenir Press, London, 1963. Second edition, Grafton Books, London, 1988.
  • The Armada, Garrett Mattingly, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1959
  • The Spanish Armadas, Winston Graham, Dorset Press, New York, 1972.
  • The Spanish Armada, Colin Martin, Geoffrey Parker,Penguin Books, 1999, ISBN 1 901341 14 3.
  • Mariner's Mirror, Geoffrey Parker, 'The Dreadnought Revolution of Tudor England', , 82 (1996): pp. 269–300.
  • The Spanish Armada, Michael Lewis (1960). First published Batsford, 1960 – republished Pan, 1966


Additional literature

  • Armada: A Celebration of the Four Hundredth Anniversary of the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588-1988 (1988) ISBN 0-575-03729-6
  • A History of England, from the Defeat of the Armada to the Death of Elizabeth, Edward Cheyney ISBN 1428629106
  • England and the Spanish Armada (1990) ISBN 0-7317-0127-5
  • The Expedition of Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake to Spain and Portugal, 1589, edited by RB Wernham ISBN 0-566-05578-3
  • The Enterprise of England (1988) ISBN 0-86299-476-4
  • The Return of the Armadas: the Later Years of the Elizabethan War against Spain, 1595–1603, RB Wernham ISBN 0-19-820443-4
  • Sir Francis Drake: the Queen's Pirate, Harry Kelsey ISBN 0-300-07182-5
  • The Spanish Armada: the Experience of the War in 1588, Felipe Fernández-Armesto ISBN 0-19-822926-7
  • The Voyage of the Armada: The Spanish Story, David Howarth (1981) ISBN 0-00-211575-1
  • The Atlas of the Crusades, Jonathan Riley-Smith. (1999) ISBN 0192853643.
  • Richard Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors vols. 2 & 3 (London, 1885–1890)
  • John O'Donovan (ed.) Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters (1851)
  • Cyril Falls Elizabeth's Irish Wars (1950; reprint London, 1996) ISBN 0-09-477220-7
  • T.P.Kilfeather Ireland: Graveyard of the Spanish Armada (Anvil Books, 1967)
  • Winston Graham The Spanish Armadas (1972; reprint 2001) ISBN 0-14-139020-4
  • The Prince, Nicolo Machiavelli – numerous editions, including ISBN 1-85326-306-0
  • Historic Bourne etc., J.J. Davies (1909)
  • Chambers Biographical Dictionary, J.O. Thorne. (1969) SBN [sic] 550-16001-9
  • Commander of the Armada: The Seventh Duke of Medina Sidonia, Peter Pierson (1989). ISBN 0300044089


External links




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