The beloved Elizabeth I is known for single-handedly rallying the British troops to defeat the invading Spanish Armada, but what exactly was the Spanish Armada?
Embarking from the port of Lisbon in May 1588, a massive Spanish invasion fleet or ‘Armada’ set off for England. This fleet was made up of about 130 ships, 2,500 guns and 30,000 men including soldiers and sailors. The battle that was to follow gained fame and notoriety because it was a face-off between the (then) tiny nation of England with their minute navy, and Spain, which was the world’s greatest power at that time. Somehow, with help from Mother Nature herself, England defeated the superpower. The victory marked the start of England’s mastery of the seas.
As this mastery began, so did the rule of exploration and English colonization, but all of this was kicked off by good old-fashioned salty seadogs. Philip II, the monarch in Spain at that time, was annoyed that Queen Elizabeth hadn’t thought to punish Sir Francis Drake for his various maritime crimes, having plundered a number of important Spanish ships. As a devout Catholic, Philip came to the conclusion that it was his moral duty to conquer England and convert the immoral country back to Catholicism.
The two fleets, one English and one Spanish, faced off in the English Channel. Spain had sent many more ships than England had, but the English ships were smaller and more maneuverable in the small Channel. The English ended up having a great advantage over the Spanish.
Queen Elizabeth I’s fire ships also came in very handy in the fight against the Spanish Armada. When the Armada anchored at Calais in August 1588, the English decided to fill 80 ships with flammable material and light them. These fireships were then sent in the direction of the Armada and caused them to panic, scattering their formation. Panicking, the Spanish sailed in the direction of the open sea, headlong into England’s waiting fleet. No longer in formation, the Spanish ships had become easy targets.
God Blew and they were Scattered.
The English ships were not able to claim all the glory for their victory, however. One of the major reasons that the Brits won was that the wind kept blowing the Spanish fleets northwards. The dangerous weather caused many of the Spanish ships to wash onto rocks near Ireland, ensuring an English victory.