Spanish Armada

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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Spanish Armada: Selected full-text books and articles

The Invincible Armada and Elizabethan England By Garrett Mattingly Cornell University Press, 1963
Events That Changed the World through the Sixteenth Century By Frank W. Thackeray; John E. Findling Greenwood Press, 2001
Librarian's tip: Chap. 10 "The Spanish Armada, 1588"
From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution By Frederic J. Baumgartner Praeger Publishers, 1991
Librarian's tip: "The Causes of the Spanish Armada" begins on p. 211
The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660 By Richard Bonney Oxford University Press, 1991
Librarian's tip: "The Failure of the Spanish Armada" begins on p. 140
The Tudor Age By James A. Williamson D. McKay Co., 1961
Librarian's tip: Chap. 17 "The Armada and Portugal"
The Later Tudors: England, 1547-1603 By Penry Williams Clarendon Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: "War and the Armada, 1585-1588" begins on p. 307
The Age of Drake By James A. Williamson Adam & Charles Black, 1938
Librarian's tip: Chap. XVI "The Armada"
FREE! Elizabethan Sea-Dogs: A Chronicle of Drake and His Companions By William Wood Yale University Press, 1918
Librarian's tip: Chap. IX "Drake and the Spanish Armada"
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