When Charles V abdicated in 1556, his son, Philip II became King of the Spanish Empire -- the most powerful empire in the world.
The Philippines were named after him.
In 1554, King Philip II of Spain married England's Queen Mary I, the daughter of Henry VIII by his first wife -- the Spanish Catherine of Aragon.
By virtue of the marriage, Philip considered himself co-monarch of England.
When Queen Mary died in 1558, Philip still wanted to claim the title of King of England.
England instead chose Queen Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn.
Philip sent a marriage proposal to Elizabeth, but with Spain being Catholic and England being Anglican, she declined.
Philip, nevertheless, continued a peaceful relationship with England.
King Phillip led in organizing the Holy League to stop the Ottoman Turkish Fleet.
Spain funded its military with gold from the New World.
Commanded by Philip's half-brother, Don John of Austria, the Holy League defeated the Ottoman navy in 1571, at the Battle of Lepanto near Corinth, Greece.
Involving over 400 ships, it was the largest naval battle on the Mediterranean Sea since classical antiquity.
Hilaire Belloc described the significance of the battle in The Great Heresies (1938):
"This violent Mohammedan pressure on Christendom from the East made a bid for success by sea as well as by land ...
The last great Turkish organization working now from the conquered capital of Constantinople, proposed to cross the Adriatic, to attack Italy by sea and ultimately to recover all that had been lost in the Western Mediterranean ..."
"There was one critical moment when it looked as though the scheme would succeed.
A huge Mohammedan armada fought at the mouth of the Gulf of Corinth against the Christian fleet at Lepanto.
... The Christians won that naval action and the Western Mediterranean was saved.
But it was a very close thing, and the name of Lepanto should remain in the minds of all men with a sense of history as one of the half dozen great names in the history of the Christian world."
The Spanish navy was instrumental in saving Western Civilization from being overrun by the Islamic Ottoman Empire.
Instead of following up on the victory at Lepanto, and freeing all the Mediterranean coasts and islands from Ottoman control, Spain decided to crush the Netherlands' independence movement fueled by the Protestant Reformation in Holland.
In 1572, Spain sent the Iron Duke of Alba to subdue Antwerp and surrounding Dutch cities, killing thousands, in what is called "The Spanish Furies," 1572-1576.
1572 was the same years that the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre took place in Paris, where thousands of Protestants were killed and their bodies were thrown into the Seine River.
The Netherlands' resistant continued to grow, and in 1581, it declared its independence from Spain.
With the Dutch pleading with England for help, Elizabeth I signed the Treaty of Nonsuch in 1585, promising to help the Netherlands.
Philip considered it an act of war.
A rumor spread of an assassination plot on Elizabeth's life, and then replacing here with Mary Queen of Scots, who was of royal lineage.
Though Mary was not responsible for the plot, to remove the threat, Elizabeth reluctantly signed Mary's death warrant and she was executed on February 8, 1587.
Of note, is that Mary Queen of Scots' only son, James, later became King of England.
After the death of Mary Queen of Scots, Philip sent his invincible Spanish Armada to invade England on May 19, 1588.
Consisting of 130 ships with 1,500 brass guns and 1,000 iron guns, carrying 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers, they were planning on picking up another 30,000 more soldiers from the Spanish Netherlands.
Spain's Dunkirk Privateers raided English and Dutch ships.
Queen Elizabeth put on her armor and rallied England with her most famous speech, August 9, 1588:
"Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself, that under God I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and goodwill of my subjects ...
... I am come amongst you ... resolved, in the midst and heat of battle, to live or die amongst you all -- to lay down for my God, and for my kingdoms, and for my people, my honour and my blood even in the dust.
... I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king -- and of a King of England too,
and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm ...
By ... your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people."
Queen Elizabeth relied on privateers, a type of subcontracted pirate who was loyal to the throne:
Sir Francis Drake, a privateer who was captain of the second expedition to circumnavigate the globe 1577-1680;
Sir John Hawkins, second cousin of Francis Drake, a privateer and Treasurer of the English navy, responsible for building the fast ships which were able to successfully repel the Spanish;
Sir Martin Frobisher, privateer and English explorer of Canada; and
Lord Howard of Effingham, Admiral and commander-in-chief of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada.
England's smaller, faster vessels were able to elude the enormous Spanish galleons which attacked at port of Plymouth, England.
After Spain's initial attacks, the English counter-attacked.
The Spanish Armada regrouped on the other side of the English Channel near the French port of Calais.
The fast flyboats of Dutch Admiral Justinus van Nassau captured two Spanish galleons, whose deep-drafts put them at a disadvantage in shallow waters.
With weather getting tempestuous and with no deep water port, the Spanish Armada anchored off the coast in a tightly-packed defensive crescent formation.
At midnight, July 28, 1588, Sir Francis Drake stealthily drifted 8 ships downwind toward the Spanish Armada, then suddenly set them on fire.
With no time to respond, and fearing their sails would go up in flames, Spanish ships immediately cut their anchor ropes and drifted apart.
The next day, English attacked in the Battle of Gravelines, July 29, 1588.
Hurricane force winds and currents drove the fight north toward Scotland.
As the Armada tried sailing on the west side of Scotland and Ireland, intense winds dashed their ships against the rocks.
In all, the Spanish Armada suffered:
56 ships wrecked, sunk or captured,
10 ships scuttled, and
over 20,000 dead from battle, storms and disease.
When King Philip II of Spain learned of the loss, he exclaimed:
"I sent the Armada against men, not God's winds and waves."
A coin minted in Holland in 1588 had engraved on one side Spanish ships sinking and on the other side men kneeling under the inscription
"Man Proposeth, God Disposeth."
In 1596, Philip sent a second Spanish Armada to attack England, consisting of 140 ships and 20,000 men.
Providentially for England, this Second Spanish Armada was shattered in a storm off Cape Finisterre.
Thirty-eight ships sank, nearly 5,000 men died, and the financial loss contributed to the bankruptcy of the Spanish Empire later that year.
Prior to the first Spanish Armada attack, Sir Walter Raleigh had sent settlers in 1584 to settle Roanoke Island, Virginia.
When the attack came, the colony was neglected for several years, with no supplies.
Following the battle, supply ships returned to the Roanoke Colony in 1590, but found it completely abandoned. It was thereafter referred to as "The Lost Colony."
In 1601, Spain tried one last time to conquer the British Isles, this time by King Philip III, the son of Philip II.
Philip III sent a third Armada to the southern shores of Ireland and landed thousands of Spanish troops.
Their intention was to persuade the Irish to join them in attacking England.
The Spanish and Irish were defeated at the Battle of Kinsale in October of 1601.
The victorious Protestant English tragically responded by selling into slavery thousands of Irish Catholics who had sided with Spain.
Of the 1588 defeat of the Invincible Spanish Armada, Woodrow Wilson wrote in History of the American People (1902, Vol. 1, Ch 1):
"For England the end of Spain's power was marked by the destruction of the Armada, and the consequent dashing of all the ambitious schemes that had been put aboard the imposing fleet at Lisbon ...
The great Armada came ...
Spain recognized in the smartly handled craft which beat her clumsy galleons up the Channel the power that would some day drive her from the seas.
Her hopes went to pieces with that proud fleet, before English skill and prowess and pitiless sea-weather."
Describing the English ships, Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge wrote in Hero Tales From American History (1895):
"The ships ... which ... won glory in the War of 1812 were essentially like those with which Drake and Hawkins and Frobisher had harried the Spanish armadas two centuries and a half earlier.
They were wooden sailing-vessels, carrying many guns mounted in broadside."
Woodrow Wilson continued, giving background details:
"Henry VIII interested himself in improved methods of ship-building; and when he had time to think of it he encouraged instruction in seamanship and navigation; but he built no navy.
He even left the English coasts without adequate police, and suffered his subjects to defend themselves as best they might against the pirates who infested the seas not only, but came once and again to cut vessels out of port in England's own waters.
... Many public ships, it is true, had been built before the Armada came, and fine craft they were; but they were not enough.
There was no real navy in the modern sense. The fleet which chased the Spaniards up the Channel was a volunteer fleet.
Merchants had learned to defend their own cargoes.
They built fighting craft of their own to keep their coasts and harbors free of pirates, and to carry their goods over sea.
... They sought their fortunes as they pleased abroad, the crown annoying them with no inquiry to embarrass their search for Spanish treasure ships, or their trade in pirated linens and silks.
It was this self-helping race of Englishmen ..."
Woodrow Wilson added:
"Devonshire had the great harbor ... where a whole race of venturesome and hardy fishermen were nurtured.
All the great sea names of the Elizabethan age belong to it.
Drake, Hawkins, Raleigh, and the Gilberts were all Devonshire men; and it was from Plymouth that the fleet went out which beat the great Armada on its way to shipwreck in the north."
English dramatist Thomas Kyd wrote the popular play The Spanish Tragedy, sometime before 1592, which is considered by some as the first mature Elizabethan drama, and a primary source for William Shakespeare in his writing of the play Hamlet.
The sinking of the Spanish Armada broke Spain's monopoly of the New World, held since the time of Columbus, and opened up a rush of European countries staking their claim in North America.
Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations, 1776:
"The Spaniards, by virtue of the first discovery, claimed all America as their own,
and ... such was ... the terror of their name, that the greater part of the other nations of Europe were afraid to establish themselves in any other part of that great continent ...
But ... the defeat ... of their Invincible Armada ... put it out of their power to obstruct any longer the settlements of the other European nations.
In the course of the 17th century ... English, French, Dutch, Danes, and Swedes ... attempted to make some settlements in the new world."
Why was the sinking of the Invincible Spanish Armada significant to America?
Had Spain succeeded in their attempts to conquer England, there may have been:
no Anglican England;
no Puritans wanting to "purify" it;
no Pilgrim separatists fleeing from it;
no New England colonies being settled, and, quite possibly,
no United States of America.
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