The Spanish Armada was a giant flotilla of Spanish warships send by the Catholic Spanish King Philip II in 1588. This flotilla was sent to retaliate against England for supporting the piracy and terrorizing of Spanish ships in the Atlantic, and for championing the Netherlands in their revolt against Spain. Philip’s decision to send the Armada was ultimately a result of Queen Elizabeth I’s behavior toward Spain, and the influence of the Church who declared Elizabeth as illegitimate and therefore unfit to rule. The Armada was eventually defeated, resulting in a short-term defeat for Spain, but ultimately, a long-term triumph in the decade after.
Background and context of the events leading to the Spanish Armada
Philip II was co-monarch of England from 1554 until the death of his wife, Queen Mary I of England in 1558. Philip had married Mary to gain authority as a ruler of two world powers. After Mary’s death, Philip proposed to Elizabeth I, Mary’s Protestant half-sister in an attempt to keep his rule in England, but Elizabeth declined. During Philip’s marriage to Mary, the English people were very distrustful of the Spanish-English alliance. They felt that they were treated with contempt and disrespect by Philip. In 1554, King Philip passed the Treason Act of 1554, which made it high treason for anyone to deny Philip’s royal authority. It became a crime punishable by death to “compass or imagine to deprive the King’s majesty from having with the Queen the style, honor, and kingly name, or to destroy the King, or to levy war within this realm against the King or Queen.” (Stephens and Adams 1920) The English people were scared that the Spanish influences, in particular the Spanish Inquisition, would spread to England (Lathbury 1840). Sir Thomas Smith, a protestant English scholar and member of Parliament wrote to Elizabeth to dissuade her from marrying Philip, “and do you not think that if King Philip had been long here, he would not have brought some piece from Spain? If nothing else, at least the Inquisition, as they call it…” (Strype 1820). Therefore, English citizens were observed to speak highly of Elizabeth’s decision not to marry Philip. “Had not our godly, wise, learned, merciful Queen Elizabeth stood in the gap to restore the everlasting word of god unto us? We had (sic) been bond slaves unto the proud, vicious Spaniard.” (Strype 1822)
Despite the poor opinions the English people had of Philip II and the differences of opinion regarding religion, Elizabeth and Philip had a peaceful relationship during the first few years of Elizabeth’s reign. The good relations changed however in the 1560’s with England and Spain competing for high seas commerce. By 1562, England involved herself in the slave trade from Africa. Prior to this, Spain had held a monopoly on the slave trade to America and had reaped enormous profits from it by requiring merchants to bring their slaves through Spanish ports to pay high taxes before selling them to America....