Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Drake and the Spanish Armada

Sir Francis Drake, Vice-Admiral of the English fleet, wrote this letter to Sir Francis Walsingham, Principal Secretary of Queen Elizabeth I, after the Battle of Gravelines. This battle was the decisive event of a ten-day running fight with the Spanish Armada. Drake wrote: ‘This dayes servis hathe much apald the enemey and no doubt but incoraged our armey.’

Ever since Henry VIII’s break away from the Catholic Church in 1533, England had been in danger of invasion from Catholic countries. Philip II of Spain, leader of the most powerful Catholic country in Europe, launched his great Armada against England in 1588. It was made up of 132 ships and was a huge threat to England. The Armada reached the Lizard, off Cornwall, on 19th July.

The English fleet shadowed the Spanish ships up the Channel. This fleet was the same size as the Spanish one – about 130 ships, including 60 warships. However, most of the English ships were faster, better armed and in better condition. By 27th July the Armada reached Calais, where English fireships began to attack them at night. This broke up the Spanish formation, allowing the English to pick off stragglers.

Both sides began to run out of ammunition. Changing winds drove the Spanish fleet further north. By 2nd August the English felt it safe to call off their pursuit. The Spanish lost more ships at sea or wrecked off the west coast of Ireland. In the end, only 67 ships of the Armada returned to Spain.

Source-National Archives Kew

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