The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts

The invincible armada is a large one (about 130 ships), formed in Spain in the years 1586-1588. (during the Anglo-Spanish war of 1585-1604), with the aim of invading England. The decisive campaign of the Invincible Armada took place from May to September 1588, under the leadership of the Duke Alonso Perez de Guzmán. As a result of the battle, the Invincible Armada was defeated. In this article we will get acquainted with the history of the defeat of the Invincible Armada, as well as learn what preceded and what he led to.

Defeat the Invincible Armada

general characteristics

In a series of battles, the last of which was the Battle of Gravelino, the Anglo-Dutch fleet, consisting mainly of light maneuverable ships, under the leadership of Charles Howard, defeated an Invincible Armada. The so-called pirates of Elizabeth, the most famous of which was Francis Drake, distinguished themselves in battles.

Unable to regroup, the Spanish army went north, refusing to invade enemy waters. The English fleet followed the enemy, moving at some distance from him, along the east coast of England. The return to Spain was difficult for Armada. Going along the western coast of Ireland, across the North Atlantic, she fell into a series of strong storms. As a result, many ships were thrown on the western and northern coast of the island. In general, during the expedition, Spain lost 70 ships. It is noteworthy that only 7 of them were lost in battle. The date of the defeat by England of the Invincible Armada was remembered by the Spaniards not only as a strong blow to the navy, but also as a manifestation of God's will.

Trekking prerequisites

For several decades, privates from England allowed themselves to plunder and sink Spanish ships. So, only in 1582, Spain suffered fantastic losses - a little less than two million ducats. When the English Queen Elizabeth the First supported the Dutch uprising against Spanish rule, she further aggravated the conflict. At the same time, King Philip II of Spain considered it his holy duty to help the Catholics from England in their opposition to the Protestants.Due to the latter fact, there were about 180 priests and clergymen on the decks of the Invincible Armada. Even when recruiting soldiers, each of them was required to confess and take communion. The religious moods of the King of Spain and his subjects perfectly illustrate the words of the famous Jesuit Pedro de Ribadeneira: “The Lord himself leads us, whose work and holy faith we protect, and we have nothing to fear from such a captain.”

England defeat Invincible armada

The British belief in defeating the Invincible Armada of 1588 was unshakable. After winning the battle, they would receive free use of the sea and break Spain’s monopoly on trading activity with the New World. In addition, Britain’s naval victory over Spain could have contributed to the spread of Protestant sentiment in Europe.


The Spanish king ordered Armada to approach the English Channel, where she was to unite with the 30-thousand army of the Duke of Parma, located in Flanders (the territory of the Spanish Netherlands). Further, according to the plan of the king, the combined army was to cross the English Channel, go to land in Essex County and march to move to London.Philip II was counting on the support of English Catholics, who, in his opinion, should have left his queen professing Protestantism and take his side. The king’s plan was not thoroughly considered and did not take into account two principal circumstances: the power of the English fleet and the shallow waters, because of which the Spanish ships could not come close enough to take on board their ships the army of the Duke of Parma.

Initially, Alvaro de Bazan was to become the head of the Armada. He was the best admiral of the Spanish navy at that time. In addition, Alvaro de Bazan was the author and organizer of the naval campaign against England. According to many contemporaries, if the admiral really led the fleet, the defeat of the army of the Invincible Armada could have been avoided. Anyway, in the beginning of 1588, at the age of 62, Alvaro de Bazan died. Instead, the campaign was appointed Duke of Medina-Sidonia, Alonso Perez de Guzmán. The latter was not a sophisticated sailor, but possessed brilliant organizational skills. He managed to find an approach to experienced captains, who jointly created a powerful fleet and supplied it with everything necessary.In order to establish communication between the members of the multinational troops, they came up with a special system of commands, signals and order of battle.

The defeat of the invincible army of Armada


The Italian Armada consisted of a little more than 30 thousand people (about 19,000 soldiers, 8,000 sailors, 2,000 rowers and 1,300 officers, nobles, doctors and priests), 130 ships and 2,430 guns. The main forces of the fleet were divided into six squadrons:

  1. "Portugal".
  2. "Castilla".
  3. "Gipuzkoa."
  4. Biscay.
  5. "Gipuzkoa."
  6. "Levant".

In addition, the armada consisted of: 4 Neapolitan galleas (635 soldiers and 50 guns); 4 Portuguese galleys (320 soldiers and 20 weapons); a variety of light ships carrying a messenger and intelligence service; as well as supply vessels (500 thousand charges of gunpowder and 124 thousand nuclei).

Armada’s food supplies included millions of biscuits, 600 thousand pounds of corned beef and salted fish, 400 thousand pounds of rice, 300 thousand pounds of cheese, 40 thousand gallons of olive oil, 14 thousand barrels of wine, 6 thousand bags of beans.

Out of Spain

May 29, 1588 The Invincible Armada left the port of Lisbon. Because of the storm, she had to go to the port of A Coruña, located on the northwestern side of Spain. There, the sailors replenished their supplies and repaired the ships.Already at that time, Duke Alonso Perez de Guzmán, concerned about the diseases among sailors and the lack of provisions, wrote to Philip II, who doubted the success of the campaign and anticipated the defeat of the Invincible Armada. The king did not listen to the admiral's doubts and ordered him to firmly hold on to the plan. Only two months after the huge and sluggish fleet left the Lisbon harbor, he finally reached the English Channel.

The defeat of England Invincible armada 1588

Ratio of forces

When the Spanish army approached the south-west of England, the English ships were already waiting for him. At that time, the number of ships and the opposing sides was about the same, which cannot be said about their design. The Spanish fleet consisted mainly of heavy, high-haired vessels carrying short-range cannons. Because of the massive towers on the bow and stern, they looked like floating fortresses and were well adapted to boarding. The British had low and more maneuverable ships, equipped with long-range guns. The British leadership hoped to destroy the enemy, without approaching him at a dangerous distance.

Start of battle

July 30, the Spaniards approached the area viewed from the English coast, and observation posts reported to the authorities about the approach of the enemy. The first collision took place on July 31 near the Plymouth meridian. The Lord Admiral of Great Britain sent his personal pinas (reconnaissance ship) to the center of the Spanish fleet to challenge the enemy flagship. British scouts made a mistake, considering the galleon Alonso de Leyva for the flagship. In order to avoid similar mistakes in the future, Admiral Alonso Perez de Guzman raised the admiral standard over his ship “San Martin”. Anyway, the first shot was fired, and the battle began.

In order to successfully defend against the blows of the enemy, who possessed greater maneuverability and artillery power, the leader of the Armada arranged his fleet in a semicircle. At the edges, he put the strongest ships with long-range guns. On the front line, Alonso Perez de Guzmán put the avant-garde of the best ships, the leadership of which he commissioned to Admiral Recalde. From whatever side the enemy would attack, this squad could turn around and repel the attack. From the rest of the ships were required not to lose mutual support and keep the line.

Using the superiority in terms of maneuverability, the British ships initially came out an invincible armada into the wind (steel from the windward side). Having taken such a favorable position, they were free to attack and dodge. As the western winds prevailed, the British pursued the Spaniards, as they advanced through the English Channel, periodically attacking them. Nevertheless, the enemy for a long time failed to break through the Armada’s defense.

The rout of the Invincible Armada: year

During the movement across the English Channel, both sides now and then fired and conducted several small battles. After the passage of Plymouth, several battles followed: August 1 at Start Point, August 2 at Portland Bill, August 3-4 at the Isle of Wight. The defensive position occupied by the Invincible Armada fully justified itself: during the first days of confrontation, the British, even with the help of long-range guns, could not sink a single enemy vessel. However, the Spaniards did have to leave two badly damaged ships that could no longer withstand the onslaught of the enemy at the proper level. The first ship was lost on the 1st of August, and the second - on the 2nd. The British captains decided to throw all their forces into disrupting the battle formation of the Spanish fleet and approaching it within effective range.The British fleet managed to do this, but only on 7 August at Calais.

Meeting at Calais

Alonso Perez de Guzmán strictly followed the orders of the top leadership, so he sent the Invincible Armada to meet the Duke of Parma and his troops. Waiting for a response from an ally, the admiral ordered the fleet to anchor near Calais. On the night of August 7th and 8th, taking advantage of the fact that the enemy fleet occupied a vulnerable position, the British sent eight firefighters to it - set on fire ships filled with fuel and explosives. In order to escape from danger, most of the Spanish captains dropped anchors and panickedly tried to escape from the threat. Raging wind along with a strong current carried them to the North. To return to the meeting place with the army of the Duke of Parma, the Spaniards could not.

Battle of Gravelino

On the morning of August 8, 1588, the defeat of the Invincible Armada by England was very close. On this day a decisive battle took place between the Spanish and English fleets. Having reached the enemy at a sufficient distance, the British began to bombard the Spaniards massively. As a result, three ships of the Great Armada were completely destroyed, and a few dozen more were seriously damaged. Due to the lack of ammunition, the Spanish sailors were helpless before the onslaught of the enemy.At that time, the defeat of England The invincible armada was only a matter of time.

The defeat of the Invincible Armada of 1588

The weather played into the hands of the Spaniards - because of a strong storm, the British were forced to interrupt the attack. The next morning, the Spanish fleet again lined up in a semicircle and was ready to take the fight. The British did not have time to start shooting, as the strong current and the wind carried the Spanish ships to the shore of the Dutch province of Zealand. It seemed that the defeat of the Invincible Armada could not be avoided, but the weather changed again - the wind carried the armada towards the North. The Spaniards could no longer return to Kale, since the enemy ships were on their way. In the meantime, the wind intensified, bringing the Armada ships to the North. Duke Alonso Perez de Guzmán had no other option than to stop the campaign in order to save more ships and military. As a result, he decided to return to Spain, bypassing Scotland and Ireland.


The retreat was pretty hard for Armada. Food and water supplies are rapidly running out. During the sea battles a large number of ships were damaged and barely kept afloat.Near the northwestern coast of Ireland, the Spanish fleet was hit by a strong two-week storm, as a result of which some ships crashed against rocks or went missing.

By September 23, the first ships of Armada reached Santender - the northern port of Spain. Of the 130 ships, only 60 returned home. During the military campaign, the crews lost from 30 to 75% of their numbers. Thousands of soldiers drowned, many died from disease or injury. The fate of the survivors was also not the most enviable - because of the acute shortage of food, the crews didn’t even have enough strength to leave the ships, sailing home. One ship ran aground in the port of Laredo due to the fact that the surviving sailors failed to anchor and set sail. Thus, subjective factors played a huge role in the rout of the Invincible Armada army, along with the powerful English onslaught.

England defeat Invincible armada: date

Historical meaning

Of course, the defeat of the Invincible Armada brought Spain heavy losses. However, this did not mean the collapse of the sea power of the country as a whole. The 90s of the sixteenth century passed for Spain under the protection of shaky positions. England’s attempt to arrange a “symmetrical response” in 1589, sending the Contrarmadu to the Spanish coast, ended in a crushing defeat.Two years later, the Spaniards inflicted several more defeats on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on the English fleet. Nevertheless, even all these victories could not compensate for the losses from the defeat by England of the Invincible Armada in 1588.

From the failure of the Armada, the Spaniards have learned many lessons. They abandoned heavy and awkward ships, replacing them with light ships with long-range guns.

Nevertheless, the defeat of England Invincible armada buried all hopes for the restoration of Catholicism in England and its involvement in the orbit of the foreign policy of the Spanish Empire. In addition, the loss brought a deterioration in the position of the Spaniards in the Netherlands. For England, this victory became the foundation for obtaining the status of "mistress of the seas."

For Protestants, the date of the defeat of the Invincible Armada was remembered as the day of God's will. Many of the Protestants believed that only Divine intervention could help cope with the fleet, "under the weight of which the ocean moaned." The naval triumph of the English over the Spaniards of 1588 became the limit of the expansion of the Catholic Habsburg Empire.


Summarizing the above, we note the main results of the defeat of the Spanish fleet:

1.The defeat of such a large army, even despite the subsequent successes of the Spaniards at sea, was a big blow for them.

2. The defeat of England Invincible armada forced the Spanish rulers to reconsider their approach to the sea battle. As a result, the state switched to light and long-range ships.

3. The defeat of England The invincible armada meant the consolidation of the dominant positions of Protestantism in England.

4. Victory in this battle was for England the first step in winning the status of "mistress of the seas."

5. The year of the defeat of the Invincible Armada was remembered by the Italians as a symbol of the manifestation of God's will.

Related news

The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts image, picture, imagery

The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts 43

The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts 29

The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts 53

The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts 43

The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts 69

The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts 29

The defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588: causes, consequences, interesting historical facts 78