In 1588, Spain ruled the seas and much of Europe. In that year, its Catholic king, Philip II, dispatched his “grand armada” to conquer the infidel, Protestant England, whose privateers had raided Spanish shipping and New World ports for years. Rather than engage directly the advancing armada, the British fleet awaited a more opportune time to fight. The Spaniards entered the English Channel; the British discreetly followed. When the armada laid anchor at Calais (France) to rendezvous with ground forces there, the English found their chance.
|Philip ll of Spain
In the dead of night the British set loose a flotilla of fire-ships upon them. Panic reigned, and the Spaniards cut their anchor cables and fled. At dawn the English attacked the armada along the Flemish coast. Sustaining modest losses, the Spaniards escaped northward.
Now, having decided to abandon the campaign and blocked from retreat through the channel, the armada sailed northward around the Scottish coast where disaster awaited them. Stormy seas tossed their vessels against the rocky shoreline. Short of equipment for repairs and provisions, the fleet limped homeward, arriving with less than half its original number.
Spain’s mastery of the seas was finished. Never again did she regain her 16th century prominence and power. England’s ascent had begun. Later, she could claim that the sun never sets upon the British Empire.
Published previously in an earlier website, July 4, 2003.