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Tudor fact file

The Spanish Armada



  • In 1587 Philip II of Spain drew up a plan to invade England.
  • Alessandro Farnese, the Duke of Parma and Governor of the Netherlands had an army ready to cross the English Channel in barges.
  • To protect Parma's ships when they crossed the Channel an Armada of ships would be sent from Spain.
  • The Armada was to be led by Marquis Santa Cruz and it would carry 20,000 extra soldiers to help Parma's army.
  • In April 1587 Sir Francis Drake attacked the Armada in the port of Cadiz. He destroyed many ships and the invasion was called off.
  • Philip II became ill.
  • In 1588 the Mar quiz Santa Cruz died. Alonso Perez du Guzman, the Duke of Medina Sidonia was put in charge of the invasion even though he said he was not a very good sailor!
  • 30,000 in 130 ships set sail on May 30th 1588 but storms forced them back to port.
  • On July 21st 1588 they set sail again.
  • The English navy had 197 ships but only 16,000 men.
  • The leaders of the English navy were Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins and Sir Martin Frobisher.
  • The English attacked near Plymouth and were successful. Medina Sidonia ordered his fleet to escape and drop anchor at Calais harbour.
  • Howard and Drake sent 8 fire ships into the harbour. The Spanish ships left the harbour to avoid being burned and had to face the English fleet again. Four Spanish ships were sunk and others damaged.
  • The Spanish decided to escape but because of the winds they could not sail back down the English Channel. They had to sail north up the North Sea, then west around Scotland and finally south west past Ireland.
  • The weather was bad and many ships were lost on the return journey.
  • Medina Sidonia returned to Spain on September 21st 1588 with just 60 ships.
  • 15,000 men were lost in battle and in the ship wreaks.


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