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Spanish Armada

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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Spanish Armada
    Posted: 23-Sep-2011 at 12:47

God breathed, and they were scattered - or so Elizabeth's propagandists claimed. The cruel Philip of Spain, husband of Bloody Mary, sent his fleet to invade England and depose Elizabeth on the pretext of revenge for her cousin's beheading, English piracy and missionary-work to convert the heretics. Historians like Dunn consider this event the turning point of Elizabeth's reign, transforming her from a timid, weak woman manipulated by her advisers to a true king in the mould of Henry VIII. The Armada's failure ensured Raleigh, Drake and Frobisher were remembered as heroes, although fewer people remember Lord Howard, the admiral who commanded the English fleet and lived to the age of 90.

Who can tell me more about this famous battle?
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  Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Sep-2011 at 15:07
Originally posted by Nick1986


God breathed, and they were scattered - or so Elizabeth's propagandists claimed. The cruel Philip of Spain, husband of Bloody Mary, sent his fleet to invade England and depose Elizabeth on the pretext of revenge for her cousin's beheading, English piracy and missionary-work to convert the heretics. Historians like Dunn consider this event the turning point of Elizabeth's reign, transforming her from a timid, weak woman manipulated by her advisers to a true king in the mould of Henry VIII. The Armada's failure ensured Raleigh, Drake and Frobisher were remembered as heroes, although fewer people remember Lord Howard, the admiral who commanded the English fleet and lived to the age of 90.

Who can tell me more about this famous battle?


The great historian Will Durant wrote about this but it has been a while since I read his work.
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  Quote TheAlaniDragonRising Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Sep-2011 at 15:21
The one thing I do know about this subject is about the Spanish being unable to attack the English early because the wind turned.
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  Quote Chookie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Sep-2011 at 16:25
For a start it wasn't a battle. For another thing, the much vaunted "Armada" wasn't a naval fleet assuch things were known in Nelson's day. The Armada was primarily a transport convoy which used civilian ships (granted they were armed, because they might meet pirates almost anywhere - one of these pirates being the famous Sir Francis Drake).

Some of these civilian ships were galleys which were designed for the non-tidal Mediterranean, others were ships which had crossed the Atlantic, and in the process been infested with shipworms (Teredo navalis). These things, which are most common in the Caribbean,  could bore their way through wooden hulls (which was one of the reasons later sailing vessels were copper-bottomed).

Very few of them were suitable for use in the narrow confines of the Channel, especially in the weather conditions which prevailed.

It was the combination of extremely bad weather and unsuitable ships which caused the failure of the Armada. There were doubtless occasions where the English ships actually fired on an Armada ship, but they were few and far between.
For money you did what guns could not do.........
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Sep-2011 at 16:56
Gravelines was definitely a battle. The small English ships could easily avoid the heavy Spanish galleons, resulting in five being sunk. Drake used fireships with great success, scattering the terrified Spanish fleet, preventing them from landing on the English coast and forcing them to sail around Scotland
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  Quote FrancisDrake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Sep-2011 at 04:03
The Spanish Armada was a serious turning point in the histories of both Spain and England. For nearly a century, the Spanish had dominion over the Atlantic, and had become a superpower under Philip II due to the great influx of silver and gold pouring in from the Americas. England meanwhile had been kept occupied in Europe by a series of wars with the French and civil unrest in Ireland. As Nick pointed out, the relations between the two countries were strained by the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, whom Catholic Spain wanted on the English throne, English privateers, English involvement in the Spanish Netherlands, and the spread of "heretical" Protestant doctrine. Not to mention that for a good long while, Philip pursued a fruitless courtship with Elizabeth. She was essentially playing the guy.

It all came to a head in the summer of 1588, and the fates of the two countries would be determined in a battle at sea, the outcome of which would largely be influenced by wind and tide. The fearsome Armada of legend was a naval force of 130 Spanish galleons, many of which were refitted merchant ships. Under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who was more of a noble than a naval commander, the massive fleet set sail in a crescent formation for the Netherlands to collect troops for the invasion of England.

Meanwhile, in England, every available ship had been called to port at Plymouth, and there they waited for the Spanish fleet. Chosen to command the English navy was Admiral Charles Howard, a courtier of Elizabeth, and a fine seaman. His second in command was a greatly accomplished English sailor and privateer who had risen to favor with Elizabeth through his daring raids on Spanish ships and ports in the Caribbean, one Sir Francis Drake.

At Plymouth, the English navy could have been completely decimated. The wind was against them, and yet the Spanish sailed on, under strict orders to reach Gravelines in the Netherlands to meet the soldiers that were to constitute the invasion force. As Howard and Drake waited at Plymouth for the wind to shift, legend has it that the men had a Big Lebowski moment, with Drake supposedly saying to Howard, "f**k it Chuck, let's go bowling." (citation needed)

The next day, the wind did indeed shift to the west, giving the English the tactical advantage of a windward position. While the Spanish had the advantage of numbers, and their massive formation, the English crafts were far more maneuverable. The galleons were equipped with great grappling hooks for the purpose of boarding, while the English relied heavily on their guns, employing a line to stern formation.

The first day of the battle, the English broke into two lines, the northern line led by Howard and the  southern by Drake. Their strategy would be to sail along the edges of the formation, chipping away at its flanks. The English ships sailed at a distance which rendered their guns ineffective, yet kept the grappling hooks at bay. After the first day off the coast of Plymouth, neither side had sunk a ship.

The next day saw a battle in the Straights of Dover with little more success, and as the English managed to disable at least one Spanish ship, which set the Royal Navy back thanks to Drake's diehard profiteering mindset. Medina Sedonia sailed on, still not knowing if the forces were prepared. His plan was to establish a temporary base on the Isle of Wight while they waited for word from the continent. Yet with the English hot on their heels, the Armada sailed on to Calais.

It was there that Drake and Howard unleashed the dreaded fire ships as the Armada waited, anchored at Calais. The invasion had fallen apart, as the forces of the Duke of Parma were no where near prepared for the invasion. In the panic at the approach of the fireships, the Spanish cut their anchors, a decision which would later come back to haunt them.

The final victory would come at Gravelines, with the English ships coming closer than ever to the Spanish, making their guns more effective. With the formation broken, and the Spanish scattered, English victory was at hand. With the Straights of Dover blocked off, the remainder of the Armada was forced to sail around England. Only a third of the sailors would make it back to Spain, as starvation and the rocks of Ireland and Scotland claimed many of the anchorless ships.
 
Though not a single English ship was sunk, many of their men died afterwards of disease on board their ships, as they were kept at sea for months after the failed invasion, just in case, ya know, the Spanish decided to come back. By the reign of James I, peace had been brokered between the two nations, with Philip III relinquishing all rights on the land of Virginia. As the Spanish turned their attention towards the ever rebellious Dutch, the English were free to set their sights on foreign ambitions.

A fascinating story really. This is the version I've gotten from my history classes, and to the best of my knowledge, it's all correct, but one can't help but wonder what the face of America might look like today had the invasion been successful. During the span of the Armada, the second attempted colony at Roanoke was mysteriously lost. Had the Spanish prevailed, America, and the story of her colonization, might look quite different from the history we read today.
"There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory." - Drake
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Sep-2011 at 13:25

Thanks Francis. The English invented a new type of fireship that was rigged to explode. A few years earlier a single Hellburner at Antwerp destroyed a Spanish galley, a bridge, and killed 800 soldiers with a deadly rain of tombstones, scrap iron, chains and shot. The Spaniards' panicked retreat stemmed from fear that Drake's fireships were hellburners
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Sep-2011 at 19:44
Many Spanish treasure ships sank in the storms off the coast of Ireland. The most famous of these is the galley Girona which went down with all but nine of her 1300 crew. A vast haul of gold jewelery was recovered in 1968 and put on display in Belfast
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  Quote FrancisDrake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2011 at 12:35
Fire at sea is no light matter. Those hellburners used at Antwerp must have been a terrifying force indeed. It is hard to imagine one 16th century sailing vessel could cause so much damage. Those Spanish sailors certainly had reason to fear when they saw those fire ships light up. Yet that decision to cut their lines really caught up with them as they were battered against the coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

Your mention of the excavation of the Girona brings up interesting questions. Just how much gold was the Spanish Armada carrying? Why would an invasion force need so much in the way of treasure?

A podcast speaks to some of the vast treasures recovered from the Armada: http://www.heritageweek.ie/index.php/press-centre/hidden-heritage-national-heritage-week-podcast-series/
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2011 at 19:55

The treasure belonged to the Spanish officers who took their gold with them both as a status symbol and emergency substitute for money. Perhaps they intended to settle in England after the invasion and replace the native elite?
Much of the Girona's crew were the survivors of other Armada wrecks who salvaged the treasure from their own ships before they sank, including this salamander pendant which supposedly protected the wearer from fire. A long time ago i visited a museum in Cornwall with a collection of Spanish artefacts either washed up by the tide or acquired by wreck-divers. Another time i went to Cromer where an old fisherman had a shed full of things he'd dredged up, including an anchor which may have been one of the ones the Spanish cut free
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Sep-2011 at 20:55
The timer on the hellburner was invented by Italian and comprised a clockwork mechanism and flintlock ignition. Before colliding with the target the fireship's crew activated the timer and made good their escape on fast skiffs
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Nov-2011 at 19:06

Even today, the descendents of shipwrecked Spanish sailors can be found in Scotland and Ireland. Known as "Dons," they are identifiable by their black hair and dark skin. Unable to return to Spain, they married into the clans and adopted the local culture
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Nov-2011 at 23:06
Francis Drake, I'm not sure the settlement of North America would have changed much had the Armada successfully invaded England. North America lacked the advanced Amerindian civilizations that the Spanish preferred. Even the Mexicans of that time were pretty much confined to the central and southern reaches of that country. Settlement of what today is Northern Mexico was a slow process. Though cities were founded, the surrounding deserts remained sparsely populated. And, in the Southern plains, the Amerindians remained hostile, becoming far more dangerous once they got the horse a few centuries later. Note that the Spanish didn't even get to Los Angeles until the U.S. was already in existence, and it was a marginal territory even then.
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2011 at 19:13
Originally posted by FrancisDrake

Fire at sea is no light matter. Those hellburners used at Antwerp must have been a terrifying force indeed. It is hard to imagine one 16th century sailing vessel could cause so much damage. Those Spanish sailors certainly had reason to fear when they saw those fire ships light up. Yet that decision to cut their lines really caught up with them as they were battered against the coasts of Ireland and Scotland.

Your mention of the excavation of the Girona brings up interesting questions. Just how much gold was the Spanish Armada carrying? Why would an invasion force need so much in the way of treasure?

A podcast speaks to some of the vast treasures recovered from the Armada: http://www.heritageweek.ie/index.php/press-centre/hidden-heritage-national-heritage-week-podcast-series/


i used to have a replica of a Spanish doubloon, bought at said shipwreck museum over 20 years ago. It was copied from one found on an Armada wreck
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Dec-2011 at 19:14
It's a pity the sailors who helped save England were treated so shabbily after the Armada's defeat. They were kept aboard their ships without pay and many died of disease
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Dec-2011 at 19:39

More treasure from the Girona. Almost 2000 pieces of gold jewlery were recovered, including this locket 
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Dec-2011 at 11:33
Nick, in re:  " It's a pity the sailors who helped save England were treated so shabbily after the Armada's defeat. They were kept aboard their ships without pay and many died of disease"

At the time, the common sailors were legally civilians and not military personnel. That reform came later, after Nelson's time, if I remember a naval lecture I attended on Lord Nelson and his impact upon the treatment of sailors correctly.
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Dec-2011 at 19:50
I thought the English Navy became a professional force under Henry VIII. Even in peacetime a standing force of sailors were needed to crew the galleons
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Dec-2011 at 09:02
The fact that there were sailors on board does not mean that they were military personnel with attendant rights and privileges. Ergo impressment.
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Jan-2012 at 19:01

Painting of the Girona. This galley was better suited to patrolling the Mediterranean than crossing the North Sea
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