The Spanish Armada was when a fleet of 130 ships that tried to invade England. The Armada left Corunna, Spain in May 1588 with the aim to overthrow Elizabeth I and make England a Catholic country, like Spain was.

The English ships won the battle and the Spanish were defeated, with only 60 of their ships getting back to Spain.


In the same year she was crowned queen (1558), King Phillip II of Spain asked her if she wanted to marry him. She said no.

After Elizabeth’s religious settlement, which aimed to stop the feud between Catholics and Protestants, the Pope excommunicated her from the Catholic Church. He said that Elizabeth had “seized the kingdom” and wasn’t the rightful English monarch.

The Armada

King Phillip gathered ships together into an Armada (large fleet) in 1586. He made up a plan to overthrow Elizabeth and make England Catholic once again. But, in 1587, Francis Drake, one of Elizabeth’s advisors, led an attack on Cadiz, a Spanish port. They sunk ships and burned vital supplies.

The attack delayed Phillip’s plans for a year. In 1588, the 130-ship Spanish Armada left Lisbon, Portugal. They kept to a half-crescent formation (see below.) By July, they had reached the English Channel. Part of Phillip’s plan was to stop off at Gravelines, France.

The Spanish Armada off the English coast


But Lord Howard, an English commander, sent in 8 fireships (wooden ships containing objects that would make them burn!) Terrified, the Spanish were forced into fighting for a day in a battle. Many people were killed, and they decided to give up invasion.

Their plan for getting back home was also a disaster. The ships were caught in multiple storms on the route home (see below.) Only 60 ships made it back to Spain.

The Spanish Armada route, going around north Scotland and Ireland
The Spanish Armada route