The Chief Business: the Spanish Armada, 1588

Patrick Williams provides us with the results of the latest research on the Armada

In May 1588, Philip II of Spain sent his ‘Invincible Armada’ to overthrow Elizabeth I, the lawful queen of England. In despatching his great fleet, Philip broke not only with his own reputation as ‘the Prudent King’ but also with the long tradition of friendship between Spain and England – friendship which had been sealed with marriage on three occasions: Catherine of Aragon had married Arthur, Prince of Wales (1501) and Henry VIII (1509), while Philip himself had married Mary I and served as her king consort (1554- 58). Indeed Philip II protected Elizabeth for a decade while she consolidated her hold on the throne and, although the two rulers came to despise each other, they seemed determined to avoid war at almost any cost. For both of them, war was prohibitively expensive – and dangerously unpredictable.


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