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If Parma Had Landed

Felix Barker discusses the little-known civil defence preparations to meet a Spanish invasion and looks at what might have happened.

Given the ultimate catastrophe of defeat by the Armada, what would have happened if Philip II's generalissimo, the Duke of Parma, had invaded and England had been occupied by Spain in 1588? The idea may seem to verge on fantasy, but if English seamanship had been less inspired and the weather less capricious the outcome might have been very different.

Had the Armada proved as 'invincible' as Spain believed and given cover for landing craft to cross the Channel, the largely amateur English army might have been no match for Parma's well trained men, however bravely they fought. Although the English were defending their country, Spain and her allies had the incentive of what they saw as a religious crusade.

Nothing is known of contingency plans for an England under foreign rule. No whisper of defeat was heard (or anyway minuted) in the Privy Council. The only way of gauging what might have happened comes from Philip II's boastful intentions recorded in Spanish archives. From these an ominous picture can be constructed. First, however, we must see how England prepared to face the enormous odds against her.

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