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The Tudor Navy and the Armada

Updated: Jul 4, 2021

Who was the father of the English Navy? Why?

  • Henry VIII is the father of the English Navy because of his habit of seafaring and he was the one who placed English Navy under a separate Govt. Dept and organized it as a standing force in the country.

  • More than half of his wealth which he got from the dissolution of monasteries was spent on developing the navy.

  • He not only built new and large ships but also established factories to manufacture ships (dockyards) at Woolwich and Deptford.

  • He also developed Portsmouth as a naval base.

What were the English mariners’ statuses initially?

  • While the Spanish and Portuguese made discoveries throughout the world exploring with ships, England remained quiet as it has its own civil problem to handle.

  • Christopher Columbus- an Italian under the service of the Spanish King had discovered America in 1492.

  • Vasco da Gama- a Portuguese reached Calicut around the Cape of Good Hope in 1498 which opened an avenue for lucrative trade.

  • John Cabot- an Englishman discovered Newfoundland by going beyond the limits of the Atlantic Ocean in 1497. (even though the English were not much exploring this happened.)

What made the English Navy strong and significant?

  • It is the English victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 that made them realise the fact that they should depend on the Navy for their national defence.

  • During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the Elizabethans began maritime exploration which led to:

  • Sir Francis Drake- crossed the Atlantic Ocean, entered South America, plundered the people, and reached home on 26th September 1580 by accomplishing the first circumnavigation of the world by an Englishman.

  • By 1583, Sir Walter Raleigh, set out with five ships and colonized Newfoundland.

The English and Spanish rival:

There are few reasons that made enmity between both nations:

  • The Spanish ships loaded with silver and gold sailing home from the American colonies were very often waylaid and attacked by the Englishmen like pirates.

  • After the reformation, Spain was the champion of Roman Catholicism, Jesuit priests trained there were sent to England to change the Protestants back to Roman Catholics but the Englishmen received it savagely and broke all the missionaries.

  • The hope of putting Mary Queen of Scots on the English Throne by Philip of Spain fueled the rival.

  • The leader of Puritans was killed by Philip and the revenge army of the Netherlands was supported by Queen Elizabeth. And this finally made him decide on invading England for revenge.

The Spanish Fleet:

  • The fleet named “Invincible Armada” was huge in full battle array shaped like a crescent consisting of one hundred and thirty ships both big and small carrying over 20,000 soldiers under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia.

The English Fleet:

  • The Same number of Ships under the charge of veteran seamen, like Lord Howard of Effingham and Sir Francis Drake were awaiting. The entire fleet was in charge of Sir John Hawkins. The ships were not huge but light, long and so sails faster.

The War:

  • The Spanish “Invincible Armada” reached the English Channel by 20th July 1588. The original plan for them is to pick their allies from the Netherlands and begin the attack.

  • Surprisingly, the English fleet began the attack. Somehow nothing happened to the Spanish fleet.

  • On 27th July, the Spanish ships anchored off the coast of Calais.

  • The mischievous idea of the English Admiral gave the Victory to England.

The Victory:

  • The English Admiral set fire on the old ships and sent them towards the Spanish fleet.

  • Scared Spanish men scattered their ships in all directions.

  • Those scattered ships were attacked by the steady English navy and won the battle.

  • The Duke of Medina Sidonia, somehow with 52 other ships returned home in September 1588.


  • England also has lost some men in the war.

  • After the defeat of the Armada, Puritanism the religion of the Netherlands became popular.

  • It (the Puritanism spread) became a threat to the Queen as she has failed to establish uniformity in worshipping God in her country.


Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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