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Why did the Spanish Armada sail?

Francis Drake sails against the ArmadaFrancis Drake sails against the ArmadaIn the 16th century, Spain was a powerful kingdom. It ruled over other parts of Europe as well as its vast new empire in the Americas. Its king, Philip II, was a Catholic. He was angry with England, which was ruled by its Protestant queen, Elizabeth. She had given her approval to English privateers attacking Spanish treasure ships. She had sent help to Dutch rebels fighting for independence from Spain. And she had executed her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots. Philip decided to act. In 1588, he sent a huge Armada (navy) to invade England and overthrow Elizabeth.


The Spanish Armada sets sailThe Spanish Armada sets sail

The Armada sets sail

The Armada, a mighty fleet of 130 warships, sailed up the English Channel in late July. The ships of the English navy, under the command of Sir Francis Drake, were faster and nimbler than the great Spanish galleons. Unable to attack the English ships, the commander of the Armada, the Duke of Medina Sidonia, decided to anchor his ships off Calais. His plan was to take an army from Spanish Netherlands across the Channel to invade England. 

According to legend, Sir Francis Drake, on being warned of the approach of the Spanish fleet, decided to finish off a game of bowls rather than launch the English navy straight away. The story is almost certainly untrue.

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