History: The Spanish Armada
The Myth of the Spanish Armada, written for Kids
The Spanish Armada is commonly considered one of the most famous naval fleets in history. This is true in the sense many people are familiar with the name. However, those that think that the Spanish Armada was really as powerful as its legend claims would find out that the opposite is really true. Really, the Spanish Armada is better known for its famous losses than its wins.
This is not to say that the fleet was not imposing or impressive. The design of the fleet was quite powerful and it did have the potential to truly dominate the seas. The term Spanish Armada comes from the Spanish name Grande y Felicísima Armada. In English, this would be translated as the Great and Most Fortunate Navy. Such a bold name also indicates the bold nature of the navy's prime mission: the overthrow of Elizabeth I of England.
The fleet was launched in 1588 and was commanded by the Duke of Medina Sidonia. This was certainly a grand campaign since England possessed and incredibly powerful military and naval fleet. No one would argue that the Spanish Armada was incredibly ambitious. However, no one would also argue that the mission was a wise decision since the attempted invasion and overthrow was a complete failure and a disaster. In fact, it has gone down through the ages of history as one of the worst military decisions and operations in history. Why was this so? There were a number of factors that contributed to such failure with poor planning and execution among the main reasons.
Why did Spain wish to overthrow the Queen of England? King Phillip of Spain had once been the co-ruler of England and considered Queen Elizabeth to be an illegitimate ruler. His previous and more subtle attempts to overthrow her were not successful so he opted for an outright invasion through his powerful navy. And yes, the Spanish navy at the time was a quite formidable one.
On paper, it would be difficult to say that the Spanish Armada did not look impressive when it set sail on the 25th of April 1588. It sailed from Lisbon with the intention of invading via the English Channel. There were over 151 ships with 8,000 sailors and soldiers which tallied upwards of 20,000. The ships were heavily armed and appeared almost indestructible in their design. But, as history shows, the end result was not one that favoured Spain.
The invasion had problems from almost the outset. Poor weather disrupted the forward travels of many ships. Disease would spread taking the lives of many crewmen. Initial skirmishes with enemy vessels did not turn out as anticipated. And finally, when the Spanish Armada reached the port of Gravelines, the tide of the invasion changed dramatically. The Battle of Gravelines against the British navy was an outright disaster and turned the tide of the invasion irreversibly.
While the name of the Spanish Armada brings to mind the impressiveness of its size and scope, the fact remains it was a very poor naval fleet prone to fumbling.
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