Armada, Day 1 (03:53)
On July 29, 1588, Elizabeth I was in danger from Philip II of Spain. He sent 125 ships to crush England's Protestantism. At 54, the English queen relied on heavy makeup to hide her age and promote her god-like status.
Preparing for Battle (05:14)
Elizabeth's spy network anticipated the Armada. English ships were assembled at Plymouth Harbor under Charles Howard of Effingham; he had little combat experience and Sir Francis Drake was recovering from an unsuccessful attack mission. View an English Channel map.
Philip II of Spain (03:43)
The Spanish king plotted England's destruction from El Escorial near Madrid. Historians discuss his bureaucratic tendencies and obsession with power.
Brief English Reign (02:47)
Philip and Elizabeth met when Philip married her half-sister, Queen Mary. Four years later, Mary died and Elizabeth became queen; Philip proposed. Historians debate whether he was motivated by love, religion, or politics.
Religious and Political Tensions (01:53)
Philip resented Elizabeth's Protestantism and persecution of Catholics. England was also stealing Spanish treasure in state-sponsored piracy. Philip decided to invade England; the Armada set sail on July 21, 1588.
Safe Haven (03:20)
Elizabeth moved her court to Richmond Palace outside London with her surrogate mother Blanche Parry for company. Historians discuss domestic Catholic threats and her fear of assassination.
Sighting the Armada (02:22)
On July 29, 1588, poor weather conditions trapped the English Fleet in Plymouth Harbor. This presented an opportunity for the Spanish to strike first.
Spanish Tactical Error (03:56)
Recently discovered documents of an exchange between the Duke of Medina Sidonia and Juan Martinez de Recalde reveal Sidonia's decision not to attack the English fleet trapped in Plymouth Harbor on July 29, 1588.
Armada Master Plan (03:09)
Philip's orders left no room for opportunistic attacks. Combining ground and naval strategies, he planned to join forces with the Duke of Parma's Dutch army at Margate and then advance up the Thames to London.
Armada, Day 2 (02:55)
On July 30, 1588, the English planned to prevent the Armada from establishing a deep water port by driving it up the English Channel. The Spanish planned to meet Parma's army.
Forming a Strategy (03:55)
Riders from Plymouth delivered news of the Armada to Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's intelligence director, and Lord Burghley, her treasurer. Despite differing foreign policy approaches, they agreed that battle was inevitable.
Armada, Day 3 (04:15)
On July 31, 1588, the Spanish spotted the English fleet preparing a pincer attack. Sidonia ordered a crescent battle formation. The Spanish expected close combat; the English stayed back and used cannons—a revolutionary tactic.
Battle of Plymouth Outcome (02:38)
After two hours, the English called off the attack without inflicting much damage on the Armada. The San Salvador blew up for unknown reasons and the Rosario became damaged. Sidonia abandoned the Rosario, drawing criticism from Recalde.
Financial Troubles (04:00)
The English lacked cannon ammunition and food but Elizabeth did not want to ask Parliament for funding. Howard ordered Drake to lead the fleet from his ship’s stern light, but he planned to loot the Rosario for supplies.
Credits: Armada: The Untold Story—Day 1 (00:48)
Credits: Armada: The Untold Story—Day 1
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