England and Spain

Philip II of Spain

In Europe, Philip II was King of Spain. By 1588, he had conquered many other countries and ruled an empire:

  • Spain was a Catholic country. In 1569, Philip expelled all Muslims from Spain, and he burned people who became Protestants.
  • In 1571, the Spanish navy defeated the Ottoman Empire, leaving Spain in control of the western Mediterranean.
  • In 1580, Philip conquered Portugal, which had a trading empire from Brazil to the East Indies.
  • Spain had a huge empire in the New World, having conquered the Aztec and Inca empires. Fleets of ships brought back treasure to Spain which were frequently raided by English and French navies.
  • Philip's nephew, Rudolph, was Emperor of Germany.
  • Amazingly Philip had some minor claim to the English crown himself. Although he should have known better, he fantasised that English Catholics were waiting for him to arrive and liberate them.
World map showing Spanish territory, Portuguese territory and the Ottoman Empire

Events leading up to Spain's attempted invasion of England

  • England was a Protestant country, and executed Catholic priests. Philip wanted to make England a Catholic country again.
  • The Dutch rebelled against Philip. At first, Elizabeth allowed Protestant Dutch pirates, known as the 'Sea Beggars', to use English ports, but she expelled them in 1572. In 1585, Elizabeth pledged support for the Dutch in their struggle for independence from Spain.
  • English 'privateers', such as Francis Drake, who were really government-authorised pirates, robbed the Spanish treasure fleet.
  • England wanted a base in the New World and between 1585 and 1587 the English set up a colony in Roanoke, Virginia.
  • In 1587, Elizabeth executed the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. Philip finally lost patience and made plans to invade England.