The attack

Battle map showing the route of the Spanish Armada fleeing round the north of Scotland and west coast of Ireland

The plan

Philip's plan was to:

  1. Gather a huge Armada of 130 ships in Spain, under the Duke of Medina Sidonia.
  2. Sail to the Netherlands to pick up the Spanish army, led by the Duke of Parma.
  3. Invade England.


  • In 1587, a year earlier, Drake attacked Cadiz and destroyed over 100 of Philip's fleet in the arbour.
  • Philip assembled another fleet in 1588, but it was hastily provisioned and badly equipped.
  • Medina Sidonia begged not to be put in charge.

The failure

The Armada set sail in May 1588:

  • It was spotted almost immediately, and England was warned.
  • From 20 to 27 July, the English fleet attacked the Armada as it sailed up the English Channel. The Armada sailed in a crescent formation, however, making it difficult to attack, and the English fleet did little damage.
  • On 27 July, the Armada anchored in open seas off Calais. The English sent in fireships, so the Armada cut their anchors to escape.
  • On 28 July, the English attacked the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Gravelines. The English ships were easier to manoeuvre in the heavy waters of the North Sea. This decisive battle prevented the Spanish from landing in England.
  • Philip's 'invincible' Spanish fleet fled north, chased by the English fleet. It had to return home by sailing round the north of Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, where many ships were sunk by storms.
  • On 8 August, after the main danger was over, Elizabeth went to speak to the English troops at Tilbury. She said, I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king... and think foul scorn that any Prince in Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm.