The Spanish Armada

The greatest challenge to Elizabeth was first sighted in the English Channel on 29 July 1588. This was the Spanish Armada, a fleet of armed ships sailing towards England in a crescent formation.

Partly because of religious differences, and partly because of English interference in Spanish affairs in the New World and the Netherlands, King Philip of Spain decided to invade England and attempt to overthrow Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was expected to protect her people from this invasion. How did the two sides line up?

A comparison between Spanish and English resources during the attack of the Spanish Armada
CommandersThe Duke of Medina Sidonia - little experience of sailing. Lord Howard of Effingham – little experience of fighting at sea, but Drake and Hawkins were both very experienced.
Fleet130 ships - 64 battleships, 22 huge galleons and 45 converted merchant ships. 200 ships - 54 strong, light and fast battleships, and 140 converted merchant ships.
Sailors and soldiers30,000 men on board the fleet and 20,000 soldiers on land. 14,000 men on board the fleet and 20,000 soldiers on land.
Food suppliesNot fresh – six months’ worth of supplies were stored on the ships.Fresh food supplied daily.
Weapons2,000 large cannon – could fire heavy cannon balls, but only over a short distance and were slow to load. 200 smaller cannon – could fire over long distance and were quick to load.
Tactics for fighting at seaGet close so men could board and capture the enemy ships.Destroy enemy ships by firing cannon at them from a distance.
Annual income£3 million.£300,000. Parliament did grant Elizabeth taxes to top this up.

Queen Elizabeth I's famous Tilbury speech