Could the Spanish Armada Have Succeeded?

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Could the Spanish Armada have succeeded?

The relentless decline in relations between Spain and England post 1558 engender a feeling of certain inevitability within the hostilities that broke out in 1585. Although tension between the two countries was extremely high it took years of preparations to actually instigate war.

When Mary Queen of England died Philip lost all attachments with England and when Elizabeth came to power England no longer remained Catholic, Philip felt that England had now become an enemy rather than an ally. Prior to the Armada Elizabeth kept communication open with Philip and affirmed that they were both clear-cut associates, this was entirely fallacious as Elizabeth; a master at procrastination simultaneously was directing English Pirates to seize Spanish ships and goods in the West Indies. This was a continual irritation for Philip and generated hostility between the two sides but Elizabeth's obvious support for Protestants in the Netherlands in their revolt against Spanish occupation caused massive aggravation for Philip and was the final push into war for Spain. Philip believed that it was his duty to lead Protestant England back to the true Church; he considered the Armada as a ‘Holy Crusade' and believed that, ‘God's service "required" him to intervene in order to liberate the Catholic Queen of Scotts and restore Catholicism in England'. 1.

Work commenced on the Armada as early as 1584 although it would take years before it would be ready for battle due to the shear size of the fleet. The plans of attack were drawn up years before completion of the Armada and thought by Phillip to be the finest plan of attack. In fact when put into motion they were of such immense complexity that to achieve them was virtually unfeasible, the lack of technological advances along with almost non-existent communications made it theoretically unattainable. Ultimately contained in the initial plans of Attack were directions that unknowingly would result in failure for the Armada. The Armada consisted probably between ‘130 – 40, carrying perhaps 7,000 sailors and some 19,000 soldiers' 2. , while in contrast the English fleet contained some where in the region of ‘197 ships and possibly 15,925 men', 3. This shows that the Spanish had more men per ship, solely due to the additional soldiers on board that would ultimately be required for the invasion of England. This would have made the Spanish fleet heavier and slower than the English side due to the weight difference. Also contributing to the weight of the Armada was the further supplies it had to carry that included food, water and weapons for these extra soldiers. The Spanish ships where mainly constructed in Cantabria and the Netherlands but some ships were built as far out as Danzig. The main difference between the Spanish and English fleets was that the English ships were of a more modern design, the English ‘Royal Galleons' were revolutionary compared to the Spanish ‘Galleasses' which still used oars. Although these Spanish ships had previous experience in sea battles, they were not prepared to take on the rough, treacherous waters of Atlantic. The actual ships themselves had major faults and these minute details in the ships construction would cause colossal dilemma onboard. The wood used in hull and decking in some of the later ships was still damp and some even rotten. This not only give the ship a weak and unstable structure but the damp and decayed wood contaminated the ships food and water giving way to illness and infection.

Even before the Armada set sail it was surrounded by potential problems that would result in its' crippling defeat. The actual plan of the invasion was seriously defective and opaque as a plan of such a massive scale would need precise coordination and communication, this scale of accuracy was just not possible at that time. The first objective of the Armada was basically to sail through the English Channel, hold the narrow...
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