King Philip II ruled Spain at the height of its power. Under him, Spanish art, writing, and fashions led Europe. He united Spain with Portugal and conquered the Philippines. He was involved in many wars; during a war against the English, the Spanish Armada (fleet) was destroyed. Poverty spread throughout Spain because of these wars, and after Philip died, Spanish power began to fall. In July1588 Philip launched his Armada of nearly 150 ships to invade England and restore the Catholic religion. Sir Francis Drake sailed in command of a large group of warships to oppose the Armada. Aided by stormy weather, the English defeated the great fleet.
(Drake’s piratical expeditions made him very rich. On his round-the-world voyage, he captured treasure worth £25 million from one galleon alone). Francis Drake set off to lead his second expedition to circumnavigate the world, following in the footsteps of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Drake returned three years later in 1580. In the meantime, trouble had been brewing between Britain and Spain, who wanted to return Britain back to the Catholic rule. In July 1588, an invasion fleet, or Armada, of 130 Spanish ships reached the English Channel. The English fleet harassed the Spanish invasion all the way up the narrow Channel. The Armada anchored off the Dutch coast for safety. Then the English commander Lord Howard sent in eight blazing ‘fireships’. The terrified Spaniards were forced to away from the shore and the two fleets clashed in a battle off. The Spaniards suffered terrible losses and gave up the invasion. They headed for Spain, round the north of Scotland, but fierce storms scattered the fleet and many were wrecked – only 60 ships made it to Spain.