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Study Notes

Reasons for the Spanish Armada

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 8 Jul 2017

The initial decision to send an invasion force and Armada to England was first thought up in 1585. This is important to realise, as for many, it was the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, that caused the Armada to be launched as some form of revenge against England and Elizabeth.

Philip II had one simple aim, which as to replace Elizabeth and restore Catholicism back in England under a new Catholic monarch. The plan through which he was to achieve this included 130 ships together with roughly 30,000 soldiers. They would sail up the English Channel, before docking in the Netherlands, pick up soldiers, ferry them to England and depose Elizabeth.

Reasons for the Armada

There are four reasons why Philip launched the Spanish Armada and these are Religion, Politics, Events, and Reaction.



England was a Protestant country under Elizabeth, and Philip II as a Catholic wanted to restore Catholicism to England. He had the support of the pope in his efforts, with the pope even offering a reward for the successful restoration of Catholicism. In addition to this, Spain had worked on a number of plots to attempt to remove Elizabeth.



Philip II wanted to increase his power significantly, so adding England to the Spanish Empire would be a great asset. As well as this, the French and Spanish had signed the Treaty of Joinville in 1584 which committed the French and Spanish to wiping out Protestantism in Europe. As a counter to this, Elizabeth and the Dutch had signed the Treaty of Nonsuch in 1585 to combat Spanish aggression.



Elizabeth was a ruler who was often hesitant to make decisions, a fact which often angered her advisors. During the conflict with the Netherlands, it was clear that this hesitation could be exploited by the Spanish and showed a crucial weakness of Elizabeth. Spain’s confidence and power had been growing building up to the Armada with the annexation of Portugal in 1580 and the relative success that Spanish forces were having on the continent against the Dutch.



Spain had for a long time starting building an empire in the New World with huge Spanish galleons sailing to and from Spain to the New World. This effort was often frustrated by Sir Francis Drake who would have attacked and raided Spanish efforts. This ultimate insult came from the Raid on Cadiz where Drake had managed to destroy and damage significant proportions of the Spanish fleet.

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