Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Guest Post: Spanish Armada Dominates the Sea Lanes

In 1588, the "Great and Most Fortunate Navy" known to history as the Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon, Portugal, with 130 ships and 30,000 men, headed for the English Channel.

A recent technology innovation was the experimental side-wheel steam ships developed by the Spanish ship captain and inventor Blasco de Garay. And yet even more fearsome than the advancements, size and power of this vast force was the illustrious choice of commander, Spain's greatest admiral who had never lost in battle, Álvaro de Bazán, the incomparable Marquess de Santa Cruz. Due to a combination of technology, tactics, timing, and outrageous good fortune, the English fleet was bottled up at Plymouth harbour. Undoubtedly, Lord Howard of Effingham and Sir John Hawkins greatly missed the remarkable skills of England's own greatest admiral, the privateer Francis Drake who had been tragically killed in the Strait of Magellan on an ill-fated expedition a decade earlier.

With the English Channel secured, an invasion force under the command of Alexander Farnese, the Duke of Parma, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, landed in Margate and his battle-hardened veterans occupied London within a week. With the Protestant Tudor state on its knees, papist forces rallied to their support, and the platform for a Catholic restoration was firmly established. Ironically, Farnese had actually proposed an alternate strategy to concentrate on the final conquest of the Netherlands instead. This would have greatly strengthened Spain's position not only against England but France as well, ending a drain on the treasury and replacing it with a source of taxes and other resources.

Bazán and Farnese were both great captains of arms that had achieved the military goal of ending the English and Dutch privateering ships that disrupted Spanish interests in the Americas. King Philip II had also achieved his political goal of overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I and her establishment of Protestantism in England. He hastily declared a historic victory so that he could begin collecting the lucrative payments that had been promised by Pope Sixtus V in the event of a successful landing. But this war chest could never be enough because the conquest of the Kingdom of England was to prove far more easy than occupation. Even though the Protestant figurehead Good Queen Bess was imprisoned in the Tower of London and later executed on November fifth, she somehow managed to get the rebellious message out to her loyal subjects, "England Expects."

Due to cost factors and dogged armed resistance the days of Spanish-ruled England were always going to be numbered but at least the stage had been successfully set for the overseas domination of Philip's successors. The long-term problem was that the invaders' religious subjugation was untenable; after all, sectarian-fueled patriotism was a heady brew. The troubled lands of the former Kingdom of England would ensure centuries of darkness, locked in never-ending waves of sectarian violence. This ongoing religious strife would only prove to be the platform for the development of a new form of thought leadership, atheist socialism. Under this radicalized political philosophy, a re-united republic would eventually arise to threaten the monarchies of continental Europe: "Remember, remember the fifth of November..."

Author's Note:

In reality, the
Marquess de Santa Cruz had died in February and the Duke of Medina Sidonia, a high-born courtier, took his place. While a competent soldier and distinguished administrator, Medina Sidonia had no naval experience. He stuck rigidly to the King's orders not to attack first unless absolutely necessary - a "fatal flaw in Spanish strategy" according to Robert Hutchinson. Hutchison also noted, "The Spanish boasted that [Queen] Elizabeth would be paraded in a cage in the streets of Rome, .. [if the Armada had succeeded] we might be speaking Spanish today."

Provine's Addendum:

The island of Great Britain was a hotbed of violence through the seventeenth century, dwarfing even the prolonged war in the Netherlands. War spilled over even into the Kingdom of Scotland, where Protestants rebelled against King Charles I. The Spanish response was initially mass executions, but the tactic only added more fuel to the fire. Soon Spanish leaders turned to deportations, sending prisoners to colonies in the New World. Not wanting to outweigh loyal colonists with too much English influence, many of the prisoners were concentrated in English Virginia, soon re-dubbed "Maryland" to clarify that the virgin was Mary, Mother of Jesus, rather than the former Tudor queen, Elizabeth.

Other English left the homeland of their own accord, whether seeking peaceful lives abroad or looking to establish colonies of their own that might escape Spanish rule. Over time, English would become a widespread language most often associated with pirates and squatters. As the socialist English republic sought to export its revolutionary ideals, the language was forbidden in numerous European kingdoms and empires. Spanish, meanwhile, grew into the global lingua franca.

1 comment:

  1. You forget that Scotland was more difficult to rule. James VI came down to England to avoid the intercine warfare that he saw with his mother and afterwards.


Site Meter