On this day in 1588, Spain’s Grande y Felicísima Armada—the “Great and Most Fortunate Navy,” the “Invincible Armada”—set sail from the port of Lisbon, en route to The English Channel and the (planned) overthrow of the British monarchy. The Armada was so large (130 ships, 30,000 men) that it took three days for the entire fleet to leave the Portuguese port!
King Phillip II of Spain hated Elizabeth I, the English queen. Phillip had been married to the previous English monarch, Mary I, who had died 30 years before. While she was alive, Phillip co-ruled England with her (while simultaneously ruling Spain). Mary had been the only surviving offspring of Henry VIII and his first wife, Spaniard Catherine of Aragon. Henry declared himself divorced from Catherine, an action not recognized by the Catholic church. Because Elizabeth was the offspring of Henry’s second marriage (not his first, “legitimate & holy” marriage) he considered Elizabeth illegitimate and, therefore, not in-line to the crown. He supported Mary, Queen of Scots (whom Elizabeth imprisoned and eventually executed). In sending his Armada to England, Phillip hoped to overthrow the false queen and restore the British monarchy according to strict “Line of Succession” protocol.
King Phillip’s adventure did not end well. Due to bad weather and delays which gave the British time to prepare, The Armada was confronted and defeated. Spain lost 66 ships (sunk, wrecked, or abandoned) and over 20,000 men. It was a crushing defeat for the proud naval power and an enormous victory for Elizabeth—whose survival ensured her influence on the course of English history.
The bronze-clad “Armada” bookends, pictured above, depict a proud and hopeful Spanish ship, perhaps sailing fatefully from the bustling Lisbon port. Please click on the photo to learn more about this pair of bookends.
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