The Spanish are coming! The Spanish are coming! On July 12, 1588, the Spanish Armada set sail in hopes of defeating the English fleet and thereby ending the reigh of Elizabeth I. This feud had been simmering a long time, and it was about to come to an end....just not the one Phillip of Spain was hoping for.
England had been preparing for an invasion by Spain since the reign of Henry VIII. Henry had actually spent much of the money he earned from the destruction of the monasteries on building new fortifications along the English coast. Relations eased during the reign of Mary I, since she was married to Phillip of Spain (something the English never forgave her for), but tensions rose again during Elizabeth's reign. Elizabeth, a firmly Protestant queen, was the target of multiple Catholic plots and attacks. Phillip knew that if he defeated her, he would be the hero of the Catholic church. Elizabeth's own actions didn't help any as she encouraged her pirates...errr...naval captains to constantly harass and steal from Spanish ships.
Finally Phillip had had enough. He had set sail a year before, but was turned back by bad weather (the English Channel was notorious for rough seas), but this time they were really coming. The English were ready. Elizabeth had garrisoned the coastal castles built by her father, Not being able to get approval from Parliament to raise funds to update the English Navy, she had spent her own money to build smaller, more maneuverable ships--which became a key to the English victory. And, like her father, she had the sense to look for help beyond her usual peerage. She employed the services of men like Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, who were born without titles but were with peerless skills.
The Defeat of the Spanish Armada was a defining victory for England, and is one of the hallmarks of Elizabeth's reign. The power in Europe was shifting, England was about to embark on a century of exploration that would create an empire, and her navy would remain one of the greatest military powers in the world for centuries to come.