The Defeat of the Spanish Armada

This is an excerpt of this book

Against all odds, in 1588 the English defeated the greatest navy in the world, the Spanish Armada. How did they achieve this victory? (Pick One)

(A) The Spanish were boobs.

This helped. Try as they might, the Spanish couldn't seem to do anything right. As an example, when they outfitted the ships with gun cartridges, they put in the kind that cannot easily be pulled back from the gunport, making it impossible to reload the guns during battle. This was a mistake.

It was also a mistake, I think, for the Spanish to give the English advance warning of the attack, seeing how it was supposed to be a secret and all. Of course, the Spanish didn't mean to. They thought they could trust the College of Cardinals with the information. How could they know there would be a snitch in there?

The Spanish had a stupid plan

This also helped. The main problem with the plan was that it couldn't possibly work. What the Spanish counted on was that their two fleets, one from the south, the other from the east, would arrive at the agreed-upon point of rendezvous at precisely the same time. But, of course the telephone had not yet been invented, so there was no way in hell this was going to happen. By the time the fleet from the east arrived - two days late - the game was up.

A surprise storm wiped out a third of the Spanish force.

The English insist that the storm arrived after they had already defeated the Armada, but this is in dispute.

The English had God on their side.

Perhaps. But it was the Spanish who were outnumbered. The English had 197 ships; the Spanish 130. Spain's ships were bigger, but in the narrow English Channel big ships were difficult to maneuver.

Queen Elizabeth offered sterling leadership

To be sure, she was brave and true and all that, but it was mainly because of her that the navy was run on the cheap. William Burghley, her treasurer, deserves most of the blame, though, as he kept miscalculating the funds at her disposal, necessitating repeated cuts in the navy's budget. His problem, says historian Lawrence Stone, was that he only knew how to count in Roman numerals. This made for a lot of errors. Try adding XVIII plus CXI plus VIII yourself? Not easy, is it?

King Phillip of Spain was a bad man.

Phillip was peeved that Elizabeth had rejected his hand in marriage, but he didn't decide to fight her out of personal pique. She brought on the attack by her own foolishness. In the preceding three years she'd raided the Spanish Main, authorized Sir Francis Drake to take Spanish booty, and in 1585 promised to come to the defense of the Dutch provinces in rebellion against Spain.

A famous story about the Spanish Armada worth mentioning is that Sir Francis Drake played bowls on the lawn at Plymouth on the eve of the invasion. Though the Spanish Fleet supposedly had already been sighted in the English Channel, Drake is said to have remarked, "Let us play out our match. There will be plenty of time to win the game and beat the Spaniards too."

Facinating story. No evidence.

Finally, I suppose that you heard that after the Armada was defeated Spain slipped into immediate decline. But this isn't exactly true. There is every reason to believe, as most historians do, that Spain was stronger after the defeat than before. Between 1588 and 1603, Spain recovered more treasure from the colonies than in any other prior fifteen-year period. And the navy, after some revamping, emerged leaner and more effective.

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