Anglo Spanish Wars

1587 to 1660
England — versus — Spain

First Anglo-Spanish War — 1587-1604      Second Anglo-Spanish War — 1654-1660     

Battle of Cadiz
There were a number of reasons for a strong antagonism between Spain and England during the late 16th century. First, England had broken with the church in Rome, and discriminated against Roman Catholics in its realm, while the Hapsburg empire, centered in Spain, was considered a loyal defender of the faith. Second, Spain had exclusive claim to the new world, which caused much jealousy in England, and many of the most notorious privateers and pirates, who preyed on Spanish galleons, were protected by England. Third, England had supported the ongoing protestant rebellion in the Netherlands against Spain. Although diplomatic relationships were maintained for many years between the two countries, since neither wanted war, eventually the tensions descended into open conflict.

Even after a peace treaty was made between Spain and England in 1604 relations between the two countries continued to be strained. Spain and England were on opposing sides of almost every European conflict over the next two centuries, and they also opposed each other over territory and trading rights in the new world. Hostility towards Spain was largely associated with British anti-Catholicism both in Europe and in the Americas, and incidents such as the Spanish inquisition and corruption of the Spanish aristocracy were often exaggerated within British culture to emphasize the dangers of popery.

First Anglo-Spanish War : 1587 to 1604

The first Anglo Spanish war is most famous for the Spanish Armada, a failed attempt on the part of Spain to invade England. There were several other battles both before and after the Armada, most notably, Sir Francis Drake's famous raid of Cadiz, and Sir Grenville's last stand on the Revenge, and the successful raid on Cadiz in 1596. The Spanish also attempted a few other unsuccessful raids against England, and provided some support to the rebels in Ireland who provoked the Nine Years War in 1595. After the death of Philip II however, a peace was made in 1604.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Cadiz (First ) English victory
On April 19, 1587, Sir Francis Drake, with between 30 and 40 English ships, entered Cadiz Bay, and destroyed over 100 Spanish vessels. This exploit Drake described as "Singeing the King of Spain's beard."
Battle of the Armada (First ) English victory
The fight with the Spanish Armada in the Channel began on Sunday, July 21, 1588, and lasted with intervals until the 30th. The Armada consisted of 130 ships, many of large size, under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. The English fleet numbered 197 in all, but only 34 were Queen's ships, and of these but 8 were over 600 tons burden. Lord Howard of Effingham commanded, with Drake and Hawkins as his lieutenants. The English vessels hung on to the flanks of the Spanish ships as they sailed up channel, harassing them in every way, and doing considerable damage, until the Armada anchored in Calais roads, Here many of their finest vessels were captured or destroyed by fire-ships, and finally on the 30th, Medina Sidonia decided to attempt to escape northwards. His fleet was scattered by storms, and many wrecked on the Scotch and Irish coasts, and in the end only about one-half of the Armada returned to Spain.
Battle of Azores (First ) Spanish victory
In 1591, a fleet of 7 ships under Lord Thomas Howard was driven from Floris by the Spanish fleet under Don Alfonso Bassano. The action was chiefly remarkable for the gallant fight made by Sir Richard Grenville in the Revenge, which maintained an unequal struggle for nine hours, when her gallant commander was mortally wounded, and she surrendered at daybreak.
Battle of Cadiz (First ) English victory
In 1596 an English fleet led by the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh entered the harbor of Cadiz. They first raided the harbor and sunk many of the Spanish ships, and later landed a body of soldiers who captured the town. The Spanish however, had warning and were able to sink or hide much treasure before the raid.

Short Biography
Francis Drake Greatest sea adventurer. Sailed around the world, harassed Spanish ships. Fought in Armada.
Medina Sidonia Spanish Admiral in charge of the Spanish Armada
Charles Howard British Admiral who led the naval forces during the Spanish Armada
Earl of Essex Favorite of Queen Elizabeth. Involved in a conspiracy and died in prison.
Walter Raleigh Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
Richard Grenville Naval hero of the era of Queen Elizabeth. Explored and helped settle the new world.

Story Links
Book Links
Invincible Armada  in  Queen Elizabeth  by  Jacob Abbott
Reign of Philip II  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Philip the Second  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
The Little 'Revenge'  in  Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary  by  Cambridge Press
Great Armada  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Cadiz  in  The Story of Sir Francis Drake  by  Mrs. Oliver Elton
Great Armada  in  The Story of Sir Francis Drake  by  Mrs. Oliver Elton
Voyage to Lisbon  in  The Story of Sir Francis Drake  by  Mrs. Oliver Elton
Sir Francis Drake  in  Boys' Book of Sea Fights  by  Chelsea Curtis Fraser
Story of How England was Saved From the Spaniards  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Invincible Armada  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris
Singeing of the King's Beard in  Stories from English History  by  Hilda T. Skae
Great Armada  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge
Story of the Revenge  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge
Spanish Armada  in  The Tudors and the Stuarts  by  M. B. Synge
Invincible Armada is Defeated  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Spanish Armada  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Book Links
Story of Sir Francis Drake  by  Mrs. O. Elton

Second Anglo-Spanish War : 1654 to 1660

The Second Anglo Spanish war broke out during the reign of Oliver Cromwell and was principally a trading dispute. The most significant battle of this war was the taking of Jamaica from Spain by Britain. This was during the height of the days of Buccaneers and pirates, and Jamaica became a well known pirate base for raiding the Spanish fleets. The English also joined forces with the French to fight the Spanish in Europe, most particularly at the battle of the Dunes.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Jamaica (Second ) English victory
This island was captured from the Spaniards, May, 1655 by a combined English naval and military force, under Admiral Penn and General Venables.
Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Second ) English victory
On April 20, 1657 a British fleet under Blake destroyed a fleet of 16 Spanish treasure ships in Santa Cruz Bay, Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
Battle of Dunes (Second ) English victory
Fought June 14, 1658, between the Spaniards, 14,000 strong, under Don John of Austria and the Great Condé, and the French in equal force under Turenne. A force landed from the English fleet commenced the attack on the Spaniards, which was vigorously supported by Turenne, and the Spaniards were totally defeated, with a loss of 4,000 killed, wounded and captured. Ten days later the town of Dunkirk capitulated.

Short Biography
Sir William Penn Father of the founder of Pennsylvania, Sir William Penn Sr. won Jamaica for Britain.
Robert Blake Military commander turned admiral who took a leading role in the Anglo-Dutch Naval Wars.
Henry Morgan English privateer who became one of the most notorious pirates of the Spanish Main.
Don John of Austria Illegitimate son of Charles V. Hero of the naval Battle of Lepanto. Briefly governed Spanish Netherlands.

Image Links

The Invincible Armada
 in Queen Elizabeth

The Great Armada
 in Stories From English History, Part Second

Drake at the taking of Sagres Castle
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

Drake at Bowls on Plymouth Hoe
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

Fighting the Great Armada
 in The Story of Sir Francis Drake

Battle Map: English Channel
 in Boys' Book of Sea Fights

Drake at Cadiz
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Drake's ships returning from Cadiz
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Spanish ships under fire
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

At Close Quarters
 in Famous Men of Modern Times
Turenne at the Battle of the Dunes
Turenne at the Battle of the Dunes
 in Back Matter

Raleigh gave the word to his men
 in The Story of Sir Walter Raleigh

The Spanish Fleet sailing up the channel in the form of a half moon,
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

The defeat of the Spanish Armada
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

The English attack on Cadiz in 1596
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

The Spanish Armada attacked by the English fleet.
 in In the Days of Queen Elizabeth

Spanish Armada Attacked by the English Fleet
 in European Hero Stories

Destruction of the Spanish Armada
 in European Hero Stories

The Spanish Armada: The crisis had come . . . all day the battle raged.
 in The Boy's Book of Battles