Learn about the Spanish Armada
A Girl For All Time is all about informative, stimulating play, inspiring a lifelong interest in history. To this end we’ll be creating a series of fun activity sheets inspired by our very own Marchmont girls.
This week we’re focusing on the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, one of England’s earliest female monarchs! Keep your little ones occupied - and enthralled - with the dangerous world of Elizabethan England and Elinor, Your Elizabethan Girl™.
The Spanish Armada
The Spanish Armada was an attack by Spain on England. An armada is a naval attack (that means an attack on the sea!). The Spanish sent one hundred and thirty war ships to attack England and overthrow Queen Elizabeth I in 1588. This is the story of how Elizabeth I defeated the biggest empire in the world.
Learn 1: The Background
Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne after her half sister Queen Mary I. Known as Bloody Mary for her unfortunate habit of burning people at the stake, she was not a very popular queen. However the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign was also rocky.
The Tudor period in England was made unstable by the constant changes to the official religion between Protestantism and Catholicism (both different types of Christianity). Elizabeth was a Protestant which separated her from the rest of Europe and most importantly, from Spain, the most powerful empire in the world.
Spanish ships would come back from the ‘New World’ (North and South America) laden with treasures. Led by the notorious Navy-man Sir Francis Drake, English privateers (sort of like pirates!) looted Spain’s ‘treasure fleet’ which annoyed King Phillip II. This looting was partly for the valuable cargo of jewels and spices (imagine!) but also to anger Phillip in support of a Dutch rebellion in the Spanish Empire. Elizabeth also sent English troops to support the Dutch which meant Spain and England were at war.
To get rid of Elizabeth, Phillip of Spain supported the Throckmorton Plot to overthrow the Queen in favour of her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots who was a Catholic. However Elizabeth found out and executed Mary in 1597. Outraged, Phillip sent the Spanish Armada to invade England.
Did you know? There may have been another reason for the King’s outrage. He was married to Queen Mary I until her death after only five years on the throne. Determined to remain powerful in England he promptly proposed to Elizabeth who rejected him. Although the religious and political factors behind the Armada are more important, the idea of the heart-broken King Philip II is certainly more exciting...
Activity 1: make a mind map
What were the main factors behind the Spanish armada? Get your favourite pens out and create a mind map of which you think are the most important.
Key reasons were:
- Religion (Elizabeth as a Protestant and Phillip as a Catholic).
- Competition for trade and treasures in the ‘New World’.
- English support for Dutch rebels.
- Looting of Spanish ‘treasure ships’.
- The Throckmorton plot.
- The execution of Mary Queen of Scots (a Catholic).
Extended task: try using a different colour pen for ‘long’ and ‘short’ term reasons.
Learn 2: what happened?
Watch this short video about the Spanish armada. Make sure you’re paying attention!
Activity 2: Cut out each line of this timeline (without the dates), muddle them and then try to put it back in order. You can even write it out for yourself and make a poster.
1559- Elizabeth rejects Phillips marriage proposal.
1572 (and onwards)- Elizabeth encourages the looting of Spanish treasure ships returning from the ‘New World’.
1568- England supports the Dutch who were rebelling against Spanish rule.
1583- The Throckmorton Plot (a funny word and also a plot supported by King Phillip to replace Elizabeth with her cousin Mary Queen of Scots).
1587- Mary Queen of Scots had her head chopped off (this sounds harsh but it was a much less grim ending than many others in Tudor times).
1588- 130 Armada ships sighted.
The English send in fire ships which scatter the Spanish fleet from their tight formation.
The English are able to successfully attack the Spanish at the Battle of Gravelines.
The Spanish fleet is blown by the winds the wrong way and has to sail the whole way round the top of Britain and back again. Many ships sink.
Only sixty-seven of the one hundred and thirty ships return to Spain.
Activity 3: Why did the Spanish Armada fail? Create a mind map with the most important factors.
Key reasons were:
- Poor leadership (the Armada was led by the silly and inexperienced general The Duke of Medina Sidonia).
- Bad naval planning (by stopping to pick up troops from the Netherlands the Armada was vulnerable to attack).
- Bad political planning (Phillip assumed English Catholics would rise up in support of the Armada).
- Good English tactics (the english had smaller, more mobile ships. They also used ‘fire ships’ to scatter the Armada).
- Terrible weather (the Armada was blown all the way around the coast of Britain).
Did you know? The Spanish Armada actually took place during a period of extremely bad weather known as the ‘Little Ice Age’.
If you’d like to learn more about the Spanish Armada check out this fact and activity sheet.
Check out Elinor, Your Elizabethan Girl™ to explore the crazy world of Elizabethan England.