How was the Spanish Armada defeated in 1588?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While both the factors of poor leadership and weather contributed to the defeat of the Spanish Armada, there was another factor as well.  The ships of the Spanish Navy were large and slow, and their tactics were hundreds of years old.  The Spanish ships, like those of the Greeks and...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

While both the factors of poor leadership and weather contributed to the defeat of the Spanish Armada, there was another factor as well.  The ships of the Spanish Navy were large and slow, and their tactics were hundreds of years old.  The Spanish ships, like those of the Greeks and Romans, were mainly designed to ram into enemy ships so Spanish fighters could board and take them.  The English, however, had lighter and faster ships that were armed with cannon.  These ships could not be caught by the Spanish ships and the large, slow Spanish ships could not evade the English guns.  The result was not only did the Spanish lose the battle, but they lost their naval superiority as well, not only to the English, but to the Dutch as well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Queen Elizabeth I would probably have said it was the will of God that the powerful Spanish Armada was defeated. However, the more likely causes of Spain's defeat were poor leadership and bad weather.

Philip II of Spain placed his armada under the control of the Duke of Medina-Sidonia, who had very little experience commanding ships and who was not totally in favor of the invasion of England. But he was Philip's choice, so he had no choice but to obey.

The weather was against the Spanish as well. The wind and the rain were rough, and the English had the advantage of sailing into the wind, while the Spaniards sailed against it. Even though the English navy was tiny in comparison to the number of Spanish ships, the danger of trying to avoid English fire ships while fighting the winds was too much. So the Spanish Armada retreated into an even more dangerous threat: the Scottish coastline. Many ships wrecked, and sailors died.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team